Niggly Trip Report 23/01/10
Party: Alan Jackson, Janine McKinnon.
Déjà vu: 7.30am at Alan’s place. Just the two of us heading off to Niggly.
This was to be the third, and final, trip to the bottom of the cave, plus a partial derig. Actually, there were only meant to have been two bottoming trips (presuming nothing new and exciting was found) but I had missed out on the previous week’s trip due to temporary decrepitude. Unfortunately Alan had reported back to me that the stream way passage that he and Matt had visited on that trip was awesome, not to be missed, and other glowing endorsements. Alan kindly (it’s his old age; passing 30; Alan’s not the same anymore) offered to take me there if I wished. Bugger. How could I pass up my only opportunity to see this stuff? So, another trip to the bottom.
After another 45min trip to the entrance from the car, we headed underground at 10am. A smooth trip down (as smooth as I can do with a rack. Boy, I dislike those things) saw us at the top of the Black Supergiant 1.5 hours from the entrance.
Isn’t it wonderful when the cave is all rigged?
We had an enormous wad of tape that Rolan had prepared (by tying 4x50m tapes together) to measure the exact length of the pitch. It has never been measured directly, only determined from the survey data of the surrounding cave. Alan fed the tape down the pitch and then I descended first. The height was measured at 192m from the top P-hangers and 185m freehang from the rebelay.
I was quicker with the abseil this time. I took about 12 minutes and the rope showed no signs of overheating. As I had to double hand-feed it through the rack for all but the last 40-50m, it’s easy to see why it didn’t get too hot. I did though! It was almost as hard work as going back up. Well, almost almost. I didn’t find the pitch scary this time either (I was quite nervous on the first descent!). Familiarity…and all that.
Alan took a similar time for the descent but found the friction provided by his “Stop” somewhat less than I experienced. He needed to use his (or Ric’s borrowed one, actually) “Raumer” breaking krab.
We headed off through the rock pile, leaving many cairns along the way, and arrived out into the main stream passage after a half hour of interesting maneuvering. There is certainly no way that “little miss short-arse” could have got through on her own. I think I counted 4 times that I needed Alan’s help getting up or down climbs beyond my reach. The extremely slippery mud everywhere didn’t help at all.
The stream way turned out to be every bit as impressive as I had been led to believe (would Alan exaggerate?). Something over a kilometer of BIG passage (à la-Exit beyond the rock pile). We followed it to the second rock pile and then turned around to look at the higher passage back along our inward route. Climbing up into the upper levels was equally impressive. It feels like a higher chamber but is really just the top levels of the stream way passage that has been filled in by about 30m depth of mud. We looked around downstream for a short distance and then headed to the upstream end. We climbed up and up, another 20m higher, to the top of the piles of mud and rock, and we were still 20-30m from the ceiling. This stuff is seriously big.
After a lunch break back at water level we started back to the bottom of the Supergiant. It was now very obvious why we had needed to mark the way as we came in. It is amazing how quickly you forget obscure or unpleasant turn offs after you have been in bigger parts of a cave for a while. Even with the cairns there were a couple of turns we had to think about. Alan repeated the aide to the height (and climbing skill) challenged, that he had given on the way in. I think he probably still has some of the footprints in the middle of his back… And on his knees… And shoulders… And head (no, just joking there).
We had taken 2.5 hours for the scenic diversion and neither of us was looking forward to the trip out from the bottom. We were planning to de-rig the cave back to the top of the third pitch. Personally, I would have been happy just to head out but we had time problems for the de-rig. There only seemed to be 3 people in the club prepared to go to the top of the Supergiant, and none of our timetables aligned for the next several months. So we had to get the ropes back to a place from which Alan, and a few helpers, could get them out of the cave.
We were slightly faster on the prussik this trip (50 minutes, from first on, to last off), with Alan giving regular updates on our progress (the tape was right beside us, and was actually a nuisance as it kept wrapping around the rope, and the person not prussiking spent their time trying to hold it away). I’m not sure if I really wanted to know how far we had to go as we slogged away! I slogged, Alan cruised.
It took us an hour, or more, to pull and pack the rope, tape and rigging gear. We cut the rope at a gestimate of 80m and 120m. It will be interesting to see how accurately we guessed. And no, we were not going to measure it out against 200m of tape, there in the cave.
With two big, and one small, packs between us (and we all know who had the 120m rope and small pack to carry) we started out from the top of the Supergiant. I headed up the pitches first, with Alan de-rigging behind (including removing the old spits) and arranging the ropes for an easy pull-up. We didn’t have any more packs for the other pitch ropes so we hauled them out behind us.
The whole lot made it to the top of the 3rd pitch, which we also de-rigged. This was as far as we had planned to haul out the gear today and we were very happy to leave it all there.
The trip out from this drop point was fast (except I’m not that fast on the nasty traverse) and smooth. What a joy to cave without packs, and what a pity I get to do it so rarely.
We got out to the surface in daylight, at 8.30pm, after an enjoyable 10.5 hour trip.