Party of 6 cavers ( including 3 rescue trained cavers) in one of the deepest caves in US. After finishing the initial rappel series reaching the water table after a few hrs two dudes had had enough and bolted . one dude got sick. Had to send another out with him....leaving just me and a younger caver I didn’t know well at all.
But it was an imp. trip - lots of effort put into it. Guys drove in from 4 different states. So “Banana Mike” and I didn’t to push on twds the objective. We were successful and 12 hrs in decided it was time to exit. So back we went. Reached the crux- bottom of a 585’ deep pit w waterfall and the rope we had rigged on the top hanging down. Started the tandem climb which should have taken 30-45 minutes. 150’ off the deck mike below me on rope is slowing down badly . complains about harness and groin. By 250’ he’s puking from pain. We rest. But water spray is chilling us- no wetsuits , in Dec. Got to stay moving. It’s slow going and getting worse. By 400’ mike is just a wreck. Climb 10’ , rest 10 min shivering and wet. 450’ and I yell down 30’ to him and get no response. He’s lying out from the rope like a backward swan dive , spinning slowly on the rope , headlamp panning the walls of the pit. He’s out. Hollering and shaking the rope he comes to. Spent the next forever coaxing him upwards very slowly. Reach the top. He’s spent. Heat tented him up, swap out into spare dry clothes we had left at the top of the drop. Then proceed twds exit. Just leave our ropes hanging - no energy left to haul gear. Screw it. Got a bridge to cross, 30’ drop into a chamber followed by a 150’ climb up the final pit to the exit stream crawl. He can’t walk more than 20’ wo dry heaving. Hypothermic bad. Not making sense. No way he can exit. Bundle him up w all the spare clothes, tell him I’ll go get the others and retrieve him in a few hrs. Hard to watch a young man actually cry and beg you to not leave him there. Had too. Left solo and fast. Run down mtn, hop in car, drive to camp site , wake the others , return w them and gear. Reach mike after maybe 6 hrs. He’s so blasted he doesn’t even know he’s in a cave. Strip him, add heat packs, pack him in sleeping bag, force feed him hot cocoa . Wait until he can strengthen up to walk. Get him down to bottom of first pitch. He can’t climb. Set up a 3-1 pulley system and haul him up
150’. We all exit. Successful self rescue.
That was 2008 and was the last “difficult” cave I’ve been in since. Screw all that. I’m pushing 50 and have teenagers.
Haven’t seen or heard of banana mike since that most shitty 24 hrs ordeal.