2022: Montana's Scapegoat Caving expedition
A frigid crystalline river cutting through an unexplored remote alpine cave system.
The one-and-only Scapegoat Cave system has been known since the 1970's but due to remoteness and the rigors of alpine caving, was never completely explored. It's also a standout among the many caves in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, with the stunning underground stream, majestic slot canyon passages, and two dramatic cliffside entrances overlooking a paradise mountain valley.
I went as part of the annual Scapegoat Cave Expedition, spearheaded by Brian Gindling and Daryl Greaser of the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto. We spent eight nights at basecamp and caved daily. In total, we surveyed about a half a mile of passage, discovered two new caves in the valley, and made a breakthrough into enormous borehole that will be surveyed in 2023.
The cave is not as physically demanding as the other deep caves in the Bob. There is a ton of magnificent flat walking passage, interspersed with some ropework or boulders. In general, there isn't much tight passage either.
However, the cave is not without its dangers. The air and water are both 33F inside, and hypothermia is a real concern, especially when wet. There is some rockfall risk on several crawls and ascents, and the entrance is a 5.5X freeclimb into Kathy's Ice Box. The Green Fork entrance is accessible without ropes only for 100 feet, and is filled with packrats.
Our team consisted of 11 cavers from Montana, Washington, Mexico and Alberta. Together, we had a very diverse combined skillset with abilities like climbing, ridgewalking, rigging, surveying, sketching, etc. All of us had each been caving for many years.
If you are a non-caver reading this post and hoping to just walk into the cave... don't. It's cold, dangerous, technical, and you'd best join a grotto first to learn basic caving skills. This amazing cave, like most caves, is best left to experienced cavers that can respect and cope with the beauties and dangers of this one-of-a-kind underground wilderness.
We returned in 2023 and discovered significantly more virgin passage, much of it accessed by bolt climb.
If you'd like more info on caving, please contact myself or the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto.