IB 166-“Oh Yeh”
Party: Darren Holloway, Kerrin Huxley, Ric Tunney, Janine McKinnon.
Another Winter solstice weekend at Francistown had rolled around and a venue was sought for a pleasant, but not too lengthy, or taxing, days caving for the Saturday.
Various options were considered and rejected before we settled on “Oh Yeh”.
We stayed the Friday night at the carpark in the slug (our camper) and Darren and Kerrin were scheduled to arrive at 9am. We were having breakfast at 8:15am when they arrived. We won’t have any problems getting this pair to fit into the STC culture of promptness.
They did have gear to sort out, so we got to finish breakfast.
We left the cars at 9am and took a leisurely walk up to the cave. Ric disappeared about half way there when he decided his socks weren’t working and went back to change them. He caught us back up before we arrived at the cave. Zippy Riccy.
We rigged the entrance and, after some discussion, it was decided I would go first with the drill kit in case any of the bolts needed replacing. The cave was rigged by Madphil in 2001, and we hadn’t been able to find any reference in the trip reports as to whether the bolts were spits or thrubolts. We did not particularly want to rig off spits now, and thought that for future use, thrubolts were the way to go anyway. So if they weren’t there we should put them in this trip.
Darren wanted to be involved with the rigging, so he came next, with Ric bringing up the rear as “tail end Charlie”.
At the bottom of the first pitch I stayed on rope to inspect the bolts at the top of pitch two. It was a single bolt and also a spit. I waited at the bottom of the first pitch for Ric, discussing options with Darren as we waited. After we had all had a good look at the situation we decided that an approach to the top of the second pitch was needed and it was better if one could get off the first pitch abseil to do it. A very similar situation to the bottom of the first pitch in Midnight Hole.
So I put in a bolt at the top of the approach.
I then descended to the top of the second pitch and put a hanger in the spit so I had better access to the pitch head to put in a replacement bolt. Darren came down to nearby to watch and assist. I put a bolt in above, and a little to the side, of the spit. It took a while to select the site as the spit was in the perfect spot, not surprising since Madphil put it in.
The rebelay a few metres lower needed a bolt too, of course, and that was a little more problematic finding a good spot. Again, the spit was beautifully placed, and between projections further down, and crud rock, I spent 5 minutes deciding on the location for the bolt. Finally it was in and I looked down…to see our 48m rope waving in the breeze. It had seemed like plenty of rope for a 2 pitch (14m & 24m) cave, with the pitches right on top of each other. Redirections and rebelays certainly use up rope.
It looked like it was near the bottom though, so I decided to continue on and employ the skills I learnt from Jeff Butt in minimum rope caving. I rigged the rebelay with a very small loop and took the knot out of the bottom when I got to the end of the rope. The rope was a bit less than 1.5m off the ground, so I was able to stand and let it slip through my descender. I must have been channeling that day because it was perfect Jeff Butt rigging.
Once we were all down everyone had a look around, which doesn’t take long. We decided to put some tape across the route NOT to go to follow the small passage. It is easy to miss the route that has been used previously, and the tape should cause future parties to stop and think about where to go. The way on is over a boulder and down a short passage on the left hand wall, NOT the obvious way in front of the pitch.
Kerrin started up first, followed by Darren, Ric, and then me de-rigging. We had decided to leave the keepers in the spit holes as a back-up in case they may be needed in the future, for a rescue or something. A long shot, I know, but they are there now so no point in cutting off options unnecessarily.
However, try as I might (for 5 minutes anyway, until my patience ran out) I could not get the plastic nut back into the thread of the rebelay spit. I also managed to drop the washer on that bolt as I took the hanger off the thrubolt, so it needs replacing on the next trip.
I fared better at the pitch head bolt, and managed to refit the spit plugger, and get the nut, washer and hanger off the thrubolt without dropping anything.
As I approached the top of the pitch I was informed that the others had had some difficulty getting off the Y hang at the top. They had decided that a rebelay at the first bit of solid rock would make for an easier, and safer, exit. As we think this is an excellent beginners SRT cave, and thus future parties will very likely have very inexperienced cavers on board, I agreed to put the bolt in.
The gear was lowered to me, and in it went quickly, before I climbed out. I haven’t done any bolting for a while, maybe more than a year (?), but I had gotten back into the swing of it by then.
As we had lunch, after packing up, we discussed whether we would do our second objective for the day-Pseudocheirus Cave. It was 1.30pm by now, and whilst the day was still young, there were celebrations to be had that night. We guessed the cave would take about 3 hours to do, including the walk. That would be fine on a normal weekend but we didn’t want to arrive at Arthur’s too late. That was our excuse anyway, so we headed back to the cars for a leisurely coffee and drive back to Francistown.
We sprang a leak in our water tanks on the drive there and arrived to find water pouring out of the camper door. But that’s a non caving story.