WELCOME! I really hope you leave this website knowing enough to get underground, in one way or another.
This page for TOTAL newcomers to the concept of caving and i’ll try and define it in simple terms.
Firstly, caving is NOT cave diving – the caving this website details is all ‘dry’ caving – whilst there is often water in caving, ‘dry’ caving does not require any kinda of special SCUBA gear. It is a common misconception.
So what do cavers to down there? We go under, over, around, beneath, behind, beside, down, up, through and any other direction you can think of, in the process of exploring new and exciting cave environments. You might compare it to rock climbing but in three dimensions, and down instead of up.
There is often climbing involved (although if the climb is more than a few metres we would use an aid such as a ladder or a handline). There Is often also squeezing involved. This freaks out a lot of people, but my rule of thumb is that if you are okay In an elevator, you will be fine in a squeeze. The basic is that If you can get into a squeeze, then you can get out too.
We also go for the beauty of caves. All sorts of things abound such as stactites, stalacmites, straws, rock formations, helectites (crazy calcite formations that defy gravity), gympsum flowers (amazing pure shimmering crystals that resemble flowers) and all sorts of other crystals. I have seen crystal formations the size of a basketball. And sometimes it Is the size of the cave – I have been in caves big enough to park 3 jumbo jets comfortably.
We go for the geology. It is fascinating to delve into how the caves are formed, how they varey with age, why the cave is the way it is. It doesn’t turn everyone on, but if you have a scientific bent you might be interested in researching caves from a geomorphological perspective.
We go for the sport! Can you imagine abseiling down a vertical shaft the size of a 20 story building, surrounding by shimmering crystals,with no view of the top or the bottom, just your rope fading into the blackness beneath you! Ropework in caves gets VERY technical for reasons I won’t go into now, but a lot of people get into the vertical side of caving where there are lots of toys the play with and lots of crazy adrenaline situations.
We go for the mateship. I’ve met so many amazing people through caving and developed life long friends. Quite often a team will work as a unit, with each person filling a role of some sort, especially when it comes to vertical caving where rigging systems are needed. And a beer and a feed together after a long hard day of caving is very very special.
And most of all….
And I suppose the holy grail, what every caver dreams of, is the chance to stand in a spot where NOBODY has ever stood before. Finding virgin cave is amazing. It doesn’t happen often, and normally doesn’t happen easily. Magic!
Cavers are curious souls, always wondering whats around the corner or down that passage. We thrive on the unknown. When you combine mystery, technical aspects, geology, aesthetic beauty and mateship you have the best hobby in the world. And the more caving you do, and better you become, and more you learn, the more you will enjoy it.
So which caves are the best for beginners in Buchan?
Day 1: Saturday
I have run countless beginners trips to Buchan over the last 10 odd years. So here is my virtual caving trip for your information…. the caves I usually present are: Wilsons Cave First (ALWAYS!!) on Saturday Morning – this is where you learn your basic skills (how to climb, how to squeeze, etc), then after lunch Dicksons A & B Caves if the bats aren’t in torper (Winter), and Parks Victoria are okay with it. If it is Winter, or the ranger says No, then a trip to Slocombes cave on Saturday Afternoon which is an intro to ladders, but its only really 4 or 5 metres of ladder until you can step off the ladder onto a large rock then climb down. All cavers on belay. After that its easy. Some great chambers in Slocombes and a hilarious squeeze called the keyhole.
Day 2: Sunday
Day 2 is the choice! If the beginners have taken to caving naturally, have not struggled with anything, aren’t worn out and were okay on the ladder in Slocombes then its into Honeycomb which will take a good four hours. Often if it is a group of outdoorsy types especially rock climbers and cave divers, then they will be fine to get straight into Honeycomb. Honeycomb is still ultimately an easy cave, but has a deeper entrance of about 7 metres, and has more climbing and squeezing, some of which is exposed (above or near to big drops). If you do Honeycomb, get your leader to do the Magical Mystery Tour for you. If they don’t know the way, they probably shouldn’t be leading Honeycomb. It is also VERY well decorated in areas! A very good cave. Don’t worry though, if you don’t do it now you can do it next time. If you are disregarding my advice and you have somehow found Honeycomb, I would urge you to re-consider. There has been at least one rescue for lost cavers, and a leader will show you so much more than you’ll find on your own.
Want to get wet?
If the group was a little weaker, then a trip into M4 which is a stream cave, and beginners often enjoy that one the most due to getting to splash around in the stream. It is radically different to the other caves. Sometimes M4 is sumped off (the water is too high to pass) but when the water is down there are 2 AMAZING chambers. You need a minimum of 2 sets of polypropelene thermal underwear with overalls on top for M4, or if you are the type who feels the cold easily then a wetsuit. The water is COLD! And normally you’ll be totally immersed in it up to your neck at least once. While you are moving generally its okay, but if you stop for any reason you cool down quick. Be careful.
If the cavers don’t want to get wet, or don’t have the safety gear needed for a wet cave, then the final backup cave is Razor, although this has a VERY tight jagged awkward and generally pain in the bum squeeze not far in, and i’ve had to pull several stuck cavers out (one of which took over an hour with lots of tears and we were on the verge of calling in a proper rescue!), and after the squeeze there isn’t much to see, so i don’t do that one often.
Then back to home base. You’ll never be the same.
Anyway if you are a beginner going to Buchan, these are the caves I would recommend you do (unless of course you have permits or know a local). I guarantee an amazing weekend!
I hope that explains why we go caving at what it is all about