Jamaican Caving Notes
Golding River Cave
February 19, 2007
Team: G Van Rentergem, RS Stewart, G Shiffer.
Notes: Guy Van Rentergem
This is my second visit to Golding. I knew the number of JCO tries to get into this cave already counted five. This time we have to break into this damned cave, even if I have to chew my way through the rocks.
The scenery has changed since last year. A massive 3 feet diameter tree has fallen across the valley. This is a perfect bombproof anchor for the rope. I'm coiling the rope to get into the entrance. The roof of the cave is still this unstable pile of rocks. Not a moment to sneeze or make brisk moves. Once at the top of the pit, there are still three large boulders. No possibility to move them. And there is not enough room between the first and the second boulder. The second boulder is remarkable round and can be wiggled a bit. This is not very assuring. But there is some space between the second and third boulder. Ok, I give it a try. Very cautious, I slide backwards over the second boulder and try to pass under it. But the space is too small. If I could push that third rock a bit more down, then it would be possible. Now I start to move this third rock back and forth with my foot. I really need a miracle, because this rock is stuck very firmly between the walls of the pit. And then it happens. After what seems to be ages, the rock moves 2/3 of a foot down into the pit and stays stuck. This should do it. I throw the rope over the second boulder, into the pit, and prepare for decent.
Very slowly, I slide between both rocks with my feet first, and then at last I am hanging in the 21 foot pit. The lock on Golding is broken! Once at the bottom, I search for a safe place and yell at Stef and Greg that all is ok, but that it is no option to come down to because it's enough that one madman is taking this risk. On the question of Stef, if he should pull the rope, I answer "NO". Although I'm not very fond of climbing up the rope through those unstable blocks again. It is only an option if I'm desperate. So, I have to go through the cave in search of the lost entrance.
The passage I'm in is 5 m wide and about 2 meter high. The bottom is jagged limestone. Don't fall, this will hurt. A last "goodbye and soon come" to the surface and I'm on my way. I'm armed with my compass and a 1965 survey. I make good progress til I hit water. Hum, let's see how deep this is. To the knees, no problem, two steps further, to the neck, no good, this will be swimming. The next step, I don't find the bottom. I look into the gloomy dark trying to figure out how far this will go. There is water as far as my light goes. A quick check on the map shows it should only be 20 meters. Ok, stop trying to think and start swimming. Slowly I'm leaving firm ground and swimming into the unknown. The ceiling is getting closer and closer to the water, and at last only one feet of air is left. The mud on the walls shows that this passage can fill completely. After 20 m swimming, no ground yet reached. I'm concerned. The water causes that strange sound in hidden spaces, and makes it all very spooky.
Ah, here at the left there's a steep passage. Like a wet rat, I climb up the jagged rocks. I feel a faint breeze. This could be the passage. I'm 15 feet higher than the water, in a high chamber, but then I see this can't be the passage I'm searching for. It is not on the map neither. High up in the shadows, there seems to be some continuation, but I'm alone here and am not prepared to take additional risks. So, I'm back into the water. Now, the passage becomes really low, but then the ceiling is getting higher again. At the right, broad water is seen. This must be the Sleeping Pools. Man, this is a big cave. And at last I reach dry ground again. This must have been a 40 meter swim.
According to the map, there no more swims on the menu. I hope I find the exit, because I'm not very fond of these lonely swims. The dimensions of the new passage are considerable, and it goes off in the right direction according to my compass. I'm sure this is the right passage, and I start my journey to the light.
The ceiling of this part of the cave is decorated with enormous stalactites. This makes the journey all very unearthly. The bottom is sometimes covered with more than knee deep mud, and then it is again very rocky and dangerous. I pass some side passages and come into a chamber where I hear the loud sound of a running river. I'm now in a part of the cave with smaller dimension and the floor is strewn with big jagged boulders. Advance is rather tedious. And it is getting even smaller. Over a boulder, through a foot wide crevice and then I see LIGHT! Yes, I made it. The exit is a small rabbit's hole. I hear a loud whistle. This must be Stef! I give a loud "YIHA" and squeeze myself through the exit into the open air. There they are, only 30 feet lower than my position. Although it seemed ages for me, I've been in the cave for only a bit more than hour. But it was one of the loneliest trips I've ever made.