Why I Love Pettyjohn Cave: Tour for Climbs, Waterfalls & More

I could fill several pages with tales about Pettyjohn Cave, but instead I’d like to share with you the reasons why I consider this magnificent cavern to be my favourite. Pettyjohn has a lot to offer horizontal cavers like me, and I’m happy to say that. There are some decent climbs, passages that are difficult, waterfalls, formations, passages that are fascinating, really hard to access areas, the majority of which I have not seen, potential for new discoveries, and good mud.

Good Climbs

The entry chamber provides a lot of opportunities for anyone who are seeking for climbing difficulties. This huge chamber that is more than 500 feet long and has ceilings that are on average 30 feet high and 50 feet wide requires just two simple climbs to get to the rear of the space. There is a staircase that leads up into an upper formation chamber not far from the entry. This room is connected to the room that serves as the main entrance at the ceiling level. The majority of guests breeze right by this region on their way to the other side of the chamber or toward the primary waterfall.

If you want to avoid the ropes that were left there by past cavers, the climbs that are required to reach the stream levels are difficult. Because of the length of time that some of these ropes have been in place, they should not be utilised. Getting up into the Racoon Chamber, which is a big room located in the middle level of the cave and provides access to the majority of the middle levels of the cave, is one of the most difficult climbs in the cave. Pettyjohn Cave is composed of three distinct levels: the entrance room, which is elevated and mostly devoid of moisture; the middle levels, which are comprised of dry passages and account for approximately one third of the cave’s total area; and the lower levels, which extend under the mountain to the north. The Echo Chamber is the biggest room in the cave, and getting there requires a strenuous ascent from this northern part. A space that is 100 feet by 200 feet in size and has tall ceilings. And the lower stream channels, which together provide the majority of the cave’s volume.

The ascent of the waterfall will bring you to a second waterfall that is considerably simpler to ascend, as well as an upstream route known as Schreiber’s Extension that has not been well investigated.

Challenging Passages

From the area that serves as the cave’s primary entrance, there are other routes to go farther into the cavern, and at the beginning of each of these corridors, there will be a test for you to complete. In order to reach the Volcano Room, you will need to overcome the “Pancake Squeeze” on the way to the waterfall, as well as either some confined spaces or strenuous climbs, depending on the path you pick. Each path that may be taken from the Main chamber leads to its own unique cavern. If you are someone who enjoys getting lost, The Labyrinth is located on the lowest level of Pettyjohn’s southeast wing. Explore the most remote part of the northwest region, which is known as The Outer Limits, if you are searching for genuine excitement. Explore the chambers that are located above the Double Echo Domes for a challenging climbing experience.


Pettyjohn Cave is a wonderful place to visit if you like seeing subterranean waterfalls. On the road to Schreiber’s Extension, there are two waterfalls that are of a respectable magnitude. A raucous waterfall of around 4 feet in height and located just past the Chute on the path leading to the Outer Limits. Another one that you have to go over in order to get inside the labyrinth.


The cave has a variety of formations over its whole. The biggest of the cave’s chambers may be found at the entrance area. Because of the formations, both the Signature Room and the corridor that leads to it are absolutely essential to see. And just before you enter the Volcano Chamber, there is a stunning formation room that you must pass through first. Along the paths that lead to the various chambers of the cave, you will come across some more interesting formations.

Intriguing Passages

The Worm Tube is a lengthy crawl that extends for about 150 feet and is quite cramped. It leads to the Echo Room and beyond. When travelling to the waterfall or the Racoon Room, taking the Z-Bends rather of the Pancake Squeeze is an enjoyable and unique option. While you get to the East Stream route and the Crowell Domes, you will find a narrow, downward-sloping squeeze that presents a significant obstacle when climbing back up. It’s pretty cool how there’s a little hole in the wall that leads from the Bridge Room to the Mason-Dixon Passage. Additionally, the stream canyon walk that must be taken before reaching the waterfall is entertaining.

Extreme Places

The extreme areas are just for hard-core cavers who are comfortable with journeys lasting fourteen hours and are looking to test the boundaries of their abilities. There are four such locations inside Pettyjohn Cave. The beginning of the Labyrinth, which is the only part I’ve explored so far.

The Discovery Room is located above the Emerald Pool and requires either the use of an old rope already in place or a challenging technical climb. An extension pole was first used in order to get to this location. In addition, I am aware that there is a great deal more to find after one travels beyond the Emerald Pool.

The Outer Limits, a game in which I have no idea how high the maximum level is or even if it exists. I have investigated the stream channel all the way to high dry tunnels that may potentially be the path, as well as tight muddy squeezes that ultimately caused me to turn around. Even after going on these journeys that lasted 10 hours, I was unable to locate the Outer Limits. When I was leaving the cave one day, I ran into Richard Schreiber there. He told me that he was looking forward to going back beneath the mountain, and I suppose that he was talking about the Outer Limits. Even though I have copies of the most of his survey notes, I don’t believe that I have the one that explains how to get there.

Schreiber’s Extension is a lengthy stream route that has a variety of leads and locations to climb up into along the way. The exit is a low stream crawl that has been excavated and pushed through to a second low chamber that is blocked by a third low stream crawl. This channel continues around the mountain’s edge and collects water from along the mountain’s side as it goes. The entrance to the cave may be found below the rim of the mountain but is still below the valley.

Possibilities for New Discoveries

To the east is, in my opinion, the most fruitful territory that has the potential to be developed. Crowell Domes is the most eastern area of the cave, with the exception of the Labyrinth and Screech Owl Cave, which are located farther to the east. There are a number of sink holes along the mountain to the east of the entrance. There is a prospective lead coming from the Echo Room that I would want to pursue some day, but in order to do so, some rock removal will need to take place. In addition, there is a sizable sink located on the summit of the mountain to the east of Pettyjohn. The water from this sink has, as far as I can tell, been followed all the way down to the sump located under the entrance room in Pettyjohn. Once you reach Ellison Cave, which drains the northern portion of Pigeon Mountain, you will see that Pettyjohn supplies drainage for the majority of this side of the mountain. Schreiber’s Extension, the Discovery Room, and the Anamatosis Room have all been locations where recent discoveries have been discovered. I have plotted a level survey that is 36,117 feet long, which is nearly seven miles (6.935 Miles), and the overall length of the survey is 7.127 Miles.

Good Mud

Pettyjohn Cave is famous for the muck that it contains. You may find yourself unable to find your shoes in some areas due to the sticky substance. Crawlways that are so muddy that you simply glide through them, and there are two slots for your knees due to the amount of foot activity. I have seen the lower level flood because the stream canyon route is small and may sometimes block the flow of water. The water backed up from the stream canyon passage into the lower level. Before heading to the main waterfall, you should always check the upcoming weather prediction. If you visit my website, you will have the opportunity to read about cavers being lost in the waterfall region for days and explore areas of the cave by clicking on photographs that are located inside the cave. On the main page, you’ll also find links to more articles and stories about Pettyjohn.

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