Saturday 4th January
Si and Di had already cut the path to Sakai cave and rigged the narrow, soil topped, ledges to the small draughting entrance, as well as rigging their way to the head of the final split pitches. Once we reached them Tim rigged down past razor-sharp limestone before leading on to the limit of previous exploration. Poking around Tim headed up, a draughting boulder choke to discover a huge chamber. The most promising looking lead would be a bolt climb at the far wall.
Si on the approach to Sakai’s entrance
Di on the head of the final pitch
Di on the mid section of the final pitch
Tim and Di admire formations at the limit of previous exploration
Si and Di search for a way on in the final avens
Sunday 5th January
Whilst Tim and Si ran ahead to begin their bolting, Di and I followed at a more leisurely pace photographing as we went until one of my stobes decided it’d had enough of the humidity and exploded! Seeing this as a sign we packed up the kit and headed on to the end where Si and Tim were making their way back down the boulder slope having exhausted both bolts and drill batteries.
Gecko eggs in the Sakai entrance passages
Phreatic passage near the final pitch
Di admires more formations in Sakai
Monday 6th January
As the camera kit had taken a bashing and was beginning to rebel, not to mention the fact I hadn’t taken any knee pads and Sakai had enough crawling to make me regret it. I took a rest day cleaning and fettling the camera back to life before gathering some surface shots around the camp.
Tuesday 7th January
With no other takers I volunteered to accompany Tim to re-find and cut a path to Blue Moonlight Bay. This would be a 22km walk cutting paths and route finding across the limestone cliff face. Only a couple of kilometres down the path Tim’s canyoning boots decided they weren’t happy with the plan and tried to escape. Fortunately, with tape slings and snoopy loops he managed to tame them back in to control and after several hours we were sat in the entrance chamber of the cave.
That’s the trouble with boots these days….they just have no sole!
The Lubang Cina bridge
The obvious path!
Wednesday 8th January
Whilst the rest of us had been having our fun, Frank and Dave had been cutting paths and fighting their way through the jungle in an effort to locate and enter Corner Cave. Finally, they had conquered their route and were returning to attempt a bold bolt climb up heavily vegetated limestone to enter the cave.
Di, myself, Frank and Dave followed the stunning Melinau gorge criss-crossing for a couple of hours before heading up through the jungle to a draughting, ant infested ledge. Here Frank donned SRT kit, drill, bolting kit and machete! Before heading up the face. Not long after the heavens opened and Frank, who was now above the tree line, could see a wall of water coming in toward him. Hastily the climb was forgotten and the team headed swiftly back to the gorge and back to camp 5 just in time. Within half an our of being back the river had risen and would have been impossible to traverse.
The stunning route down the Melinau gorge
Not your standard SRT kit, Frank prepares to bolt to Corner Cave
Well it aint called the rain forest for nothing!
Thursday 9th January
Whilst we had our aquatic adventures Si and Mark W had completed the bolting high in to the chamber roof only to find the passage had choked with calcite just 15 meters on. However they enthused about the spectacular chamber which I had yet to visit and so Mark W, Si, Di and myself headed in to photograph the final chamber and derig. As we exited we had timed the sunset at the entrance to perfection.
Si prepares to drop a lead in the final chamber
Mark W de-rigs the bolt climb to nowhere
Beautiful scalloping on the final pitch head with Mark W
Wow what a view looking out above the canopy from the Sakai entrance