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Lechuguilla Cave – Beyond 150 Miles of Explored Passages

Tue, 2020-06-23

The June Mountaineers meeting will feature a talk by John Lyles on Lechuguilla Cave. The cave was discovered by a team digging in a blowing hole in the back country of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in 1986. The complex cave is developed in the uplifted limestone and dolomite rock of the Permian-age Capitan Reef complex that forms the Guadalupe Mountains. Hundreds of known caves are found in this region but Lechuguilla Cave greatly exceed the size of the rest. Corrosion and depositional episodes drove the sulfuric-acid speleogenesis (cave development) to create remarkable formations and decorations (speleothems) as well as nurturing unique microbiologic activity. Exploration and mapping has been ongoing for 34 years by teams of experienced cavers. Recently, discoveries continue to be made through climbs up domes and through pushes into tight crawls and fissures that were previously passed by. The cave is developed in all three dimensions, reaching a depth of about 1600 feet. Considerable rope work is required to traverse to the ends of three major branches. Exploration is best done with multi-day camp expeditions deep within the cave, while less demanding weekend trips focus on closer target areas. John has spent nearly a year of his life exploring and mapping as a volunteer on this project. He will share some of the highlights of his work in the cave, including stunning photos of great chambers unknown to the general public.

The Mountaineer's monthly meetings are held on the fourth Thursday of every month. When held in person, that take place in the planetarium of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC),  2600 Canyon Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544. Recent meetings have been held electronically - we will post details for this June meeting when the time gets closer.

View PEEC's recording of this talk!

John Lyles ascending 150 foot rope in Lechuguilla Cave. Photo by Jamie Moon

Trip Location: 
United States
32° 8' 50.6976" N, 104° 33' 22.68" W

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