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Teddy Garlock is an avid cave diver, SUOC alum, and all-around adventurer currently living in upstate New York. These Selleck Sump stories document his exploration of the (mostly underwater) Sellecks cave system. This is Part 3.
After a several month hiatus from diving in Sellecks, the stars were finally beginning to align for another attempt. From the start of this exploration, we’ve been plagued by rain, reducing visibility to an arm’s length or less. On Sunday 11/15 we returned, hoping for clear a clear sky and an even more clear sump for our third adventure into Sellecks.
As usual, the team was made up of members from the Syracuse University Outing Club (SUOC). We’ve nicknamed ourselves the SUOC Sumpeaters and have had a great first season. For the trip, I was assisted by Nathan, Joey, Asif, Nick and Stephen. None of this could be at all possible without their assistance, and I am truly grateful to have such awesome friends. We met up at the SUOC equipment room and made quick time of getting everything packed up (once I got everyone off the couch, that is).
Arriving at Sellecks, we unloaded gear and made our way to the cave entrance. The walk takes about 15 minutes and certainly isn’t very comfortable for those carrying my air tanks. Upon arrival at the entrance, Nick and Asif rigged the drop and we began our descent.
The first look at the entrance to sump one was dismal. The water level was down as compared to last time, but the water visibility looked even worse. Regardless, I geared up and hoped that within the nearly thousand feet of sumps and air chambers before the start of sump 3, it would get better.
Sump one was uneventful, although I noticed my line (placed 5 months ago) had been buried in a few inches of sand/silt/gravel in some places. Ensuring the line was continuous, I traveled through the first sump after 6 minutes. I quickly traversed the air chamber and got ready for the next sump.
Sump two was uneventful but unfortunately did not have improving visibility as I had hoped. I passed through within a few minutes and started making my way to the start of sump three. The second air chamber is about 500′ long, and very skinny. Last time it took me 20 minutes to traverse the air chamber, constantly changing my body orientation to fit through the canyon. This time around I decided to take my fins off, which save a LOT of time and effort.
As I entered sump three, I immediately noticed my line had been pulled into the skinny side of a restriction (a line trap). I evaluated my options and decided to press on, knowing that I could still easily hold the line with my hand as I went to the side. After 140′ I reached the end of the line from my previous dive here, which ends in a large passage (unknown dimensions, you can’t see the walls or ceiling). I noticed a lot of breakdown in the area, which was about all I could see with the ~3′ visibility. Disappointed with the poor conditions, I turned back and was soon back in the second air chamber.
On my way back through I took my time, checking the walls for additional leads. In sump one, I was able to find a couple, but one in particular caught my eye since the flow had changed direction nearby. I made a jump and immediately came to a restriction. I was only 6′ deep, and looking up I could see going passage on the other side. I made my way through the restriction, and surfaced into a beautiful air chamber, unknown and unexplored. The dimensions were about 30′ long, by 8’+ tall. Leaving my spool and line in place, I returned to my main exploration line and continued my way out the sump.
Upon surfacing, I noticed we were missing a few sherpas. Curious as to their whereabouts, I asked Nick. Jokingly he said, “they went to get pizza!”. I laughed and started getting my gear packed up. Sure enough, about 20 minutes later comes Nathan, rappelling down into the cave with a PIZZA in hand!! Even better- Stephen was behind him, with drinks! We all laughed, enjoyed some pizza, and exited the cave.
PS, want to know how the SUOC Sumpeater Sherpas stay warm while the diver is in the water?