Wilson’s Cave

Wilson’s Cave (EB-4) is the one cave in Buchan that truly deserves its own full dedicated page. It is the classic beginners cave in Buchan. It is where almost all beginner’s trips start. It is the first ‘wild’ limestone cave I ever did. Wilson’s is ideal in that it is a large, walk through cave with no real obstacles that NEED to be passed. However, there are numerous squeezes, climbs, chimneys and other ‘challenges’ that are purely voluntary but are all safe enough and easy enough for any beginner with a bit of adventure in their veins.

 

THE WILSON’S CAVE SURVEY

Survey of Wilsons Cave

Survey of Wilson’s Cave

Uses over the years.

The cave has been used over the years for movies, parties, raves, new years eve celebrations and the odd caving trip. The cave is actually marked on topographic maps and as such is public knowledge. For this reason, it is the one and only cave I will publish the survey of. I cannot publish the location, but the cave is easily found if you go for a bit of a drive.

If you find it, please read and observe the following:

Wilson’s is as easy as caves get, but this does not mean that you can’t be injured somehow. A helmet, helmet mounted light, and at least 2 backup light sources per person is the absolute minimum. Also, you should be in a group of four, so that if one person is injured, then one person can stay with the casualty while 2 go for help. Too many times I’ve seen groups or families walking down the hill with inappropriate footwear, no helmets, and only one or two handheld lights between a group of 4 or 5 people. This is not on!

Once you’ve found the Wilson’s Cave car park (and you will find it quickly if you just go for a bit of a drive) then park (without blocking it – it is a popular site). Then put your gear on – Please look at the gear descriptions on this web page and be adequately dressed and prepared for the cave environment. Helmets with a helmet mounted light, at least 2 backup lights each, appropriate footwear with ankle support, and a first aid kit with the basics, is a minimum you should have to enter the cave. It may be an easy cave but that does not mean things can’t go wrong.

Always cave to the ability of the weakest member, and leave the cave immediately if any member becomes injured or distressed, even if that means cancelling the trip for everyone else!

In Wilson’s, and in all caves, the etiquette is that you cave to the level of the weakest team member. IE if you have a beginner in your party, you cave at their level. They may be a natural and after Wilson’s you can go and do NG1 or Honeycomb. But equally they might really struggle in easy situations. And if someone wants to leave the cave, especially if they are getting panicked or claustrophobic then leave!

If possible and you have another leader then the others can keep caving, but it is very important not to have someone panicking in a cave – this is because they lose their judgement and become uncoordinated, or stop altogether and refuse to move which is equally distressing, and perhaps even life threatening. And that is ten times as important if you are in a wet cave and someone starts to get cold. Hypothermia sets in FAST. In wet trips you should always have dry thermals in a dry bag and a balaclava, and a space blanket in case they are not able to move.

Basic directions (This is the only cave on this site with directions!)

Walk through the grassy rocky area in front of you and you’ll come to a large cliff face. To get to the main entrance (the outflow when the stream is running) Walk to the right hand side and scramble down the steep rocky slope (there is a worn path but its slippery, probably the hardest bit of the cave) to the bottom where the paddock and fence line is. You will come to the entrance (see picture below).

Wilson's Cave Main Outflow Entrance (at paddock level)

Wilson’s Cave Main Outflow Entrance (at paddock level)

Initially you can head straight into the cave but this is a dead end after about 20 metres (at the dead end is a small chamber with a squeezy tube on the right hand side – we call this the wormhole and it’s the first thing we make people do). Do that and go back, and head to the right. Throughout the whole cave if you follow the dry stream bed (indicated by the little round pebbles that are obviously a stream in wet conditions) then you are heading in the right direction. But don’t do that.

The rest is up to you. Explore! Climb! Squeeze! Be bold and adventurous. I will tell you, as the survey indicates, there are exits at the other end which are easy to find, so don’t worry too much if you get a little bit lost in the final parts of the cave. Beyond the main chamber the cave closes in a little and becomes more confusing. If you get lost try and re-trace your steps. A good rule of thumb in caving is to look behind you as you go through, as caves always look different on the way back out. In very wet weather Wilson’s becomes an active stream passage which is absolutely amazing. The character of the cave totally changes. I once found a turtle in the stream on a wet day. Only happens once or twice a year though – I’ve been lucky enough to see it in flow three times.

Not exactly trying to hide this particular cave. It is marked on many maps. Don't let that fool you - it still demands respect!

This sign was in the car park area for a long time, but was missing last time I went there (2019)

You can easily spend 2 to 3 hours in Wilson’s Cave if you really look around and push every lead. There are even some exposed and fairly challenging climbs if you are feeling brave. As described in other parts of this site, if you plan to go in Wilson’s cave, please also leave your intentions on the ‘intentions board’ which is at the Homeleigh Guest House. Just put your details (car rego, expected return, who is in group, date, which cave). Don’t forget to rub it off when you finish for the day. And don’t rely on the ranger or locals to notice you’ve missed your call out – use a friend. Buchan gets 4G reception on Telstra if you need to make a mobile phone call. Otherwise there is a phone booth in town near the general store. Tell your callout to simply phone 000 if you don’t make it out. The police will handle the rest.

There is an informal cave rescue squad in Victoria, although it is more a list of names. Up until around 2000 there was an official Cave Rescue Squad lead by a well-known caver and paramedic Mark Somers (who also ran a commercial caving business, he was my second trip leader to Labertouche). However due to lack of demand, lack of funds and lack of participants it folded. There just isn’t enough caving in Victoria to really warrant an official cave rescue.

This is where it all started

It was in Wilson’s Cave, at the end of the first wrong lead, in a little chamber that has a squeeze we call the worm hole (I mentioned above), I realised that I had found the hobby I was destined for. I fell in love with caving in that cave on that fateful RMIT caving trip (then we did Rift Cave which terrified me, and Honeycomb which cemented my new love). It is without doubt my sentimental favourite and in many ways a good cave. A lot of people dismiss it as being too easy, but as I stated there are challenges if you seek them out, and the sheer number of leads to explore makes for hours of fun. There is no decoration at all, but as a first cave for beginners, it is absolutely perfect.

Wilson’s Cliff – The traditional Buchan SRT training spot

If you go to the left of the Wilson’s sign at the car park you will come to a large daylight hole and open-faced cliff. This is ‘Wilson’s Cliff’ and this is where we teach SRT and laddering techniques. It is bolted for rigging rebelays, and other technical SRT manoeuvres, and there are bolts at the top for anchors also, plus a well-placed tree. It can also be climbed from the bottom by skilled rock climbers, but I’ve never seen it done, and I’m NOT a rock climber. There is a good photo of the cliff in the ‘commercial providers’ section of this site.

I couldn’t count the number of times i’ve used it to train people or see people being trained. It is ideal as you can sit on the opposite side facing the cliff and see exactly what the punters are doing (or not doing) and coach them through the steps of whatever they are trying to do. Plus, it is about 15m to the bottom which is just enough height to get a little adrenaline going. And there is room to have 3 ropes going at once, too. And the tree provides shade at the top on a hot day. Perfect :)

Wilson’s is also good as it has 7 (or more?) entrances/exits that are easy to find. 2 of the exits, in particular, which are at the end of the most obvious route through the cave are quite challenging and good fun to put people through. To see absolutely everything in the cave takes as long as 3 or 4 hours, even though you can walk from one end to the other in 10 minutes. Remember to close the gate when you exit.

You’re going caving! So i’ll say it one more time:

  • Do not touch any decoration. The acid from your skin, and the mud on your skin and clothes destroys decoration. You should really only ever be touching cave to be steady or when climbing. In some of the pristine caves in Tasmania you can’t even touch things to be steady, which is a real challenge.
  • Use the intentions board at Homeleigh, or always have a ‘call out’ friend who will raise the alarm if you don’t call by a certain time. When you estimate your exit time, add an hour…. something always takes longer than expected.
  • Be appropriately dressed and prepared for the cave environment
  • Don’t ever enter a cave without a guide, at least until you develop caving skills yourself
  • Join a caving club if you enjoy it

and……. have fun :)