Yesterday we got extremely wet and failed to find a cave. Full of hope and optimism, we set out to find Ed's cellar, which we had been recommended by Kieran. After 11 km of rally style driving, we finally arrived at the car park, the underside of our car well scoured. It was pissing it down.
A fairy tale forest lured us in, enchanting mists, near luminescent moss and dappled pools guided us down the Sylvain path. At least, this is what Rhys saw. Cecilia trudged inwards, mindful only of the rain and the weight of the tackle sack Rhys had kindly given her to lug. Our directions were excellent and we completely failed to follow them, arriving at a different and far more impressive cave, Hardwood's Hole, which we were unequipped to descend, given that the entrance pitch is 200 m deep.
Whilst we struggled to absorb the scale of the pit, our clothes easily absorbed the scale of the rainfall. Sodden and a little glum, we trudged back to the cars, squeezing in for a bumpy ride back to the hut.
In the afternoon we looked for caves near the NSG hut and found several interesting leads, including Burnt tree, Danger Zone and Lairy. The sun came out and we dried off a little, bashing across thrusting karst outcrops of black marble, sharp as knives and brittle as bone. Deep in the forest below, black mould coated trees and the rain clung to the branches, waiting to soak the unwary.
Today, Rhys, Oli and Chris went to find Ed's Cellar, buoyed by the discovery of a map attached to the email Kieran sent us showing exactly where to find the cave. Crudely transcribed map in hand, we succeeded in locating the cave, significantly moister, and with many embedded thorns. The cave was immediately unappealing - a dank muddy hole leads to a spider strewn tube, at the bottom of which was a 30 m pitch.
With some inventive rigging, we were down and negotiated several terrifying climbs and, um, that was it really. We found the pushing front but ran out of time after placing a couple of bolts. We left the cave rigged for the next day and returned to the hut.
The rest of the cavers spent the day looking more closely at the leads generated yesterday. Burnt Tree proved to be a 3m deep pit, Danger Zone ended in an unfeasibly tight crawl and the new Sneaky Shaft was found to be about 4 m deep by some inventive boulder dropping and free climbing.
We rigged a cave near the road marked with Red Tape from two trees and a massive deviation from a fallen log. The shaft was wide and muddy, and Tanguy kicked off boulders as he went. He placed two bolts, and invited me down to rig a deviation below. About 40 m down I smelt an odd metallic smell that made me concerned about air quality. After a quick survey with my light to confirm the cave probably ended in a muddy boulder choke, I ascended and derigged.
Tomorrow we will head to Canaan Downs to set up a base camp for exploring the region for caves.