Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Silt Castle

I admit being brainwashed. As a young girl, my mental picture of a castle never included real castles, made of stone and for protection. Instead, I pictured the mansion-style that Disney moved Cinderealla into. By definition, a castle is a strongly fortified, permanently garrisoned stronghold with high walls and towers. I certainly didn't expect to find an animated Cinderdalla hovering in backplate and wings in Hendly's Castle, but I did expect to be disappointed. So many cave names hold such promise, but don't live up to the mystique of the name. (let me site the Godzilla Room as a prime example).

For our full cave "graduation dive," our instructor gave us a few options on where to go. Many folks choose to do the Grand Traverse (a mile swim from Orange Grove to Peacock 1), but we have been most of that route already, and knew we'd not really see much new passage. What really turns us on is going deep. I don't know why its such a thrill, but it is. Frankly, we should be over getting excited by triple-digits on our depth gauges, but we are captivated by challenge. Like a junkie who has found his next fix, there's some magic in having to lean up your mix. I just hope the deep dives hold the same level of excitement when helium cuts back the nitrogen buzz.

The dive started a little rough. We tried to be so careful and not stir up the basin as we entered, but it very tough attaching stage & deco bottles while standing very, very still. We tried, but did end up bringing along some baggage with us. This was my first time cave diving in P3, and it stuck me as way more exciting than the Peacock system for many reasons. First, like a snowbird who returning home to their sheet-covered furniture, everying is draped in silt. Each room changes....it not the same hollow tube that varies little for thousands of feet. There are big changes from room to room. Some passages narrow, and then turn to the left into huge rooms with high ceilings. There's a spot where there's a crack that seems to go all the way to the surface! One part is very tall, but narrow and made me feel like Princess Lea in the trash compactor! There's a notable restriction along the way called sandslide. We dropped our stage bottles just prior to this restriction.

The actual jump to the Hendley's line is just inches from the main line, so instead of using a jump reel, we just connected the two lines with an arrow. The real fun began as we squeezed our way down to 130' and then through a narrow lengh of pancacke like passage until we got to the bottom. It was pretty cool running into the end of the line! It was suprising though as the map showed another tunnel. We were a bit suprised, but Paul showed us where the line continues down a bit north of the main line. The next tunnel doesn't look big enough for even sidemount, so we didn't dare go any further. It was very sad when air was up and it was time to go. How odd to ascend 150' and not surface! We still had a long swim out! Just as I was getting pretty miserable of the cold, we found ourselves in the cavern zone....it was nice to burn off some deco while swimming. By the time we hit the cavern, we only had 20 minutes of deco left....Brrr.

I can't wait to go back!

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