In Deep

Hidden on the shoulder of a Utah mountain, a freezing, wet, abyss is attracting a small group of explorers dedicated to plotting a course through uncharted terrain found deep within. Only recently discovered, this subterranean chasm is one of the deepest known to exist in the country, plummeting 1,300 vertical feet from the surface. Formed by mildly acidic water dissolving a direct path through limestone bedrock, Main Drain Cave is a hydrologic anomaly that captures a significant amount of fresh water, delivering it to points unknown. As explorers follow this water deep into the earth, the only way to continue forward is by scuba diving through flooded passages located in the caves deepest depths. Sound crazy? It should. The logistics of transporting dozens of bags containing scuba and camping equipment to the dive site is no easy task. Last month, Durango local Bev Shade organized a month-long domestic expedition to put two scuba divers through the flooded passage and into the unknown beyond. Highly dangerous? Yes. But for some it’s a risk worth taking to map uncharted terrain where no human has ever set foot. Here’s a look:

Bev Shade dangles at the lip of a 300-foot vertical plunge known as Frayed Knot Falls. 
An unassuming entry point to a subterranean world. 
Bev Shade squeezes through a tight passage./ Photo by Jean Krejca

David Moore preps scuba gear at the first dive site./Photo by Jean Krejca

A fraction of the duffel required to continue into Main Drain's virgin territory.