Underground Texas Grotto

Menu . . .
Airmen's Information
How Do I Find Caves?
Rules Of Safe Caving
The Art Of Cave Digging
Pit Depth
Double Figure-8
Survey Basics
Spanish Caving Terms
Trip Reports
Oaxaca Trip Report
Tabasco Trip Report
New Caver Training
Punkin Cave
Colorado Bend SP
Beck Ranch Cleanup
Vertical Training
What's New?

Pictures . . .
Pictures: Whirlpool Cave
Pictures: Maple Run Cave
Pictures: Cobb Cavern
Pictures: Midnight Cave
Pictures: Rebelay Practice
All Random Images
Photo Submission

Video . . .
Video: Maple Cave Movie
Video: Guano Gathering
Video: Golondrinas
  Gary rappelling into midnight cave - Picture by Joe Datri (2009)

Gary rappelling into midnight cave - Picture by Joe Datri (2009)

  • Whirlpool (Beginner)
    This is the first step for the beginning caver in Austin, TX. Perfect for people who have never caved before. This is a crawly cave meaning you will be on your hands and knees most of the way and on your elbows and stomach part of the way. You will get dusty, sweaty, and dirty. No vertical training required.
  • Maple Run (Intermediate)
    You must have caving experience before entering this caveóno exceptions!

    This cave is much more crawly, tight, and much more difficult than Whirlpool. It requires a lot of upper body strength. There is some elevation change. I rarely come back from Maple Run without bruises and scratches.

    Be warned: in summer the mosquitoes around Maple Run can be horrendous. Plan accordingly.
  • Airmans (Intermediate/Advanced)
    Airmans requires more strength and endurance than Whirlpool or Maple Run. You will have successfully gone through Whirlpool and Maple Run before trying Airmans.

    This cave has very little elevation change, but requires considerable amounts of pulling yourself via forearms (or dying-man's crawl) through tight passages. You need a lot of upper body strength and strong stomach muscles for a successful tour of this cave. The first time I did Airmans to the Art Gallerie, I was sore for three days after.

    Your bag will be dragged behind you. The best setup we've found is a kayaking bag from REI attached to your leg with a rope. The distance between the bag and your leg should be about three to four feet. It's a bad idea to take a backpack because they have many straps which become snagged. Also, zippers are a bad idea all-around for caving because the zippers get gummed with dirt. Kayaking bags from REI are make out of vinyl or polyvinyl and cost about $20. I connect to it with a carabiner (which is only used for this purpose).

    This cave is notorious for its "keyhole" entrance. Many people cannot fit through it at all. The upper end seems to be about 6'4" at 230 pounds. This same person, at a later date, weighing in at 255 pounds was unable to get through. Having rock all around you can be a freaky feeling, so you really should test out your claustrophobia at an easier cave, like Whirlpool, before attempting this cave.

    The keyhole is at the entrance to the cave, meaning that even if you do make it through, you have to go through it again to leave. If you are new to caving or out of shape, you will be very tired leaving, and traversing the keyhole while tired is doubly hard.

    Aggy Art Gallerie:
    The Aggie Art Gallerie is a must. It's the best known part of the cave and people would be disappointed if they didn't see it; however, once you've seen it, there isn't much desire to go a second time. People might want to add their own art to it, but the smell (from the moldy candles) is annoying.

    One-legged Man:
    This crawl is named such because there is really only room for one leg—you end up dragging one leg behind you. Sometimes there isn't even enough room for your foot, so you put one arm down. There is a bypass to the one-legged man, but the bypass is filled with racoon scat. I find taking the one-legged man both ways preferable. Although I have never really been claustrophobic, this stretch used to get my adrenal glands pumping.

    Bring at least a liter of water. If you sweat a lot, bring more. A snack such as an energy bar is a good idea. Bring extra batteries and extra headlamps.

    First Timer Quote:
    It was tighter than the Birth Canal (Whirlpool) and more technical than Maple Run. I thought I was in decent caving shape from both of those caves, but this cave proved otherwise. I have never come out of Maple Run so exhausted. I'm not sure if it was longer to get the Aggie Art Gallerie than to get to the Surprise Room in Whirlpool, but it sure did feel like it. I don't think that anyone should try this cave if they don't already think Maple Run is easy.
    First Timer Quote:
    This cave is definitely more demanding than Whirlpool, but there were a lot of breaks and opportunities to allow your body to recover from any "strenuous" passages. But I loved it. I thought the difficulty level made it more enjoyable. As long as you know that you are going to be tired and sore when you leave Airman's, I think you're set.
    First Timer Quote:
    In Airmans, I liked the walking passage and the cool windy passage the best. As I mentioned, I especially dug the way that the second crawl was hidden behind a rock (Enchanted rock has one of these type of pathways) and that "squashifixion rock" also wasn't super obvious, but easily passable. I was a little freaked at one legged man, but I suspect that repeated visits would quell that.
    First Timer Quote:
    The one-legged man is a difficult course to take and I found it quite challenging. The mistake of dropping down into the groove really made it hard to maneuver the last bend. Since the passage is essentially an inverted triangle with a groove notch at the bottom, the key is to try to stay pressed against the ceiling of the passage for maximum mobility. Don't drop into the crack!!!
    First Timer Quote:
    It was a lot of fun. I've got bruises all over my ribs....but it feels good...except when I sneeze. I guess I have a ways to go before I'm in caving shape.

    I liked both the one-legged man and the cool windy passage quite a bit. There was something about the shape of the passage and the texture of the rock that struck me. Something very organic about it. I'm not sure I will ever look forward to the keyhole with anything except a mild sense of dread, but there is something satisfying about doing it, even when I was in the middle of the passage and struggling to find finger and toe holds it was fun in a weird way. I guess the dead raccoon smell was about the only unpleasant thing.