After checking out Hole in the Wall I followed the rough directions Google Maps had for me. The roads quickly became unsealed but were surprisingly in good condition, I just hoped I wouldn’t find a logging truck hurtling towards me when rounding a corner! I slowed down at the side roads reading the often hand painted signs that had been nailed to trees. I knew I was getting closer as the numbers started climbing and the road began to parallel Rift Creek passing a number of pleasant falls – I almost had a shower beneath one, but when I got up close, the cold wind changed my mind. Soon I located the side road I’d need to take, though perhaps I shouldn’t have as my FWD wheels did a lot of spinning and by car received a good scratching from both sides as well as from underneath. In one spot I had to get out to remove some fallen branches from the road. At the next spot I could turn, I did, and being quite late I decided to leave cave exploration to the following day. I built up the courage and went for a wash in the river and cooked up a nice salsa to have with some nachos.
I woke relatively late and soon got gear together to see if I could find the caves that shouldn’t be too far away. The end of the road proved to be not that far away, and at the end, I found a faint trail heading into the woods. Balancing across a long fallen tree I entered the mossy landscape I had been so captivated by the first time I had set eyes on it. Its amazing how you can take things for granted given time.
I quickly located a doline and continuing along found several more all quite close together. I had probably walked across cave passage numerous times. At the bottom of the next doline I could hear an underground stream… before even looking into the next one, the roar of the river confirmed I had found one of the caves! I went back to get my pack and decided to do a bit more surface exploration. I found some more dolines, and a log platform erected in one of the clearings. I searched along a limestone bluff, but didn’t find anything overly interesting. The water dropping down through the bluff created some nice cascades though. After about an hour or so, I found myself back at the cave entrance and rigging a rope from a tree hand-lined down to the stream. There was a lot of water. I dumped my pack and went for a wonder. Downstream first. The water was very white and I soon reached a fork, taking the drier, right passage I found a pitch with a couple of hangers at the top – they didn’t seem to be positioned the best… not that i’d be the best person to give judgement, but the rope would be running on the rock. Looking at the cave surveys on my camera it looked like I was in The Right Stuff. Taking the other passage, I chimneyed down the next waterfall, staying out a ways so as not to get wet. I encountered another pitch shortly afterwards and some instinctual gut feeling told me that that’s enough for now. I’d learnt to trust my gut and climbed back up the waterfall to the doline entrance. Upstream didn’t go far. I climbed back out and decided that i’d search around for The Other Stuff. Since it had a voice connection with the cave i’d just been in, it shouldn’t be far away.
I soon found it, and climbed down into the doline where I found a small hole that seemed the only possibility. The cave dropped almost imedietly. I couldn’t help but spend some time listening to a musical speliogen on my way through. After a tight entracnce, the cave opened up into some clean. sharp limestone passage. This cave was actually quite fun with a far amount of climbing (probably what made it fun for me!).
There was an exposed (kind of) climb down into a room and a crawlway on the other side of the room. I reached a pool of water. It looked like you could continue if you really wanted. It looked like a roof sniff though, and I wasn’t keen on getting wet. Back in the main room I climbed up a somewhat dodgy climb into a small high room, but didn’t find anything extraordinary and back out I went. Outside I watched a couple of cyanide millipedes for a while, before heading out, collecting gear and returning to the car for some lunch.
I had some downtime, read a couple of Jack London short stories and headed back out to try and locate The Big Cheese. I wondered around for a bit, but overall it didn’t take too long to find the entrance. I’d definitely need to rap into this one. I decided to leave it for the following day, and headed back to the car.
The rain that had started yesterday afternoon, was still coming down fairly steadily. I had breakfast in the car, and was glad that most of my gear was ready to go from the day before. Hiding under a small inadequate umbrella I got some final things together (remembering to add tape/webbing and some mallions to my gear) and headed off to the entrance to The Big Cheese I had located the day before. I quickly set up a rope, got my harness on and dropped into the entrance. There were some good spots to shelter from the rain at the bottom (one of these leads to the chamber Alex found that isn’t on the survey), but to my luck, it had somewhat abated, which was a good thing because I might have missed the salamander otherwise. I think it was the second salamander I had seen in Canada, and not long after I spotted my first snake. It was very pretty, and after the initial shock and instinctive freezing, I got a bit closer. It was super docile and beautifully coloured patterning (none of the snakes on the island are dangerous).
Eventually I decided to stop harassing the snake and continued down the sloping entrance into the cave. With my harness still on, I decided I would rig the next pitch before exploring the other areas in the cave. I spent some time deciding how I would rig it, finally settling on running a line anchored from some boulders down to a rebelay that would allow the rope to free hang for the entire pitch. This worked well and I was soon at the bottom of the pit. The survey I have for this pit shows a dotted passage marked as ‘t’ (I think this is equivalent to ‘tt’ or ‘too tight’ on the surveys in Australia?). In any case, it looked like it was pretty trogged, and it was definitely breathing. I took of my harness and soon found myself worming my way through a flattner hoping I wasn’t going to have to reverse back out. I was lucky and the passage widened allowing my to turn my neck/face the other way and then a spot where I could crouch. The passage then sloped down into a small room with a nice pool which a had a quick drink from. You could then climb up a small waterfall, through a tight squeeze that formed me to crawl sideways and then up through a squeeze that might be named the Saganaki… I found this part of the survey a little hard to read. A crawl into another room, followed by more crawling and I figured I must be close to the entrance chamber. Sure enough, I soon spotted my rope dangling down into the black pit. It was pretty easy to navigate these caves as they also seemed to run along the same line and were very ‘rift-like’ with some vertical bands of chert, that may have contributed to the shape of the caves.
I decided to explore the other end of the cave and headed through the “Flat-up Crawl” which wasn’t really that bad at all. At the junction I turned down the left passage and dropped down one of the two holes into a muddy room. Soon I reached the impressive Feta Climb. This reminded my a lot like the waterfalls in Tuglow cave that you can climb. It was fairly straight forward. The next climb up into Gouda Stuff Aven was trickier as there weren’t as many hand holds and the wedge shape of the walls made it an awkward chimney, but soon I was up into the aven peering up at the source of the waterfall way up above.
Dropping back down, I explored a lead above the Feta Climb. It was tight to begin with, but it soon widened. Someone had done a bit of rock balancing in a small room above. Continuing back towards Gouda Stuff I found you could emerge onto a perch towards the top of the aven giving you a different view of the space. You could also climb down into the room, effectively avoiding the climb if you wanted.
Heading back out I found a crab and prussik cord. I picked it up, leaving it at the junction so I could grab it on my way out. Taking extra care at Watch Your Step, I climbed down into some mudy passage, continuing only a short way before turning around.
I headed back down the passages to my harness and pack at the bottom of the pitch, exploring many side and parallel passages I had missed on my way out the first time.
Soon I was pulling my rope up and back in the rain, ascending the rope out. I thought about revisiting The Right Stuff, but I had some errands to run in town, and besides, chances were I’d be back (Alex sounded pretty keen) so it’ll be nice to have some new cave to explore!
Wow! That was a good shower! and I also have gum boots and a watch ready for work! … I found out that the power plug adaptor kit doesn’t accommodate my Australian plug… drats! I’ll have to see if I can swap it for another…