I am sure some of you are dying to know how I got on in Washing Machine well here is a rough and ready version of that day.
3420 – Washing Machine – 18/11/2014
Phil Parker & Alex Ritchie
This cave had literally been keeping me awake at night. Last spring I had pushed a crawl at the bottom to reveal a large rift passage heading off, only to be stopped by a pitch down into the canyon at the end of the crawl with no gear to rig it. This time I would conquer this beast, with the aid of Phil, who had pioneered with others the exploration of the rest of the cave to the beginning of the crawl in the past. A lot of work had been put into this cave already, digging out the entrance crawl and re-digging it after floods, dropping of a 52m pitch and others, my story is just one part of a collective effort.
Armed with more ladders, drills and ropes then you can shake several sticks at we reached the known bottom of the cave in good time. We had decided to belay me down the pitch at the end of the crawls on ladders owing to the awkwardness of the crawl and pitch head, however this plan was soon abandoned by me when I realised I would be drilling the bolts while laying in a pool of water in the crawl and no way to keep the drill dry.
I had already inserted my self into the tube with my Stop on to see if it was possible to fit through with SRT and it was. I had also found a few semi-good natural belays this side of the crawl, so I abandoned the drill, ladders and other non-essential paraphernalia and opted for 20m of rope and a few slings/crabs, to take a “a look”. Phil reminded me that he would not be able to get through and rescue from anyone else on the expedition at this time would be impossible without capping.
However, My sense of venturing into the unknown out-weighted my self preservation so inserted myself into the small gap and began to crawl backwards to the corner of the tube where it took an acute right-hand turn. At this point there was enough space to thread my descender, before slowly backing the last few meters to the 8m drop behind me. I had seen a spike last time I was here and made use of it after a lot of umming and arring about it’s structural integrity as a re-belay, but after some fettling (I should had brought the drill though really, but wanted to keep it dry) I made use of what was indeed a sound belay and the rest of the drop was a free hang from there into a large sandy floored passage.
The passage seemed to continue for some distance, so after stripping of lots of SRT items I slowly headed downstream past a small pool on the left and down a 1m high dry cascade into similar sized passage. The passage changed into a rift as it turned left with several rock bridges, one of which contained some ancient jaw bone that had somehow found itself perched high above the floor, evidence of the occasional catastrophic flooding the cave sometimes receives. I followed the passage down several small climbs as the roof was coming down to meet me. My heart sank the way on was another tight crawl. I inserted myself feet first down the steeply bending crawl to be blocked by rocks about 2 meters in. I turned around and looked at it head-first, possibly dig-able and was certainly plenty of black space beyond but I was not inserting myself all the way down that tight downwards slanting crawl head-first without a way out on the other-side. I would need backup, my only hope was the Latimers, but alas they were to be foiled by the tube above the pitch. I will need to summon some skinny friends to see what this cave does next so watch this space!
Passage found – 25m aven high chamber 4m x 6m & 5m x 5m continuation followed by 10 – 15m of rift passage and a 2m crawl. 30M~ with approx 15-20m of depth including the 8m pitch.
Photo’s where taken which will be on the Matienzo website at some-point and I will likely post them on Facebook myself too.
Interestingly enough I was to find as part of a team a lot more passage in a different, deeper cave later on in the expedition.
Good effort Alex!
Rad dude, rad.
Any photos of the jaw bones?
Check my facebook. I think it was 6th one along. Unfortunately it was taken from about 10ft away.