Location : Bungonia NSW
Date : Sat 15th Feb 2003
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Bungonia State Recreation Area
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Yet another weekend of Blue Mountains closures (at least for canyons) saw us cancel a scheduled trip to
Clasutral again. This makes the third time we have cancelled this trip, I thinks the Gods are trying to tell
me something ...
On the up side, this left room for a quick and easy trip to Bungonia instead to have a crack at Blowfly cave. Due to prior commitments, Margot, Geoff and Dave were unable to join us for this trip which left us with a group of four comprising, myself, Patrick, Ben and Richard. This proved to be an ideal group size which fitted conviniently into one car for the trip and a minimum of gear. Although in retrospect we took way to much with us underground.
The weather was warm and humid with a possibility of storms in the late afternoon. Our timing was good, and our plan was to be out by about
15:00 ( SWAG !). At the park office there was one other group already signed in, and at 10am, we were the second for the day.
Tru to form, I managed to guide us all in the wrong direction from the car park. Ignoring (again) the most obviouse track and being drawn
by the compelling force of the closest doeline. Such is the power of the Dark Hole ...
Blow fly cave is one of the few (worthwhile) 'through trips' available here. The two entrances (B16 and B51) are about 50m apart
and the general direction of travel is from B51 to B16. Much has changed in the passage of time since my last
visits here in the lat 70's and early 80'. Long gone are the tree's we used to use for belays into and out of the system.
B16 now sports a very sturdy looking ringbolt and a large diamete pipe 'bollard' as well.! As for B51 ... wow !
To set up we elected to put a doubled rope down the two pitches of B16 which we could use as an aid out if need be, at the end of the day.
We set up a simple sling and doubled the rope through it, then Patrick belayed as I cautiously climbed down the slot.
My memory of this cave from earlier lives is almost completley erased ...
At the magnificent entrace structure we adopted a similar approach. Patrick would abseil in on the doubled '60, and clear the way down the three pitches, 6m, 13m and 10m. We would follow, leave the rope and collect it from above later.
Fairly quickly, Patrick found the first flaw in our plan.
The bottom of the third pitch is a comfortable space with a steeply sloping boulder strewn floor, leading down to a choked looking passage. Looking 'up' the floor is a broad low flat roof running parralel to the floor at about 50 degrees. "tight looking". Another very low crawl seems to lead to the right, but this looked very 'untravelle' and from the maps and notes, our way on was up through the floor/roof to the Middle Aven.
Waiting below for the others, I had company in the form of a mostly mummified wallably lying to one side immediatly below
the pitch. Poor buggar. Most of his head was gone, presumably from landing on it on the way in. (He
would have had several opportunities to do this I imagine). It made stop and ponder for a while on what
it might have felt, in it's final moments...
Ben, being the thinnest of the group chose to lead up the floor to Middle Aven. It was here we discovered the second flaw in our plan...
Too many packs !
Mental notes :
Patrick climbed up the dragons teeth and squirmed over the top to find a continuation of the passage we hade just emerged from. Just as tight, if not tighter. Definitly longer and possible even steeper. Getting the packs up here was hard work! Barely enough space for ourselves let alone wrestling with these heavy awkward bastards.
At the top the going eased considerable and the passage opened up to a size that allowed the four of us to longe about quite comfortably. The opening to the passage leading to the Adytum yawned invitingly behind me, but this is something best left for another day.
With Patrick leading on, we squeezed and slid down into Spokeshave and then accross and through the Kidney Squeeze. No problem. I like it when the cave description fits the bit of cave we're actually doing ! A groovy little smooth tube allowed for a controlled slide into another tall rift passage with dirt and boulders for a floor. Blah .... back into the dust again. Over the boulders and wow ! A huge rift extending way up and onwards. Down on the left a large crawl passage with a good breeze flowing. We must be close to the exit now. We gather for photos and a read of the graffiti here. Obviosly some people didn't like this trip ... While we're looking around we are startled by a series of distinct 'thuds'. We are still 30 meters below ground and maybe 10 meters from the exit climb, so we can rule out 'people noise' and the only explination I can think of is perhaps thunder ?!?.
Time to leave then! We grovell along the tube and are glad that it quickly opens up into another passage with ample headroom at the end, and surprise, surprise ... our exit ropes!
Before embarking on this trip I hunted around a little for info on this cave, particularly the entrance and exit strategies employed by others. The only hit I had in my brief search was a group that indicated the exit made for "an interesting free climb" and that an exit rope or ladder would be recomended.
The first pitch of the climb out is ... well SMOOTH!. There are holds, and they are good, but most of it is smooth, requiring a little 'bridging' action which feels very insecure on the smooth polished limestone. To add to the difficulty, It's coated in a very fine dust. (I guess this was better than my memory of old which was of steep WET and slippery !).
Beathing hard at the top of the first pitch, I now realised the 3rd flaw in the days setup. At the beginning of the day I set the ropes up 'under' a large block. Had I been more inquisitive on the way down I would have seen that 'over the top' did in fact drop straight down to the top of the pitch. This would have allowed a direct route straight up to the last climb, and saved our rope from a lot of potential wear.
As it was however, Patrick climbed up behind me and belayed from there, bringing packs up first. I managed to wranlge the bastards up the next two bits but opted to leave them at the base of the rift until the others could help.
The final climb out works well if you scramble up on the left first, climb almost to the top, then finaly move rightwards, into the opening, across the drop below, and haul yourself out.
As I emerged into the daylight I was greeted by the warmth and humidity of the day. Sweat formed almost instantaniously. The sky above was dark and ominous, with a light drizzle just startiing fall. Thunder growled in the distance. Please hold off for just a few more minutes !
Pulling the bastard packs up worked well, until the last bit. As expected, they all wedged in the small opening. A bit of jiggery pokery and the way was clear for the rest of the guys. Ben and Richard emerged one at a time, with Patrick right on Richards heels.
We made short work of packing up. Richard and Ipulled and coiled the B16 gear while Pat and Ben went off to retrieve the B51 equipment. The gruelling walk back to the car took nearly 4 minutes, and just as we openned the tailgate, the heavens opened and down she came !
Not wanting to stand around in the brief shower, we dived into the car and headed for the park office to sign out before heading to Marulan for a beer. The deluge had stopped by the time I ran up the path to the office and only intermittent drizzle followed us into Marulan.
On the way out, we past six RFB tankers, all hightailing it into the park. We can anly assume the big bangs we heard underground might have been lightning strikes nearby.
Also on the way out we saw (nearly ran over) a small tortise walking across the road. Fortunatley for him we saw him in time and swerved around. Another one about 100m further up the road (also heading the same direction as the first one), got us thinking and we stopped to help them off the road. Actaully, by the time I walked back down to the first one, it was already nearly across. Head and neck straining, and really going for it !
We past a third one only minues later (much larger and already across the road). I wonder where they were going ? Were they chasing the storm perhaps ?
I'm still keen to get in more caving.