Thursday 31 March 2016

Rescue practise in Hidden Cave

Hello everyone,

We are planning on doing a rescue practise in Hidden Cave this Sunday the 3rd of April. So put our unfortunate patient in a stretcher and get him or her out from just above the stalactite garden. A rescue takes time, so bring some snacks and water for in the cave.

Visitors are welcome to join the trip, but you will have to help with the rescue! If you're new to caving go read this:

Meet at 8 at the N14/R500 intersection. 26°11'10.68"S & 27°26'27.14"E.

If you want to join this trip send me an email at and also let me know if you need any equipment.


Wednesday 30 March 2016

Easter weekend caving - By Sharron Reynolds

Jocks cave.

John found the cave with very little effort although Selena and I thought it was a lot further down the cutting. The entrance is a pretty steep decent low and through thick sand and tree roots. The  sand fleas I remembered from the last trip were less evident. Though Karin found them replaced by spiders. The passages to where the Pretties were  are pretty big with not to much crawling. I did not make it through the short passage out the "flag" chamber despite lots of encouragement from Karin. I am sure John or Selena would have talked me through but they were long gone by the time I got there. Amazing how caving is such a head sport. I did then manage to spend some time exploring the flag chamber while waiting for the rest to rejoin me. We either didn't find the "straw" chamber or because the cave was so much drier I just remembered it differently. On the return of the group they were all complaining of plenty CO2 so was somewhat glad I had not pushed through. John found a different and much shorter route out with some nasty sharp bedding rock to crawl over. While waiting our turn through the passage, Steven found a really impressive section with stunning water pools so clear the water looked green. Karin was especially excited about that. The trip back to the bottom of the exit slope went very quickly, however the crawl back up was more difficult with three steps forward and one back. Although the spiders helped with motivation. Once down at the landy we realized we had kitted up at camp, and our overalls were extremely dirty,  so had to ride home in our underwear.
The party around the supper table reflected how much fun we all had, as spirits were high and cave discussion was animated. The prospect of another exciting day caving lay ahead.

The plan for the next 2 days were to be spent at Serunecjar as Steven had plans to survey the cave.
John took us for a short sightseeing trip through the small village eventually parking outside the "queens" house. With permission granted and the refusal of beer and a request for a coke we spent an hour or so thrashing around looking for the entrance. With a little help from a local, Selena and Karin found the entrance. It's more in line with the river, with an obvious cow path to follow, well once you find it that is. The large prickly pear and tree at the entrance should remind us next time. Steven and Irene remained in the upper chamber to survey while the rest of us followed John to find the rest of the cave. With no survey and a 5+ year gap between this trip and his last trip, memories were a bit fuzzy. The section we were in did not look at all familiar with lots of climbing and some big drops. John managed to get up a very slippery slope, but after Pedro took a scary slide it was decided to head back to camp for extra equipment. Taking a slightly different route we poped back into the chamber Steven was still busy in  and a right turn had us at a different entrance with an easy route into Dragon chamber. After a bit of scouting, John found the route into the rest of the cave but it was confirmed ladders and rope would be needed for the slippery climbs back out. Leaving Steven and Irene to survey duties, the rest of us headed back down the hill and back to camp. I took a rather nasty tumble on the mountain and decided to stay at camp.

When the group returned Selena insisted that I should put on my big girl panties, drag Leon along as the section they got into was way to beautiful to miss.

Selena cooked us a fantastic supper. Leon and I put up a bat net and were lucky enough to catch 3 species of bats, and had the opportunity to educate the owners, who hopefully will now live with the bats and not play tennis with them.  With the group a lot more subdued and the prospect of some great caving the next day it was an early night for all.

Serunecjar is by far one of the most beautiful caves in the area. Unfortunately a lot drier than 8 years ago - my last visit - there were 2 things I remembered about the cave. The miner helmet & bones covered in flow stone and the low chamber with lots of mud, pools and lots and lots of spiders, I found neither of these, either not looking properly or just because I remember it differently.

John had rigged 2 drops with ladders and 2 with rope that helped with both the decent and more importantly the ascent. Pedro's hand jammer also proved a life saver for me on the one muddy slope.

Back in the dragon chamber, John and Selena rigged a ladder and rope down a steep muddy slope but nothing terribly exciting was found. Leon and John confirmed the spiders in the dragon chamber were sack spiders .. nasty!!

Fortunately Steven did not complete the survey so a return trip soon is in order.

Bats in Serunecjar

On day one we found a few bats flying around and though we could not get close their inquisitive behavior and wing shape led me to believe they were horseshoe bats. Until we entered Dragon chamber I was rather disappointed in the number of bats and bat guano. However evidence in Dragon chamber suggested huge numbers recently in the chamber. I was very disappointed I had missed them assuming they had left for winter. Day 2 and the trip into the next chamber revealed the bats had not left. Just moved further into the cave. There is a huge colony of Natal long fingered bats in the cave, so a winter trip would be strongly discouraged. With the huge development of fruit farms in the area this colony will become vitally important and I sincerely hope that winter trips will be avoided.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Apocalypse – 8 November 2015

Apocalypse. In biblical terms it might shiver fear down your spine, but the word’s origins can be found in ancient Greek and means to uncover or reveal. The arduous cliff like shaft serving as the gateway to its secrets marked the beginning of a journey not soon to be forgotten.
The cave system’s ability to deliver on an innumerable amount of caving techniques is vast. The first impression, which did not last for too long, was that this cave would be an easy walk through. The size of the first corridor was spacious and a casual chattering eased the mood after negotiating our way down the 50m shaft. A right turn led us deeper into inviting darkness, eager to reveal as its name suggests. We were in the old world part of Apocalypse.
Stromatolite fossils are abundant here. These circular structures are fossilised single celled organisms which lived in shallow seas approximately 2,5 billion years ago. They are the reason for life in all its splendour because of their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. It was such a privilege to be surrounded by so much history and quite astonishing to be in a place which was totally different to what we see today. Deep in a cave the residue of a shallow sea remains.
We were looking for a crawl through which served as the link between the old world and the new world. Our map of the cave disappeared with Steven and Irene and we had the pleasure of exploring this vast cave system on our own accord. John victoriously found the narrow opening and we were well on our way to dive into the depths of Apocalypse’s soul. Corridors with narrow slits and exceptionally small passages were abundant. Herman definitely won the award for conquering the most amazing squeeze of the day when he passed a French Connection like passage and nearly left his pants behind.
The new world had many surprises. We found little nooks decorated in flowstone, numerous crystals reminding me of corals and mud... Lots of mud. The walls had a soft, velvety texture and relatively soon became the epicentre of Michelle’s absolute fascination. We also learned at this point that everything was probably just about halfway. We kind of accepted that this was John’s standard answer to all questions regarding distance and depth. Needless to say, the corridors echoed our laughter to unknown places at random.
A seriously angled mud slide awaited our ascent and John went first with Michelle following. The aftermath of their climbing looked like Wolverine clawed his way up there. It turned out that the gecko-like skill acquired at a previous caving experience was about the only fitting way to get up there. A wrong turn by me took us to a small corridor ending in a crystal clear puddle of water. Mesmerizing crystals were growing abundantly in this small space and shimmered like diamonds on the walls. John was just around the corner, but we had to retrace our steps in an attempt to save this little jewel for many years to come.
We finally made it back to our bags which were left behind due to size and we started to make our way to the entrance. Everybody was in good spirit and a lot of joking and playing kept our bruised and tired bodies going. You could literally see a cloud of steam surrounding everyone as we worked our way out. We finally made it back to a big corridor similar to the starting point. A cool breeze brushed past my face and I knew we were not far from the opening.
Apocalypse is an amazing cave and most definitely surprised me in every way. The scenery changed constantly and, at times, felt like a best of compilation from other caves. When we surfaced, the setting sun was partially covered by a smear of clouds and angel like rays shone down through the gaps in the cloud. Michelle and Herman both found it most comfortable to lie down, smiling and tjirping happily. Dusk turned to night and we eventually found ourselves on our way home.
Karin Human       

Monday 14 March 2016

NH3 – 13 March 2016

A chatty group met at an intersection between somewhere and nowhere to do some worthwhile exploring of a nearby cave. Or so we thought. The friendly and accommodating owner welcomed us at the big, sliding wooden gate and a long dirt road awaited us. Driving to this cave was just as challenging as the cave itself turned out to be. As we progressed, the dirt road became a two spore road and eventually diminished to no road at all. We followed the owner though stretched out grass lands hoping that nothing hides in the grass that could cause damage to our vehicles.
We finally made it to a large patch of trees and the fleet of explorers came to a grinding halt, ecstatic that the trek through the grasslands had finished. In good spirit everyone got geared up and we ventured to a place of dark mystery.
The first few pitches were relatively easy and we progressed quite quickly. Doused in darkness and looking down from a small ledge, it looked like a Himalayan footpath snaking down. Headlights shone from all directions, some seemed to be from holes carved into the cave walls. Voices echoed from all over as instructions were given by the more experienced cavers. Indeed a very technical climb, but a lot of fun. You finish a pitch, slide around the corner and start the next one. Finally everyone gathered at the bottom after a descent totalling 42m.
The soft swirl of what felt like a breath next to my face and an audible flapping of wings was evidence of bat activity. We were in their space and whether out of curiosity of fear, they popped in and out of our space at random times. Again, as many times before, it was such a privilege to be there. The first corridor meticulously moved you to your knees and ended in crawling over rocks. Moving them aside made it easier as the cave floor is covered in soft soil.
The first chamber was spacious. On the right side there was a slope stretching a bit back with a small crevice to the right bottom. We climbed to the top to see if there were any suggestive little crawl through to entice the explorer within. Indeed there was and John needed no invite. His light disappeared. In the mean time, our musician got himself through the crevice at the bottom of the slope and soon the happy voices of John and him merged into a choir of where to now? It turned out to be some kind of dead end.
Towards the left wall of the chamber a huge pile of guano lurked a greyish coat of growing fungus. Pedro decided to dive into it and we all instantaneously understood where the name NH3 came from when a cloud of strong ammonia filled our nostrils. The group went on exploring. Although the corridor is mapped as straight, it felt like a maze of crawls, squeezes and very seldom, places where you could stand upright.
Evidence of water flow quite recently begged the question of why. Steven and Dirk were very informative. In heavy rains the sinkholes gather a lot of water very quickly. It floods the caves. Although it happens rapidly, it eases just as quickly. Lesson for the day: If it does happen, find a higher spot and wait it out.
Bones were abundant in this section and it was obvious that it got washed in, but it did encourage Selena to play with the idea of us needing to find the creature that left the bone trail. Needless to say, a few nervous giggles rising from all over resulted in a good chuckle as everyone pitched ideas of how they got there. We pushed onwards. Some of the squeezes were relentlessly scraping off skin, leaving little cave kisses all over cavers in pursuit of that one significant moment. Whether victoriously getting on the other side of a squeeze or finding something extraordinary, we all were one in our idea of what we’re there for.
After some gruelling work involving crawling, squeezing and contemplating footing, we found ourselves in the sky chamber. A steep slope was our final ascent to a few scattered boulders which became a perfect resting place to refresh. The group decided to push forward to Karin’s Rolling Mill. The squeezes were really mean in this section. Sometimes you could only worm yourself through and other times you could grab some nice hand holds and pull yourself forward. The angles were just wrong inside these squeezes and space was almost nonexistent. Getting to the small chamber giving access to Karin’s Rolling Mill left us all breathless. Except for Dirk and Steven who decided they will attempt getting their bodies through the two solid rock plates which seems to be angling up and down. It looked like rolling hills.
The rest of the group decided to find their way back to the Sky Chamber where some members were waiting. Reunited, we started the painful journey back to the entrance. I think everyone lost track of the amount of crawls and squeezes we did, but the evidence of a serious cave was mapped on all the bodies that encountered NH3.
The final climb was an epilogue of an amazing caving experience and the first light rays had everybody smiling. As the tired, but satisfied cavers emerged one by one, it was totally apparent that each of us took something home with us. We are better versions of ourselves today than yesterday.
We were finally on our way back home. The grassland drive felt really long (maybe just for some of us... like only 2 of us) but we all made it safely home.
Karin Human



Saturday 12 March 2016

SEC Easter weekend Eastern Transvaal 25-28 March

We are planning on a caving weekend in the Eastern Transvaal over the Easter Long Weekend.  Caves to be confirmed.
Staying at The Shoe Guest House in Ohrigstad.  Accomodation is chalets at R500 per night per unit 2-sleeper.
Who is keen to join this trip?
RSVP John 073 985 8068 or Selena 083 460 4828

Wednesday 9 March 2016

13 March 09:00 - NH3

Hello everyone,

On Sunday there will be a trip to NH3, a cave that very few members of SEC have ever visited.

Meet at 09:00 at the R500, N14 crossing. 26°11'9.85"S & 27°26'27.61"E

The trip will be restricted to members only.

The landowner is driving through from Welkom to come and open the gate for us, so he has asked for R50 each to contribute to his petrol.

There won't be a braai as it will be a long trip and we need to be out of the property by 4.

Send me an email if you are joining the trip and let me know if you need any gear -

See you Sunday,


Tuesday 1 March 2016

Friday Night Caving 4 March, 7.30pm

Meet at Oaktree Engen garage, off Hendrick Potgieter on N14 near Sterkfontein at 7.30pm.
Beginners and visitors welcome.
Caving involves some climbing, crawling, squeezing.
You need to be in a reasonable good physical condition.
Wear comfortable old clothes and shoes, long sleeves, long pants. One-piece overall is ideal.
Let me know if you need a hardhat and headlight; bring 3 x AAA batteries.
Visitors cost R100 Day Membership Fee.
We will be caving for about 3 hours.
RSVP John 073 985 8068 visitor numbers restricted.