Abercrombie in June

ABERCROMBIE CAVES – 16 – 17 June 2018
Note to self … it’s bloody freezing at Abercrombie in June and if Beth suggests getting a cabin next time, don’t dissuade her!  Not only that, despite being in the middle of a mega-drought, it rained on both Saturday and Sunday!

It’s a long way to drive to Abers from the Central Coast, fortunately David S decided to make a return visit to Abers (the scene of many great caving adventures for him), he couldn’t have picked a worse weekend!  Nevertheless, he was pragmatic about the weather and I for one was thankful that he accompanied me on the long drive (he did all the driving – bonus!).

The goal of the weekend was to firm up plans for a book that MSS may publish on Abercrombie Caves. MSS has a long history of caving at Abercrombie, all the other caving clubs had specialty areas like Jenolan, Wombeyan, places like that.  Abercrombie was the poor relation, but MSS went caving there all the time, surveying caves, finding new ones, digging passages from one cave to another, changing light bulbs for the rangers, hauling gear up to the caves for the rangers, you name it, the MSS guys did it.

On this weekend, we were going to, suss out which caves we would re-survey (with our new Disto-Xs) and get a head start on the surveying we would do in August.  I’d only been to Abers once before and couldn’t remember any of the caves.

Was a pretty late start (even for MSS Cavers!) and we headed up the track to the caves.

Our first cave was Stable Cave this photo is in the arch before you go into the cave – reportedly bushrangers holed up in the Abercrombie area back in the old days, they put a log over the entry way to the right (out of shot) and kept their horses corralled in this spot.

This is the photo that David was taking using a tripod and his Samsung Galaxy S5 phone, he was just mucking around seeing what the camera on the phone would do.

My (less crisp) shot of Stable Arch, you can just imagine the horses in this part of the Arch.

Before going in the top section of Stable Cave, we unlocked the gate at the bottom. Here’s Cat posing for David’s photo, note the writing on the gate (top rh corner), David wrote on it back in 1989 when Mike Nichols (MSS member) who built both the upper and lower gates, and put them into place on 22nd July (and David noted, it still opens smoothly on the nylon bushes he used). (Photo:  DS)

Before dropping down into Stable Cave, we went over to A13 & A14 – a very squeezy passage with two entry ways, here’s Garth dropping down into it.

Next we sent Edd down, Edd’s from the US and will be joining us on trips over the next 2 years (and hopefully doing a lot of surveying for us as he’s a surveying guru).  He wasn’t sure what he was getting into with this tight entry way.

David, to prove he was there and is still up for caving dropped down the exit hole.

Edd getting out of the exit hole (it’s very tight).

After dropping into Stable Cave, lots of boulder piles to negotiate through.

Garth entering a “flattener”, I followed him, not overly fond of passages where you have to slide through on your stomach, but this one wasn’t too bad.

Next we went over to Bushrangers Cave, this cave has a number of “rooms” and I can just imagine the bushrangers building a fire in the caves to keep warm while they were hiding out.

Looking through to one of the “rooms”

Some old wooden ladders in Bushranger Cave, they aren’t used now, but David tells the story of when he was a small child, the guide took them through the cave and then let them climb up these ladders to get out.  The entry at the top has been blocked off for a long time, but the ladders (historical artefacts) remain in place.

A fine example of bridal lace formation in Bushrangers Cave (with Rod posing for David), amazingly it’s in good condition, given the number of tourists who would have walked past it, not even realising what they were passing. Photo: DS

Garth in the Spare Bedroom of Bushrangers Cave (Photo:  DS)

Exiting Bushranger Cave.

Grove Creek before entering the Grand Arch (Photo: DS)

In the Grand Arch, there are a number of side caves, this one is Koh-I-Noor, which was opened to the public in 1900, note the steps that in days gone by were carved into the limestone.  Apparently there was a wooden ladder that was in place on a big rock below and the tourists would climb the ladder and then go up the steps to enter the cave.  The wooden ladder was washed away in floods in 1950 and not replaced. Tourists don’t get to go up there any more.

The Grand Arch is a tourist cave so has lighting, walkways and interpretive signage throughout.  There’s a locked gate either end.

Looking towards the exit.

The Dance Floor was built over 100 years ago, this is the original structure. Apparently people who lived in the area congregated here to socialise. The dance floor is in surprisingly good condition given its age.

David’s photo of the Dance Floor, taken from the other side of the arch.

These rocks are called “cray-backs” they are on the streamway in the arch and formed when rocks pass over the rocks in times of flood and gouge out groves on the rocks, when viewed from above, they look like the shells of cray-fish.

David’s photo of cray backs in the Arch

At the end of the Arch.  Apparently this is the largest natural archway in limestone in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s 197.5m long and 62.5m at its widest part.  It is far more spectacular than the Jenolan archway, but doesn’t get the visitation that Jenolan gets, pity really, the whole Abercrombie area could do with a make-over, it’s certainly showing signs of disrepair (some extra tourist dollars would help!).

We sat around for happy hour on Saturday evening, then it started to rain so we headed over to the “kitchen” where we could cook under cover.  After dinner we headed back and lit the fire (good job Rod), but by 7pm the rain had settled in again and everyone hit the sack.  It pretty much rained all night, on Sunday morning we went over to the kitchen again to breakfast out of the rain.

At about 9am we all trooped over to the Grand Arch to calibrate the two Distos which will be used for surveying the caves.  Beth brought along her laptop which we would need to use for the calibration.  Our first effort failed, probably because we were too close to a metal walkway, so we moved further out of the cave.

We’re at the entrance now (and it’s bloody freezing) and away from most of the metal infrastructure, Edd figured out where North was and Rod looked at the directions.

Beth calibrating her Disto, you have to take 56 readings (I think that’s how many), and you are supposed to get the accuracy below .5, Beth got hers to .8 and mine was over 1, by this time it’s around noon and we’re absolutely frozen, so gave up, Beth’s taken the 2 Distos home and will give it a go in a sports field somewhere (where it’s not cold and rainy).

Another view of the Arch – you can see a pool of water to the left, they’ve had hardly any rain, this pool is usually much bigger and in times of flood, the water would go as high as the ledge on the right.  If it ever floods in the future, I wouldn’t mind driving to have a look at the water rushing through the streamway.

A group photo taken by David. L – R –  Edd, Beth, Cat, me, Rod, Garth and David.

Yes, it was bloody freezing (there was snow on the ground near Bathurst), and it rained for most of the time, but the group dynamics were good and we all had a great time, particularly David who got to reminisce and entertain us with stories of caving at Abers, thanks David and thanks Beth for putting on the trip.

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9 Responses to Abercrombie in June

  1. Eric rowlands says:

    Very interesting, thats a good weekend

  2. David says:

    Great report Marilyn. A cosy cabin might just be the ticket next time…and more shiraz!

  3. Lindsay says:

    Brilliant photos M. Well done! Looks like you enjoyed the time, even though it rained a lot.
    Maybe I should join you next time you go out there???

  4. Adrienne Drysdale says:

    Thanks for the tour Marilyn, I haven’t been to Abercrombie Caves since 1992.
    You have an amazing sense of adventure – keep on going.
    Adrienne D

  5. Jenny Hughes says:

    Wow, what an exciting and interesting trip. Thanks for sharing all the history! Hope you knee held up ok!

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