Jamaican Caving Notes
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Report: Brian Zane
Team: Brian Zane, Paul Kennedy
Position: To follow
My version of a trip report. The day got off to a late start thanks to yours truly. The last two weeks of working till 4 a.m. was hard to adjust on a single night, and I regret not going with my initial instinct to stay at Paul's on Friday night, which would have eliminated the 2.5 hour drive. Anyhow, I'm not sure what time we actually dropped in the hole (started setup), but probably around 1/1:30 pm. I’m sure Paul can provide details on the who's and where’s, as well as a couple of photos.
Initially, we thought this was going to be a short hole. Paul had previously measured a rock-fall count at ~3 seconds, which he was estimating at about 40 meters. Upon inspection, it appeared to be substantially shorter once the approach was out the way (there a short chamber that brings you to a nice rap point. This led us to question the calculation/formula, which is still unclear in my mind. From there it appeared possible that the upper-most visible "floor" may just have been a ledge as it had a slight slope to it. After prep and some onsite training, Paul launched down the hole. It took a little time to iron out the kinks in his new belay device, which I was not familiar with and virtually unable to provide advice on. As a safety precaution, I set him up with a prussic for his left hand, which (while introducing another learning variable) at least made me feel more comfortable.
Upon reaching the ledge, Paul noted a next drop, possibly long. I followed him to the first ledge and checked it out. Rock drops were difficult to judge due to bounces and echos. Having knotted off the end of the rope and tossing it over, I went down. There was another ledge about 20' from first ledge, which turned out to be a very large lodged boulder. It appeared secure and moderately fused to two sides, but I was still cautious about weighting it too long. Peering over from that point, I did not have the wattage to see the bottom clearly. Down again. The remainder of that pitch was mostly free hanging. (Rope inspection on return revealed a number of sharp edge contacts with the rope – any returnees would be well advised to bring a hammer to chip these off.)
Reaching my far-point (another ledge), I did some rope maintenance to clear out my line and do more looking. Again, constrained by wattage/visibility. On with the next rock drop test (four of five times to make sure I was getting a clean drop) and I counted 4 solid seconds (same count on three drops). While it was hitting a bottom, it was difficult to gauge if there was any additional bounce/roll, however, I suspect that would be a terminus of sorts. While I couldn't see clearly, it appeared obvious that my rope was insufficient to do the job. I relayed the scenario to Paul and gave him the option to follow and check it out. I advised him on the possible difficulty and he chose to stay. I knotted the rope at the lower-most ledge (having forgotten my tape) so I would have a marker on distance and climbed back.
30 feet off the deck, I thought twice about knots in the rope and the prevalence of sharp ledges. I gave the rope a test haul and as Murphy would have it, it got caught in two or three places. With some twisting and tossing I was able to free it up, and hauled it up enough to give it a short coil which would least get it off the ground and reduce hang-ups at my next haul point. I made it back to Paul's ledge where he was taking notes and drawing and finished the rope haul. After a re-group we got Paul rigged for the climb out. After about the first ten feet or so he found his rhythm and was soon thereafter out the hole. I followed, then went back down again for Paul's bag (which I had offered to carry and subsequently forgot). Yum.
We spoke briefly about what could be done to reach the bottom and looked at the possibility of rigging the climbing rope for the first (albeit short) "pitch", at which point, we might have enough rope to get to the bottom. This got nixed mostly because there was no obvious natural pro at the first ledge, and even then, it was uncertain if we would have enough rope. My thought was that the hole was best executed with a single 300' rope, tied off to the same tree we used above the hole. (With radios, a single person could descend past my far-point in a single rap, and call up if another rope was required.) Paul took some coordinates and then we headed back to the vehicle and called it a day. Beers were next, food was last. We debated the notion of returning in the morning, but ultimately work pressure and rigor mortis (both on my part) won out, and I made the drive back on a pepsi.
While this hole may have been an anomaly when compared to the rest in the area, there does appear to be a substantial number of them and could make for an interesting expedition. Should this shaft be similar to others, I wouldn't recommend more than 2 (3 max) persons at a time. Ledges are small and there was a lot of loose rock at ledges and throughout the length of the shaft. APPROXIMATE measurements (based on knots tied and subsequently replaced with tape) are as follows:
Ground Level to first rap (19 feet of rope, minus 7' for knot around tree) ~ 4m.
First Pitch (launch to first ledge): ~ 8m.
Second Pitch (furthest point): ~ 32m.
Total depth reached: 44 meters (from ground level). Shaft diameter: 2.5-3.5 meters, with some chokes down to 2m.
I don't know how to calculate distance based on freefall time, but from the bottom of the second pitch, I counted four seconds. What I'm seeing on the net doesn't appear to correlate with my guestimate of 75' to bottom. Also, this a.m.’s measure of the ½” rope looks to be slightly shorter than stated 200’ (188?).
Those are my thoughts. Thanks again for the use of the Crolls.
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