Geriatrics day out. Dwarrowdelf. 6/11/10 (by Janine McKinnon)

Geriatrics day out. Dwarrowdelf.  6/11/10


Party #1 (to the bottom): Ric Tunney (birthday boy), Serena Benjamin (birthday cake supplier), Janine McKinnon (accessories supplier)

Party #2 (half way crowd): Steve Bunton (party  #1 deserter), Ken Hosking (quality booze supplier), Amy Robinson (show winning cake supplier),  Chris Chad (multi-tasking).


After the very successful KD bottoming trip for Bunty’s 50th birthday, Ric  decided this was a good idea for landmark birthdays, and promptly told me that he wanted to bottom Dwarrowdelf for his 60th birthday.  This was a couple of years ago and I doubted, to be honest, that he would still be keen, come the appointed time. Well, I was proved wrong, and as the time approached, and his enthusiasm never waned, I expected that I would be getting him to the bottom and back by myself, given the lack of keen caving bods over the last few months.

Luckily Alan came to my rescue and said he’d come along. He is kind-hearted. Really. I was saved from an epic.

But  wait…I spoke too soon. He couldn’t come, he was going to be rafting the Franklin.

Back to an Epic again. Then Serena came home. Thank God. We could manage it together. Then Alan’s trip was postponed. He was back on again. It was going to be a breeze…no wait…he’s off again. A wedding this time apparently….


Meanwhile, other members were getting keen about a part way visit down the cave.  So, as we finally headed out of Hobart on Ric’s 60th birthday (conveniently a Saturday), the bottoming party was Ric, Bunty, Serena and I. The plan was that I would rig, Serena would come next with the remainder of the rope, Bunty and Ric would cruise down behind, we four would have a party at the bottom, Ric and Bunty cruise back up, and Serena and I would de-rig.

The others would come in at the back of the group, turn around when they had had enough, have a separate party before starting up, and probably go home before we got out.


It was a beautiful warm, sunny day and so the walk in and gear up at the entrance was very enjoyable. I had already distributed the party hats, forks, plates, napkins, cylume necklaces and port to the half way mob back at the car, and Serena now gave them their share of cake. Amy also had some fruit cake, part of her (will be!) local-show-award-winning entry.

Much chatting ensued whilst I endeavored to reach the p-hangers at the entrance.  Luckily, no-one seemed to be in a tearing hurry and my efforts seemed to provide amusement to the taller members of the group.


Finally I was away and I made my way fairly quickly to the top of the second pitch, where I waited for Serena with the next rope. I was carrying a 97m rope for the bottom pitch and had no room left in my pack as it was a fairly bulky rope. Serena bought the lovely, soft, 9mm, 120m rope we were using for the next 3 pitches (pity about the scary noises it makes as you abseil).


At the bottom of pitch two I made my blunder of the day. I headed off down the obvious climb to the right. I knew there was a tight keyhole to the top of pitch 3, and even that it was on the LHS, but I couldn’t remember if there was a short climb before it. After stuffing around, with Serena joining me, looking at various possibilities (see Southern Caver 58 for description of this area),  and trying to squeeze along a nasty, tight, unremembered but heavily-trogged passage on the LHS, I had just about decided that I had made a wrong turn when a call came from above. All the others had arrived and one bright spark had found the (obvious) way on, by observing the obvious P-hanger.


The thing that had thrown me a bit was that the area I was looking in was heavily trogged. Interestingly (to me), I have not made this mistake before.  Which is probably why it didn’t look familiar!

This navigational error was quite good, in hindsight, as it gives Alan an excellent opportunity to insert some damning witticism here.


[Insert damning witticism here.]


Anyway, back I went to start rigging the correct pitch. Tight little bastard that it is.


The next adjustment to our plan occurred as I started to rig the following pitch. Bunty arrived and declared that his light was failing and that he would be abandoning the bottoming group in favor of the part-way group. I was touched by his clever historical re-enactment. What better time to revisit the old “TCC light failure on trip”  scenario than a 60th birthday trip with four old(er) cavers along. What a pity I hadn’t thought of it and we could REALLY have got it right, i.e. more than one person’s light failing. And true, Ken hadn’t been TCC, and I’m sure SCS were more light-aware than TCC, but 3 of us had a lovely moment of nostalgia.

It was here we left the other party, complete with sudden addition, to enjoy their party whilst we lonely three continued on down the cave.


We gathered together again at the top of the final pitch, when Ric caught up with Serena and me as I put in the spits on the approach line. Now that Ric had caught up with me that “always to be depended upon but not always wanted”  husbandly advice started. Where to stand, my bunny ears weren’t long enough yet (I know!!!!!) etc, .. but, dear reader, I kept my temper (sort of), it WAS his birthday, after all…


At the bottom of the pitch we made our way to the shelf overlooking the large chamber where KD joins in. This would be a good place for our celebrations (yes Alan, it isn’t quite the bottom). The view was stunning. Or it would have been if the mist hadn’t been so thick. The “cave blaster” light we had bought along helped a bit.


So, out came the cake and…Where were the party hats and other aids? Ric and I did one of those “but I thought YOU had them?” things. I hadn’t had room, he hadn’t thought of them, bugger. Still in the car. He DID have the cylume necklaces though, so all was not lost in the festivities department.


After our quiet little party for 3, Ric started out and I went for a wander to try for the REAL bottom whilst I waited for him and Serena to prussic up. Alas, the recommended handline to the bottom (which we didn’t have) looked pretty essential to me. The dirt bank down was very steep, and very loose dirt, and I didn’t want to find myself rapidly at the bottom, alone, and unable to get back up.  Prudence or wimpishness?  I shan’t know until I try again (with an emergency handline available).


The trip out went smoothly. Ric kept finding party hats and cylume neclaces at the pitch heads, decorations for the theme of day we were told later. I think they just didn’t want to carry  all that weight uphill. But as they were the only party hats we saw for the day, it worked for us.


I hadn’t prussiked multiple pitches with 100m of rope hanging below me for quite a while, so that was a less than pleasant reminder. De-rigging the P-hangers I found quick and easy, with the notable exception of the first rebelay on the 55m pitch. The carabiner was absolutely jammed shut and only after more than 5 minutes of effort did I finally free it with my stop. I had just called for “guy fingers” when I (unexpectedly) got it to open. As Ric owned the closest set of these, and he was 2 pitches away, this was fortunate.



I was (last) out at 6 PM, 8 hours after starting down, and, to our surprise, the others were all waiting at the entrance. They had, apparently, been doing various surface-related tasks since they had got out 3 hours earlier.  But that tale I leave to Chris.


We all walked back to the cars together and had another little party of Champagne and red wine (thanks Ken) before heading home.


Janine McKinnon