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Trip to Uamh An Claonaite -- 28th Apr 2005Group: Dennis, Paul, Roger, Dave
Four WCG members were staying with others at Achiltibutie for a weeks hill walking, but it hadn't gone unnoticed that there were some good caves in the area. The weather was a bit mixed and Thursday looked pretty miserable and misty for walking and so a cave was selected. We decided that Uamh An Claonaite looked the most interesting trip from the "Selected Caves of Britain & Ireland" guidebook. This did mention an awkward boulder choke, but the thinner members of the group overruled the stouter ones.
We drove to the fish farm at NC 254179 and parked up. The non-cavers had decided to do the walk to the bone caves, however it was very windy and raining slightly and so they abandoned the idea and went off elsewhere. The stalwart cavers changed and then followed the path towards the bone caves. Dave had a few sketchy notes from the guidebook including the Grid Ref, but left the map in the car and his GPS back at base. He wasted a lot of time looking at a likely location and finally decided to wait till Roger (who had a GPS) caught up. It was clear the entrance was a lot further down the valley and so the others explored the Bone Caves while Dave wandered on to try and work out the best route. If the continuation of the path past the Bone Caves is followed then it starts to climb up onto a grassy plain and becomes less distinct but still followable. After a while a depression was reached and looking back the cliff above the cave was visible.
The boulder ruckle seemed to have been stabilised with bits of scaffolding poles and looked pretty solid. Paul (the thinnest) entered first followed in size order by Dave, Roger and Dennis. The entrance chamber revealed a smallish hole in the floor which clearly was the continuation. Paul crawled down this without any problems, Dave had to adjust his battery belt to slide past an obstruction, Roger made a valiant attempt to slide down but it was clear he was not going to get down without a lot of effort and the removal of his lamp and possibly outer suit. Dennis just looked!
Roger and Dennis decided this was one trip they weren't going to make and so they headed off back to the cars. In hindsight this was probably sensible for even if Roger had managed to get down, the return with an awkward thrutch up against gravity would have been very difficult.
Paul and Dave carried on, the passage opening out and having a stream on the floor. After a little while the 5m waterfall was reached. The guidebook noted that this could be free climbed or there was a drier roof level traverse to the right descending into the main cavern. The latter was not really obvious and the waterfall was free climbed using obvious shelf halfway down. The volume of water was not that great, however if it had been a lot more then the climb down would have been much more interesting...
The passage roof dropped to a pool with a crawl on the LHS. This led to sump 1 which was not free divable and a low watery bypass on the LHS which was taken. The depth of water was minimal, and so there was no need to duck under the arch, however it was sufficient to fully wet the inner suit!
The passage continued past some taped off stalls and then offered a choice of routes. There was a dry series of passages or the continuation following the water.
We investigated the dry passages, not having a survey was a bit of a disadvantage as we were unsure of the topology and didn't want to get lost. Fortunately there was a lot of sandy material and so it was possible to leave marks so we could retrace our steps. As it turned out we managed a reasonable tour and rejoined the main passage a little further on. We carried on to the 'Bottomless pillar pool'. This is described in the guidebook as being traversed using footholds just below the waterline. These are pretty obvious, however as you traverse the initially good handholds disappear and the rock bulges forcing you off balance and into the chest deep water. After a couple of waterfalls the passage became a rift and this was followed to the first watershoot. There was a fair amount of water present and we decided that it was probably not worth carrying on as the other party members were probably getting bored back at the cars. We retraced our steps and climbed back up the entrance waterfall and up the thrutch which wasn't too bad if you removed your battery belt and lamp.
We wandered back to the cars using the path in the valley bottom rather than the high level route to the bone caves. This passes the stream resurgence which is quite impressive - the river just seems to flow out of the gravelly ground.
An good trip, about 3 Hours in total. The walk in is a bit tedious, but the cave is definately worth a visit and we shall return (with a survey).