Jamaican Caving Notes
The most recent visit to Home Away Cave was on May 16, 2005, made as part of the Parks in Peril Project. The notes will be found here.|
HOME AWAY CAVE
May 11, 2001
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor, Ian
Field Notes: R. S. Stewart
Wpt 9 and 32
Susan Koenig passed along the info that she'd been told of a cave somewhere south of the escarpment along the trail to Quick Step from Windsor. I’d heard vague rumours for years of something up that way but had never been able to find anyone who knew where it was. Susan supplied a name: Ian. He'd come across the entrance while out scouting for timber. Several days after putting out the word that I wanted to link up with him, we met and worked out a time to go. May 11.
The trail across to Quickstep stays to the north side of the escarpment until it turns and heads across the cockpit country south of Dromilly. We hiked until we could see the pasture land behind Pantrepant, then Ian led us up straight up the escarpment, aiming for a high saddle at the top. There was no trail, it was very steep, and there were the usual loose pointy rocks and vines everywhere, so it was slow going. In the course of our scramble up, we established a trail of sorts.
It was a very, very hot day and by the time we got to the saddle, I was ready for a break. There's a nice spot to sit, on some small buttress roots, right at the highest part. After a few minutes we carried on, heading down from the saddle to the south. It was very bushed up and Ian had said we needed to go up again after this. We struggled up the other side of the cockpit that we'd crossed the upper edge of, and hit leveller ground. There was nice forest cover; as we strolled through the trees Ian said, "Yeh mon, dis could be my home away from home. All the wood is right here". After a few minutes more walking through the saddle, we suddenly came upon the entrance. It was a fine, very large entrance that a minutes scrambling into showed to have, down a bouldered slope, a fine drop that disappeared into a very large chamber.
We took a short break, and then I found a good boulder to use as an anchor and tied and tossed down a 30 m line. The part of the cave just inside the entrance is a very wide sloping chamber that intersects the next, larger, chamber at a slope of apx 25 deg. At the intersection is a drop of apx 12 m that extends some 25 m wide. The slipperiness of the slope above means that one must start the rap midway down the 1st chamber, just below very large breakdown boulders.
I went ahead first, stopping at the edge of the drop for a minute to make sure the 30 m line reached the floor, (it did with about 2 m to spare), and told Malibu that it looked good. At this point I had to tie in two, long, clipped together etriers on the rope for Malibu to haul himself out with. One was about 8 m so they reached almost all the way to the floor. He still won’t learn to use ascenders.
I had a good look around before I started down and could see a source of light high at the south end of the 2nd chamber. It appeared to be too high to climb to. I headed down using a figure-8, and then shouted to Mallie that I was off rope and to come ahead.
Malibu came down in good form despite using the rope as a hand-line until he was below the knot and could clip in with his figure-8. He has no problems with the descender, but tries to just not hear me talking when I say, "Malibu, you’re gonna kill yourself with those loops, learn the jumars!" He trusts his own strength, and those etriers, more than a machine like a jumar.
We had descended into a very large (50 x 30 m ?), very high (over 30), oval shaped, (long axis N-S), breakdown chamber. There looked to be a low opening to the north so we headed that way. The opening is about 8 m, and the same high. As soon as we went in the humidity rose and we hit a very strong ammonia smell from guano. We moved further in and could see a very large accumulation of fresh guano sitting on the central breakdown boulders. Bats in good numbers, disturbed by our lights, flew around overhead. I thought I heard water flowing somewhere off across the cave. The ammonia was intense. We headed across the chamber and as we stirred up fresh guano the smell became worse. I started wondering how much ammonia a person could breathe and survive. We retreated, and then tried again. It was too much. I decided to say the hell with it until I got some advice. Guy van Rentergem was at the Windsor Great House. I figured he would probably know.
We moved back past the rope, I had a quick look closer to the S end of the main chamber, towards the light, but it still looked quite steep, so I thought it would be best if we headed out and came back with ammonia advice. Malibu going up that pitch with no ascenders also worried me a little. It seemed best to get at getting the two of us out. Malibu went first, and through shear strength hauled himself up the drop without even putting his feet in the etrier loops… just feet on the wall and hands wrapped through and around the webbing loops, like a goat with arms instead of front legs. When he was up, I hooked in with the jumars and made good time. Not as fast as Malibu maybe but much safer.
Ian had gone around to find the 2nd opening he'd heard me mention on my way in, had taken a look around in that direction, but had seen nothing. We hauled rope and headed out.
When we got back to Windsor, Guy van Rentergem, and Adam Hyde were still there so I was able to ask about the ammonia. They didn't know really, but didn't figure a person would suddenly pass out from it like CO2. I mentioned that I'd thought that I'd heard water. They looked doubtful about that, my having already said that the cave was in a saddle. I decided that if no one knew of a name for this cave that I was going to call it "Home Away From Home" after what Ian had said on the way. As best as I've been able to find out, no one has been down into it, or is aware of a name. Ian said he thought the Wales Estate had owned the land. That doesn’t seem appropriate, "Wales Estate Cave", so I’ll let Ian have named the thing although he doesn't know that he did. This cave is being recorded as "Home Away from Home Cave", or Home Away for short.
Feb 25, 2002
HOME AWAY CAVE
Cavers: S. Koenig, M. Taylor, R. S. Stewart
Field notes: R. S. Stewart
Measured main entrance as 20 m, very concave, facing Az 275 deg,(almost due west), (sketch in notebook).
Left late, 14:00, and didn't get to the cave until ~16:00. We took a slightly different route to the entrance, staying above the valley after the first saddle.
Two large boulders were used as anchors for the rope down the main drop. I rapped in first. It was getting late so, when Susan was at the top of the pitch, it was decided that there wouldn't be time for both of us to jumar out and get down the escarpment before dark. I decided that since I was already down that I'd do some exploring on my own.
The previous two trips we had gone north so I headed off to the southern end of the main chamber. Here I found a steep climb up to the source of daylight noticed last year. Halfway up the climb a large opening dropping into another chamber appeared on the right that would have needed a second rope. I gave a shout to the others that I'd found more cave, then carried on up. At the top, the floor leveled somewhat and I found another entrance roughly 1.5 x 2 m. Exiting, I worked my way round the hill to the main entrance where Susan and Malibu were waiting at the top of the main drop. They were surprised to have me calling to them from above, (I wanted to hide and make duppy noises but I was a bit tired and it was late).
We hauled the rope in and got to the bottom of the escarpment just before sunset.
June 10, 2002
HOME AWAY CAVE
Cavers: S. Koenig, G. Graening, S. McGinnis, M. Taylor, R. S. Stewart
Field notes: R. S. Stewart
We took a different route up to the cave this time, taking the old trail through Trumpet Bottom (?) from the end of the cane field. We hoped to find the hike to the top of the Escarpment easier but, as it turned out, there was little difference... there is no easy way up to Home Away. I had plotted waypoints on the topo the previous night and transferred them to the Garmin so we were able to hit the cave bang-on but there is a long wall on the east side of Home Away Mtn that blocked our progress upwards for some distance, (the route is saved as a track file). The Cowitch is doing well throughout the whole area, (it was well cursed by me on several occasions).
We rapped down from the 1st entrance, did the survey in the main chamber, and went into the north chamber to check the bats. To my amazement, there were none. I have no idea why, but all the bats that had been in there have left for parts unknown.
To get out, we scrambled up the slope to the 2nd entrance, without incident. At the top, I hung a rope into the opening first seen last February, rapped in to have a look, then jumared back up. The area at the bottom appears to be an extension of the main chamber, choked at both ends, with a roof formed by breakdown slabs. It all looks fairly unstable.
We contoured back around to the main entrance saddle then hiked down the Escarpment to the north along our original trail. Fortunately, Mike was waiting in the Landrover at the end of the cane field to give us a lift back to the Great House... my back was killing me because, as usual, I had too heavy a load in my pack. I need a new, cheap porter.
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