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Board to mull closure of Hell’s Hole

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By Tris DeRoma

The tragic death of a Los Alamos teen two years ago at Hell’s Hole Cave in White Rock has prompted the county’s Parks and Recreation Board to look at sealing the cave’s exit hole from public access.

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The board is expected to discuss the matter at its meeting Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the county’s Municipal Building in Los Alamos at the request of the boy’s parents. 

Hell’s Hole is a natural cave formation on the Red Dot Trail in White Rock. There is an exit hole that is located on the side of White Rock Canyon that leads to a 400 foot drop off.

In July 2017, Trevor Matuszak, 19, a Los Alamos High School graduate, lost his footing in the cave and fell 400 feet to his death. 

Since then, Matuszak’s family has asked the county to consider blocking off the cave in the interest of public safety.

 “We need to be proactive in this, because if we’re not, we’re going to lose another kid. I guarantee it,” said Nick Matuszak, Trevor Matuszak’s father.

The meeting will be the first time the topic will come up for discussion.

Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess has personally introduced the item to the Parks and Recreation Board’s agenda after being in contact with the Matuszak family about the issue.

Last year, Burgess, an experienced cave explorer, visited the cave with his son Garron to assess the cave’s hazards.

“I took it upon myself to research it, whether it was the location causing concern or if there was another issue,” Burgess said. 

One of Burgess’ suggestions will be to seal a hole in the cliff that can only be accessed from inside the cave. While people will still be able to explore the cave, they won’t be able exit a hole in the cliff that leads back to the entrance by a narrow trail. 

“It’s the beginning of a conversation,” Burgess said. “I didn’t feel it was my position to just do it. I just wanted to publicize it before we did anything.”

Nick Matuszak will also be at the meeting Thursday. He also has been working with Burgess on a solution.

According to Matuszak, hikers drop into a cavern at Hell’s Hole, where they can then go up the other side of the cavern and come out through hole in the canyon. There’s a very narrow trail next to a sheer drop off that leads back to the cave entrance. It his here where Trevor Matuszak and other victims fell 400 feet to their death, or became severely injured when they fell.

“To at least deter them from going out the back, Mr. Burgess has a team of mountaineers that can get down there and bar it up and do something permanent so at least the kids can’t exit that side anymore. It forces them to come out the same way they came in,” Nick Matuszak said. 

Nick Matuszak said this solution or one like it would go a long way toward creating a safer community.

“It gives us the peace of mind that we don’t want any more young people exposed to doing this,” Nick Matuszak said, adding that the memorials already out there do little to deter risk and curiosity. 

If a solution is found Nick Matuszak said it will be a good thing for the community, and his family. 

“I don’t think it will help with closure, but I can tell you this, it will give us very good peace of mind that no other kid can die in the canyon by going out the exit of Hell’s Hole. That would be satisfying.”

The Parks and Recreation Board will meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Los Alamos Community Building.

Hell’s hole

The cave mentioned in the article is not “Hell’s Hole”, it’s “Lost Cave”. Hell’s hole is some 20 yards or so further down the canyon’s edge, towards Overlook.

.....and it’s not on the Red

.....and it’s not on the Red Dot Trail. It’s on the “Rim Trail”. Red Dot trail starts in La Senda on the other side(SW) of Pajarito Canyon.