CAVING in TASMANIA – Part 2 – MOLE CREEK – 9 March 2020
So, we’re up to our 6th day at Mole Creek, and the plan is to do Kubla Khan. Now, Kubla and I have a history … I did it 2 years ago, and had a few issues, first I fell into the pool at Sally’s Folly and then I got temporarily stuck in a squeeze. And that’s pretty much all I remember of the trip, which let me tell you took us 12 hours (underground), but it was a photography trip and so slower than normal.
I’m not sure why I said I’d do it again, I’d always said the first trip was a “once off”. Initially I thought there’d be too many people and the permit only allowed five (plus a caver accredited by TasParks). Then closer to the date, it seemed that there would only be five of us including me, so I somehow got talked into it (still not sure how!). I have to say that I had some anxiety, after all it’s a BIG trip … I hardly slept the night before, but I didn’t back out. We got to the car park around 8.45 and David W-C, Heather and Beth went up to the exit to set up the SRT rope that we would use to get out. We were on the track up to the cave by around 9.15, getting to the entry by around 9.30.
So, a little bit of information about Kubla Khan, it’s a 2.2km cave with incredibly rich formations, the most impressive of which is the 18m high stalagmite known as The Khan. The cave also has The Pleasure Dome, a flow stone terraced floor which is 40m long and terraced up to a height of 15m. The photos taken just don’t do the cave justice!
Back where we changed our boots, we put on wetsuits and prepared ourselves for the last bit of the trip. By now it’s 5.10pm and we still had a ways to go. We dropped back down into the streamway (The River Alph) and swam upstream for about 20m (the water was freezing), then went along to the Stalagmite Shuffle. I had to climb up a vertical chute, step across a gaping chasm, squeeze through a small keyhole (and almost get stuck again), and then traverse along a really dodgy wall with another gaping chasm below. At this point I decided that there was no way I could cross with my pack, and Heather (who can do pretty much everything), said she thought it was really dodgy too, so it wasn’t just me. Anyway, I made it across and breathed a sigh of relief … it’s now 6pm, and I knew we were just below the locked gate at the exit.
Once you get to the top and climb through the locked gate, it’s just a matter of putting your SRT gear on and climbing a series of ladders (placed over mud and leaf litter) to get to the SRT pitch (40m including 1 re-belay). Heather and Beth went first, followed by me. Marcia very kindly held the rope tight for me and for her efforts a rock dislodged and crashed down on her helmet, good thing she was wearing one!
We were in the cars by around 8pm and then we drove back to the cabin. We’d cooked up dinner the night before, so we were ready to eat and get into the wine with David W-C to celebrate a successful trip through the cave.
Kubla Khan warranted a blog post by itself, it’s an epic trip with amazing formations to see. David W-C’s track notes say it takes between 9 and 12 hours to do the trip, depending on whether or not you have photographers on the trip. So, I think we did fairly well, particularly as we went to Outer Xanadu and the Jade Pool.
So, what’s the (possibly dubious) record … well, I asked David W-C what would be the age of the oldest person he’s taken through the cave, and he couldn’t think of anyone older than me, well certainly no women older than me! I can understand that, it’s a punishing trip at my age, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone on the trip, getting me across gaping chasms and lending me their knees to step on to reach a handhold. Thanks everyone for helping me to do the trip!