Here's What Makes This Cave In Southeastern America So Dangerous

When it's time to plan a well-deserved vacation, some travelers immediately head for warm and sunny shorelines where they can relax and unwind at their own pace. Other travelers are more inclined to fill their itineraries with adrenaline-pumping adventures, no matter where they roam. For thrill-seekers, caving has long been a popular activity to design a trip around. This is especially true when it can be paired with rock climbing and rappelling.

If you're looking for the very best of it all, there's a good chance you'll find exactly what you're searching for at Ellison's Cave in Georgia. Situated in Walker County, Ellison's Cave enjoys a place on scenic Pigeon Mountain in the northwest portion of the state. Ellison's Cave is particularly appealing to caving enthusiasts thanks to its title as the 12th deepest cave in the nation.

Boasting the dimensions of 12 miles long and 1,063 feet deep, Ellison's Cave has real appeal for cavers hailing from across the map. However, the opportunity to explore this cave comes with some very real risks too. That's because the cave hosts a variety of dynamic and dangerous underground vertical pitches, known as pits. The collection includes the deepest of its kind in the continental U.S., aptly named Fantastic Pit.

A massive cave with inherent risks to consider

Time exploring Ellison's Cave and the underground pits it contains is not for the faint of heart. It's also not an activity that's suitable for inexperienced outdoor adventurers. According to the official Walker County Georgia caving division, Ellison's Cave is a destination that should exclusively be explored by experienced cavers in the name of safety.

The sheer size of the cave's pits poses serious physical threats to those who attempt to rappel their way through the underground system. There are no less than seven various routes to reach the cave floor that make up a daunting and dark maze to conquer. The horizontal passageways that are interwoven within the system can be confusing to those who aren't adequately prepared and could easily have even a seasoned explorer turned around or tangled in ropes quite quickly.

Many cavers come to Ellison's Cave specifically to tackle Fantastic Pit, which descends 586 feet into the earth. There are also opportunities to tackle Incredible Pit, which runs 440 feet below the surface. Smokey I is yet another pit to try out and at 500 feet deep, it's the second deepest of its kind in the contiguous U.S. It's fair to say that dimensions like these leave little to no room for error when climbing or rappelling from such vast heights.

Don't overlook the dangers of inexperienced exploring

Navigating Ellison's Cave safely requires extensive technical knowledge. Vertical sections that are wet and slippery demand expert single-rope climbing experience. Free-climbing and bouldering along horizontal sections require technical expertise, as well as the right equipment to maneuver through the dark and damp environment. If something does go wrong, there's danger in the fact that a rescue isn't going to be immediately available.

Emergency assistance for tangled ropes, misdirection, or an injury, could take an entire day to accomplish. That's because there's a steep trail that has to be trekked on foot leading to the cave entrance that takes around 40 minutes to traverse. Even on ATV, the trip is around 20 minutes. reported that a rescue in May 2013 took over 24 hours to complete due to trekking to the cave, subsequent climbing time, and navigating caverns with gear to reach the explorer who needed help.

One of the biggest risks associated with waiting for help in the cave is hypothermia. The fatalities that have occurred in Ellison's Cave have been linked back to climbers getting tangled in ropes and succumbing to hypothermia before rescue workers could reach them. While the risks shouldn't deter you from your craziest adventures entirely, it's a clear reminder that being prepared is key to success. Make sure you always have the gear you need, the experience required, and the backup plan in place to tackle Ellison's Cave confidently and as safely as possible.