Sponsored Research
Current Expeditions
Past Expeditions
Publication Downloads
Become a Sponsor
Promotional Items

2019 Sistema Cheve
Personnel and Sponsors
Team Member Portal
2018 Sistema Cheve
2018 Huautla PESH
2018 Peña Colorada
2017 Sistema Cheve
2013 J2
2010 J2
2009 J2
1998 Wakulla 2
1994 San Agustín
1987 Wakulla Springs
1984 Peña Colorada
1981 Agua de Cerro
1980 Río Iglesia

Stone Aerospace

Sistema Cheve 2019 Personnel

Reilly Blackwell, USA
Reilly Blackwell grew up on a farm in rural Virginia and has enjoyed mud and suffering ever since. She started caving two years ago with the VPI Cave Club, and recently moved to Alabama to work for the National Speleological Society and climb more rope. Reilly has been on expeditions in Montana and Utah and goes project caving all over the southeastern US. She enjoys writing, rock climbing, animal tracking, and playing music when not underground.

Špela Borko, Slovenia
My caving career is short but sweet. I joined the Society for Cave Exploration Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2013 and exploring the unknown immediately became my passion. With over 400 cave trips in five years, I spend most of my free time underground.

Our first steps into exploration were through the Pokljuka plateau (Slovenia), where we explored and mapped a system of caves which is now 620 m deep and among the 10 longest caves in the country. We soon reached deeper and started organizing deep cave expeditions on Kanin mountain (Slovenia). My main focus of research is now in the 1054-m-deep cave P4, where I am coordinating exploration and mapping. I also do the dirty work (i.e. design) of the Slovenian online cave database (www.katasterjam.si). Professionally I am a speleobiologist. For my masters thesis I studied fauna of deep caves, and now I am working on my PhD project on subterranean amphipods in the Subterranean Biology Laboratory, Ljubljana, Slovenia. I have participated in speleobiological research in Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Kosovo.

Adam Byrd, USA
Dr. Byrd started caving in 2003 with the West Virginia University Student Grotto and has since caved extensively across the United States. Most of his recent efforts have been focused on the exploration of the caves of Germany Valley, West Virginia. This is his third expedition to Sistema Cheve with the USDCT, and fourth expedition in México. He enjoys long walks in gypsum sand boreholes and LED-lit cave gruel dinners. He is an avid rock climber, and for the past year has been on a 23-country tour around the world with USDCT member Kristen Anderson.

Matic Di Batista, Slovenia
I have been involved in caving for almost my whole life, since my father was also an active caver, and he still likes to go caving from time to time. In last 10 years I became more involved with serious caving, mostly in Slovenia where I live, and some in France, USA and Mexico. I am a member of the caving club "Društvo za raziskovanje jam Ljubljana".

I like deep, vertical, alpine caves, and this is where I spend most of my spare time - exploring new caves in the mountains around Slovenia. Currently I'm leading and helping with exploration of new alpine caves in Slovenia in areas around Pokljuka and Kanin. In 2011 I helped with a short expedition where we helped a diver (Matt Covington) with transport of diving equipment, to dive in a sump in "Renejevo brezno" cave (-1250 m, Mt. Kanin). Since then, we have organized at least one expedition per year to "Renejevo brezno" or cave "P4", where we work our way towards the valley, exploring new horizontal passages at a depth of 1000 m or more. With this project we aim to explore a near-2000-m-deep cave system and the deepest, dry through trip in the world.

Besides caving I also like mountaineering, climbing and programming. I work as a software developer and also like to develop new apps to automate some of the documentation work we do on caves.

Yvonne Droms, Switzerland
Yvonne Droms started caving in 1967 in Portugal. After moving to the USA, she joined the National Speleological Society in 1985 and has been caving ever since. She is very active in exploration and survey in the extensive cave systems of Virginia and West Virginia. She teamed up with Bill Stone in completing the then-longest bolt-climb in West Virginia by scaling a 306-foot dome in Hellhole. Starting in 2001, she has participated in numerous expeditions to the deep, vertical caves of Mexico: Cheve, Huautla, and J2 in Oaxaca, and in the Purificación area of Tamaulipas/Nuevo León.

Yvonne is a Swiss citizen who grew up in Portugal. She is a retired translator, having worked for Rosetta Stone in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and speaks seven languages. Her two children are mathematicians. Yvonne spends her free time caving and helping with caving publications, and also enjoys hiking, skiing, backpacking and mountain bicycling.

Sonia Dudziak, Poland
Sonia began her adventure with caves in 2015. Annually she participates in expeditions to Prokletije, Montenegro with her caving club. She has explored caves in Sardinia and in the Austrian Alps - Tennengebirge. Her biggest cave experience was the 2018 Sistema Cheve Expedition, during which she spent a total of 25 days underground. For three years she has taken part in the Polish caving techniques championship with pretty good results, still on the podium. Throughout the year she explores caves of the Tatra Mountains and constantly improves her rope skills.

Irina Eftimie, Romania
I started caving in 2006 in my home country, Romania. That year I participated in some small recreational caving trips and did my first rappel. By the end of the year I was part of a photography documentation trip in one of the biggest caves in Romania. That just got me hooked on the underground world and I have been caving ever since. After participating in Romania's most alpine vertical cave expedition, I couldn't get enough. When I moved to the US in 2014, in search of continuing my underground adventures, I joined the Philadelphia Grotto and the NSS. I have been involved in several explorations since, especially in the depths of Germany Valley, WV, but sometimes I get to travel around the country too with the goal of discovering more virgin passage.

Claire Gougeon, Canada
Claire Gougeon's first caving trip was over 11 years ago, and she immediately fell in love with the mysterious, ancient, hidden world. Within two months, she was spending every weekend with the team attempting to connect two significant caves in the Canadian Rockies. When they succeeded several years later, Heavy Breather broke the depth record in both Canada and the United States! Approximately a year ago, the same usual suspects broke their own record with Bisaro Anima in the same region.

Claire participates in several caving expeditions a year (not to mention local weekend trips), and is very passionate about discovery and exploration of new caves, whether or not their dimensions happen to draw media attention. She works part-time as a cave guide in Canmore, Alberta, and is a Registered Nurse.

Matthew Garrett, USA
Matthew started caving in 2003, where he avidly took to exploration throughout TAG and Virginia. In 2009, he left for a three-week expedition in China, and, since the caving was so good, stayed for three years. While China is known for large passage, he still managed to chase his true passion of pulling survey tape through absurdly small passages, then watching his teammates get stuck while trying to follow. Despite his reputation for not returning from expedition in time, and for only discovering very tight passage, he keeps getting permitted to pass through customs, and invited on other expeditions. He now lives in California, where he suffers from a dearth of local caves, so instead keeps busy above ground in the ridges of the High Sierra and the walls of Yosemite.

Joanna Haremza, Poland
Joanna has been actively caving for 10 years. Since 2016 she has been a member of the Caving Committee of the Polish Mountaineering Association and for two years she has been head of the Poznań Caving Society. During past years Asia focused her attention mostly on cave exploration in Montenegro - Prokletije Mountains and caving activity all over Europe (Poland - Tatra Mountains, Czech Republic - Czech Moravia, Italy - Sardinia Supremonte, Albania - Prokletije Mountains, Austria - the Alps). Personal record (so far:)) is Voronya-Krubera Cave - Game Over at -2018m. In everyday life: mom and architect.

Alejandra López-Portillo, México
Alejandra started caving in 2008, as part of the Mountaineering Association of the National Autonomous University of México (UNAM). She's caved in México with national and international groups and is an instructor in the same association. Speleology changed her life and introduced her to a new world full of friends, freedom and love. Alejandra is an educational material writer.

Sonia Meyer, USA
On Sonia Meyer’s first cave trip, she braved the sump in Swildon's Hole with the Oxford University Caving Club. She returned to the US in 2015 after living in China for several years, but never forgot that first caving experience. She found a grotto and it wasn’t long before she fell in love with the caves of West Virginia—spending a great deal of her time project caving at WVACS in Greenbrier County. In preparation to join the PESH 2018 team, Sonia began caving every single weekend, where she honed her skills as a sketcher, and has not stopped since. On her first international deep caving expedition, she reached a new level of dedication to exploration after she spent a week underground pushing leads deep in the Sistema Huautla cave system. She recently moved to California and now travels for domestic cave trips and expeditions.

Adrian Miguel-Nieto, México
Adrian Miguel-Nieto has been a member of the Association of Hiking and Mountaineering of the National Polytechnic Institute (AEMIPN Spanish acronym) since 2008. Since then, he has been participating as an instructor in speleology courses and workshops. He has also organized explorations in the Mexican states of Oaxaca (Sierra Mixteca), Puebla (Sierra Negra) and Hidalgo (Sierra Hidalguense). He participated in Proyecto Espeleológico Sistema Huautla (PESH) in 2015 and 2016. Adrian works as a biochemistry teacher.

Mark Minton, USA
Mark Minton has fifty years caving experience in most of the major cave regions of the United States and México. He also participated in three paleontological expeditions (1992-94) to the caves of Madagascar, which visited that country's deepest and longest caves. He has been a leader and/or member of many expeditions to the deepest caves in the Western Hemisphere, including five caves over 1000 meters deep, one of which he discovered. Mark has received several flag awards and exploration grants from the Explorers Club and has had over 250 articles published in various caving journals and the Explorers Journal. He continues to be very active in original exploration in Virginia, West Virginia and Mexico. Mark is the Director of Sponsored Research for the USDCT.

When not caving, Mark worked as an organic chemist for 30 years and is now retired. He lives in Virginia with team member Yvonne Droms.

Guillaume Pelletier, Canada
Guillaume was a teenager when he started caving in Quebec around 1990. Although the possibilities of being a caver in granite country were limited, Guillaume was thrilled to hear the exploration stories of the surprisingly vibrant caving scene in Quebec. After gaining sufficient experience, he participated in exploration expeditions to México (co-leader of the Mexpé project), Chile, Peru, Austria, Papua New Guinea, China, and India. Former director of the Quebec caving school (ÉQS), he’s also a caving instructor at the ÉQS. Guillaume tries to stay cave fit by being a lead rope access technician in Montreal.

Beverly Shade, USA
Bev Shade started caving in 1991, in local Texas caves, got into big caves in Mexico in 1992, and was hooked. Over the past 25 years she's caved in the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Poland, Germany, Slovenia, and Thailand. She finished her MS in Geology from the University of Minnesota in 2002 studying quartzite caves, and worked as an environmental consultant until changing careers. She finished a BS in Nursing from the University of Texas in 2015, and currently works as a registered nurse on a cardiac/infectious disease unit in Austin. She has a special place in her heart for digging, maps, and mentoring cavers who are excited about learning new skills.

Vickie Siegel, USA
Vickie first began project caving in 2004. In total she has spent more than two years working on expeditions in the US, Mexico, Russia, and Nepal. In parallel, Vickie has spent over ten years working with the field robotics team at Stone Aerospace to design, build, test, and field robots designed to explore Europa-analog environments on Earth. In this way she has participated in three field robotics expeditions to Antarctica and led two field campaigns on the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska.

Bill Stone, USA
Dr. Stone has been responsible for organizing and participating in the exploration of Sistema Cheve (-1484m), Sistema Huautla (-1545m), Cueva Charco (-1286m) and J2 (-1229m). During the past 45 years Bill has organized and led 70 expeditions. He has spent more than 9 years in the field on these projects of which 585 days were logged below ground based from underground camps. The longest single mission was 19-1/2 days operating from the -1200 m level of Sistema J2. He has designed seven generations of rebreathers for diving, including the Poseidon Se7eN that will be used in Cueve Cheve in 2017. Bill is the principal author of the Time-Warner book "Beyond the Deep." He is skilled in cave diving, subterranean lead climbing, cartography, rigging and cave rescue.

David Tirado, México
When I started adventure sports, I didn't know that caving would become so important in my life. With time, and the help of great cavers, I had the opportunity to experience incredible places in the depths. I learned exploration and rigging techniques, and eventually fell in love with caves. As if this weren't enough, I have the great fortune to live in a country with some of the best caves and karst features in the world, México. I have participated in expeditions in Sierra Negra (Puebla), Picos de Europa (Spain), and Sistema Huautla (Oaxaca).

Doug Warner, USA
Doug Warner has been a caver for 40 years, catching the caving bug as a child in Wyoming in 1978. During this time he has done trips in over a dozen US states as well as a handful of countries, including bottoming Lukina Jama/Trojama in Croatia at about -1400m. He regularly participates in survey and exploration expeditions in Lechuguilla Cave, among others. He has a history of teaching caving techniques informally as well as in semester-long university courses, and was the chair of the 2018 National Speleological Society Convention. Since 2012 he is the sole worldwide distributor (outside Europe) for El Speleo headlamps.

This Cheve expedition is one of the rewards he gave himself for missing out on the many caving opportunities he had to turn down in the 2 years leading up to that convention.

Copyright © 2019 U.S. Deep Caving Team, Inc.
All rights reserved. No portion of these pages may be used for any reason without prior written authorization.