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Contact: JamaicanCaves.Org

January 15, 2005


Position: 18 16' 26.7" N, 77 42' 46.8" W

Field notes: I. C. CONOLLEY

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, G. van Rentergem

Time in: 15:00 EST, Time out: 19:00 EST


Minocal's Glory Hole is located some miles north of Quickstep in Trelawny in the Cockpit Country.

The crew bunk it at Joan's, close to the end of the paved road in Quickstep. This our regular overnighting spot at Quickstep. Such a journey from Last Resort, Windsor, is too long for us to travel and do caving the same day. So we overnight at Joan's and get up fresh the following morning to greet the glory of the Glory Hole.

It's a rough car ride from Joan's to the Glory Hole. There is Stefan Stewart, Guy Van Rentergem, myself, Ivor Conolley, and as guides Joan's son and Stephenson. Stef has the GPS position and we get there in quick time. Rigging of the ropes take a while using ropes from opposite ends. Guy stay above and Stef and myself go down. I have left my high top boots - Jamaican water boots. That's what I climb in so I will have to do it in my sneakers. I usually wrap and strap the foot straps so that they are secure in my fee. Going down is easy. I finally reach to the first level.

Minocal's Glory Hole - Map from Jamaica Underground It is about a 200 foot drop. From here it is different. The descent continues but is not a clear sheer drop. Down again to a second shelf or ledge. Here there are three avenues to prospect. One - the sink continues on the left forward section. There is a tight squeeze on the left top section which we later discover goes back into the same chamber below as the left forward. Then there is a third on the left side. I peep in. It seems to go but our priority today is to find the bottom of this previously incompletely explored cave. I leave it for another time and proceed down to a third ledge. This one is much smaller and in general the cave shaft is narrowing. I go down another level.

Ropes are necessary all the way although the drops are not very deep - more in the region of two or three meters. The hole continues and though a bit of a squeeze I make it down. Here there is a choke but there was another opening even tighter on the other side of the ledge I had just descended. I climb back up to this ledge and peer in. It may go.

It is tight - very tight and I still have to be on rope. I position myself on my back and slither down . I am doing well until my feet won't go anymore. I need to turn to get my feet down. I turn, I am now on my stomach. Yes my feet are free. I can move again but what's this. I am lying on my descending gear. I use a figure eight and if I move the rope will grip my shirt which is of necessity right beside it -I AM on my stomach. I immediately realize that this is not workable. I shout to Stef who is above listening to my reports of what I am finding and acknowledging. Can't make it, I tell him. I'm coming up.

When I am back out of the hole I explain. If I could go all the way on my back with the descender UP I could continue but the hole has a turn and to negotiate the turn I had to roll over. This prevented use of the descender. To proceed without the descender I figured would not be safe as there were no obvious foot or hand holds in the squeeze and I had no way of telling if there was a sheer drop just below. At the time I could not figure out a suitable way to proceed on the descender without getting my clothes caught in it and having to run my whole body through the descender to get out :<) -nah just joking about running my whole body through but yes it getting caught would prove a great difficulty in an area as small as this.

Stef expressed regret but agreed to safety. We would have to figure this out and return another time. We did push it quite a few meters more than the last explorers and so did contribute to further exploration. But this sinkhole is really something else. It resists being explored. We had more than enough rope to go a good distance. While the previous explorers had a rope problem, we did not.We learnt from them. Well somebody or we ourselves will have to learn from this our experience and find a way down this squeeze. Do you go down without gear simply holding on to the rope lowering oneself possibly using the ascenders. A tedious but do-able process.

These holes with tight squeezes really call for a special mentality and mind-set. Not only do you have to be free from any claustrophobia tendencies - the thing is close around you and you do not know for how long you have to be in it like this - but also you cannot suffer vertigo or the sense that you may, on passing the curvature of the squeeze, be dangling over an ominous cavern of depth you cannot ascertain with your light will simply freak you out. Besides this you have to be absolutely patient and not given to panic attacks. The going through sections like this can be inches at a time. Impatience is a death warrant. You have to do it an inch at a time and if you become tired - for each inch is work - you rest and wait for your energy to return. Then you move on again. Relaxed. If you love this then you are at home for it is great fun. You relax, you think , you concentrate on what you are doing, you focus, you think of your next move and you proceed. It will either get tighter or open out. If it gets too tight you get back out. Of course if it opens up you have got you just reward for having tried. In any case however, you have advanced exploration. Others will know what to face when you get into that hole; and if it goes no where it may not be worthwhile going back in there. You have saved someone else a lot of trouble. And that someone may be as close as a member of your own team or Organisation.

So here I stopped in a squeeze that may or not open out further perhaps going to a river.

Stef thought he might have heard running water. It might have been faint. I did not hear it. But he did find crabs at quite a low level suggestive of some, however small, underground passageway possibly linking river systems below somewhere. And as I climbed up I did see more crabs and crickets as well. This was in the twilight zone - albeit darker section - however.

All told the depth of this hole was about 280 feet and it could be closer to 300.

While not a difficult hole, I took an eternity coming back up in sneakers with foot straps around my bare ankles. Aah so why wrap them around your ankles just step into them. Aah well I didn't. But I suppose I do feel a little more secure with them wrapped around my ankles.

I finally make it up. Stef is already there and Guy who kept a stern eye on the rope - the monster 300 foot rope. We pull up rope, pack gear and are moving out. It is nightfall again. This has happened to us for almost every cave we've been into this session. Getting out in the dark. This poses difficulties, if we are uncertain of the track in, or there is not a well-marked trail. Stef is bringing up the rear. He notices some baffling up front - some uncertainty as to where to turn. He takes charge, and outstripping the rest of us, finds the trail and the road. We are out and back on the rough road to Joan's.

It's a hole. I don't know about the glory part of it. It is located in a valley. Marta Tick Cave not very far away is on a hillside. While we explored in January normally a dry period this January had not been particularly dry and so was not in the typical dry season. Yet while we encountered a lot of mud there was not settling of water. There was clear evidence however of water draining through this sink. There are bats but not many. The rocks on and on the side of the ledges are not overly slippery though caution is necessary especially in one section in particular where some sort of scramble was necessary to get past it. (Scramble along with ropes.) It is unlikely that the Tainos used this cave because of its accessibility (depth although in instances they could have used vines to climb in and out of pits) and they were not known to use risings/sinkholes for burial chambers or ceremonies.

[Editor: Stewart] - All those who read these notes are advised that the JCO claims priority on further exploration of Minocal's Glory Hole for at least the next two months. Visiting cavers are advised to stay out of it until we've pushed it further - it's our turf and we won't be happy if you have a go at it before we next have a chance. It has the potential to be one of the greatest explorations in the history of Jamaican caving, and it's going to be the JCO who does it.

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