Life has been a little bit quiet on the website of late, because life has been incredibly busy in the real world. Since our last successful exploration weekend in Elk River I’ve spoken at Oztek, done a couple of lovely ocean dives, a weekend in Gambier and packed three overstuffed bags for Mexico. I fly out of Melbourne next weekend for two weeks of caving, diving and exploration with the PESH (Proyecto Espeleologico Sistema Huautla) expedition.
The PESH mission is to run ten annual expeditions to the Huautla System. This April is the second one and continues on with the aims of pushing the known cave past 100kms in length and one mile in depth. There are more than two dozen people participating this year including seven of us cave divers. The “wet” portion of the trip focusses on Red Ball Canyon Sump which hasn’t previously been dived. It is close to the sump that connects the cave to Li Nita and perched well above the main river. In theory it could be short, shallow and easy to pass. In reality we will find out what happens next when we get in there.
Huautla is somewhat isolated from the civilised world so packing has been an exercise in prediction. Unlike most of my travels I’m taking very little dive gear. We are using high pressure carbon fibres tanks which makes my normal regulators useless. Given the distance from the surface and despite the chilly water I will be using my Elk-standard semi-dry rather than my Otter drysuit. And the expedition diving is being sponsored by Dive Rite with new Nomad LTZ sidemount harnesses and LX20 hand held primary lights – perfect for the job. Almost more exciting is not having to pack either of those bulky/heavy items.
So what’s in the bags? A sleeping bag and mat for the hut up top, and a sleeping bag liner for the shared sleeping bags in the cave. Trog suits and thermals including a pair of the Fourth Element J2 base layer. It’s always nice when the gear you’re using has been tested in the cave next door to the one you’re visiting. Dry bags, caving packs and SRT harness with a spare chest ascender and hand ascender for when the teeth wear out on the second 800m ascent. And of course a spare stop wheel for the way down. My Scurion and spare batteries, small Archon video lights and then endless camera gear.
I’m taking my camera housing in case the sump gets exciting enough to warrant underwater pictures. I’m not keen on taking it into the cave because it’s both heavy and delicate on the vertical pitches. But should the diving deserve it, I would be devastated not to be able to take underwater shots. For the rest of the wet stuff the camera will be travelling in a small orange pelican case which I depth tested to 5m on the weekend with minimal leakage. I’ve bought myself a new Canon 50mm f1.8 lens to play with some portraiture and mid range shots.
Much of the team is already on site and the cave has been rigged for this year’s efforts. Despite a little early and unexpected rainfall the trip is going well. By late next weekend when I arrive I’m hopeful that the extra water will have dissipated and it will be time to go diving. While there is internet accessible in the next village down the hill I don’t expect to have many updates for you until I make it back to the world. There will be news on the PESH Facebook page periodically during the trip. Hopefully I will have time this week to write up some of my dives over the last few weeks and schedule these to share with you while I’m away. By this time next week you’ll know whether that happened or not!