incident at Organ Cave

ACA 1974 page 3
8th Dec 1973
Organ Cave
West Virginia
Incident type
Difficulty on rope
Primary cause
Inadequate equipment
Secondary cause
Group type
Group size
Aid type
Aid on standby
Injured caver
Incident flags
Data status

Injured cavers

Name Age Sex Injuries Injured areas
Dyas, Mike Not recorded Male Hypothermia Not recorded

Incident report

The second drop in the Humphrey's Section of Organ Cave is a 35-foot, partially-free rappel near a small waterfall. The rappel was rigged with Goldline, which is a very stiff rope. Mike Dyas rappelled into the pit but was held under the falls a few feet above the floor when a long loop in the middle of the rope caught on the rough lip of the drop. The rope could not be shaken free, so Greg Thomas climbed down a parallel ladder to unhook the kink. Dyas had not been wearing his wet suit during the 10 minutes he was under the waterfall. Undiscouraged, Dyas put on his wet suit and participated in further exploration which involved two duckings in a 75-foot near-siphon. This further sapped his endurance despite the exposure suit.

Returning to the waterfall, the only ascending gear in the party was a prusik-like rig employing two Jumars. With some difficulty, two of the cavers successfully ascended the pit. Dyas realized that this climbing method would overtax his arms so instead he tried climbing the ladder with a top belay. He did not have the strength to get over the sharp overhang about two-thirds the way up and had to be lowered back to the bottom. He again became soaked. Dyas attempted setting up a different Jumar ascending rig with the slings available but was not able to get it properly adjusted. On his final attempt to ascend, he became thoroughly hung up and was forced to cut one sling loose and jump to the floor. The two cavers who had climbed out, then left to fetch Dyas's own ascenders. Two and a half hours later they returned with the ascenders and four additional cavers. Using his own ascenders, Dyas was able to get out without help.

Incident analysis

Analysis: Dyas had negotiated the Humphrey's Entrance previously on quite a few demanding trips and had never experienced difficulty. The basic problem this time was the fouled-up rappel and becoming soaked several times in succession. These soakings and a run-down feeling due to a cold greatly reduced his endurance. For most of the time in the cave, Dyas was wearing a wet suit and a wool sweater. This was a major factor in averting advanced hypothermia during the wait for help to arrive. To reduce bulk on survey trips, this group normally shares one or two sets of vertical gear. Difficulty arose when the cavers tried using gear which had been customized for another person.

Source: Dyas, Mike.


(1974) "Safety Department: Fiasco in Humphrey's," D.C. Speleograph. Jan. issue, pp. 9-10.

This record was last updated on 20th Nov 2023 at 05:15 UTC.