Saturday, 2 August 2014

Deja Vue on the Outer Circle

In March 2005 we had a trip where a member of the party would not fit down a squeeze into Coal Cellar Passage, splitting the party and making an epic trip.
Surely history could not repeat itself?

After walking to the entrance in all our gear in glorious sunshine it was nice to get in the cool shade of the cave, though there was talk of just spending the day sun bathing.
I led through the entrance series to Baron’s Chamber where Brendan took over ...
We head down Main Stream to the 2nd Boulder Choke stopping to do some filming of the where Loz was caught nearly slipping off the step around the corner. We then look at the traverses from Keyhole Chamber and take the alternative route in the stream. We were soon at Northwest Junction and off into Turkey Streamway and began the Outer Circle, pausing for photos in the streamway, and then continued to Turkey Pool for a quick dunking and cries of “joy” at the freezing water, followed by giggling from others until it was our turn!
We continued the Outer Circle via Sand Caverns and Selenite Needle Passage we completed the Inner Circle following Eastern Avenue to the end and back before heading clockwise around the outer route including the Dome of St. Pauls completing the circuit and then heading through to Midsummer Passage and found squeeze down in to Coal Cellar Passage.
Brendan had a play in the squeeze, trying to remember how he’d gotten through previously and produced some interesting noises. I had a go next, with guidance from Brendan on the best angle of attack and shining his Scurion in to the dark space I was lowering myself into. I got though. Rob was next up, helmet and belt were soon off and several attempts at finding optimum angle were made, along with more interesting noises ☺. To add to the challenge of the squeeze Rob started getting cramp in his left leg, but he kept on wriggling and was through, valiant effort! Brendan had another ago but decided he required some ribs removed first.
So 6hrs in we split in to 2 x 2, Brendan and Keith are to head back round the Outer Circle (I reckon Brendan just wanted to do Turkey Pool again ☺), Rob and I are to follow Coal Cellar passage. We agree to meet at the junction with Turkey stream in an 1hr 30mins, expecting Rob and I to get there 1st as we have less distance to cover.
Now this is not how I imagined my 1st experience at leading to pan out! I’m reliably informed by Keith that it’s a “fairly straight forward” route “just follow the most obvious passage” until we get to Turkey Passage. We start to proceed down the boulder riddled small stream way on hands and knees, poor Rob starts suffering with cramp again but he braves it on, fair play.
The way on is not so apparent as we can’t see past the next boulder, still on hands and knees we weave around, under and over small boulders, dropping in and out the water. Not far in and we come across a junction, a dry, hands and knees crawly rift passage goes off to the right, I look left at where the stream continues to see more boulders and a narrowing passage. I recall Keith’s words “follow the obvious passage” so we follow the dry passage for a bit, spurred on by hearing a muffled drum of water over rock as we crawl on. However as we’re supposed to meet with Turkey Streamway and this is passage dry, I decide we should turn around and go back to the junction, but I am reluctant to leave this passage as it is easier going than the stream.
Back in the stream we crawl for a bit then get to a squeeze over a boulder, Keith didn’t mention any squeezes but it looks polished, I wriggle through to see if just around the corner is a nice wider walking passage. Unfortunately it’s more of the same, narrow hands and knees stream way littered with awkwardly placed boulders, obscuring the ‘obvious’ way on. I call back to Rob, who is busy wedging himself in the squeeze, I try to sound optimistic and tell him the passage does continue on. Off comes the helmet and belt again with cramp kicking in once more, but with mega effort and determination, Rob is through. Onward, the passage develops in to tall narrow rift which we crab walk our way along, interrupted by the odd boulder to clamber under or over, but it’s a relief to be able to stand up!
The rift starts to narrow and I’m touching both sides, it doesn’t look polished, we climb up and traverse a bit not sure which is best high or low. It widens and I drop down while Rob stays high, we both scout for signs of the ‘obvious’ route!
It widens further so Rob drops down as well and we continue in the water which varies in depth. In a narrower section of the rift we get to a wedged boulder about my shoulder height, but can’t pass under, Rob kindly gives me a leg up. Once on the boulder I wriggle forward on my stomach, unhelpfully the rift widens to the point my shoulders will no longer wedge me, my legs are still trapped at the narrow bit, I involuntarily slide forward head first in to space, arms pressing the walls to try to slow my descent, at the point I need to learn quickly how to do gymnastics or I’m landing on my face, my legs come free and hit the floor first. Rob just pops over the boulder.
A time check reveals we’ve been going 1hr 10 going through this “fairly straight forward” passage, I say to Rob if this doesn’t meet with Turkey Streamway soon we may have to turn back. Rob suggests 10 more minutes. The passage does start to widen and we come across a pile of boulders, I think I hear voices (but at this stage I could well be hallucinating!) then I see the glow of a head torch, it’s Keith, both parties equally relieved to see the other but we refrained from high 5s, knowing we still had a fair trek to get out. Still not actually at the end of Coal Cellar Passage I follow Keith to hear a yell from behind, it’s Rob, his head torch had conked out! On the plus it took his mind off the cramp in his left leg....

Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Rob Campbell - Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Rob Campbell - Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Loz Appleby - Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Loz Appleby - Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd

We then plod out to see the dying rays of the sun disappear over the hills as we walked back along the tramroad.

Report by Loz

Present: Loz Appleby, Keith Edwards, Rob Campbell and Brendan Marris

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