After a lazy start on Tuesday marked by drawn out efforts at packing and a final meal of ham/chorizo and eggs at the local bar, myself, Jethro Pryke, Chris Jones, and Dave Powesland set off down the hill to head in towards Death Race 2000 for either 2 or 3 nights depending on how things went.
Our plan was to tackle both the ongoing climb that Rob and George had left in “Here’s what you could have won” as well as having a team take in caps to try and open up the sandy dig at the end of Jurassic World. This unfortunately meant taking in two drills, although we had pretty low hopes overall for the dig and therefore only took in one surveying kit (more on that later…)
The trip in was pretty speedy but otherwise uneventful, and we stopped only to get water a few times, as well as to have a lunch of chorizo and cheese wraps at Consort Hall and to drop off the dye detector at Colin’s Climax off of Green Domino.
Upon arriving at camp it became apparent that the food situation was more dire than expected, and the previous team there (which included myself) had not left any water to cook with. Chris however remembered a way out of camp that took you close to the water source above the traverse, and was able to grab about 3 litres from a small puddle he found, not ideal but enough to tide us over for the night. Some careful measuring of what was left in the food stocks meant we could survive for three nights, though that meant eating every ration pack left, including the ones that were several years out of date, as well as the single pack of unflavored plain rice.
The next morning after a breakfast of porridge, crystalized honey, and cherry flavored caffeine rehydration tablets Chris and myself set off down the pitches towards Pina Colada, while Jethro and Dave headed up the M6 Toll traverse towards the sandy dig, armed with caps, the drill, and various tools for digging, including the adorable micro-wbar that Glen had provided us with.
Chris and I steadily made our way down the sharp knifey passage towards the pitches to Pina Colada, cursing our large bags and the at times terrifyingly brittle passageway, which requires one to sometimes tiptoe across glass-thin layers of rock above drops of several meters or more. The heavy winter rains appeared to have done little to most of the rope on the pitches down, although one unfortunate wearpoint meant that we had to sacrifice one of our two static ropes to replace the in-situ one (although we were able to salvage 13m of it to use later on)
We had a lunch of Serbian-fried mackrel, which thoroughly impressed Chris, and then headed into the canal before Pina Colada, and around the “newly” rigged traverse up into “Here’s What You Could Have Won” The chamber that Rob and George had made it to three years prior.
Chris took point on the bolt climbing, after I posed some vague excuse about lower efficiency, having a reach about a foot shorter than his, and within just over an hour he was at the top of the impressive flowstone formation, 30m higher than where we started. He rigged up the static rope he had bought with him, and I prussiked up to join him, where we swapped over and I traversed around the top of the formation to the other side of the chamber.
I set up a perfectly fine traverse so that Chris could join me, and then headed around a large column and bolt climbed up the other side, with Chris belaying through a small hole in the calcite, while precariously balanced on top of a small stalagmite.
With the remaining rope we had I was just able to reach a small chamber on top of the flowstone ramp, and we began surveying back towards the main chamber floor, annoyed that our lack of rope meant we could not continue our ascent, as a potential lead lay just 3-4m higher than where we had gotten to. We elected to leave the bolt climbing kit there, expecting to return the next day to finish it off, before we made our way back to camp.
We arrived at camp at about 10:30pm, to find it suspiciously empty, as we’d expected Dave and Jethro to be long back. After a meal of ration packs, vegetable soup mixed with ramen noodles and hot orange rehydration mix Chris set an alarm for their callout of 1am before we went to bed, fully expecting to have to get up in two hours and go look for them. Thankfully shortly before midnight we heard voices from the traverse, and only a few minutes later the digging team appeared, making their way around the chamber towards us.
Upon their arrival it became apparent why they had been so late, as they had dug for a solid 8 1/2 hours, and after shifting a great many enormous rocks had managed to break through to the other side, into a long walking passage similar in profile to the rest of Jurassic World. We all went to bed excited to explore and survey the new passage the next day.
The third day we all made our way to the new passage, and Dave and myself headed onwards to rig our way through, while Jethro and Chris surveyed from the dig. We managed to make about 200m of easy going passage before being halted by a tiny calcite choke where the draft was coming from. Our efforts with a hammer didn’t yield much result, so disappointed, we decided to head back, with myself and Dave exploring a couple more leads on the way out, while Jethro and Chris high-tailed it to camp and then to Pina Colada to finish off the climb and bring the kit back to exit with the next day.
At Pina Colada Jethro and Chris managed to climb the last 3-4m that we couldn’t on Wednesday, to find 30m of easy ramp climbing ahead of them, with a further bolt climb beyond, though at that point they were out of time, and surface rains meant the Pina Colada canal was beginning to fill up. Fearing becoming trapped they headed back to camp, to arrive tired and wet at just after midnight.
The final day began with some frantic packing and a brief inventory of the remaining camp supplies (4 packets of instant noodles being about the extent of the food…) before we all set off out of the cave. We quickly separated out into distinct speeds, with Dave and Chris storming off ahead while Jethro and myself brought up the rear.
Once again the trip out was fairly uneventful, although we all regrouped at the streamway near the entrance, as the rains had raised the water level quite significantly and the traverse line required some extensive rerigging, sacrificing both a sling of mine and Chris’ haul cord. Despite our pleas nobody had left any beer for us in the entrance, though it was thankufully (relatively) cool and overcast, so the walk back up the hill was less painful than usual.
Back at the hostel at about 4:30 for beers and Picos cheesy chips 🙂
Sandy dig – “Barney and Friends” 270m surveyed (the name comes from both the dinosaur theme of the previous passage and the prominence of a large purple-tinted stalagtite in the middle of the passage, which we’ve dubbed Barney the Dinosaur)
Pina Colada – “The Bastard Ramp” 82m surveyed, 73m vertical climbing (the name comes from Phils referral to Chris, Dave and John as “The bastards” upon learning that they went to the 42 streamway lead in Marniosa before he had arrived)