Why would you do that? It’s a question every caver is used to being asked. But even among the fairly tight-knit community of cave explorers, “Why Binkley Cave?” is a question I hear often. The Binkley Cave System has a well-earned reputation (and honestly come by) for being wet, muddy, slimy, and cold. Yet, for those who regularly travel its many miles of passages, it has a unique beauty that grows on you. On long trips, your mind can wander as you imagine the rivers and streams downcutting through the layers of limestone for millennia in order to produce the passage that you are now standing in. There is an ebb and flow to the water at base level that gives the cave a personality that one learns over time. And for those bent on exploration, it represents an awesome potential for discovery.
Binkley Cave has been known as a large cave for decades, but with the many discoveries made in recent years, it is now known to be a vast, world-class cave system. Its exploration presents many challenges that frequently require creative problem-solving and teamwork to overcome. For instance, it is the only project I’ve worked on where a good deal of the discovery process is from the bottom of the cave upward, due to a lack of known upper entrances and passages. The distances that must be traveled underground simply to reach a frontier area in order to work can be a significant obstacle as well.
After a recent entrance to entrance through-trip, the first of its kind in this particular cave, a friend (and very experienced caver) commented that during the last several hours we had done every kind of caving he could imagine. The trip had included vertical rappels, low-airspace bathtubs, steep climbs, large and dry borehole passage, beautiful formation areas, wading in chest deep rivers, crawls, tight squeezes, and even a swim for the shorter cavers. That wide variety, and the full use of skills developed over a long period of time, is probably the best answer to the question “Why Binkley Cave?”
It’s an amazing place!