Taking one for the Team

TIMOR CAVES – 25 – 27 November 2022
Sometimes everything falls apart but ends out working for the best.  That’s what happened on this weekend.  I was supposed to be going on a bushwalk, and Garry S was supposed to be leading a “Future Leaders” training trip, but then half of Garry’s group pulled out and the trip was no longer viable.  At the same time, NPWS had closed off the Park that I was going to, so I was now free to go on Garry’s trip so the training days could go ahead. 

As a bonus, Garry’s trip was to Timor Caves that I’d never been to before, so not only was I helping out, but I’d get to go to Timor, so wasn’t really “taking on for the team” (lol).

The shearer’s quarters at dusk on the cattle farm that we would be staying at. We met the owners (Garry knows them well), lovely people and so generous with the cottage.

The Future Leaders program is my brain-child, it’s taken six months to get it up and running and it’s still suffering growing pains.  I’m beginning to wonder if it is feasible.  The idea is great, but will have to see if it every gets legs.

Once we’d settled in we decided to go over and rig the caving ladder that we’d use the next morning. We passed by this lovely swimming hole. The guys used it the next afternoon, but I couldn’t be bothered walking down to it (after all there were hot showers at the cottage).

Garry walking up to the cave.

Garry opening the gate so we could drop the ladder down. We set up the rigging for the ladder and intentionally left some of the carabiners with unlocked gates, they’d be expected to check everything in the morning and find the open screw gates.

Onni and Tam arrived late on Friday night. In the morning they were right into it, setting up a z-haul for “potential rescues” using the most basic and least amount of equipment.

Our first cave Glendhu, Garry unlocking the gate.

We made our way down to an area that has a “clean zone” where Garry explained the principles of de-trogging (getting out of your muddy stuff and into clean gear to go into a zone that hasn’t been muddied).

Then we went through a squeeze and Onni and Tam did a simulated rescue (I was the crash test dummy), using a make-shift stretcher (made out of a blow-up mattress). They well and truly had me strapped in.

And then moved me back through the squeeze, plastic came in handy to cut down the friction of moving the stretcher through the squeeze.

After Glendhu we had some lunch and then moved over to Moores Cave to carry out some Foul Air exercises.  Garry used a range of tools, cigarette lighter, match and candle and also a Dragar meter.

The first exercise was to review the set up that Garry had done the day before. Once they were happy with the rigging (and found all Garry’s intentional errors), we headed down with a top belay.


This is the Dragar Meter, pretty cool but you possibly need to be in the mining industry to get your hands on one! This gave us first-hand experience of knowing what it feels like to be in foul air at 4.5% CO2 and below 14% Oxygen.

Further down in the cave we came to an area where we hadn’t disturbed the C02 and we were able to do the lighter test, see how the flame is floating above the lighter, that’s because there’s too much C02 between the lighter and where the gas from the lighter has enough oxygen to be a flame (that sounds weird but that’s what it was like).

Me exiting the cave – have already mentioned how much I hate ladders? Well this was no exception, it’s not easy getting around obstacles on a skinny rung of metal, and trying to get your fingers between the rung and the rock!

We were finished with this exercise by mid afternoon, headed back to the hut and then piled into Tam’s 4WD and headed over to Main Cave where we took in some of the beauty of the cave (probably one of the best at Timor) and the geology.  It was also good to see where some graffiti had been removed by NHVSS members in June 2019 – and that it was still clean.  This cave is not on private property but on the “Reserve”, consequently it’s ungated and every Tom, Dick and Harry can get in and leave their mark (bastards).

We had a lovely evening on the Hut’s verandah enjoying the sunset, it had been a pretty full-on day so we were all in bed by 10.

Next morning we packed ourselves back into Tam’s 4WD and headed back to the Reserve to go check out Hill Cave.  It was a hot climb up the hill, and were all pleased to get underground.

This section is called the flattener, it’s pretty obvious why, it’s basically only wide enough for your chest, and is a little off-putting when you are sliding down feet first and have no idea where you’re going to land!

The exercise today was for the three of us (Onni, Tam and me) to work as a team, more Onni and Tam, they had to get me through the cave safely, which involved setting up a belay (of sorts) to get me down a drop that I would have struggled with, particularly as on this day it was damp and slippery.

Onni half-way down the drop, I definitely wouldn’t have liked it if I wasn’t on a rope.

On the route out, Garry gave us two options, the squeezy way, or a way-around. Onni, Tam and I chose the squeezy way just for the fun of it – Onni is looking happy about the exercise, but he has long legs so could push himself through easily, it was a bit harder for me as I’m vertically challenged.

Tam making his way through, if you didn’t get your arms through first (like a swimmer diving into a pool), it was a bit more difficult.

The last challenge of the day – exiting!

By now it’s around lunchtime, so we headed back to the Hut to clean up, clean the hut out, turn off all the utilities and hit the road.

Big thank you to owners Chris and Maureen for allowing us to use the Hut, made the trip exceptional!

Big thanks to Garry too chauffeuring me up to Timor and for leading the first of the Future Leaders training days.  It was a success, but with Garry leading, I expected nothing less (lol).


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