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...

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