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Feb 28, 2002


Field notes: R. S. Stewart

Cavers: S. Koenig, R. S. Stewart, (Malibu, Ray at entrance)

GPS: Fix obtained on road ~80 m from 2nd entrance. Saved as WPT 103, UTM: 0233416 E, 2025030 N LL:18 17' 53.8" N, 77 31' 18.6" W

We found a local woman, the manager of Bristol Estate (?), who showed us an entrance for "Ratbat Caves", a local name for the Bristol Caves, and after dropping her back at her yard we searched out the second entrance. The second entrance seemed best suited for use of the 60 m rope; it would handle both initial pitches with the one line.

The first entrance currently has a cable ladder used for guano extraction hanging in it and it should really be hauled out, (the estate is in receivership and was owned by some radio guy named, “Thwaites”).

The drop into the second entrance is from a hole about 5 x 3 m, hidden in a bamboo stand. As you enter, you descend through a hole in the ceiling of a chamber, (rope is hanging freely well back from walls), about 15 m across, which has a sloping bottom covered with bamboo debris. This gives way immediately to a second pitch that lands one at the top of a very long, fairly steep, talus slope. This slope is about twice as deep and long as Windsor Top Entrance. The slope is divided into two obvious routes down. As I waited for Susan to rap down the second pitch, I went most of the way down the right-hand route and found it to be a bit trickier at the bottom than the left-hand route, so I scrambled back up and when Susan was down, took the left-hand side of the descending chamber. We took care to avoid rockfall but managed to launch some anyway. Neither Susan nor I were in the obvious line of fall when the other was moving.

No bats whatsoever, (0), were seen in the upper guano passage although signs of intensive guano extraction, (apparently in the past five years but over with now), are everywhere, (dozens of fertilizer bags, scoops etc.)

We went to the base of the pitch at the first entrance; cables that were part of the guano mining operation are still in place. We backtracked, found the pitch to the streamway, then carried on past the ascent to the second entrance as far as the pitch at the end of the northern branch of the guano passage, (there is a pool of very shallow water right at the top of the pitch with very fine formations of a low, wide, delicate sort in the pool). Here we turned back, returned to the talus slope and carefully made our way up, (staging it), to the bottom of the two pitches.

The rope ascent went well, we hauled rope and left.

June 14, 2002


Field notes: R. S. Stewart

Cavers: S. Koenig, Geo Graening, S. McGinnis, Guy Graening, R. S. Stewart

Second Entrance position marked as Wpt 007, at 11:15, DGPS, +/- 3 m 18 17’ 52.9” N, 77 31’ 14.3” W

We set the rope at the 2nd entrance and then Guy rapped down to the top of the talus slope. I followed but stopped at the shelf halfway down to assist Shelley if necessary. Geo kept her on belay until she joined me on the shelf, then Geo came down, (photo), and carried on to the bottom. Shelley then followed and I came last. Susan stayed at the top due to a bad reaction to Maiden Plum that she’d run into on the hike to Home Away. Rockfall was a problem as well as poor communications between Geo and myself. He waited about 10 min’s before he rapped down because I hadn't properly let him know that we were set and waiting on him. This delay was entirely my fault and is being noted so that I can avoid having this happen again in the future.

Time was limited so Geo and Shelley did a quick survey then prepared to prusik out. I went up to the shelf first to retrieve a rope and assist if necessary. They followed up and out with rockfall again a problem.

I rapped down to rejoin Guy, at the top of the talus slope, then we moved down-slope to the main upper level. At the bottom of the talus we headed right. On the way to the drop into the chamber at the end of that branch we crawled into a smallish chamber, (~ 10 x 10 m), that has very fine formations and remarkably, cow bones at the bottom of a choked looking vertical. They’re being washed in from somewhere near the 2nd entrance some 50 m above. The location of the chamber suggests that it’s the gully we first looked into on Feb 28 when we were searching for the 2nd entrance. It’s being used as a dump apparently.

We next went back past the talus slope and looked for an anchor at the 2nd drop, (into the lower stream passage). We found the expansion part of a bolt and a very dodgy looking stal backup that had been used by the Bristol Caving Club. They must have been more fearless than me to use those rigging points. There are no boulders or large formations close to the 2nd drop. Bombproof rigging will require a long static rope run back to the base of the talus slope.

Next we headed to the base of the 1st entrance and with a cool little manoeuvre, (Guy braced himself, I stepped on his knee, then shoulders, then up), managed to get up a slope with a 2 m vertical at the bottom where Susan and I had stopped in Feb. Past this there is another muddy slope with steps cut into it that climbs to the side of a large chamber near the 1st entrance. I headed up, found it fine, and Guy followed. Close to the top of this, the cable ladder reaches the floor from the 1st entrance. There were signs of recent guano mining activity, (fresh fertilizer bag, gallon jug of drinking water).

After a good look around we headed back down the cut steps using the 30 m static line looped around a knob on the wall above as a safety. We recalled the rope and made our way back to the talus slope.

The ascent back out was real work for both Guy and myself due to a lot of weight on our backs. It didn’t help either being hit on the knee with a fair sized rock just as I started my ascent. The rope had shifted across the rock-face during Guy’s climb, I didn’t notice, and my first moves caused the rope to dislodge a rock directly above me. I saw it coming and only had time enough to think, "sh*t, f**king big one!". Amazingly enough, all I got was a bruise out of it.

I was last out of the cave and it took a while to finally reach the top. Hauling out the rope turned out to be work as well; it had caught on something or gotten pinched and it took both of us pulling on it with all our strength to get it moving. I was afraid I’d have to go back down in so I was very relieved to have it finally start sliding up for us. We didn’t get out of the cave until 18:30 and thus spent 7 hours in there.

Annoyingly, as soon as we were out I could see a local hustler waiting by the Lada for us to get out of the caves. He had been there when we arrived, had hoped for a handout and gotten nothing, but had waited for god knows how long for us to come back out in hopes of getting something. The guy starts shouting instructions down to us trying to direct us across that old pasture full of Macca that I had the misfortune to cross in Feb. We hiked out the clean way, of course. Once we got to the Lada I brushed him off, (he didn’t like it much but I couldn’t see a machete or friends in the bush), and we finally hit the road.

Guy was a great partner for Bristol. It was cool having a fellow rock-climber along with me. The rockfall going into this cave via the 2nd entrance is a constant danger. Despite the longer drop from the 1st entrance, I really do think it’s the best way in. The pitch is much cleaner. It’s only a matter of time before that 2nd entrance really mashes someone up.

It should be noted that this is one of the better caves in Jamaica, especially because of its association with Quashie's River Caves, Jamaica, and could probably be pushed in the lower streamway.

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