Topless Dome

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1st Episode

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2nd episode

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3rd Episode

Tumbling Rock Cave in Alabama and protected by the SCCI (permitted required to enter the cave) has a 396 foot dome with a waterfall coming down the center of it.  Topless Dome was first climbed in 1978 by Don Davison and Cheryl Jones where they climbed straight up the dome and then rappelled down two side pits named Mushroom Forest and Horse Tooth Pit.  Allegedly, someone tried to climb back to the top in 1996 without a permit and got arrested right before they could top out and you can still see their rope up there (2nd episode).  No one has officially been to the top since 1978.


Rachel Saker loves vertical cave exploration and was exploring ceiling channels in the Hall of Great Mysteries until one of her discoveries, Disillusion Window, tied back into Topless.  She installed a via ferrata to go to the other side where the map said the Mushroom Forest and Horse Tooth Pit existed only to find out they were behind her.  I joined Rachel in episode 1 and lead aid climbed from her Disillusion window up to Horse Tooth Pit.  In Episode 2, Rachel leads from Horsetooth pit up through Mushroom Forest and gets us to the top where we found the original anchor from 44 years ago including the original note in a cricket chewed zip lock bag.  We then rappelled the entire dome making it the longest continuous rappel I have ever done.

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In the 3rd episode, we broke the anchor we found to see how strong it was.  The webbing was weaker at 12.91kN and 14.41kN as new webbing which would be 20kN in the way I tested them.  When I pulled the anchor itself, it broke at 9.01kN which is LESS than 50% of what it should be.  The pulley was ironically stronger at 9.94kN.  And the quicklink was 47.24kN.  The other two quicklinks from other TAG cave systems broke at 26.25kN and the other one that looked really corroded I could not break after destroying my stuff at 89kN or 20,000LBF.  

Project leader: Rachel Saker

Photo Credit: Ethan Reuter 

Michael Ketzner is in Episode 2

See Derek Bristol's Youtube video

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