Doolin, Co. Clare, Eire. 29.May.2006
Pete Whitaker, Peter Benn and Jon Cadamarteri [Caddy]
return to a [the?] classic Ireland 3km through-trip cave for me
following previous visits 10 and 11years ago and a new cave for Pete
and Peter on their first trip to Doolin.
in the village Saturday evening to discover crowded pubs, Gaelic music,
street dancing and much drinking of the black stuff.
weather had been confirmed as the worst May in Ireland since records
began until the Saturday and the trip was definitely out of the
question on Sunday as the Aille River was high.
saw a transformation in the weather to clear blue skies and light
breezes for the remainder of the holiday and we decided the water
levels were sufficiently lowering to recce the system with a larger
group trip planned for later in the week.
and rope already belayed at Fisherstreet Pot in the morning [the field
was next to our holiday lodge], we walked up the farm track [permission
agreed] to the ruins of St. Catherine’s nunnery under a gorgeous blue
sky and warm air – it was a shame in some ways to be going underground
on such a fine day – particularly in Ireland where these days are a
gennies filled from the entrance stream, we dropped into the St Cath's
entrance crawl. Easy crawling for 40m until the roof lowers with the
option of a flat out crawl over stream rubble or a bypass over slab on
short meander, then various route options investigated to rejoin the
streamway and a short scramble into the well decorated Beautiful
Grotto. Short break in the Grotto viewing the formations and for me to
reminisce on the previous trips and photo breaks in there and we
clambered back down to rejoin the streamway.
streamway now enlarges as the Doolin Rd. sink joins. We followed this
for a short 25m until the roof again lowers into "the Waddle" –
bypassed by climbing into the St. Catherine’s oxbow to keep dry and
save the 120m of awkward stooping / wet crawling.
scramble back down to rejoin the main streamway downstream of the
Waddle. The original Bristol Univ. guidebook states in classic pathé
news style "From here onwards one could drive a motor coach". A small
exaggeration maybe as you could possibly drive a Mercedes Sprinter van
down the streamway [slower than the normal white-van man] but a full
Volvo Plaxton 50-seater would be a tad difficult. Regardless, the
streamway is certainly large and is followed for approx. 550m.
streamway is then a little uncomfortable from here and is again avoided
by joining the Great Oxbow – these oxbows were handily placed to avoid
the worst of the low streamway. We then made a short easy climb up out
of the oxbow into the Great Oxbow Grotto to view further fine
decorations. On my first visit into this cave in 1995 our party climbed
out of the streamway too early and eventually arrived through the roof
system Echo Passage Complex into this same grotto on a non-tourist
into the main streamway which developed into a taller, thinner canyon
maybe 10~15m high for approx. 500m. The water levels were occasionally
waist deep and running faster through the twisting canyon – not a place
to become trapped with high water levels as evidenced by the plastic
cattle feed bags shining brightly high in the roof.
roof gradually lowered as we started to enter the Second Bedding Cave
with a short crawl over rock and then mud in yet another oxbow to
bypass the very wet crawl in the streamway.
returned to the streamway, now a mixture of stooping and erect walking
depending on the depth of the underwater floor trenches. Pete then
spotted the first eel and albino trout in the water [I had forgotten to
mention the eels discovered on previous trips]. Under several stream
showers entering from the Aille River [still bloody cold even in May]
and we entered the First Bedding Cave with the roof lowering rapidly.
round a left-hand corner with the water chest high, daylight entered
from Fisherstreet Pot with our rigged ladder and rope visible. A 30m
wet crawl under the low roof led directly out into daylight and blue
skies still evident above the "zariba" of trees and bushes ringing the
fitted for self-lining, Pete and I climbed the 12m out to the tree
trunk belay and dropped a harness down for Peter and sat basking in the
sunshine listening to the birds, the bees and Peter cursing the harness
fitting down below.
In summary, a good, short 3½-hour reconnaissance through-trip involving a classic streamway and well decorated grottos.