After a trip over to Eurotek to talk about Elk River, and a couple of cancelled trips where for various reasons we didn’t get in the cave, it felt like it was time to go caving rather than talk about it. Our last trip into the cave was a push trip back in winter, where high water levels led to a sporting trip home back up the waterfalls. Steve and I laid some line and we also used a lot of tanks. Too many to carry out in one go – some of those empties were still in the cave. So this trip was to both retrieve the empties and replace them with full tanks for next month’s push trip.
As you can see from my choice of lead photo, the most exciting this about this trip was the time it took. After a good start into the cave just before 9am we made excellent time down to Uncle’s Aven. Getting changed from dry caving gear to wet caving gear is still the slowest part of the trip, but even that took less than an hour. We headed into sump 1 with two 12L tanks and a 7L in tow, and off down the cave. The above picture was taken after Tim and I identified the empty tanks in the cache at the end and bagged them up for exit. Turnaround time at just 2pm! Exciting stuff.
We know that the time sinks on our Elk runs are the periods of changing gear rather than the periods of moving through the cave. This trip was definitely helped by not having to change from sump diving gear to cave diving gear and large tanks at the end (and back again). Not having to sit around for 90 minutes while push divers work their way through sumps 5, 6 and 7 helped us out too. The photos show the big camera was left at home in favour of the pocket-able Lumix. And 14 trips over the last year and a half mean we’re all pretty familiar with the best track down the streamway.
It was great to be back at Homeleigh at a reasonable hour and to relax in the prospect of not having to go back in Baby Berger on Sunday morning to fetch the rest of the gear. The next trip will be another resupply, and then a push dive…fingers crossed for sump 7 finally coming up into some dry space.