Feb 9-10, and 13, 2007
Team: G Van Rentergem, RS Stewart, J Pauel, A Snauffer, Jenny, G Shiffer
Notes: Guy Van Rentergem
Videos: The entrance pit at Volcano Hole - Feb 10/07 [10 MB .mov]
In the river at Volcano Hole via a new downstream route - Feb 13/07 [20 MB .avi]
Feb 13 was our second attempt this expedition to cover new ground in the formidable abyss called Volcano Hole.
On our first try, Feb 9 and 10, there were some technical problems descending the massive 85m deep entrance pit which subverted our self-confidence. But all was not bad. During that visit, we stayed the night at the bottom of the immense entrance, and this was a very wonderful experience. The noises made by all the wildlife during the night was more than incredible. Birds, bats, frogs, falling rocks... all did their utmost to keep us awake. (Note to myself: next expedition, go back during the night and record those wonderful sounds!)
During the first visit, we also descended the small pit where we stopped our exploration two years ago. This time, we clambered down and in no time were on a wide sandy terrace with a view of a lower level.
But a drop of 3 metres prevented us from going down. As Murphy's Law dictates, our bolting gear was still in our basecamp at the bottom of the entrance pit. Luckily, we found a bypass through a low gap under some huge boulders. After digging with my hands through the sandy bottom, we reached the lower level. And in no time, we found another pit leading to yet another lower level. This one was rather deep and narrow. No bypasses were found, so this one needed rigging. From the top of the pit, the sound of a crashing river was very audible, and very promising. Here ended our first attempt.
The lure of new discoveries kept us awake the following days and the call of the abyss grew so loud that we had to return three days later. This visit, the descent was smooth, and in no time, we, the three musketeers, were down again. There were no plans for sleeping inside, so our gear was light. Very fast, we were back at the first terrace. This time we rigged the 3 metre drop instead of the narrow passage through the boulders. The next pit, where we halted our exploration three days ago, was soon ready. I went down first, and 8 metres lower I was in another very different world.
The walls of the cave are gone, I'm in a universe of wildly stacked very jagged boulders. Between the rocks are very narrow crevices leading to other crossroads of narrow crevices. We have to crawl like eels on our sides through those slits taking care not to be ripped to shreds. Some passages lead to dead ends and getting out backwards from these traps is difficult to the max.
The sound of the water crashing onto the rocks is deafening and the river must be very close. We crawl and search, but do not find this damned ghost river. Our orientation is tricked in this mad world, and we lose our tracks now and then. And at last, trying to find our way out of this labyrinth, we find the water! Via a small window through the boulders and a cramped corridor, we finally reach the river. The water is 5 metres wide and works it way with considerable force under and through the chaotic boulders. The volume of the stream is respectable and the idea of what will happen when it starts raining is creaping into my mind. There is evidence that this complete section of the cave can be flooded. The water can go as high as the main chamber, more than 65 metres above our heads...
We call it an end for today. Happy to find the river but it will not be easy to follow. But it is on our to-do list: go back and try to follow the river through this jagged hell of rocks and see how far we can get.
More notes for Volcano Hole will be found at Volcano - June 13/04, and Volcano - Jan 13/05. (We try to visit it on the 13th of the month whenever possible ;-)