Exponential Pot is one of the restricted entry caves on the Buchan Potholes reserve. Access is limited to one trip a year of just a few people, with the entrance protected by a metal plate and big padlock. I was lucky enough to join Peter Freeman and four other eager cavers on the 2016 trip. One of the trip objectives was to take some photos of this rarely-seen cave, and in that we definitely succeeded.
Exponential Pot is highly decorated. It’s discovery was the driver for turning the Potholes Reserve into a Reserve and protecting all of the caves in it. As a result of the limited access arrangements most of the cave is in excellent condition. There are low hanging straws and huge white flowstones without a single hand print. This made for some fun photography where I didn’t have to worry about excluding damaged stals from the frame.
The cave itself is hugely complex. While it has over 2kms of passages, they twist and turn on top of each other in a labyrinth. The passages also alternate between ornate decorations and smooth sculpted rock. While the rock walls have obviously been sculptured by water the cave itself is now very dry. We didn’t encounter any really huge chambers. Instead, a series of small-ish rooms each have multiple leads and exits at different angles and levels. The map shows the overlying levels of the cave in a series of colours. This would be an easy cave to get very confused in and its layout is completely different to the straight line streamway of Elk River.
The top shot is Nina in the Ice Palace. This area can now be viewed from the other side and is rarely accessed from this angle. To get this view Nina crept up the slope in the existing footprints in her socks. She is crouching next to another rimstone pool, but I love the angle of this photo between the very white formations.
The second photo had similar limitations – Peter is standing on the very edge of the previously trodden cave. This bright little grotto was almost completely encased in flowstone. Just a few thousands of years more needed to finish the job. After a full day of very careful caving and lots of photography we headed up the rope to the surface and back out to the Potholes Reserve. Exponential is a beautiful place. It’s very different to other Potholes caves I’ve visited and it was great to get a chance to photograph the pretties in there.