Fantastic Pit

Ellison’s Cave, Georgia

Fantastic Pit — a 510’ vertical free-fall drop, deep within Ellison’s Cave in Georgia. A waterfall runs off to one side, and my flashlight lacks the strength to penetrate the mist to the bottom. There are two separate 600’ ropes rigged for the decent through the pit, and I prepare to go down the first one wearing full rain gear.

Standing on the edge, just before committing to the rappel, the size of my world shrinks to encompass nothing but the hardware, harness and rope immediately in front of me. All parts are meticulously examined before I release my safety tether, then step out over the free-hanging emptiness.

My weight is supported by the combination of a brake rack, a Speelean Shunt, and a good dose of faith. Fear and caution led me to set more friction than necessary for the start, so only after releasing one of the bars on my rack do I begin to move.

Shortly, the ledge is lost from sight and the mist from the water fall grows heavier and louder. My rope goes almost directly through the center of the fall, and in a short while, so will I.

When in the fall, visibility is near zero. I am bombarded with water pouring from above, and heavy spray from all other directions. The noise from the water is almost overpowering, yet I can still hear the buzzing whine of my rope sliding through my brake rack. My only perception of speed comes from the pitch of the brake rack noise, and the water that shoots out towards my face as the rope is squeezed between the bars.

When I finally reach the bottom, from out of nowhere two of my comrades jump out from behind the rocks to help free me from the rope and hardware contraption that safely delivered me to the ground. I stand in awe of the sheer magnitude of this pit and its surroundings. It is indeed a "Fantastic Pit."

* * *

Note: This above article was published in "Table Rock Views", the North Carolina Outward Bound staff newsletter in the Spring of 1995

Copyright (C), 1995, by Ashley Guberman

Speak Your Mind