Attendees: Myself, Allan, Tina, Anna, David, Geoff and Tony

Fri 31 – Getting There

I finished work early and with packed bags made my way to Allan and Megan’s. After some juggling, guitar and other shenanigans we were eventually on our way.

The wombat count reached eight by the time we arrived and set up camp alongside the others in the usual spot by the river. It was a warm night (about 24deg) so I decided to sleep out under the stars. I almost regretted this decision when a few spots of rain materialised but it soon passed.

Sat 01 – Palace & Vortex, Locksmith and Fig Tree

Allen and Geoff were already up and talking when I awoke; I think Anna and David where in the kitchen. Tina soon joined us and with Tony, after the typical morning rigmarole we where soon on our way to Palace and Vortex Caves.
We split into two teams; Tina, Geoff, Anna and Tony going into Palace whilst Allen, David and myself went into Vortex. We synchronised our watches and headed trough the squeeze, past the Fifty Singing Shawls, through Double Tunnel, past Clonk Rock eventually arriving to a new section of cave (the White Room) which (according to the surveys) should be only metres from Palace.

 

At the allotted times we yelled out intently listening for a reply. Roughly on the our we heard the faint calls of the other party; we had made a connection!
There was no obvious way on, but after surveyin the new section and some photo faffing an awkward climb up through a slot in the rockpile revealed a tight hole. I pocked my head through and was a rift about 0.5m wide which was heading in the right direction.
We were already late by the time we started heading out and found the other team at the top of the hill where we stopped to have some lunch.
After lunch we decided to have a look for Locksmith. After what seemed like a couple of hours searching for the entrance we gave up – this was the second time I was on a trip where we failed to find the illusive Locksmith. (However, I might have found an unknown cave, but I’ll have to have a proper look another time). We retreated into Fig Tree escaping the heat. After a small climb up through a rift followed by a squeeze through a tube, I found myself on a ledge quite high up in the main passage.

Next we went up a ladder I hadn’t been up before; there were quite a number of nice formations here. I found the most impressive a deep rim pool which had formed as if a balustrade for the main passage.

We then visited the bats in Creek Cave glimpsing a wombat in one of the narrow side passages. We then headed upstream towards the sumps near the Drought Breaker. I accidentally bypassed the sumps and got stuck coming back downstream eventually having to retrace my steps.
Strolling the rest of the way through Fig Tree, we were soon out in time for the welcome dinner and not so ready for the load music and shouting of a 21st that didn’t abate until around 3am.

Sun 02 – Mares Forest Creek Canyon, Tinted Cave and Wollondilly

By the time everyone had finished packing it was getting quite late making the path Geoff was picking up the hill quite hot and sticky. It wasn’t long however before we hit Mares Forest Creek and scrambled down to a spectacular swimming hole with its own waterfall and jump-in spot. We spent several hours here relaxing, swimming and bathing in the sun.

 

It was soon time to continue and the gorge quickly turned into an impressive limestone canyon with  features on the walls a floor often cobbled with odd green rocks blanketed in a layer of clear water.
As we continued downstream we explored some of the caves and probably discovered a new one that by my rough measurements went in ~20m.

 

 

 

When we got to Tinted Cave, myself and David tried to climb up from the bottom, but we got stuck near the end as the last climb to the railing was a bit dodgy.
I then climbed around onto a small ledge above the water and found an inclined ramp which dropped to a suitable jump-in height; the only problem was that it was hard to climb here. I then had the bright(?) idea of running down the ramp; which turned out to be a stack of fun!

After a balance along the suspended pipe we had reached the tourist track and our exit point. We went up the steep steps past the old pumping station, a a look through Tinted Cave and continued along the track.
We decided tho have a quick pass through Wollondilly Cave but unfortunately had to rush to ensure the keys got back on time.

Minus an Anna, we headed back to Sydney stopping for Indian on the way. What a great day, thanks to everyone who came along!

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