Cave trips (03)

Location : Bungonia NSW
Date : Mon 1 Feb 2003
Crew :
Wit Cieslik
Dave Dunn
Patrick Innes
Margot Innes
Ben Hazelton
Geoff Williams
Richard Payne
Useful Links
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Bungonia State Recreation Area
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Background image:
Margo Innes abseiling into B5

B44 Grill Cave and B5 + B4 (Hogans Hole and Fossil Cave)

With continued park restrictions due to high fire danger, we were starting to think we may never set foot in a park again.

Surprisingly Bungonia re opened for day use, and we quickly got together a caving expedition. The objectives were to introduce the newbies in the group to some simple caving, and to re-aquaint myself with some of the easier caves in the area. (It's been about 15 years since I was here last!).

Oddly enough, just over Christmas I managed to catch up with a group of caving-friends from many years ago, who, like myslef had not been caving for years. They had just recently been however, and many fond memories were re-kindled. As well as a mild desire to go again myself.

Even Dr Stu surprised me by suggesting we put a trip together ! (I never knew he had already been with 'the club') ...

To get myself started, I made a couple of visits just after Christmas, before the restrictions turned into blanket closures, and had a fantastic time, firstly by myself and then a couple of days later, again with my eldest daughter.

The first trip was almost a debacle, but I had a great time. ... Don't tell anyone ... but I got lost !

I made sure this did NOT happen with Nicky and the 2nd trip was very smooth.

This time the group was primarily the canyoning/climbing crew, and none had been underground, like this before. Today, some of the group were to be initiated into 'climbing', 'abseiling' and 'caving' all in one hit !

My brief plan was to visit Grill Cave as deep as we could in a short time, have a short break on the surface, and then attempt the through trip of B5 and B4, via the abseil and duck under (the Devils Kitchen).

The recent dry weather (read DROUGHT) boded well for the through trip, and the caves were dry and dusty. A point to note here, my friends found the Devils Kitchen to be full of water and the duck' impassable when they visited only a month ago ! For us though, the biggest discomfort was going to be the choking dust.

Grill cave was dispatched without too much ado, although some confusion reigned on our way in, just after the horizontal ladder and again further down the rift, where we turned right instead of left and ended up back but below the horizontal ladder again (doh!).

A quick scramble up and 'run' back down the rift and soon we were down at "safe from russians", wallowing in the bat stench and deciding it was time to leave anyway ... (the park office suggested that any further than crystal palace was not recommended due to foul air, and we were well below that anyway).

An enjoyable surface interval consisting of a football, a giant tennis ball, a 4 way grip ball 2000, a soft frisbee and some food ! Much planning went into my food supply for the day and I can't belive I managed to walk PAST the bread rolls in the morning. Still the smoked salmon and brie tasted fine even without a base to eat it on. After our break we donned hats, harnesses and lamps and headed down to B5 (Hogans Hole).

Once inside the entrance chamber, there were several exlamations of the type "Oh... this starts straight away!". On guarded inspection of the drop, we decided to abseil in as planned, and derived much amusment from the name "Devils Kitchen" as we set about the task of rigging and rapping. (How evil can you make this sound ?).

The Rap down was easy and everyone came down smoothly and without difficulty. Plenty of good photo opportunities presented themselves and I had a ball with Dave's new camera ! Once re-grouped at he bottom, we sent Ben through the Duck Under first and I followed, eager to get grovelling, and test my aging memory. Inside the connection chamber it was much as I remembered it with a straigh forward choice of passages.

Up to the right to "go on", or down to the left to follow the extension. (Not today thank you...).

Next, Dave gave us food for thought as he first tried one way, then another to push through the squeeze from the Devils Kitchen. After a little discrete digging and a lot of cajoling, he finaly popped through and we all breathed out collectivley.

After that every one squeezed through and we collected our thoughts before moving off into the 'reasonably unknown'.

An awkward upward grovel gradually opened up and then closed down again. Thankfully not many side passages appeared and we managed to plot our progress against the map with only reasonable amounts doubt and uncertainty. A dim memory of the high rift we eventually emerged into, plagued me untill we suddenly found ourselves at the end of the rift. I was at a loss. At this point Margot asked if I knew where we were and I was pleased to be able to respond ...

"Absolutley! ...."
"(No idea ! ....)"

She pointed out a good sized passage behind us, but up in the wall, which we all considered and Richard and I scouted the end of the rift a short way by scrabling up, and I was able to confirm we were almost at the bottom of the Hairy Traverse (chain seen), and the passage Margot had spied was probably the 'way on' as they say. (In hindsite, I now remember this from past lives).

Margot's tunnel was surprisingly dusty and windy !
Crawling along the floor behind the others, I noticed my hands actually sinking completley into the dust. Again several aternate routes appeared along side as we progressed, they all seemed to "go", but still the "way on" appeared to be the way we were going. Onwards ! Another small chamber with multiple passages and some cautious scrambling confirmed we were at Kings Cross (whew... thank goodness for that... still on track) and everyone popped across the easy drop into the tube onwards. I followed on, still trying hard to remember what came next. Just to make the trip a little more adventurous, we had left the text description back in the car and were relying soley on good luck, perseverance and a small photocopy of the map (dev. long section) !

Grovell, grovell grovell, grovell ... Eventually Ben stopped, uncertain we were heading the right way or not. (or anywhere at all, in fact).

Equally uncertain, I left my pack behind and grovelled onwards as quickly as my elbows and toes allowed. Grave doubts began to surface in my mind, as the sound of human voices dimmed behind me to be replaced by my own slithering and breathing. Ahead a flattener and a drop into what looked like a larger area ... HA! Could this be the Letterbox !

I remembered this as a tricky reverse-out, feet-first, on-your-tummy, into-the-dark, drop, from earlier times, but felt it well within my capabilities today. Calling out to Ben and the others to follow on, (in case I got stuck and needed help), I slithered through and found ..... the Signature Chamber ! (so called as it suffers greatly from, past vandalism of the signature form).

Now I knew we were close to the end. Dim memories of a final climb up, followed by a final climb out.

One by one everyone else slipped, slithered, groaned and squeezed their way out and it was time for a quick drink and some chocholate.

Patrick and I examined our other option for entering this section with a view to exploring but decided to leave it for "another day" ! Although the duck under seemed quite dry at present. (read drought!).

After a few minutes break the group turned it's attention to getting out of 'Signature and Margot pushed a nice lead up into the canyon section leading up and beyond. I joined her by and alternate path, and soon Patrick, Richard and Geoff were on our heels as well. A short climb up saw us into the entrance chamber of B4, and after a bit of milling about we sent Patrick to lead the climb out to daylight.

After nearly 6 hours all up of caving, (including Grill earlier in the day), there was not enough enthusiasm left in the remaining group to launch an attack on Powell Pot, although I did enjoy the easy scramble into the tube. More memories of earlier difficulties vanquished. (Also, memories of the awkward upwards squeeze, were enough to make me think... "Leave this too, for another day Wit!").

One by one we climbed up and out, belayed for saftey by Patrick. Juggling packs and gear and reaching for daylight. Geoff and Richard took several nice photos of fossils on a boulder just below the climb out as well !

Back into the heat and waning daylight, and the gruelling walk back to the car ... nearly a full two minutes I think ... Sure beats Murdering Gully !

Next trip ... How about the extension ... anyone ?