Last night I went caving and actually did in-cave vertical work for the first time in a while. Hardin's Cave is just outside of Nashville and considered an easy beginner cave, but there are a couple of levels that can only be reached by climbing a rope. The folks I went with had explored part of these levels last time and wanted to see the rest. Because the main level is the first level, however, rigging is a challenge - someone has to free climb up to get the rope up there. We took a look at one spot that none of us were willing to risk free climbing. But another place has been permanently rigged, so we went up there. There was actually nothing too exciting up there.
For me the most exciting part was rappelling down. Most of the cavers around here use racks; I use a Petzl Stop, which a lot of people in the Northwest (not to mention all of Europe) use. All of Europe can't be wrong. However, Americans use a slightly thicker rope than Europeans. So when a rope hangs permanently in a cave and swells with water and some dirt, it can be too thick to slide freely through the bobbin. The design of the rack, however, can accommodate several sizes of rope easily. So, basically, my Stop lived too much up to its name in this case - I could barely move on rope. On the bright side, there was no chance of plummeting to my death.
By the time we got out it was 12:30, so I was tired, not just from caving but also because it was 12:30. I had intended to go for a hike today, but I'm still processing my coffee at this point, so I'm going to scale back and do something smaller than I was thinking of.