National Speleological Society 2011 Convention

The National Speleological Society’s NSS 2011 Convention is coming to Glenwood Springs, Colorado,
July 18th – July 22nd. The convention will bring together cavers worldwide for a week of presentations, discussions, programs, socializing, and recreation.

Dave Lester, one of the principle NSS convention organizers, reports that Glenwood Springs should expect somewhere between 1000 and 1200 convention attendees.

Prior to the convention, NSS is planning community outreach events for Glenwood, which will include presentations to local service clubs and to schools. For schools, their Project Underground is a science-based curricula which teaches students about caving, how caves form, and other cave science topics.

About half the convention attendees will use a campground which will be set up between the high school and the Roaring Fork River, others opting for local lodging.

The NSS is encouraging a low-impact visit to Glenwood Springs. They are encouraging attendees to bring bicycles, which can be used on the bike path which runs in close proximity to the primary convention activities. NSS is also planning to bring loaner bikes for use by their members.

According to Lester, “members of the public are welcome to register for single day sessions or the entire week.”

Convention activities are still being planned, but a preview list includes:

  • An opening welcome dinner and dance party (aka “Howdy Party”) combined with the NSS 70th Anniversary Party, to be hosted by Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on top of Iron Mountain in Glenwood Springs
  • Trips to wild caves in Colorado during the convention, with both horizontal and vertical (technical climbing) caving trips
  • A decontamination station at the convention site – cavers participating in convention trips will be required to decontaminate their equipment
  • Geology Field Trip with cave stops. Beginning in Glenwood Springs, continuing to Redstone then Marble, then to El Jebel, before returning to Glenwood Springs
  • Convention sessions & workshops on a wide range of cave topics– exploration, biology, equipment, cave geology, cartography, archaeology, photography, paleontology, hydrology, karst management, ecology, and technological advances in communication and sensing equipment which aid in cave exploration
  • White Nose Syndrome (WNS in bats) presentations from cavers, land managers, and biologists on the issue of WNS in western states, for the purpose of improving communication and understanding
  • Vertical Climbing Workshop where students are given a basic overview of climbing equipment, techniques, and safety considerations. Covers knot tying, belaying, rappelling, and several ascending systems
  • Vertical Climbing Contests, 30 to 120 meters, for both men and women, separate age groups, and a team relay
  • Cave Art Salons, including cartographic, ballads, fine and cover art, video, multimedia, photographs, and t-shirt designs
  • NSS Board of Governors Meeting, and the Congress of Grottos meeting of the grottos, sections, regional associations, and surveys of the NSS
  • Kids activities, including trips for the Junior Speleological Society (JSS)
  • Convention auction/fundraiser for the NSS, supporting everything from Save the Caves to exploration
  • Campground Party at the Glenwood Springs High School, directly next to the campground, featuring the Terminal Syphons, a popular “caver band”
  • Public Session, featuring the IMAX adventure film Journey Into Amazing Caves. In this film, two accomplished cavers explore unusual caves, such as ice caves in Greenland and underwater caves in thejungles of Mexico, looking for important clues about the Earth’s past and microorganisms that inhabit its most extreme environments. (The film will be shown on a non-IMAX screen at the Glenwood Springs High School auditorium and is free to the public.) Two stars from the film will answer audience questions.

For more information, convention organizer Dave Lester recommends the following websites:

Newly Identified Species from Glenwood Springs, Colorado Cave

For years Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, has been abuzz with activity – excited riders whizzing down the alpine coaster, visitors hanging on to their seats in the 4D theater, tour groups going in and out of the caves all day.

And throughout it all, one group of little critters lived quietly, unnoticed. Hidden mostly in the darkness of the nooks and crannies of the Glenwood Caverns was a very unique pseudoscorpion, a rare arachnid that was not seen until 2000, and not officially categorized and named until ten years later.

Although pseudoscorpions have been found in other caves throughout the world, the kind found in the Caverns is a singular type that has never been discovered anywhere else.

The pseudoscorpions resemble small scorpions but are missing the long tail and the dreaded classic tail-end stinger. They are carnivorous, generally feeding on mites, spiders, and other small invertebrates. They have four eyes, eight legs, and two prominent front “arms” with crab-like pincers containing venom. But rest easy – at an average of 1/2 inch in length this arachnid is too small to be harmful to humans.

It took a trip halfway around the world and back for the creature to come into the light, as it were.

Cave biologist Dave Steinmann explores Glenwood Caverns
Ross Dinkelspiel photo


Dr. Mark Harvey University of Western Australia

Glenwood Caverns tour guide Micah Bell first noticed the pseudoscorpion while leading a public cave tour back in 2000.

He mentioned it to Dave Steinmann, a cave biologist who works with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He has been exploring Colorado caves for years.

It wasn’t easy for Steinmann to find the tiny insects who prefer to remain in the darkness. It took him over seven hours to find his first specimen, and then another ten trips to locate five samples of the creature.

“The Glenwood Caverns pseudoscorpion has probably been evolving in the cave for millions of years. It’s an amazing creature,” said Steinmann.

“It is unique to other species of its kind because of its reduced eye size, which makes it nearly blind, although it can detect light. Rather than using its eyes, the creature uses sensory receptors on its body to sense and locate its prey.”

Steinmann added, “it is also special because of its very long claws and pincers, the longest seen in a pseudoscorpion of this genus.”

Steinmann passed the specimens on to Dr. William Muchmore, a preeminent scientist and pseudoscorpion expert at the University of Rochester in New York, who first determined it was a new species.

Nearing retirement, Dr. Muchmore then forwarded the samples to Dr. Mark Harvey, an arachnologist and professor at the School of Animal Biology, University of Western Australia.

Dr. Harvey is also the Head of Terrestrial Zoology at the Western Australian Museum and maintains the Pseudoscorpions of the World database.

Dr. Harvey spent several years completing the extensive documentation process, and both scientists jointly authored the final paper that declared the Glenwood Caverns pseudoscorpion to be a new species and gave it a name.

To Steinmann’s surprise, it was named after…him!
Call it luck, call it hard work, call it: Cryptogreagris steinmanni.

Unique pseudoscorpion perched
on a cave rock in Glenwood Caverns

Tram Manager Wade Beattie Plays Crash-Test-Dummy

Thrill seekers everywhere can (literally) jump for joy. There’s a new attraction at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs that offers some of the most excitement in town: the Bungee Jump. This feature offers a breathtaking vertical drop off of a 70-foot tower.

Before the bungee jump opens to the public, it was road-tested by some of the Caverns employees, and the first to go was Wade Beattie, tram operator/manager extraordinaire. Wade is an outdoorsy kind of guy who has partaken in his fair share of adventure, but he admitted to being a tad apprehensive before the big drop. “I was a bit nervous about it, because I had never bungee-jumped before,” he said.

Wade had his harness fitted at the bottom of the tall tower, then headed up the winding stairs to the top. “I noticed my heart rate going up when I was climbing up the tower, because I knew that pretty soon I was going to launch off of it,” said Wade. Employees at the top double-checked his equipment and adjusted ropes. Wade said that most people face backwards when they jump, but he opted to face forwards. “My thought was, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to face it.”

After a few more minutes of adjustments, the operators told him: Jump.

“I didn’t wait,” said Wade. “I’m the kind of person who just wants to go.”

So, he stood up as tall as he could, put his arms in the air, and stepped off the ledge. It was something like a swan-dive, although he didn’t jump outwards so he wouldn’t swing too much. It was more of a swan-fall.

“The second I went off that thing, it was awesome. There is a free fall-moment where it feels like there’s nothing holding you. It was peaceful in a way,” said Wade.

“Once I jumped,” he said, “there was no fear left, only exultation.”

Wade bounced a few times in the air, then landed softly on a large (7 foot tall) air-filled cushion, which he easily walked off of. The jump took about 55 seconds in total. Wade said that watching from the ground, the jump looks short, but when you are the one doing it, it’s plenty long.

So, after it was over, did he want to do it again?


Wade’s advice to people is not to let their nerves get in the way. “A lot of people are going to be nervous at first, but then happy they did it. It’s smooth, safe, and a lot of fun.”

There’s a country song that goes, “Funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’,” and that’s exactly what any brave-heart out there looking for an adrenaline rush will be singing after a turn on the bungee jump. Be sure to check it out when the ride opens at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park next spring.