JENOLAN CAVES – 19 & 20 August 2017
The lead up to this trip was very exciting, 10 MSS members had signed up, and then they started dropping like flies … broken collar bone, retina surgery, 2 cases of the flu and then a dodgy back! So, we were down to six for Saturday and four for Sunday. To top it all off, when David and I drove into Jenolan on Friday night it was through a snow storm … we were unsure that the others would make it to the hut!
David S was the leader joined by Nick P, Marcella P, Heather R and Beth L. It’s a real bonus to cave with David and Beth, they are a wealth of knowledge regarding the hydrology and geology of caves, pointing out things that I wouldn’t even have noticed.
We arrived at Cavers Hut at 9.30 (having dined at Katoomba with JV) and met the other four who had been huddled in the shed out of the cold – because we had the key to the hut! In no time at all Heather and Beth had started a fire in the hut and David turned on a small space heater and they warmed up. It was a very relaxed start next morning then Rod C turned up and told us that he wouldn’t be caving with his bad back, but he’d be staying the weekend with us.
Our cave on Saturday was the Unclad Lady & Pic Lake circuit (the name’s changed so your servers at work don’t have a hissy fit thinking you’re looking at inappropriate websites!).
This is part of Mammoth Cave, which is a short walk from where we park the cars down from Cavers Hut.
(L-R) Nick & Marcella (in their bright overalls, they weren’t going to get lost), and Rob who walked to the entry of Mammoth cave with us.
Part of the rock pile as you enter Mammoth Cave
On our way to Horseshoe Chamber and the Railway Tunnels
David taking a rest and enjoying being underground (maybe). He explained the hydrology of Horseshoe chamber and how it floods and the different ways the water travels during the flooding.
In the railway tunnels, most people stop at a big mud slide, there’s a skull and crossbones marked on the cave wall, apparently it looked too scary back in the old days to go any further. Here is what is written on the lh wall from 1884 when this part of the cave was discovered.
After the mud slide down, there’s a bit of a climb around that you need to beware of as you could slide a lot further if you’re not careful – David assisting Heather so she doesn’t slip further down
This is part of the Sugar Cubes, a series of rocks that you scramble over, with big drops on either side.
David entering the Birth Canal, a small 1m chute that ends in a drop, plus a 50cm split in the rock at the end that you could easily get your let(s) caught in. Going down on your back wasn’t a good idea, the rest of us went feet first on our bellies and David guided me past the split rock, apparently Nick guided Marcella and her leg went down the split (very funny hearing the directions of husband to wife!).
This is the only part of the trip that I remembered from the first time I did it, the Rift. It’s very, very harrow, and goes for about 10m (?) you have to be quite thin to get through, there is a way up and over that I’ve seen others do, but it’s a bit of a climb.
Exiting the Rift
And another old stream passage, this one was a bit of an epic, David made it sound harder than it was, but maybe that’s cause he was the tallest of us, you have to edge along and then turn a corner, it was about 10m long.
Then for another 10m you were able to crawl, it was so tight in the beginning that you had to hook your pack over your foot and drag it through, not easy and the pack falls off your foot if you’re not careful.
A climb down to Ice Pick Lake, I didn’t do this because it was very muddy and I wasn’t sure I’d get back up, Beth went first and guided the rest, David and I stayed at the top.
Looking down at Ice Pick Lake (the blue part you can see), there’s a dive line set up for cave divers who explore further down.
We did a small side trip into this decorated chamber – a bit of a difficult climb up without any good foot hand holds but worth the effort
Interesting Stal on the exit from the chamber – we found an easier way down
Heather sussing out a small drop down
We stopped just before the climb up to the Unclad Lady’s chamber. It’s a difficult climb up for the uninitiated, it’s 2m up to a ledge then another 1.5m up a narrow hole then you have to twist around and it’s another 2m up another hole with a bend in it. Beth and David went first (lots of grunts and groans), and then they called us up.
Heather on the 2m climb up into the Unclad Lady’s Chamber, this is the only other part of the trip (apart from the Rift) that I remembered. David and Beth set up two tapes around this stal, so it was a lot easier this time to climb up, although the top was very muddy and I had difficulty sliding over the edge.
Yet another squeeze heading to the Laundry Chute
Exiting the Laundry Chute (a 3m chute you go feet first down a hole, with no idea where you are going as it’s so small you can’t see, there’s a bit of a drop off the end). David first went down with words like “am not sure where this goes”, and then there was a curdling yell and silence, we all looked at each other wondering what the hell happened. Obviously a set up … I went down next and he pulled me by my feet which scared the living daylights out of me!
On the way out, one of the few good decorations, a lovely shawl
From here it was a quick trip back to the Railway Tunnels and the Horseshoe chamber and out into bright sunshine. We were underground for about 4 hours.
Back at the Hut, Rob had started up the fire and David’s bread machine was baking a crusty loaf for dinner. We set up Settlers of Catan and had a few games, lots of nibbles and wine followed by dinner.
Next morning there were only four of us for Wiburds Lake Cave and Hennings Cave. Wiburds is a nice walk up the valley, it’s a sporty cave with not many decorations. Hennings is a very small cave but with lots of decorations (that I’d forgotten about).
David told us the history of Wiburds Cave, apparently Mr Wiburd found a cave that had a lake in it big enough to float a Manly Ferry, then he closed up the entry. This cave was discovered and as it was in the general vicinity it was called Wiburds Cave, whether or not it is the one with the lake in it hasn’t been proven but it probably is, it would have been a small ferry though. It’s mostly old river passages which I like cause you can walk through it easily. There are big piles of mud from previous flooding, here’s Heather on one.
In one passage David/Beth pointed out this rock with fossils in it, I’d missed this on the last trip.
There’s one small squeeze, but it’s only 50cm long, so easy.
A lot of the walls and ceiling of the cave are covered in these muddy formations, they look like cave coral covered in mud, very delicate looking
Still in Wiburds Lake Cave – a small climb up.
Now we’re in Hennings cave which has much more formation than Wiburds, it’s quite small but is a maze of passages.
A large stal from the ceiling
A small climb up but lots of hand, foot holds
Beth exiting a squeezy hole.
We were out of the cave by 1.30pm and back at the Hut where we discovered that Rob had cleaned it up for us. Thanks for a great trip David!
There’s nothing glamorous about bushwalking, caving or canyoning, but it sure is fun! If you’re an armchair bushwalker, someone looking for new adventures, or one of my friends who just wants to see what I’ve been up to, this site is for you, sign up to get email alerts now!