1) I finished bolting Toufic’s new drop at Seventh Hole – “Christmas Crack” – a 120m drop featuring cool crystals, six rebelays, tinsel, baubles, candles, festive tipples, mince pies (great job Nadine), and – even after several hours of cleaning – a crapload of loose rock. Don’t do it with anyone below until the next rigger sorts it out properly with a crowbar. And restocks the refreshment stations.
2) Dropped into the Canyon Room and turned back uphill into Three Window cave. The plan was to reverse it all the way and ascend and the ropes left in place down the sinkhole on our last trip. Supercool trip with climbing, scrambling and bouldering. It’s a whole new cave this way around. Surged up the slides and waterfalls like spawning salmon (perfect analogy Nicky!)
3) Six hours and two miles into the cave and less than an hour from the exit sinkhole, we ground to a halt at a sump. The water was up to the ceiling. I swam underwater for about 100m between air pockets, bumping along the ceiling, then turned back when it got too sketchy breathing from a one inch air space. The way forward blocked, we resigned ourselves and set off back for an exhausting journey to retrace our steps all the way back down.
4) Hergen got the map out and figured out that the sump wasn’t the main passage – we had gone down a side passage and the sump in fact led nowhere (probably worth diving with scuba gear though – it’s as big as the main passage). Nadine spotted old footprints and led us back to the correct route up.
5) A thread anchor failed dramatically on a rope traverse through the “it’s a knockout” section, but the backups held.
6) Pike was cursed with falling rocks and women. At the start of the day in Christmas Crack he was smacked hard in the chest by a football sized boulder, caught it and held it for 10 minutes while I zipped down 60m of rope below and got under cover so he could drop it safely. Then late on, after the sump, he slipped and fell several metres into a deep pool, and had just finished coughing up mud when Nadine repeated the manoeuvre perfectly and landed on his head.
7) Nadine did some excellent bleeding and screaming, which cheered Pike up for a perfect photo-opportunity and gratified me with the chance to do some first aid, having lugged that kit around for a year.
8) We made it to the ropes. Thoby heroically derigged 250m of rope and 20 rebelays all the way up Three Window, with help from Hergen while Pike and Nadine heroically snoozed in the warm car.
10) Thoby and Pike did more hardcore derigging in the morning.
All in all an outstanding adventure to cap off an amazing year of caving.