Attendees: Keir, Phil, Coops, Alan, Rod, Tina, Rick, Mum, Dad, and I

Fri 23rd:

I left work a little early and caught the train to Westmead (1610) where I was picked up by Tina. We headed south and stopped briefly in Goulburn at the subway next to the big Ram (I just ate some leg bread, with homus and cucumber).
We continued to Gundagai and headed south to ?? through Tumult. Shortly afterwards we headed up the hill past Yarrangobilly and turned of onto Long Plains road, eventually reaching the Blue Water Hole camp ground. Alan and Rod where standing around the fire, the others had already retreated for the night.

Sat 24th:

I woke to  people rising and then some annoying clanging noise which turned out to be Rick seeking revenge on a group of Indians who had arrived at 4am and woken most of the camp site up (I was thankfully spared being awoken).

It was a slow start and it was quite late before we followed the dive group over the hill, Coops and I carrying a dive tank between us. Coops, went with Dad and Tina to drop a tank off at River Cave whilst the Alan, Mum and I explored some rock piles and headed to Murray where we would meet the others.

At Murray, we spent some time waiting in the main entrance and after a while I decided to go up the efflux, to find the rumoured connection. Not far from the entrance I was already crawling, the second hole I tried went up through a squeeze to a second to a chamber with daylight streaming through a small hole. I then crawled further into the hill shifting a number of large rocks before continuing… after several more meters I was in large passage and it wasn’t long before I recognised a side passage… I was in the Evil Twin (just before the tight squeeze). I headed out soon re-emerging from Murray’s main entrance.

The others still hadn’t arrived, and we where getting worried why they where taking so long. After some more waiting, I started heading to River Cave to see what had happened… but as I started heading out I heard their voices filtering down from above.
When they arrived, people wanted lunch, but I had a long rest so decided to explore the end of evil twin as I hadn’t been to the sump before. Mum came with me and we made it to the end which was’t much further than what I had already been. I then decided to explore a tight passage to the left of the sump. This went for several meters, around a corner before it disappeared into a disgusting hole that I spent some time working my way through. I went in feet first, and despite being quite tight the passage kept going, but I decided it was too risky by myself so headed back out covered in cold mud.
On the way out we explored a lot of parallel passages but nothing that was really heading out in a different direction.
Back in the main passage, we met the others on their way out from the sump.

We then debated waiting for a possible storm, but where soon on our way to Cooleman Main. I had walked past this cave a number of times on a previous trip, but had never actually been into the cave.
We sent some time posing for Tina at the entrance and then ducked into the left branch. The first thing I noticed where the huge number of glistening water droplets on the roof which I have always enjoyed. Apart from this however, there wan’t much formation intact… (I though that the end of the main passage had a chance of continuing under a collapsed section).

 

After further exploration and a photo pfaff at the entrance with Coops, I headed into the other branch to see if I could catch the others who had already started the through trip. It started as a crawl (over a number of puddles, but I just managed to keep dry), but soon emerged into a large impressive chamber. A section of walk through passaged followed, some of the sections off the main track where quite nice but a lot of the cave was damaged.
After some more crawling we emerged into the light. There was a small shower, and several minutes later an angry (for the second time) mum emerged – apparently they had passed the exit.

We continued down the gorge, and after dumping gear, I had a quick was in the waterhole, and then enjoyed cheese and crackers, and Dads diner.

Sun 25th:

After a bit of a sleep in, we again split into two groups. The divers headed to Glop Pot whilst the rest of us made our way down to the gorge. I had been on a morning walk through the gorge on the previous trip, but hadn’t been as far as the Cooleman Falls (or entered any caves).

The gorge exceeded my memories, and by wearing gumboots this time, I didn’t even get wet feet!
Just before a major valley comes in from the right (just after a comparatively tricky part on the track), he headed up the slope to the top of the ridge, on the way finding an interesting rock with with might be quartz crystal. At the top we walked to the point of the ridge looking out at the grand view. We dropped down the other side and after battling through a host of planetoids (proper name?) which enjoyed taking orbit around our legs, located the doline which housed the entrance to Black Range Cave (named after the main range).
It was quite a tight entrance through rock pile, but we soon dropped into stream-way passage. There was some nice formation, the first highlight, some fabulous rim pools.
Just to the right was a short climb up that allowed you to bypass the pretties and continue along the main passage where there was also some great formation. On the way back some time was spent getting the ideal photo of the water droplets ricocheting like fireworks from the calcite below.
The stream passage continued in a northerly direction becoming smaller and smaller. Soon I was grovelling through gravel and a further 10-15m further I would have been lying in the cold running water and having a fun time reversing out of small tubular passage. It was still early in the day, so I decided to keep dry and leave it for another day.

 

 

Outside the cave, we has some lunch beneath the shade of a gum, and then explored further up the valley looking for a rumoured cave (somewhere between Barber’s Cave and camp). There where some nice views, but no cave revealed itself to us.
The next cave we visited was Barbers (which I told my dad to watch out for!) on the other side of the valley to Black Range. We passed one of the four entrances but continued some annoying (but tasty) native raspberries to the southern entrance. My energy levels improved here as there where so many fun side passages and climbs running off from the main passage (I found Black Range a little slow going).
The water seemed to take a slightly different course to us but we did pass it a couple of times. One of my favourite sections of the cave was a mini gun barrel aven just to the right of the main thoroughfare, there where also some great formation in the other branch (the cave has a ‘Y’ shape, the other branch going to the entrance we passed), one looked like an organ and hanging from the ceiling above it was some weird brain looking thing.
We continued past another entrance/exit which had a small ladder to a hole framing Alan and Coops. After a few squeezes, I emerged back into the gorge.
We continued down to Cooleman Falls looking at the impressive gorge disappearing in the valley below. I’ll definitely need to make a trip to the Goodradigbee some time (probably camping at the junction).
Leaving our packs above the falls, we headed into White Fish Cave which actually takes a small part of the river flow. There are a couple of easy climb downs before reaching the sump. Here you can either continue straight and most likely get wet, or take a small hole to the side allowing you too avoid the water and drop back down on the other side. Everyone went for the latter option – though dad was told to go straight initially, so still got wet.
I looked into the water trying to spot the white fish the cave is named after, but unfortunately didn’t see any.
Once on the other side of the sump, we climbed up to a fantastic chamber with rim-pools and a great central formation that had been muddied on one side.

I then popped down a tricky muddy hole into a very muddy crescent shaped chamber. I saw a weir creature in the water where the barely flowing stream disappeared into the wall.

When we exited, we found Shannon with some beginner cavers – some didn’t have overalls yet – and joined to have a look at Schrödinger’s Cave… once in it soon became apparent that the water levels had risen to what they had previously been, so we could only look around the first upper chamber.

Mon 26th:

We got a relatively early start on the Monday as most people where heading back to their respective homes and didn’t want to leave too late. I was excited about heading into River Cave again as I wanted to explore the lead I looked at on the previous trip. Phil, Keir, Rod, Mum and I where the only ones willing to do the duck-under and we headed over the cave carrying some annoyingly heavy diving gear, reminding me why I don’t particularly enjoy cave diving trips…
We passed Rick carrying some gear back and eventually arrived at the cave entrance where we got our wetsuits on and wound our way down to the river. After some river walking, and wading we reached the first short duck under. I tried to squeeze through the hole to the left, but wouldn’t quite fit without forcing myself through so decided it was time to get completely wet in the duck under. A couple of rock piles and another duck under later and we where in the last section of the cave. The divers, went to the walk through river passage that left the main cave to dive it as it had been established that it didn’t go at all where I predicted, but instead was heading nearly perpendicularly away!

 

Apparently it was about another 10m to the next air chamber. Only Phil and Rod went. I wasn’t allowed to free dive it. After waiting for some time, I realised they wouldn’t be strait back as they had said, and since I was getting cold decided I’d have a look at the other (less obvious) passage almost opposite this one. I crawled in and passed over the mud but didn’t get much further than last time before it looked like I was at the end. I spent some time trying to grab some footage/photos of a troglitic centipede and was also quite impressed by some glop towers that seemed quite a unique formation – I can’t remember seeing them anywhere before.
I soon looked at the pool of water where the chamber terminated and after a quick inspection decided I would duck under into what felt like another air pocket. When I resurfaced I found myself in a narrow passage that forced me to crawl along (sometimes on my side). This went for some way before turning right and a little further before the only possible lead I could see was up into a doggy looking wet hanging rockpile I didn’t fancy exploring… I was a little disappointed I couldn’t go further…

When I returned, the others where ready to head out. I was a little slow on the way back as I wanted to spend a little while taking a couple of photos.

When we got back to camp, the others had already returned and I eventually packed up my gear, hopped in the car with Tina and headed back to Sydney… on the way out the oil light started to flicker… low oil? the light seemed to go out when you revved. We pulled up at the highway and a quick look at the dip stick showed that there was’t even anything registering… what to do? We walked around to the boot, when Tina spotted a trail behind the car… fearing the worst I quickly looked under the engine and gasped inside when I saw the dark pool that had formed under the sump… there was a crack… we weren’t going anywhere.
Tina revealed that she had comprehensive car insurance (I wasn’t too surprised), the only problem was that we didn’t have any mobile reception. We flagged a car down and the hesitantly agreed to ring the NRMA for us when they next got coverage. A car coming from Long Plains road also stopped donating some water, fruit and cake. They also took our details to ring the NRMA in case the other message fell through…
After a bit of reading, I was surprised at how quickly the flat bed tow truck arrived.  With the car on the back, we jumped into the cab… the only problem was that the closest garage was not the way we had come… we discussed our options, and seeing as Tina had comprehensive coverage it seemed a ride all the way back to Sydney was on the cards. We enjoyed the great scenery, and once we had phone coverage Tina discussed with NRMA staff what we would be doing… it would be an overnight tow back to Sydney.

We stopped in Cooma for fuel for the truck and ourselves and then continued North. I got back seat to myself and lying down managed to get some sleep in.
Passing Cambera, the impressive fireworks display reminded us that it was actually Australia Day. By the time we got to Tina’s it was late and everyone was tired. I had a quick shower and slept in a real bed, reluctantly getting up much sooner than I would have liked.

[todo: Upload Keir’s trip report]
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