JENOLAN CAVES – Mammoth & Wiburd’s Cave – June 17 & 18, 2017
My fourth time through the Mammoth Rock Pile over the last 10 years was possibly one trip too many, or maybe I’m just getting to old for squeezing through small holes! Nevertheless, it was a great weekend caving and we visited Wilburd’s Cave which is now one of my favourite Jenolan caves.
Trish N travelled up to the Caver’s Cottage with me on Friday afternoon. The Cottage was still locked up so we retreated down to Caves House for a civilised glass of wine in the bar. We went back to the Cottage an hour later to find that Ray and Fletch had arrived and started up the fire, so we settled in for another glass of wine and before long Rod turned up. Eventually Chris, the trip leader, and Helena, Owen and Lily turned up. Cat and Garth would arrive on Saturday morning.
We all slept in, getting up around 8am and Ray made us all corn fritters for breakfast, with ham and salsa (yum). Because there were so many of us and the kitchen was small, we’d have communal meals; Helena had cooked Spag Bol and Rod was making pancakes on Sunday morning.
We headed out for Mammoth Cave and Rod and Chris set up a rope for us to abseil in (Lily and Fletcher took the standard route in that you can walk down to the bottom of the abseil pitch). Rod and Ray then retreated to the Cottage to do the washing up and play board games!
Chris rigging the pitch. There are bolts (primarily for the Jenolan Adventure Caving trips), which are a “recent” addition, making the setting up of the abseil easier.
I went down first, followed soon after by the rest, here’s Cat on the abseil.
Garth abseiling, you can see the daylight hole at the top, it’s not a long pitch, maybe 20m (if that!)
Fletch doing a bit of exploring while waiting for the abseilers to descend.
We’re all in the cave now – Trish heading down the rocks, there are quite a few sections where care needs to be taken. This is Trish’s first non-tourist cave.
A drop down a few metres, at the “jug handle”, you hold onto the piece of rock while sliding down.
Trish checking out the way forward.
A rare shot of Lily in the cave, she decided she didn’t really like the rock scrambling and the tight squeezes where you can’t see where to put your feet, by this time I was sort of agreeing with her!
Helena taking a short break
Trish exiting a belly crawl.
Finally we’re through the rock pile and down at Lower River, the turnaround point for us. This creek/river flows all the way down to the Grand Arch. I believe cave divers are still exploring the river to map the extent of it.
Chris entering Oolite Chamber after the squeeze and awkward climb to get into it, but it’s worth the effort. Note the tape, this indicates where you cannot put your hands feet.
Some of the formation in Oolite.
Chris exiting Oolite, the rock was very wet and slippery.
Trish on one of the climb outs, quite a stretch for those of us who are short.
Once past the Boulder passage, we ventured over to the Railway Tunnels. Here is a great example of primary formation, rock that has been worn away by underground streams over time (millions of years probably).
After the boulder field of the morning we were really happy to be walking through the Railway Tunnels, this is a section after our turn around point.
Finally climbing our way out. We were underground about 4 hours.
Part of the group at Mammoth Flat.
Rod and Ray met us at the entry when we exited. The plan had been to find (and enter) Dwyers in the afternoon, but we were pretty much stuffed after Mammoth, so most of the group went back to the Cottage. Rod, Chris, Cat, Owen and I stayed to find the entry to Dwyers. We hunted around for an hour or so with no luck so eventually gave up. Rod found a few other caves and I found two but Dwyers is still a mystery.
We got back to the Cottage around 4pm and there was a scramble for hot showers, then we all sat around with beers and wine while the kids played board games in the bedroom. Before long Helena served up the spag bol and garlic bread (the Cottage oven had been removed since our last trip, so how to heat the bread was a source of concern); Helena and Ray figured out a way to heat it up using a gas burner.
The possum turned up right on time to entertain the kids (and Trish), it apparently loves tomatoes. The rest of the night was spent introducing Trish to Settlers of Catan (won by Ray) and after that the guys stayed up to play Cave.
Some tired people next morning perked up when Rod started cooking his pancakes and Ray set up his Espresso machine.
Rod’s pancakes … He’d brought everything, chocolate nibs, banana, strawberries, blueberries, four or five type of syrup, Nutella, lemon and sugar and ice cream … delicious! It was basically a pancake smorgasbord.
Wiburd’s was our cave for Sunday. Whilst Rod, Helena and Chris had been there before it was a long while ago, apparently it’s not all that popular because of the long walk up the valley. Trish and I looked at each other bemused … it was a 45min walk! The end of the valley is really pretty, very grassy in spots, I’m guessing that in years gone by it would have been farmed.
Looking back at the rest of the group. Chris wasn’t all that sure where the entrance was, so Rod tagged along with us for the walk. It didn’t take long for Chris to find the opening, apparently there are a few of them, I think we entered via J101.
Chris at the entrance, you have to lay on your back and slide in, feet first.
There is a short walk down through a few boulders and then this awkward drop down through a hole, again you can’t see where your feet go so it’s daunting.
Once past that small squeeze it was great, we were upright most of the time (as opposed to Mammoth where we spent most of our time on bums, hands, knees and bellies).
Four of us went to the left and ended at this pool of water, Chris didn’t think it was the right way (where we wanted to go) and it just got squeezier and squeezier so we retraced our steps.
Lovely wide passages.
A few sections where it was easier to slide down.
We consulted the cave map on numerous occasions, not entirely sure where we were. Note to self, when I draw a cave map I’m going to put features on it like “big mud bank”, “letterbox crawl under” … if those features had been marked on the map we would have know exactly where we were.
Lily on a hill of dusty sand, better to slide down on your but.
Another large cavern
Trish crawling out of the letter box opening between two large caverns.
Garth in a section that did require crawling.
Garth exiting the hole that we had to go down at the beginning … Quotable quote – while Cat is asking him to pose for photo opportunities “not now babe!”
And Trish exiting the cave.
We all agreed that Wiburd’s was the highlight of the weekend, there wasn’t much formation, but it was a fun cave. It’s very large with a lot of passages and one even had a section that looked like it needed a rope to get down (we’re saving that for another trip). I’d have to say it’s now one of my favourites at Jenolan and I’m now keen to go back and spend a full day in there, rather than the 2 hours that we had planned, we only visited a fraction of what’s there.
Before long we were back at the Cottage cleaning up and hitting the road for a 4.5 hour drive home. A big thanks to Chris for organising the trip and to Helena, Ray and Rod for cooking!
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