Okay – This place is cave central in the Buchan Region
Murrindal, North of Buchan township by about 20 minutes car ride has the highest number of regularly visited caves, and is the location of the Potholes Reserve, and across the road Wyatts Reserve. It is like swiss cheese within hundreds of karst features and caves, and many dolines that would undoubtedly be caves but have not been dug (by the way – digging is STRICTLY forbidden unless you go through Parks Victoria and your club with an official plan and full description of how it will be done)
This is a very well known Buchan (Murrindal) cave, in that it has a top horizontal level with potential for some exploration and some nice decoration, but also has one of the deepest pitches not requiring technical rigging. The cave has a short and confined entrance pitch of about 5 metres which can be climbed (but the author recommends a ladder with a belay, as always – see Laddering under ‘advanced caving’, look out for a well known MASSIVE shall called the Shark Fin.The cave heads downwards to the top of a 40m (approx) metre pitch, one of Buchan’s deepest and largest pitches – worth doing! The pitch is blind though. If you get to the bottom you’ll see a small pool of water, which often contains frogs!! Strange. Towards the bottom of the pitch the wall goes onto a slant of about 70 degrees. This creates a rub point where the 70 degree section starts, but its not a bad one and is generally ignored.
Elk River Cave
Due to the sensetive nature of the cave, its complexity, the two roof sniffs, and the fact it is still being actively explored I have been asked NOT to report to much on Elk River. All I will say is that it is the main drain for all the caves in the Potholes area (IE all the water from the caves goes to Elk River). Access to Elk River is through another existing cave. When exploration stops and access issues are agreed on then I will update the description if this cave.
For those with good SRT skills and a good level of general caving experience, you MAY be able to do a trip into Elk River carrying tanks for the divers who are mapping the system beyond the sumps. Please contact VSA if you feel you would be interested in helping. It is a level 3 cave, due to roof sniffs, SRT, laddering, stream passage, squeezing, and freeclimbing. A fairly serious cave.
Another good but typical potholes cave. A tight vertical entrance that needs to be rigged from the surface drops down to a ledge at about 10 metres. This can be rigged as a rebelay with NO rub points if you are careful enough. This is about 20 metres down to a small chamber. From here there are two more pitches side by side. One is a really nice and wet tube of about 10 metres that is beautifully sculpted. The other is a tight entrance into a spacious drop with some beautiful decoration that needs to be carefully avoided. Both of these bottom pitches are blind, although if the survey is correct they both lie VERY near the Elk River streamway.
A straight forward vertical cave with an impressively large spacious pitch and several rebelays, the first of which is a proper hanging rebelay off an obvious stalactite. The cave lies near to Baby Berger and is similar in its characteristics. The nice thing about this cave is that the pitch head is very near to the entrance so there is not far to carry rope etc. RATING 3
A recent dig. Vertical in nature, nothing else known. RATING: 3
A recently discovered cave which is relatively deep containing some tight pitches. This cave frustratingly chokes down to a narrow rift and a small stream can be seen from where the rift becomes impassable. It is in the approximately 25metres from the Elk River stream passage and if the rift was passable it would almost certainly connect. Damnit – So close!! RATING 3
This cave has several short pitches down to a short passage that may have at some stage carried water. However it is renowned for having CO2 like many other caves on the Western side of the main road that goes through the Potholes reserve and Murrindal region. RATING 3
Honeycomb – A not to be missed open access cave!
Whilst this cave is VERY frequently visited by outdoor rec providers, scouts, cadets, and defence forces training sessions, it remains very beautiful and has much pristine decoration, most of which is out of reach hence it has remained pristine. The cave has a 7 metre ladder pitch to enter.
It then lands in an extensive horizontal system with leads galore. A good 3 or 4 hours can be spent in Honeycomb, especially if you choose to bring in SRT gear and venture into the lower layers of the cave. There are at least 2 pitches in Honeycomb, one of which is called the IRA pitch due to how it kills you knee caps as you enter the tight part of the pitch, (in reference to the IRA knee-capping people). Please don’t complain – I didn’t make the name up.
A fantastic round trip can be achieved called the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ which takes in a good portion of the cave, and has several challenging squeezes and a very challenging climb (not high or exposed, just NOTHING to hold onto).
Whilst beginners are frequently taken into Honeycomb, my opinion is that is not really for raw beginners unless they have shown some competency in another cave, or have rock climbing or some other experience. RATING 2 if you don’t do the pitches, RATING 3 if you attempt to get to the bottom of the cave. For visiting competent cavers this Is one you should do. It is one of the best horizontal caves without a permit being needed.
This is a purely vertical pot hole. A moderate squeeze at the surface is quickly followed by another VERY awkward squeeze a few more metres into the cave. The awkward squeeze is more or less at the top of the pitch head for a 30m pitch, but the squeeze is so tight that doing it with SRT gear already on is nearly impossible. Best technique is to wear a load bearing belt or just a bowline knotted rope are your, connected to a safety line from the surface, get through both squeezes, get comfortable and then gingerly put your SRT kit on. Don’t drop anything!!!
There is a well placed bolt several metres down the pitch for a rebelay and from there it is a magnificent pitch down to a short traverse and then another short pitch where the cave chokes off. It is one of the better vertical pots in terms of the nice long open pitch. Prusiking back up and then when tired from the prusik having to get back through both squeezes is very challenging so fitness is required. VSA Literature on the cave states (and I quote) that “a rescue from this cave would be nearly impossible” which made me VERY nervous when I did the cave. Rating 3
Another vertical pot, which like the others chokes off at about 60 or 70 metres. Perfidy pit contains several VERY tight vertical squeezes whilst on rope and is difficult to bottom. RATING 3
Aptly named – Razor – With the sharpest, tightest, most pain-in-arse squeeze in the entire Buchan Region!
Razor is another frequently visited cave, due to the fact that it is one of the few open access caves in Buchan that doesn’t require a permit and is totally horizontal and needs no gear of any kind. A fairly tight vertical slot entrance (which is easy on the way down and a pain on the way up) and following the obvious route, including a 3 metre chimney climb down, for a little while brings you to two VERY tight and VERY sharp squeezes which defeat many cavers, and have been the scene of 3 pseudo rescues where people have become VERY stuck.
Beyond that it is a straight forward cave with some decoration in upper levels and some interesting climbing. An hour or two of caving. A lower level can be reached with a handline. Rating: 2
A very interesting cave. A short ladder entrance leads to a classic example of a phreatic cave system and the sculpted limestone is beautiful. The top level looks radically different to any other potholes cave. It is a horizontal maze which can provide some entertainment connecting different passages to other passages and realising you were back where you were before, etc etc. Totally suitable for beginners as long as they are belayed on the ladder entry.
Further down the character of the limestone changes and there are two pitches. One of the pitches has a very tight and awkward pitch head and is about 15 – 20 metres. The other is deeper, with an easier pitch head, and has a well placed bolt for rebelay about 2/3rds of the way down, and chokes off at a narrow rift at about 25 metres. RATING 3 if you do the pitches, or 2.5 if you only do the horizontal section.
Another vertical pot which is quite deep (same depth, choking off around 57m) and has two tight sections which are sometimes done using a ladder when there is not enough room for prussiking. If done with no SRT, and only ladder there is actually 70 metres of ladder needed due to the fact that the rift is on an angle Rating: 3
A cave hardly worth mentioning and not worth doing. A tight entrance leads to a crawl into a small chamber. No depth or length or decoration. A waste of time. Only listed as it has a name. The only fun thing in this cave is turning your lights off in the chamber and trying to get out which is surprisingly challenging. RATING: 1
Another very short cave with an awkward entrance/exit helped by running a tape in from the surface. No significant depth or length. RATING 1.5
A very interesting cave. Tight entrance often overgrown leads to one main pitch, which leads down to a horizontal level, where you then have five pitches of varying depths and characteristics to choose from, or do them all. One in particular is VERY tight and defeated myself and my caving partner. A good workout for your vertical skills. RATING 3
Goanna – If you just love your vertical pots, go in this one!
Another fairly new cave, totally vertical and very impressive. One of the best vertical pots in Buchan. Cave consists of three pitches, totalling the normal potholes depth of about 60m, although I would classify it more as one big pitch with 3 standing rebelays. Big impressive pitches, some nice decoration. Rating 3
Several short pitches. This cave is not quite as deep as the other vertical pots. The entrance can be done the hard way or the easy way, and the easy way is NOT the obvious path, so take care to make sure you are entering the right way. Watch for snakes. Rating 3
A rarely done but horizontal cave which is VERY hard to find. Awkward entrance leads to a small horizontal system, and to get to the bottom you must chimney a fairly exposed (7 or 8 metre) rift about 6 or 7 metres. A little unnerving for beginners or those who don’t like exposed chimneying. No gear needed though. Scared the crap out of me as it was my second ever limestone cave! Rating 2 due to the chimney traverse.
Dicksons A – Note OFF LIMITS in the colder months due to bats
An absolutely EXCELLENT beginners cave. No gear needed at all, and a fabulous round trip can be achieved which sees the whole cave and has some nice climbs, rimstone pools, a bit of decoration, and … BATS! The cave is closed in Winter from July to November due to the Bats being in torper, when being woken up disturbs their fat stores and they die, but in the other months the cave is open (see the access guidelines document under the ‘access’ menu.
The bats congregate in two specific chambers, and when you disturb them they all fly to the other chamber. There are literally thousands of them and sitting while they fly around you is a surreal experience. You will cop the odd bat in the face and wingtips brushing you but they are pretty good flyers.
I would recommend to be on the safe side that you check with the ranger Dale Calnin prior to entering Dicksons A, to make totally sure that there is no risk to the bats wellbeing.
Unfortunately Dicksons A was used as a rubbish dump for many years and has a pile of broken glass and metal to be taken care of. A brown snake was also spotted in the cave a one time. RATING: 1.5
A plain cave with two interesting features only. One is a keyhole squeeze which due to being high up off the ground can be a fun challenge. The other main attraction is a 5 metre free climb up and over a wall. Normally a handline is rigged around a stump at the top of the climb. A rock climbing manoeuvre will get you down if that is your style, but an easier way can be found on the left side. Take care, a fall would hurt. RATING: 1 apart from the 5 metre climb which is a 2.
M4 Cave – SO MUCH FUN to splash around. With great chambers!
Another classic cave, and another of the few open access caves that needs no vertical or ladder. M4 is a long stream cave which is almost all hands and knees crawling, punctuated by 2 SPECTACULAR chambers. However there are 2 sumps that need to be passed first. The water level can be anywhere from bone dry (VERY rare) to totally sumped off in which case you have to turn back. More often than not there is water in the sumps and it is either a roof sniff or you might have as much as 20cm-15cms of air. The water is fairly cold (although warmer than Tasmania) so two layers of thermals or even a wetsuit is needed.
M4 is thought to be an overflow from another cave and the amount of water in it varies widely. It can be nearly bone dry or it can be a raging torrent (i’ve seen both!) It is a fun cave to splash around in. The final sump was dived by Netherwood and Ackroyd back in 1983. They penetrated to 6.5m to find an impenetrable horizontal slot. RATING 1.5
Shades of Death
Shades is an ex show cave, although the show section is fairly short. Beyond that is an excellent horizontal system with lots to see and some seasonal water. It is on private property and permission is needed for entry, but trips in are fairly frequent. Not a particularly hard cave. According to one source the surveys length is over 4kms, which would make it the longest in Victoria, but this has not been verified. An estimation from a source that knows the cave well estimates more like 2kms. RATING: 2
Another ex show cave. Not much known about this cave apart from it being very close to Shades of Death and M4. This was previously a show cave. M7 which is closeby shares the same system and was also a show cave some time ago. RATING: Unknown
Dalleys – The best cave in Buchan, but TOTALLY off limits
In my opinion and the opinion of many others, Dalley’s is the best cave in the entire Buchan cave regions. It swallows the Murrindal River! The cave has amazing stream passage the likes of the big systems in Tasmania and England. It has great decoration and also has a sump dive called ‘divers dalleys’. It is a classic wet sporty cave. Unfortunately it is TOTALLY off limits. It is now owned by the local quarry, and the land is leased back by a local who doesn’t negotiate with cavers at all. Attempts are being made to get Parks Vic to buy the small chunk of land where the entrance is, but that may never happen.
The one thing I will mention which was some caving lore from days of old, that hopefully may one day be relevant (when we regain access) is that on the entrance climb there is a rock with a yellow marker on it – DO NOT STAND ON THAT ROCK! It is thought that if that rock went it would cause a large collapse, and that it is loose and wouldn’t need much weight to go. It is apparently not a hard climb but the yellow rock is tempting as its the obvious foothold. A handline can be rigged from the surface to help with avoiding the yellow rock. RATING: 3
Canyons is on private property and there is strictly no access to members of the public. It is reported to be a good cave. Local cavers gain access periodically so any request for access should be forwarded to them, but it is by no means guaranteed.
Sub Aqua is a VERY wet and requires a swim through to a decorated and large chamber. A wetsuit or floatation device is recommended. Rating 2 due to cold
Gyorgidig – The best cave for training beginners in SRT
Gyorgidig is another classic vertical pot. It is a good one for SRT beginners as the pitch heads are easy, the pitches (4 in total) are no longer than about 10-15 metres each, and the one rebelay on the last pitch has stumps you can stand on to pass the rebelay. Chokes off at the 50m point like the others. Awkward entrance is helped by rigging a handline. RATING 3
Storm Water Tunnel
This is another wet cave that carries water in wet conditions and feeds into Scrubby Creek Cave. The entrance to storm water tunnel is on the same plot as Scrubby that Rimstone purchased, so access should be easy to obtain. Not much known about this one, except that it carries a lot of water in wet conditions. Rating unknown
Barb wire Fence
Unknown. Rating unknown
Scrubby Creek – The cave that has been bought! YES! It is owned by a collective mostly made up of cavers and ex cavers.
The first Australian cave EVER bought by a caving club & accommodation service (Rimstone). Yes we bought the cave. Many argue that Scrubby is the best cave in Buchan, and this may be true. It is a long stream cave, but it is protected by a SAVAGE roof sniff. The sniff usually only has an inch of air space so only your nose is out of the water, and to make things more difficult it is not in a straight line, the sniff actually bends around slightly. To deal with this there needs to be one caver at each end of the sniff, to yell at the caver if they go off course. There have been several serious near misses in this roof sniff.
Beyond that it is a marvellous cave, with probably the biggest chamber in Buchan and plenty of decoration. A long trip if you go to the end and back (8ish hours including photography time). It ends in a tantalising rock fall which has never been passed despite many attempts! Access into Scrubby is only allowed with a trained Scrubby leader and unfortunately these are dwindling. RATING 3.5 due to roof sniff, length, and the torturous ‘Trogs Wallow which is 200m of energy sapping thick gloopy thigh deep mud’.
Perhaps the most beautiful cave in the entire Buchan region. It is gated and access controlled by Parks Victoria, but access has been granted recently to update and complete the survey, and attempt to have more people that know the cave. It is a SUPER complex horizontal system with a 20m entrance pitch (very tight gated entrance, not too bad entering but getting out is a pain). It is absolutely amazing, crystals, straws, stals, etc etc are everywhere. Up until recently it also needed a trained leader, but due to there being only a few left new leaders are being trained up. Access is only given for surveying though, no recreational caving allowed in this one. Exponential is considered in the top three caves of Buchan, alongside Scrubby and Dalley’s. It is also quite long at around 2kms surveyed length and further re-surveying and exploration may well yield more. The problem is exploring the cave and pushing leads that are covered in decoration – obviously a no go – which means there are many leads that simply off limits. Frustrating, but that’s the way it is. RATING: 3
In Wyatts. Small cave, which was the sight or Buchan’s only serious cave rescue, many years ago when a scout was given bad directions by the leader and had a serious fall, complicatd by heavy rain and fear of rising water. Rating: Not known.
Ragnarok – Has a tight vertical rift entrance which drops down 7metres to a small chamber with a further 17 metre pitch to a large chamber with some good decoration.
At the far end of the chamber is a vertical rift which is accessed by a short climb, this leads through to another large chamber with a small stream flowing through an impenetrable hole with a good size pool of standing water that appears to have some depth to it. The cave looks like it might go on beyond the pool but it is to tight to enter. Typical Buchan.Thin cavers have it easy in this place!!
Flower Pot – A VERY tight entrance that nobody I know has ever fit through. Also probably has CO2 due to the environment it is in. RATING unknown
Carolina – A very awkward vertical entrance (a 90 degree twist while in a squeeze whilst on rope with SRT gear on – not easy – I tried and couldn’t do it) down to a horizontal system. Breathtaking decoration was found in a chamber at the bottom of the pitch which it was felt deserved to be protected so cave is gated. Rating: 3 due to hard entrance and gate.
A permit dig site of the VLCT. The name Nightshade came about due to theclumps of Deadly Nightshade growing around the entrance VLCT just left off the Deadly bit.
There are more caves on the Potholes reserve and Wyatt’s reserve but these are the main suspects. All up in Murrindal there are now around 400 tagged features. Some include the caves described above and some are just a little hole in some limestone. And everything between the two extremes.
However digging by various parties continues, especially seeking another way into Elk River Cave, and once you walk around the Potholes you will see the potential, with the number of blind dolines and caves too tight to enter – hundreds of them!! At the time of writing (June 2013) the VLCT had found and were pushing a dig with a strong draft coming out of it, placed DIRECTLY above the projected Elk River streamway as mapped by the divers. VLCT reported that the cave depth was 70m and that it is all climbable. The dig is gated due to an unknown (although suspected) group of people entering without permission.
Generally cavers who are pushing new cave are VERY secretive until the cave is totally exhausted and every lead checked, so I would bet that the VLCT haven’t finished with it yet, as no news has been heard of lately.
There are many more dig sites in the whole Murrindal area some of which are near or above Elk River. Email Parks Victoria or the VSA Digging Committee to discuss how to apply for a dig.