Finding Pinnacle Cave (Nevada, USA)

Party: Felix 

Disclaimer: It is considered unwise to cave alone. Some would say I was a little reckless.

I had heard about a number of caves around Las Vegas and Pinnacle Cave was meant to be one of the classics. The problem however was locating the cave as cavers are notoriously tight lipped. This is for good reason though, considering how delicate caves can be, not to mention how complicated a cave rescue can be!

Nevertheless, I set about trying to find the entrance to the cave, reading everything I could, trying to piece any small clues together. I quickly worked out that it was on Mt Potosi, near Potosi Mine. The big clue after that was an image from near the entrance that had some of the peaks from the other side of the valley in the top left corner. Using Google Earth, I explored the 3D images of the hills until I found a match. I now had a relatively small area to search.

I knew that the cave had a 100″ entrance pitch and that the hole was almost vertical and of substantial diameter – so it should be hard to miss! I followed an old road and soon located a trail heading up a ridge. I soon spotted blue marking tape tied to shrubs along the route. There were even rock steps. I was going the right way! This was going to be easy!

After about half an hour of walking I reached the base of the cliffs. I was surprised to find heaps of rope hanging from the cliff… it was a climbing project! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about that and felt a little silly for being fooled. There was a hammock in a bag hanging from a tree and small plants at the base of the wall had small rock barriers constructed around them. Some of the fallen rock had hangers bolted into them which was a little concerning.

Feeling a little duped, I continued along the cliff, searching its base for the entrance before moving onto the next cliff-line and then the next. I came across a small patch of snow, but in general it was pretty clear. After no luck for another hour or so, I started to re-think my situation. I had put a copy of the photo I had found on my camera, and using that worked out that I was too high. I then moved to a ridge and comparing the photo to what I saw, worked out I was too far left. Continuing like this I narrowed down the area to search and eventually… Bingo! There it was!

I didn’t waste any further time and constructed a Y-hang of some of the hangers making sure everything on the anchor was redundant. Dressing my Fusion knot I double checked I had water, a backup light, snacks, a pee bottle, ascending gear and my camera before dropping into the entrance.

It was about 90″ down to the bottom. This was the only pitch, so I left my harness and continued down a scree slope and a ~3m downclimb into a sizeable room with a log book. I signed it writing SUSS as my caving club (I consider it my local club despite being inactive with them over the last year). Without further ado, it was time for some caving! Pushing my bag in front of me, I dived into the Birth Canal and dropped onto another scree slope.

I left my pack and unencumbered explored the cave first and then to another lap to take photos. Heading to the right I climbed down into a blind pit. Climbing back out I noticed a trogged lead heading up and followed it where I found a small passage heading down. Squeezing though I encountered a number of other squeezes before a tricky downclimb dropped me into what might be called the Music Room(?). The cave went quite a way further, but I think this was one of the nicest places. Climbing carefully over some empty rim pools I continued into the cave.

The passage that followed generally had a tight section followed by an open chamber. None of these really had anything pretty, though it was still fun and there were several different ways you could go. One section had two crawling passages roughly on top of each other and you could drop into the lower one via a couple of different holes.

After a while, I emerged into quite a large room, at the end I explored a low lead before squirming back out, and then climbed up through a small hole into a decent size room with a person and some disproportionate tea cups made out of mud. I had been taught that you shouldn’t leave mud figurines, but I left them alone not wanting to upset anyone.

Continuing back the way I had come, I explored a number of tight side passages. Most required some delicate squeezing. One looked like it dropped down a considerable way, but I decided it was to risky to attempt by myself, in case I got stuck.

Inspecting one hole I spotted some survey tape. It dropped a fair way before running parallel to the passage I had come in on. Whilst it was not decorated, it did have some nice rock pendants and pretty sculpturing.

Passing back through the decorated room I climbed back up through the squeezes to return to my pack. I stopped for a snack before checking out the other hole. It dropped to a similar level to the other large rooms. At first I thought it was going to join up, but the passage got smaller and smaller, until the point I could not get my shoulders through at the same time.

I turned around and returned to the decorated room via my original route, I photo pfaffed for a couple of hours.

Whilst taking photos, I found myself in a part of the cave I hadn’t been through on my last visit. Climbing up I found a room that was quite well decorated and even had a couple of crystal pools!

Returning to the entrance room, I was surprised to find no light making its way down. It must be dark outside and a bit later than I had thought. I put on my harness and ascended out of the cave, derigging and returning to the car with the continued aid of my headlamp.

It had been quite a fun trip, and now I could finally stop thinking about the cave that had been tormenting me for weeks!

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