Small, Squeezy and Vertical – caving at Glenrock

CAVING – GLENROCK STATION – 21 – 23 April, 2017
Caving expeditions to Glenrock Station happen infrequently, and access is highly regulated by the land owners.  So far 150+ caves and potential caves have been discovered, most of them vertical.

There were a couple of others booked in but they were no-shows and so it was just Cathi H-H and her two kids (Elswyth and Aengus), me and Brian R of NHVSS.  this was Cathi’s second and my first visit.  We drove up on Friday afternoon in convoy arriving around 4.30pm, it’s a long way, 4.5 hours driving with the last hour being on dirt road.

The sign at the gate to the property.  Nice touch, that must have been a massive piece of wood.

The view from the gate which is up high on a hill, we were camped further down in the distant valley.

Glenrock Station is the largest property in the Hunter Valley and is next door to Jamie Packer’s property Ellerston (which we drove through).  It’s beautiful hilly country with a couple of limestone outcrops (where the caves are) that have been explored off and on since the 1980s or 90s.  The only speleo club that’s allowed on the property now is NHVSS, and Brian is the only person so far that they’re prepared to deal with, so it was a great opportunity to go and see what the place is like.  Once Brian checked in with the Station Manager and picked up the key to the locked gate from the homestead, we drove down to the spot which would be our campsite for the next couple of days.

A couple of years ago, Brian was given permission to build a small shelter and there’s a gutter to catch rainwater which is stored in big blue 44gal drums.  There is a permanent campfire area and a bush toilet is dug each time he visits the site, it’s all very civilised and relaxing.

Looking down hill, the view from the campsite. There are caves on either side of the ridge.

About 50m from my tent was this cave, basically a hole in the ground with fig trees all around it.

On Saturday morning we sat around with the details of all the caves on the Station and decided what we would do.  Cathi and I wanted to see the one with the most decoration and so selected GR19 Curtains & Lace.

We got all our SRT gear together and the three of us headed off into the bush, passing this amazing grass tree forest.  The kids stayed in camp (in radio contact) looking after the campfire.

Cathy ready to abseil down the 10m pitch into the cave, a hole in the rock with a couple of trees in inconvenient spots.  Brian stayed above ground so it was just the two of us.  We regrouped at the bottom of the pitch.  There were a lot of blow flies buzzing around so we suspected that there might be a carcass at the bottom, it turned out to be very old, only bones, but I still didn’t enjoy crawling over it.

After a 3m horizontal squeezy bit, there was a down-climb of a couple of metres which was very narrow.  Cathi made it but when I had a go (dressed in thermals), my thermals kept on catching on the limestone and then my stomach was scratched up by the limestone, so I didn’t think it was worth the effort, particularly as I wasn’t sure I’d get back out.

This is as far as Cathi got, and she wasn’t prepared to go much further, she photographed what she could see and then we both retreated.

Coming back up the small down-climb.

We regrouped with all our gear and told ourselves we were being wusses, and marvelled at the skinny people who’d managed to go further.  Perhaps if we’d had some hefty guys with us that could pull us out of the squeezes we would have been braver.

So, we then had to jumar up the 10m pitch, hard work.

Then when you got to the top, leaf litter got in the way and it was basically hands and knees.

We radioed the kids to put the kettle on and strolled back to camp for a leisurely lunch, we were too chilled out to put ourselves to the effort of another vertical cave (and they’re basically all vertical at Glenrock), so settled for a bit of Surface Trogging in the afternoon (walking around looking for missing caves or holes with potential).

I spotted the first one so we pulled rocks away from the small hole, we could see that the passage went down  a little ways but without some excavation, you couldn’t determine its potential.

Looks like it goes somewhere but we’d need a tape and some hefty guys to haul out another couple of rocks, probably only goes down a few metres, but definitely worth investigation on the next trip out.  Brian marked the way point on his GPS to return at a later date.

Cathi spots another one, shone her light down the small hole and then we started excavating that.

So we set Brian on the dig (there really wasn’t room for all three of us!).  Again, it looks like it has potential, and is certainly easier to get into than the one I found, so they’ll probably do a little more digging next time they come up.

By now it was getting late in the day so we headed back to camp and another cuppa, this was shaping up to be a very relaxed weekend!

Next morning over a leisurely breakfast, we consulted the list of caves and neither Cathi nor I were ready to do another vertical cave, particularly as I had to depart around lunch time, so we chose two that just had down-climbs, GR84 Corkscrew and GR104 Carcass.  It didn’t hurt that both caves were only 100m from our campsite either!

GR84 Corkscrew.  Because there was a 10m down-climb, we set up a rope to get in and out.  As it turned out, the entry was so small that Cathi had to take her abseil gear off to get down.  Even then there was a twist in the entry passage and Cathi didn’t think she’d be able to get back out without some major assistance as there was no-where to put your feet.  I checked it out and agreed, so we gave Corkscrew (which lived up to it’s name) a miss and headed over to Carcass.

Cathi entering the hole for Carcass (which got its name from a carcass down the bottom when discovered).  Note Brian’s thongs, he walked everywhere in the thongs for the whole weekend, obviously not all that concerned about snakes!

At least this hole was bigger, but again it had “problems”.

This was as far as Cathi and I got, whilst there was another metre or so that you could go, there was a big rock in the way that was hard to get past.  Here’s Cathi asking “why would you bother trying to go any further?”

Looking down into GR104, even if you got past the rocks sticking out and it would have been impossible for both Cathi and me, there was nothing further down, we decided that it needed a mallet to brake off the protruding rock that was in the way (but really why bother?).

We ambled back to camp, the whole time berating ourselves for not being brave enough or pushing past our reluctance to get trapped somewhere.  Maybe if there were others around to help get us out we would have been braver.

I broke camp, had a shower and headed off, leaving Brian, Cathi and the kids who were staying another night.

Glenrock’s an interesting place, why are there small pockets of limestone, mostly up on hills and why are the caves so small, is it because there’s not that much rainfall there, or is it because the area isn’t very old, who knows?

Would I go back there?  Maybe, it’s such a lovely spot, but I’d want a larger group to go (which would make me braver – I think), plus I need a little time to go by for me to forget that they’re all vertical, and vertical is hard work!  It was a really relaxing weekend and I’m pleased that I went, at least now whenever there’s a Glenrock trip on I wont have major FOMO, I’ll know what they are doing!

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2 Responses to Small, Squeezy and Vertical – caving at Glenrock

  1. David says:

    Good report Marilyn. With tight vertical caves, you are wise not to “push” unless there is a dedicated, experienced surface party available in the event of a rescue situation. Given the remote location, it would be a very long wait for emergency services.

    Enjoy the fire, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the serenity!

    • marilyn says:

      Well, that’s good to know, it’s changed us from being chicken-shit to responsible, have to say I like the sound of that much better.

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