Monday 31 August 2015

Nicks Cave now Sunday 6th


To fit in with the landowners timing we are moving the trip to Nick's Cave to this coming Sunday 6th. We will meet at Oaktree garage and depart 08:30 promptly as its an hours drive. Nick's is relatively small but with some large chambers and awesome dendrite formations on the roof of one section and a notoriously hard to find chamber. It can be a little dusty. There two ways to get, abseil and SRT out or ladders and a belay, we will use both. Visitors are welcome but please let me know.


082 455 4480

Armageddon 29 August 2015 by Karin Human

A full moon peeks over the horizon as I step back on the canvas serving as rope protection and covering Armageddon’s edge. Sweat drips from my forehead as clumsy, over-worked hand attempts to clip my safety line. A deep sigh pauses an endless moment of courage, determination and strength. Instinctively I know none of us will stand at this very same spot tonight and claim nothing has changed. Armageddon has seeped into our lungs with every breath, rushed into our veins and nestled itself in our cells. We are transformed.

                A long dusty road snakes through the barren landscape leading to the infamous Armageddon. Winter is still prevalent in this area with rolling yellow brown fields stretching to the horizon. A long, narrow strip of hills follow our progression with anticipation. After a few right and left turns we make our way up a slight rise. A blackened field signifies a raging fire not too long ago and I can’t help to think it quite fitting. The dust settles when the last vehicle finds a parking spot. I watch in my rear view mirror as the edge of Armageddon becomes visible. The sinkhole seems much smaller than I anticipated. Muffled, cheerful chatter from the rest of the group moves me to open my car door. The day has just become significant.

                Slowly gear is being inspected, adjusted and donned. A few of us walked to the edge to find some clarity on depth and an insane idea of how we’re going to attempt this. A contraption reminding me of an oversized calliper stood at the edge with a rope running in the middle of its silver legs, stretching from the Landrover to a Ford Ranger parked on the other side of the gaping hole. Watching with interest, my fuddled mind refused to comprehend what we were about to do. My idea was more along the lines of abseiling down the side, but the truth of this specific cave becomes vivid when it is explained that the sides are too unstable. John works quietly to secure the rigging.

                By now the whole group was standing around to see what was happening. A deafening sound when metal hits metal tears through the quiet morning when John lets go of the rigged pulley and it abruptly stops in the middle of the hole. A few nervous giggles and immediate word mash up allows the more experienced cavers to pull the Mickey out of this situation. A few laughs later it is time to get serious. David is first. He threads the line into his stop, link his safety to the safety loop and lowers himself to the middle slowly by letting go of the rope leading to the Landrover. From there it is fairly easy. A few gear checks and then, after unlinking the safety, he descends and disappears from our view. Quiet, controlled and fairly quickly we get the ‘Rope Free’ call. Next one... And another... Somewhere in this moment I started to lose my nerve. All the what-ifs of a million scenarios simultaneously created a personal hell through which I had to find a way. I decided to jump at the opportunity to go down next.

                Standing at the edge, I took note of my surroundings. The wasteland around me seemed more friendly that this hole. The brown red soil had big holes and crevasses, probably from water in the raining season. It stretched down to what seemed to be a rock face. My eyes darted back a few leafless bushes surrounding the entrance.  A few encouraging words from behind became a soft whisper as the wind brushed past me. I turned to Steven, begging him to come with me. This was totally an impulse thing because I knew and understood it will be my journey into Armageddon and mine alone. I was shaking badly and asked him to lower me to the middle. I did my gear checks, unhooked my safety and slowly started my descent. My eyes stayed fixed on the edge.

                A green glow from below caught my attention. I looked down and Armageddon had me at that very first hello. Ferns were growing abundantly on the sheer cliffs. It seemed like a spirally edge, snaking lazily from the bottom towards the top, became the perfect place for them. I was awestruck. It was like walking into a rainforest with the coolness enveloping me and the fresh, earthy smell that filled my nostrils. The stream-like sound of running water comforted me into a state of tranquillity. Calm and at ease I finally made it to the bottom. The steep slope was not something I prepared for. What made it even worse was the loose gravel. Moving from one place to the next required some planning, but even that failed at some points when footing became bumming. I soon realised that this would be the norm for the rest of the day.

                The slope disappeared into utter darkness further down where a huge gap in the sinkhole wall awaited our somewhat careful entrance.  The very first chamber is impressive to say the least. The slope continues down and with a few intuitive moves and slides you make it down relatively easy. Going down the right side of the entrance has a few hidden obstacles. We came across quite a few off cuts of barbwire which would be easily avoided if the slope was not as slippery and rocky.  A few tyres also found their way down. The slope on the left side is a quick slide down, but I think you have to know it well enough to attempt it. Standing at the bottom and looking back, the slope could easily be 20m to30m high.

                Our first stop is the most amazing stalagmites, formed from magnesium. I’ve never had the privilege of being a witness to something this great. Shiny black and almost like flowstone, covering parts of the boulder. We moved on, climbing over huge boulders, watching every step because of loose rocks. It’s like this cave did everything possible to protect itself from peering eyes. The cave floor is strewn with razor sharp rocks and I have found many looking stable enough to step on, but waving arms and grasping at surrounding (just as loose rocks) to prevent a sure fall. The climbs are high, the slopes just as intimidating.

                At one point Rick triumphantly said something and everybody scrambled over the scattered rocks to get to him. I followed suit. It turned out to be Gerrie’s little lava lamp. The smoky white column of what seems to be a stalactite and the size of a litre bottle, stood upright on a huge boulder. It was found on the floor and placed there. Steven shone his light through it and revealed an amazing jewel. The top part was cobalt blue and bled into green at the lower parts. Irene asked if we could have a moment to eat and refresh before we continued.

                We were nearing the first pit. There was a rope rigged from one side of the gaping hole to the other on the right side, hugging the wall tightly. A small ledge, just big enough for one foot became our way of passing the hole. With a safety clipped onto the rope, one by one we moved past this obstacle. A few metres on and we were standing at the precipice of a 20m gap. Our way over would be via a pulley system and a rope, spanning from one side to the other. Obviously some of us had some self-convincing to do at this point. I for one has never done anything like this, but Rick guided us through this. After being linked up to the pulley you fall off the edge.  The rope slopes down and you climb hand over hand, pulling yourself over to the other side. I was not surprised to find another torturous slope and the ever present loose rocks on the other side. Luckily Steven and a few of the group were already on the other side and a few pulls assisted me up the little slope.

                Thinking that we’ve nailed it that thought evaporated at the sight of a 40m gap we have to cross next. A shiny silver cable dissipated into blackness as it gave safe passage to the other side. Standing on a pile of rocks, just as stable as the rest of this cave, you hook yourself up to the pulley and off you go. It turned out to be fun filled ride, but of short duration. Nearing the other side you have to turn your body and get your feet on the side to prevent a sure collision. A Few metres on you have to turn to the other side and do the same.   

                As we progressed, I could hear the anticipation in Rick’s voice of our next chamber. All he could say was “just wait, you’ll see”. You don’t see this chamber. You experience it. The first impression is something like a void. The size of this chamber nullifies any attempt to take it in all at once. You are brought to your knees and you become one with the darkness that surrounds you. Your light travels eons away and sees nothing. It’s in this moment that you truly experience the raw soul of Armageddon. In this vast chamber you find a way to yourself and realise that life just happened to you.

                We found a spot in the centre where most of the group already gathered. It was decided that this will be the turning point. Steven decided to push a little further. There is always more to see. I decided to follow, but Steven’s light disappeared quite quickly. Even though the floor seemed more walk friendly, I realised it was just another facade when my foot disappeared ankle depth into the soft soil. Your steps become light and with purpose. We pushed forward. We had a time limit we had to stick to and we wanted to get to the deepest part of this cave. Up steep slopes and down the other side. Another big, gaping hole made for easy stepping because if you catch a loose rock you might just end up at the bottom of it. I remember looking up at yet another slope and realised I have to come back this way again. I was at the verge of giving up, but decided to push on. The hard part about these slopes is that you can’t follow anyone. Every person going up changes the route and you have to find your own route up. It’s like an individual thing. Dig your toes in and crawl like a gecko. I’ve learned to use the palm of my hand to climb. Clawing with fingers is much more risky when it comes to the amount of loose rocks.

                This part of the cave is wet and clay covers most of the climbs. Truly inspiring when I think of what I’ve accomplished. We met Steven on our way as he was making his way back. He moves in these caves like a ghost. You see him and then he’s gone. I had a bit of a slip and fell. Rick was standing in a peculiar crack running through and exceptionally thick part of the mud. Might this be the beginning of something great? We were basically at the deepest part of the cave. A whopping 230m and with that thought lingering we had to turn back.

                Crossing the 3 pits weren’t as challenging as the first time. As we progressed towards the entrance the group got away from me and Rick. We stopped to have a look at the site that gave essence to being in the oldest cave in the world.
                The walls are made up of rows and rows of shelves neatly on top of one another.  Pressed between these shelves is the history of earth, written in the strange formations of degenerating dolomite, slowly turning to dust. It’s like an old forgotten library, with mystical secrets and phenomenal revelations. A small section of this cave, easily overlooked because of focussed climbing, is one such place. The walls are covered in a white, bubbly kind of formation. Rick was kind enough to stop here and explain the absolute significance of this particular spot. It is evident that the dolomite layer was heated rapidly and turned to liquid. The cooling process was also fast and left an ancient message cast in stone. Armageddon, millions of years back. It is at this very spot that the dating for this cave was done. We were standing at a holy place of history. A glimpse of a world, crippled and regenerating into a home for us and that fact had me humbled. I could only stare in silence as words were as evasive as the roof of this magnificent place.

                We also found a speleothem dating back to the start of life on earth. Shaped like a broken shell, it holds the truth of life’s intent in the hard, rocky formation. All you can do is staring in wonder of all the wisdom that is locked away in this seemingly uninteresting piece of rock. It is unimaginable to comprehend the time gone by before modern life has touched it.

                We made it into the sinkhole and the final journey up the rope sent a last few shivers down my spine. Steven was almost at the top when we arrived and we patiently awaited our turn. We used the time to refresh and rest. Climbing the rope was tiring, to say the least. Dusk was the call of nature to some bats to come out, joining the comedy of working my way up the rope. Like Gerrie says: “One does not simply SRT up Armageddon’s sinkhole”.    

Karin Human

Monday 24 August 2015

Armageddon Cave - 29 August

Hi everyone,
Finally a trip back to Armageddon!
The trip is for members only, who are SRT proficient. There are only four spare SRT kits available if you don't have your own. So first come first serve. Also there won't be a winching system, so you will have to climb the 50 meters out of the cave or stay down there permanenently.
Trips to Armageddon are often 8 hours or more inside the cave, so make sure you have enough food, water and battery power.

Meet at 08:10 at the corner of the N12 and R28 on Saturday the 29th of August.
John Dickie is organizing the trip, so if you want to join or need any kit phone him at 073 985 8068

Saturday 22 August 2015

Mpumalanga Caving Sept 24th to 27th

Hi everyone,

The club is planning a trip over the long weekend in September, from the 24th to the 27th of September in Mpumalanga.

The caves will probably include Sudwala and Mbobo Mkhulu (one of the top mineralogical caves in the world) and others. The area really has some amazing caves.

The weekend is open to non-members.

The accommodation will most likely be rustic camping.

We need details of how many people are interested, but more importantly we need to organize permits to visit the areas, so if you are going Sharron needs scanned ID urgently!

We need these details by the end of August! So if you want to join the weekend please email Sharron at


Monday 17 August 2015

SEC Friday Night Caving 21 August - Westminster


Meet at Oaktree Engen garage, off Hendrick Potgieter on N14 near Sterkfontein at 7.15pm.
Beginners and visitors welcome. Cost R50 day membership fee per person.
Wear comfortable old clothes; caving involves some climbing, crawling, squeezing. 
Let me know if you need a hardhat and headlight; bring 3 x AAA batteries. We will be caving for about 3 hours so bring water if you need to.
RSVP Selena 083 460 4828

Friday 14 August 2015

Chaos Writeup

By David Groenewald

This last weekend (8‐9 August 2015) saw 9 intrepid explorers descending down to Chaos cave for a weekend of caving fun. We met at the Engen garage on the corner of the R500 and R501 in Carletonville where some of us did some last minute shopping for odds and ends before driving out to the farm. The Group consisted of John, Selena, David, Noah, Natasha, Suegne, Stian, Steven and Irene.

John and Selena drove ahead to meet the farmer and get the keys. Once at the farm, we headed out to the fenced off sinkhole filled with bits of forgotten metal that is the entrance to the 4th largest cave in South Africa. A memorial plaque to Conrad Potgieter at the entrance served as a stark reminder that caving can be hazardous, and potentially fatal. Luckily that is rare, and we ventured forth.

The entry into the cave is down some steep bits of rock and a handline was rigged to aid in the descent. Once in the cave, you pass through a smallish gap and then skirt around to the top of the first of two abseils. The first is around 15m and the second a bit longer at about 25m. For a number of us in the group, it was our first time SRTing into a cave and was a fantastic experience, even if it was a bit scary. At the base of the first abseil, fellow cavers were clumped together on a steep slope of loose ground and scree and we had to be super careful not to knock down any rocks onto the person on the rope. In the meantime, we were also careful not to disturb the numerous bats that were hanging, on the roof above our heads. The second pitch went through a tighter spot than the first, but you had rock infront (and behind) you for more of the abseil than on the first pitch. A bit of manouvering and adjustment of my bag, and I was through and coming in to land. There is a recess at the base of the second pitch where the cavers at the bottom could wait for the others to descend, but were safe from any falling rocks.

And now, we were in a MASSIVE chamber. One in which everyone’s torches (except John’s) seemed wholly inadequate and your light just disappeared into the darkness to light up some feature way in the distance. The plan was to head down to Saharah, on the lower level, but finding the way down was a bit trickier than expected. Nonetheless, we went through chambers and corridors lined with incredible flowstones, crystals, columns, pillars and pools of water. We finally found a way down to Saharah through Metro Station and went past Shrimp Pool, where some small shrimp‐like critters could be seen swimming amongst floating calcite in turquoise coloured pools. We also saw some of the impressive sounding, but visually not so impressive volcano formations before having lunch.

No caving trip can be complete without the piles of bat guano and thousands of spiders, and finding a lunch spot took some of us a wee bit longer than others as a result of either trying to find a spot devoid of spiders, or just through spending time observing them. We headed out of Saharah towards the upper level and the surface via a boulder‐choked scramble, being super careful to avoid tumbling down the slope along with the many loose rocks. We then climbed up a flowstone lined passage, enthralled by the many awesome formations we were moving past as we climbed up. Once again a handline was set up to get over some of the steeper bits.

We headed back to the ropes and the SRT mission to get to the surface began. Steven, John, Noah and myself headed down to the canyon to have a quick squiz. Upon returning to the ropes, we discovered Selena hanging around with a jammed chest kroll. It took a few minutes, but Noah, Joh and Steven managed to sort it out and she was able to descend to rest before attempting the climb again. The SRT out was tiring, but was merely the final bit on a good days caving.

Back on the surface, we cleaned off the dirt as best as we could and then drove to the hut where we pitched tents, lit the braai and John set up his famous Keg. John and Selena pulled out some champagne and we discovered that it was Selenas birthday!

On Sunday morning, Steven and Irene left, both feeling a bit under the weather and it was decided that we would head back in the afternoon since we had not got access to Crystal Cave. It was only after they had driven away and the dust had settled that we realized tha nice big laminated survey of the cave had hitched a ride with them. Luckily John had a smaller copy, even if it was unlaminated.

Dave Ingold joined the group as we once more descended into Chaos. We went and explored Decorated Passage, awestruck once again by the towering columns, hanging stalactites and glittery walls of white‐washed wonder. Noah and myself ended up doing some further exploring, crawling, squeezing and digging our way along some narrow tunnels after having climbed up a couple of tricky sections of flowstone. Unfortunately the many passages we tried all led to dead ends and we had to turn back, dirty and sweaty but satisfied.

We then headed back to the rope and Dave began to head out due to his torch battery beginning to give in, followed shortly afterwards by Selena. The rest of us headed off into the canyon in search of the mythical Maypole that was apparently left in the cave over 20 years ago. We didn’t find the maypole, but did see floating calcite pool and had fun exploring numerous passages and holes, climbing up and through arches to look down upon clear blue water below. Stian and I ended the caving trip off with a refreshing swim at the bottom of the cave before heading back to the rope and the surface. The SRT out was better the second time round and we all made it out safely to the sunshine above.

Thanks to Selena and John Dickie, Steven Tucker, Irene Krüger, Noah Hobbs, Natasha van der Nest, Suegne Botha, Stian Steyn adn Dave Ingold for a great weekend! Until next time...