STEEP FALL, SHARP MIRACULOUS RISE By SUMMER KELLEY, Dade County Sentinel First published in the Dec. 12 edition
(RIGHT) - Rick Gattone has been a caver for most of his life. In 1986 he descended into the Valhalla Pit in Scottsboro, Ala. It was in a pit like this one that he fell in August and almost died.
The plan that day was to hike up to the top of the mountain, rappel down through the Pryor Springs caves and waterfalls, then swim and wade out through the bottom of the mountain.
Rick Gattone and Chad Dubbison, fellow members of the Hamilton County/Chattanooga Cliff and Cave Rescue Team, were looking forward to a pull down trip through the Sequatchie Valley mountain caves. A pull down trip is one in which the cavers rappel down a level and then pull the rope and set up to go down to the next level taking the rope with them each time they descend. What happened that fateful morning earlier this year was anything but planned or ideal.
Forty-four year old Gattone was heading down the first 50 foot drop into the entrance of the pit when his rope gave way. Gattone fell 35 feet landing face up under a waterfall on the rocks. He found himself unable to move anything but his fingers and toes and it was difficult for him to breathe. Gattone let Dubbison know that he was injured and what kind of shape he was in and then Dubbison began the hike back down the mountain to get help.