Jamaican Caving Notes
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Huntley Hole 5
Report: Paul Kennedy
Team: Jan Pauel, Paul Kennedy, Andreas Haiduk, Denton Tyndale
Position: To follow
We start the day around 10:45, when I get picked up from a friend’s place in Porus. After completing a round of greetings, as well as meeting a couple new people Jan brought along, we start heading towards Mandeville.
I had forgotten my kneepads and some other minor gear at my place the night before, so we also make quick stop at my apartment in Marshall’s Penn just outside of Mandeville. After running in and collecting my forgotten items, we were yet again on the road towards our final destination of Huntley.
We make our way along the windy roads leading towards the interior of the island, making note of the stellar scenery along the way, and after about twenty minutes we arrive at Huntley. We greet some of the locals I had not seen since the last time we descended Huntley Hole 5 then park the truck near the trail entrance.
Once the car is parked, we all pile out and gear up. We start down the trail, which leads through a few growing fields and ends at Miss Adeline’s land where the sink hole is located. I split from the group to head towards Miss Adeline’s home to say hello and to alert her of our presence. She is smiling and greeting me as I approach. After a little bit of small talk and asking permission to use her land, I headed back down the trail to rendezvous with the rest of the team, who have now reached the sinkhole.
First order of business was to unpack the Monster Rope, our 300ft 13mm line – we let Jan do this. Once finished, I geared up while Jan was helping Andreas fine tune his rig. Since we were short one Croll, Andreas had to use a basic ascender in it’s stead. Once I finished putting on my new sexy looking brand new Singing Rock harness which I had been dying to break in since I purchased it a couple months ago, I began work on tying the anchor.
With the rope in place and double checked on the same tree we had used last time, we began feeding the Monster into the pit. Once completed, we double checked each other’s gear and headed down towards the pitch head – about three meters below the anchor point.
Andreas goes down the rope first, followed by myself. This allowed Jan to do some quick video work, and when he was done he followed down to the second pitch, which was a mere four or so meters down. While waiting at the second pitch we had a brief realization that we should get the second radio, as previous experience taught us that we could not hear someone at the bottom of the pit. A quick call up to the surface crew to have them tie the radio on the rope and lower it down solved this problem. Once we were all together on the second pitch with radio in hand, Jan tossed the rope over and began descent. He had a few problems of tangles on various ledges, but he eventually got the rope all the way down. After about 10 or 15 minutes of waiting, we heard the cracking sound of Jan over the radio – fairly inaudible, but enough to hear, “Off rope!” Andreas then hooked up his figure-eight and started his descent. After another 10 or 15 minutes, I didn’t hear anything over the radio – we lost radio contact – but with enough signs pointing to someone off the radio as well a brief inaudible sound from the handset, I got on rope and started my descent.
Once on rope, it was business as usual, more so as I have become far more comfortable using my rack descender. A few meters down I pass the lodged bolder. I followed the rope down through the larger passage on the left and continued down. I passed the stopping points of our previous descents, and hit the second to last semi-pitch, which I spent little time at. After about 10 minutes, I was at the bottom final pitch with the rest of the crew.
While I was on rope, Jan and Andreas found a natural anchor to use, which saved us from having to bolt into the wall. I untied the 9mm rope from my back and we tied off directly to the wall. We used the Monster rope, with only a few feet left on the floor, as our secondary anchor. Since we all forgot how to do a false-alpine knot, we went with a directional figure-eight on the 9mm and a figure-eight on the Monster, with a ‘beaner connecting the two.
With a quick break to rejuvenate us, we continued on. We kept the same order, Jan being first. The entrance to the final pitch was about a meter wide, which was a mild inconvenience with gear and having to descend on a perpendicular anchor. Jan squeezed through, followed by Andreas, with myself bringing up the rear. The final descent was roughly 12-14 meters and ended in a slightly wet and mud filled room. Although, there was one final section that Andreas explored. The entrance was roughly a half a meter wide and sloped down for 2-3 meters, ending in a small mud filled chamber. We finally hit the terminus. After resting for a bit and searching around for any signs of life – aside from the cow bones, Andreas found a single crab – we began our ascent.
Andreas was having trouble getting his gear in order at first. Since he was using a basic ascender for his Croll, we had to use an intermediary device to attach it to his harness. After first using a carabineer, which caused the ascender to ride to high on his chest, I gave him a spare small maillon I was using between my foot loop and jammer. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a little better. After we got that sorted out, I started up the rope. I neglected to realize that taking the small maillon off my jammer shortened by foot loop by about three inches, which made it so I could not get a full stride with my leg. Despite the complication, I got up the pitch and squeezed myself through the hole. Andreas followed, with Jan bringing up the rear.
After a quick break, we derigged the 9mm and I threw it on my back. We kept our original descending order for final ascent with Jan leading the pack. As Jan disappeared into the darkness on the rope, Andreas and I discussed the negative birthrates of Japan and European countries as well as good German food. After about 30 or 40 minutes, we got a call on the radio. Jan was at the lodged bolder near the top of the pit. He told us to get on rope in 5 minutes or so. After Andreas felt no more major vibrations on the rope, he began his ascent. This left me waiting alone for my turn on rope.
Since I could not reach anyone on the radio, I told Andreas before he left to yank on the rope a few times when he was off rope to tell me when to get on. After about an hour at the bottom, I was still getting vibrations on the rope. The extended time was expected with all the problems with Andreas’ gear. Finally, the rope moved up and down by a meter or so a few times and I decided that was my signal. Thinking I’d rather be safe than sorry, I gave it another couple minutes and then got on rope and began my ascent. Fifty minutes later, I was at the top of the pit. I forgot how out of shape I was.
After catching my breath and resting a little, I joined the rest of the crew on the surface who were in the process of derigging the monster rope. With the Monster tied up and everything set to go, we had a quick photo shoot with many of the locals that had gathered at the top of the hole. After Jan took down their names for the picture, we picked up our gear and headed back towards the truck. It was roughly a 4 hour round trip for our crew of three.
Back at the truck, we cleaned ourselves up a bit, chatted with the locals, drank a few beers, and hit the road. It was a good day.
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