Queens Birthday Caving 2015

This year I was excited to attend my first Queens Birthday cavers gathering over at Charleston. There would be almost 100 people from all over the South Island in attendance, cavers and their families of all ages, shapes and sizes. While the forecast wasn't fantastic, it certainly wasn't as bad as it does get on occasion over on the West Coast, and the caves on my agenda weren't prone to flooding anyway.

On Saturday morning, 6 of us headed to Hollywood, a gated cave that requires a permit from DOC due to the many delicate formations and bones within. After a quite tight and prolonged section of dry rift passage we opened up into Streamway One, and traveled the most often taken route out to Elvis the Pelvis, Streamway Two, through the Sacrilege Passage back to the entrance passage. At one point you are required to delicately pass a floor to ceiling straw only 1cm or so in diameter - how it has survived this long I have no idea - I certainly felt like a clumsy elephant and was nervous just being next to it. Although it was saddening to see all the damage to formations in the Sacrilege Passage, it was nice to be able to at least have the privilege to have access to view the remaining formations.

The view from Hollyood entrance

The view from Hollyood entrance


On Sunday, we headed down the coast a we bit to visit Babylon, another cave with a gate. The entrance to Babylon is huge, some 40m across and the main hall is some 60m high in places. Just before the gate there is a large climb (maybe almost 100m?) called the Ziggurat, a word used to describe the large terraced slopes such as those on the ancient pyramids. The gate signals the start of some much smaller passage through some old rockfall, then it opens up again. A short climb over Rays Reach heads into the Forbidden City - an area of stunning formations which requires one to remove overalls, gumboots and anything that isn't clean so as not to contaminate the large areas of pristine white flowstone and crystal pools.

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

On our way back on Monday, we stopped in at Te Ana Puta to see if we could find the rest of the cave that we didn't find on the last visit. With the map at hand this time, we found the somewhat hidden bit of passage that headed through the Pretties Room to the nothern half of the cave. Unfortunately after a short while we got to a sump of sorts, that blew water in your face as waves crashing into the cave further in force air though a small gap between the water and the ceiling. With none of us declaring a passion for swimming on into the unknown, we declared failure and headed back above ground. We tried to find some of the other entrances, and after a few false starts, we found a promising lead that did lead down to the waves, but due to a dodgy muddy section that was possibly not reversible we were unable to verify that it linked up with the rest of the cave. It didn't seem to match anything on the map. On the way back out of this small cave, I had a bit of an argument with some rocks while climbing up through a small 10m semi vertical chimney that is the entrance. Several large boulders gave way and collapsed onto me, fortunately they sort of rolled onto me instead of falling from height so they didn't do any damage to either of us, however it was definitely not a pleasant experience. So yet again there is unfinished business with Te Ana Puta. Next time I think we will have to get some good intel as to the northern entrance locations so we can finally visit the rest of the cave!

| June 1st, 2015 | Posted in Storytime |

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