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|By Martin Beale, 10 December 2001|
Report with photos available on vHut
We just had to get back into OyDC after an initial magnificent trip to the Bonsai Streamway. We were interested in how quickly we could negotiate the entrance series and whether we could get to The Antlers in an evening.
Having been through the entrance series once before and being unencumbered with extraneous equipment or belt attached batteries, we were able to blast through the entrance series in a mere 45 minutes on the way in. We were extremely pleased with this achievement and will clearly be looking at cutting down on this time in future trips.
Navigation into Jigsaw Passage was straightforward on this second trip. Jigsaw Passage stretched before us : the main artery into the mountain. We skipped along this at speed (unfortunately Unstone was slowed down somewhat by the inadequacy of his LED light for speed caving purposes : they come into their own when crawling). We made the Big Chamber Nowhere Near the Entrance in just over an hour and proudly signed ourselves in.
We were slowed down somewhat trying to find our way out of Big Chamber. There is a really obvious passage leading forwards, but this seemed to just degenerate into a boulder choke. There were little holes in the floor, but nothing seemed to go anywhere. The way on was up the boulder slope in Big Chamber and a crawl between bedding planes. I was careful along the way to try to memorise obvious points of reference as this area seemed somewhat confusing. We seemed to have to pass several obstacles and little squeezes before the Epocalypse Passage really seemed to get going. We motored on, oblivious to formations to the sides of us until we were stopped by one of those muddy little climbs that make you wonder why there has never been a serious accident in OyDC.
I saw an amazingly large horizontal stick of calcite sticking out of the wall and then charged on into the blackness. Unstone shouted to me from behind : I had obliviously past The Antlers. I had expected them to be much further away (Antler Passage would be the logical place!). I was surprised that I had missed such a fine formation on the way : I was too focussed. As far as I was concerned, this was the point I wanted to turn round at. Despite Unstone's protestations, we did actually turn round.
I was surprised by the amazing formations that we saw on the way back. At one stage Unstone proclaimed that we were lost when we saw a particularly obvious and amazing speleothem growing from the floor. It was only the size and trend of the passage that persuaded us we were actually still in Epocalypse.
Things went horribly wrong when we got to the crawly sections near Big Chamber. We were not particularly sure of the way : we were following cairns, but they seemed to have multiplied on the way out. We realised we had muffed it when we ended up at a particularly distinctive squeeze for the second time. I was sure we had passed this squeeze on the way in and so we tried again, noting voidmarks on the way. Again, we ended up at the distinctive squeeze! We were getting quite worried by this stage and decided to explore for the way out by a process of elimination : we would investigate all side passages from the furthest depths backwards. The speleocompass helped loads in this strategy as we laboriously worked our way backwards, looking for that bedding plane squeeze. Eventually, I was walking down a boulder slope and suddenly there was the Big Chamber log book. I was extremely pleased to see the logbook and emergency kit. Unstone followed and expressed disbelief that we had made it back into Big Chamber without going through the bedding plane squeeze. By this stage, I was beyond caring, as long as we got out.
Unstone proclaimed that we couldn't now get lost as he headed off into a dead end back towards Epocalypse. I put him back on track down Jigsaw Passage. Two tired and drained speleologists forced their weary bodies along Jigsaw Passage. Unstone seemed to be losing it through dehydration. At The Wriggle (possibly the most distinctive portion of Jigsaw Passage), Unstone proclaimed that we were definitely lost as we would have noticed such an obvious obstacle on the way in. It was clear that Unstone really needed that drink that he had been whining for. I let him put his face down in a muddy stream and drink.
Well past midnight, we were out of Jigsaw Passage and in the passage before the entrance series. We sat down by a prominent pile of carbide and contemplated that entrance series. We thought we had conquered our fears about the entrance series on the way in, but at half past midnight, the thought of an energetic hour in there was gruesome. At last we bit the bullet and started the long squirm back to the surface. I felt we would be out at any minute as we passed each turn after The Vice. Eventually, I could no longer hear Unstone squirming ahead of me : he was out!
It was a fine exploratory trip. We clearly have to gain familiarity with the start of Epocalypse Passage before evening trips to The Antlers become de rigeur : even more reason for future trips. I have also decided that an HPCC stodge depot in the cave would be a fine idea.We shall return!