Cave trips Bungonia (04) - Blowfly

Location : Bungonia NSW
Date : Sat 15th Feb 2003
Crew :
Wit Cieslik
Patrick Innes
Ben Hazelton
Richard Payne
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Trip 5 B16, B51 (Blowfly cave) Feb 2003
Photos : Richard Payne
Text : Wit Cieslik

Cavers :
Wit Cieslik (H)
Patrick Innes (H)
Ben Hazelton (H)
Geoff Williams
Richard Payne

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.
Basically we had the pace to ourselves, once again. Marvellouse !

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 ...
After a couple of minutes of pacing about amilessly we returned to the car to view the map and make good.

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 !

a small concrete entrance
wood reinforced pit
even a steel brace across the top of the hole, holding a boulder up.
My how times have changed.
It's easy to see the damage done in the past though through careless belay techniques and unforgiving equipment like wire traces.

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.
At the bottom of the first pitch I did not see the 'good' way down and without spending much time looking, I squeezed under the block at the bottom, to emerge at the top of the 2nd pitch. A smooth sided afair with few imediatley obviouse holds (if any).
Disconnecting from the ropes I pulled through all the slack and dropped the ends over the edge, pleased to see they reached the bottom with anly a meter or two to spare. This seemed to me to be likley and helpped confirm I had got the ropes to the bottom. Whew! All is going exactly to plan ! Climbing back out I was glad to have Richards' shunt following me along up the double ropes. Although I found good holds for hands and feet, it just felt nice knowing it was there ...

My memory of this cave from earlier lives is almost completley erased ...
I do remember we used to use a ladder (or two) for the exit pitch, and I do remember thinking at the time, how climbing the smooth steep wet limestone would be virtually impossible. The new descriptions I have for the cave indicated that for SRT, a single 50m rope would suffice at each end. Adding the pitch lengths I reasoned that we could get away with our 'doubled' 60 meter ropes. So far this seemed the case ! With the exit suitably armed, we moved on to B51.

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.
On the surface, our morning banter was interrupted by some muffled voicings from Patrick, deep withing the bowels of B51.
"What was that ?" Richard and I exchanged blank stares for a minute or two, and compared notes on what we'd heard. "Is the rope supposed to go all the way to the bottom !" relayed Richard. I though I heard him say "do you want me to be the belay bunny (boy?) !" .... Calrification required .... "WHAT WAS THAT ?" Patrick confirms the worst. The doubled '60 did not reach the bottom. Not by a long way ! In fact, the ends of the rope only just make it over the lip of the third pitch. Richard and I exchanged blank stares again as the impact of the information sank in. We need another 8m or so of rope length. How can that be ? even accounting for the rope up here, we should still be only a meter or two off the bottom. A quick round of shouting and simple maths... "No WAY!" "6 plus 13 plus 10 equals 29, we have 30 minus say 2 so 28 meters of rope for 29 meters of pitch er.. Hmmm..." "How long is this rope?!?" "Are you sure" "Are you sure it's that short of the bottom ?" We decide to send another and I elect to join Patrick with all the spare slings we have and see what we can do. The entrance is a little awkward but once inside, the pitches are straight forward and just verticle drops. I wouldn't like to have to climb them, and I think about our rigging at the exit again and worry briefly about it's suitablity. No time to dwell on that right now though. Patrick's accuracy is undoubtable. We are about 8m short on rope. Even with stretch, we're still gonna drop off the end high enough to render that option 'out-of-the-question'!. Eventually we hit upon the idea of pulling one rope end up, the rest of the rope down and fixing the end to a bight in the 'middle'. With this, and a bit of stretch we could see our rope end comfortably near the bottom now. A highly unethical and even downright dubiouse situation, but it would work and we all took great care descending our now 'single' 9mm rope.

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...
In it's present state, the find was not as gruesome as some I've seen in canyons.

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 :

  • We don't all need packs
  • I don't need four fifths of the stuff I carry.
  • One or two small packs or even just strong sacks would be fine !
Middle Aven is probably the most impresive part of this cave. (Although I have yet to venture into the Adytum!). Nice formations at the lower end and some impresive roof work. The best thing is the aptly named Dragons Teeth. One of these, in particular, looks just like a giant tooth, just standing there. All around us the wall is 'split' by a fault or plane that seems to run through this entire level, narrowing to the edges and the top.

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.
Ultimatly I'd like to go to Tuglow, but in the meantime we still have much to do at Bungonia.
There's the Extension, Argyle, College, Holands and maybe even the Adytum ?

More battery powered fun than we can poke a rope at !