Wednesday 25 May 2016

Jock’s Cave - 25 March 2016 by Karin Human

Jock’s was the perfect start to a long weekend of caving. 

After a hellish drive in the back of John’s Landy, we found a really good parking spot next to the road. The black tar lazily snaked down between majestic mountains towards a small village not too far down. We were assumedly close to the entrance of Jock’s and after being geared up, John and Steven started to scout the area on the cliff face just above the road. Within a few minute the cave entrance were found and the rest of the caving party climbed to a small opening. 

Our journey started with a short 2m crawl over fine sand. A sharp right turn had us sliding on our bellies down a slope covered in more sand. Beyond the dusty descent a strong smell of wild animal lingered. There were many theories on what kind of animal it could be. John decided to take the Mickey out of the situation. While climbing over the scattered boulders and disappearing around corners, he made it very clear that he was looking for his pet leopard. We found a patch which was an obvious indication that this part was the animal’s toilet area. We moved away not wanting to disturb whatever was living down there. 

The walls and roof looked really tattered in this part of the cave. You get the distinct feeling that the soul of this cave was disintegrating here. The calcite formations were discoloured and it looked like it was skinning its outer layers. Upon close inspection you could see tree-like rings on the deteriorating speleothems. The history of this area’s climate and subtle changes over the years are written in those fine lines. 

We made it to the Pools, which were completely dried out. A calcite formation edged the dark brown muddy wall at the bottom and stretched to the opposite wall forming a small rim. When water is present in caves, it saturates itself on calcite and when the water evaporates, the calcite stays behind forming these rimmed pools. Sadly, all that remain of these stunning water features at this point is a greyish skeleton of former glory. With heavy hearts, we decided to find a way around this section in an attempt not to cause damage to this precious jewel. 

A few minor crawls on a very muddy floor had us entering an upbeat part of the cave. It was like driving into a city with abundant neon lights and lots of evidence of new life. Calcite formations were opulent here and they were growing in random directions. Drops of crystal clear water were hanging at the end of pure white formations. The anticipation of falling and becoming something that mattered to the evolution of this cave stirred excitement in all of us. Caves do restore themselves and although it takes a tremendous amount of time, this knowledge gives us hope that our conservation efforts are not in vain.

The Flag chamber became our next adventure. As we progressed towards this section, formations were more extravagant. The Flag chamber had some very interesting speleothems. They grew forming loops and circles and enticed the photographer in all of us. Sections of the walls were liberally decorated in Argonite. Glittering in our lights, these charming little formations resemble a pincushion. There was also abundant crystal growth in this section. This was truly an amazingly beautiful chamber. 

With John in the front we entered The Minch. A collection of narrow squeezes followed, never allowing you to move from your knees. I remember at some point Selena just wanted to stand upright for a moment, but The Minch would not allow that. It felt like the walls slowly crept closer to your skin, gently hugging the little vacuum left to breathe to almost nothing. Panting and sweating profusely, our tired and oxygen deprived bodies decorated the cave floor of Hebrides. A short slightly downward slide on a smooth rock gave way to a pool of water. The reaction between dolomite and water excretes CO2 and the reality of this was felt on cellular level. The slightest movement had you struggling to breathe. We did not stay too long in this chamber as it was very uncomfortable to say the least. 

Getting back to The Flag chamber felt much quicker than going down. As we moved towards this chamber the higher levels of oxygen dissipated the effects of CO2 and breathing freely became a grateful response. We decided to take an alternative route back to the entrance. Squeezes and crawls were our way of negotiating the route back, but in spectacular fashion. Crystals, Argonite and strangely shaped speleothems decorated the walls, roof and at some points, even the floor. We got to a big chamber and after a bit of careful treading found the adjourning corridor which was our semi-final to the entrance chamber and John’s pet leopard.

I was just about to turn a corner when Sharron called the group back. Selena and I responded, but after a crawl over knife sharp edged rocks and already tender knees and shins, John and Irene decided to wait at the end of this corridor. I would make that crawl a thousand times over after I experienced this almost hidden chamber. 

Just around the corner of the entrance to the corridor, a huge chamber quietly allowed enormous speleothems to embrace the opposite wall, imitating something in the direction of a pipe organ. There were a slight drop off between us and the spectacle and Steven sat on a narrow ledge completely awed by the view. It was a place of silence and amazement. Your eyes can’t translate the beauty that engulfs your senses on a much higher level. 

Steven asked me to come closer. I went and sat next to him, my view totally fixated on the brilliant white formations. The gap in front of us may have been 4m across and 3m deep. In the right hand corner at the bottom of this gap a small crevice revealed a pool of jade splendour. The crystal clear water allowed our lights to penetrate to the bottom where an invitation lurked a deep wish. A moment became lost in translation of who we eventually become. To me, this was the paramount experience of this cave. It was like we were allowed a few seconds gazing into the soul, the heart of millions of years of preparation just for us to see. We were truly blessed to be here and I will always treasure that moment of self realisation.

We regrouped and made our way to the exit. The crawl out went quickly, but not without a few nervous giggles while spiders scurried around trying to avoid being squished by our bodies. Cars travelling past the rumbling strips outside echoed strangely through the usually quiet and serene space inside. The ledge at the entrance does not accommodate many bodies, but a few of us remained there for a few minutes, drinking the last few rays of the disappearing sun. 

Karin Human


  1. Thank you Karin, for another great write-up on the caves you have experienced! Very Well Done! We need more new cavers to share the wonders that THEY see - us old cavers get a bit jaundiced......................Dave Ingold

  2. Only just got round too reading your posts Karin, stunningly lyrical. Regards