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NUTTY PUTTY CAVE
NUTTY PUTTY CAVE ENTRANCE GETTING A GATE

Nutty Putty Cave Entrance Getting a Gate

Daily HeraldMonday, 01 May 2006 - KATIE ASHTON - Daily Herald

Nutty Putty Cave enthusiasts will face more obstacles beyond squeezing into the popular spelunking playground now that officials have decided to gate off the entrance.

The highly frequented cave will feature a gate, which is slated to be in place at the end of the month, blocking off the west entrance. After a publicized debate on whether or not to close the caves, officials from the state School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration have decided to let the Timpanogos Grotto restrict access to the area.

Ill-equiped and unprepared spelunkers entering the unrestricted and potentially dangerous area set the stage for a devastating accident waiting to happen.

"This is a moral thing that we don't want to live with," said SITLA spokesman David Hebertson. "The cave needs more management or be closed."

The new restrictions to the area haven't come unwarranted.

In 2004, two people were stuck in the cave over Labor Day weekend and Utah County Search and Rescue teams were called in to help the novice spelunkers find their way out. In 2005, four people were killed after they went caving near Y Mountain in Provo.

The incidents have re-emphasized the need for people to take precautions when they're in caves, Hebertson said.

Although there are many caves that are not controlled, Nutty Putty receives about 6,000 groups a year, said Jon Jasper, director of Timpanogos Grotto. And 90 percent of those groups go in unprepared.

Safety is the primary reason the entrance will be gated, Hebertson said. Although SILTA owns the land, talk of liability being the main reason for initiating restrictions is incorrect.

"I don't think liability is an issue at all," he said. "But I do believe that we don't want to tell somebody that their son or daughter died in our cave."

The cave has been attracting adventure-seeking people for years. But the trend of being adventuresome is getting dangerous, Jasper said. More and more people are engaging in extreme activities with little precaution.

"It's like jumping out of an airplane with half a 'chute," he said.

Nutty Putty Cave isn't necessarily more dangerous than any other caves in Utah, he said, but people who go caving without wearing a helmet or the proper clothes increase the dangers.

Timpanogos Grotto, a local chapter of the National Speleological Society, will offer permits to any group who has at least one person that has prior caving experience, Jasper said. Groups must fill out a form and mail it in to receive the combination that opens the gate to the cave.

But this might not be the light and the end of the tunnel for Nutty Putty lovers.

If people do not follow the rules Timpanogos Grotto has established, then it may be the end of Nutty Putty Cave, Jasper said.

"If this fails, the cave will most likely be closed," he said. "Cement, gravel, blown up -- I don't know."

For more information about what the requirements are to access the cave, go to www.caves.org/grotto/timpgrotto.

Katie Ashton can be reached at 344-2548 or kashton@heraldextra.com.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D1.

GATE DESIGN COURTESY OF JON JASPER

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