Martin Pfeil had organised a weekend to Colong Caves. This limestone cave system lies deep in the wilderness of the Southern Blue Mountains. The main cave at Colong has been reported as the longest and most complex single cave within NSW and the third longest in Australia (This was written in 1984). More recent exploration and surveying by Alan Pryke of Sydney University Speleos has shown the cave is much more extensive than previously thought.
To visit the caves you need a permit from the NPWS, and the unfortunate recent action of a rogue caver has made getting these permits much harder. Thanks to Martin for his persistence in this matter.
I had previously visited Colong Caves a number of times over the years. These began with some trips (see here and here) with Springwood Bushwalking Club back in the 1970’s and in more recent years trips with Alan Pryke and one in 2007 organised by Martin. On that trip I shot a video which can be viewed here (part 1 and part 2)
On the latest trip were Martin, Scott, Max, Su Li, Brent, Stu, Enmoore and myself. We drove out past Oberon and Black Springs on the Friday night to stay in the old house near Ruby Creek, now owned by the NPWS. Then up early the enxt morning for the drive to Batsh Camp where we parked and set off for the short walk to the caves. This takes about 90 minutes, and takes you down the steep Acetylene Spur to Lannigans Creek and then you head a short way up Caves Creek to the small campsite below the Arch Cave at Colong.
After setting up camp and an early lunch, we headed underground via the lower entrance. This takes you into the Piano Cave. The notes of the piano are some long giant shawls that can be hit lightly to produce musical notes. Then we entered the Onslow Cave and passed through a few narrow squeezes to enter the large Kings Cross Chamber. We next set off along the High Passage, but found a lot of fresh fungi growing on the guano, so headed back to the Cross and along the larger Terraces Cave to reach the Amber Cave and the route to Woofs Cavern. Up to this point the going is pretty easy.
On recent trips to Woofs Cavern, I had been in parties that had gone to Woofs via a lower route, that starts near the Pulsating River, crosses the Leap of Faith and then involves negotiating a sump. On those trips the sump was dry. We thought this time, that the sump would most likely be under water. So this visit we went via the “tourist route” to Woofs Cavern. This way is relatively easy to find but is still quite complex. It starts with an uphill crawl up a narrow passage, then you crawl over an old gate and through some tricky clefts and more narrow passageway. Slow going. But rewarding. The formation improves dramatically as you proceed.
We soon arrived in the large chamber of Woofs Cavern. There was a lot to see and it is worth looking in all the nooks and crannies of this part of the cave. This was a good place for some photographs.
Then, we followed the path back, or approximately did – it is inevitable to blunder up some wrong passage once or twice and then have to backtrack.
Back at Kings Cross, we returned to the surface via the large King Solomons Cave. This took us out the top entrance, and we then had a short walk down the bluffs to the campsite.
We had a pleasant evening around the campfire.
Next morning, most of the party decided to walk out early and then visit Yerranderie, the nearby old mining ghost town. Martin and myself were keen for some more caving. I also had a bit more cave photography in mind.
So, the two of us headed back underground for about 3 hours. We had a good time checking out a few more places.
Then we packed up and headed back out up Acetylene Spur for Batsh Camp – arriving there for lunch and soon after meeting up with Scott and Max on their return from Yerranderie.
It had been a very good weekend at the Caves. More photographs can be found here.