Abercrombie … introduction to scaling poles

ABERCROMBIE CAVES – 16 & 17 March 2019
So, what are scaling poles you might ask?  Well, sometimes you need to get a ladder up to a hole in the side of a cliff (or the wall of a cave) so you can climb up to take a look inside.  I’d had them described to me, and they sounded really dodgy, a (preferably) small person climbs the ladder which is only held up by this pole!

The weekend at Abers probably wouldn’t be blog worthy, except for those scaling poles! I had visions of some light weight aluminium telescopic pole that would be flexing around while the person was climbing.  In actual fact, they’re pretty robust and connected together with big screws, they tell me that they still flex around though!  Good thing I’m not light weight enough to be sent up first!

But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself!  I stayed at Marcia’s on Thursday night and then she and I had a leisurely drive out through Bathurst, checking out all the scrap metal and antique shops, and having coffee with Julie B on the way.  We arrived around happy hour and met Beth (and baby Elliot) at the little 3-bedroom cottage that we’d rented for the weekend.

We got right into happy hour!

On Saturday morning, we met up with the rest of the group who’d camped, and loaded ourselves up with the sections of the aluminium scaling poles, bolts, brackets, ladders, ropes and our caving gear, then walked over to the Grand Arch.  Just an FYI, the Arch is the biggest Arch in NSW, even bigger than Jenolan’s Arch.

Before we even had any poles connected, Garry had free climbed up the limestone to the chamber of Koh-I-Noor Cave.  In the late 1800s, they had cut some steps on the side of the cliff (which you can see at the top) and there was a wooden ladder from the rock in the foreground up to the steps.  But flood waters (there’s a streamway through the Arch) repeatedly washed away the ladder(s) so eventually the powers that be decided to just close off the cave to tourists.  MSS hadn’t been up into the cave for quite a few years and needed to see if it required re-surveying – the plan was to use the scaling poles to get up to the steps.

Those of us interested in seeing how the scaling poles worked, got down to the business of erecting them (l – r Matthew, Marcia & Rod).

When the pole is high enough, you attach the ladder to the top and then attach some rope to the ring bolts and put guy ropes out either side so the pole doesn’t fall down sideways while someone’s climbing the ladder. Once the small person has climbed the ladder, they then then rig up tracer wires making the ladder safe for everyone else to climb, and set up belay ropes.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough bolts to bolt all the sections together, so, after Garry climbed up he set up the ladder and a belay rope for us.

Marcia on the ladder – her first go at a climbing ladder.  Marcia and I both had a belay from the top, so if we fell, we wouldn’t fall far.

Up in Koh-I-noor looking out across to where the tourist walk is.

Some nice formations, only one side passage that we explored and lots and lots of signatures (from the old days when it wasn’t frowned upon to sign your name in a cave).  One was dated 1872.

Rob on the balcony to the side of Koh-I-noor.

I got to abseil down for a “photo shoot” (this isn’t the photo though).

Garry and Alan taking down the caving ladder.

Garry downclimbing after everything had been dismantled.

Once we were finished with Koh-I-Noor, we headed over to Bushranger Cave and then Stable Cave.  I’d done both of these before, couldn’t remember them which was a bit of a worry as I was supposed to lead the others through (those who hadn’t visited these caves before)!  Garry did quite a bit of photography in Bushranger.

We then headed over to A13 & A14, you go down this hole, and it connects up with an exit.  Marcia wasn’t too keen to go down – in fact no-one was as it’s squeezy and dusty.  I think she enjoyed the experience though.  I chose not to go down, I’ve done it once before, don’t have to do it again.  Although Marcia said there was nice decoration down there that I don’t remember, so maybe I do!

The tight squeeze to get out the other end.

We’d all had enough of caving for the day, so headed back to happy hour with the campers, so many yummy things to eat.

Followed by a massive roast dinner, all cooked in camp ovens, roast lamb, potatoes, pumpkin and peas, there was so much food, and despite there being 12 of us, there was still stuff left over.

On Sunday we all scattered, some caving, some going home and some of us doing some surveying.

Phil & Rod had calibrated the Disto Xs that Beth and I bought about 12 months ago (which we’d had trouble calibrating), so I headed out with Phil, Rod and Alan to do some surveying.  Considering I did the course about 18 months ago, it was good to get back into it as part of the plan is for us to survey a lot of the caves at Abercrombie.

During the survey, Rod found another hole that he believes needs looking into, and in fact we could use the scaling poles to get up into it (can’t wait to erect them again and send someone up!).

It was a great weekend, nice weather (well it did rain a bit), but not as cold as it can get at Abers, a great group and very sociable campfire, looking forward to the next trip in a couple of week’s time.

Banner Image:  Rod on the balcony beside the Koh-I-Nor chamber.
Thumbnail:  Marcia trying to get out of A14.

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2 Responses to Abercrombie … introduction to scaling poles

  1. John says:

    Thank you – it was a good weekend, lots of airy spots! A suggestion, instead of bolts at the junctions, re-arrange the joints so that they can be secured either with bolts or carabiners

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