Harwoods Hole

Well!, quite a busy week really, started off very well, and ended slightly better except for a minor mishap with a bar of peanut brittle chocolate thing and a recently patched front tooth!

So yes, started very well with me getting a new contract from work. The M.E.D has bought me out of the recruitment companies contract, and I have signed a new one with them. The net effect being that I will probably get some more interesting / challenging work to do, and a 43% payrise. So that was nice.

Back playing squash too, which was great, am a little out of practice, but still, it’s great to be back on the court again. The new place is working out fine, nice and close to work – and toasty enough at night.

But the big excitement of the week was the trip back up to Takaka – to go caving in the Harwoods Hole.

Left on Friday night – and besides getting some pretty awful chips (which were made worse by the fact that they had managed to get their salt and sugar shakers mixed up) it was a fine trip up to Takaka again. The hostel we were staying in -well – caving club hut, was quite like the one in Waitomo, but smaller. Still – at $6 a night with beds, gas, and a pretty great location – it was pretty perfect (situated right on the top of Takaka hill)

The Next day started with me reading this newspaper clipping.

Harwoods has a slightly evil reputation as quite inexperienced people go down it and then get into trouble. The woman in that newspaper cutting sounded quite idiotic really. She got freaked out 20m down, and tried to swing herself over onto a ledge. Which she did, which was fair enough I guess (except that you really don’t want to fray your rope too much over a 180m vertical fall. So yes, once she’d established herself on said precarious ledge she then untied from the rope, because it was pulling her off the ledge. Insane behaviour. So she was then perched on a ledge, 180m above death, with no line connecting her to anything at all. Mad. Luckily enough the rescue people got there before she fell in.

The main scary part (but not the most difficult) is the 200m absail in. That’s what… 50 ish Stories??? Quite big. You first go down 20m, and then you have to swap over ropes (called a re-belay) and go down 180m on the second rope. The changeover is the scary part.

The other slightly more impressive rescue was when a group of – well – 15->17 year olds decided to do the trip as the weather wasn’t quite nice enough for climbing in Paynes Ford that day. So they tied 4 dynamic ropes together (for the non-climbers out there, there are dynamic and static ropes – the dynamic one stretches, so that when you fall off a climb the rope stretches a little so that you don’t get a sudden stop). However, dynamic ropes aren’t the thing for caving with – or at least descending 180m – well about 200 in total. Aaaanyway – so the lads got down the bottom of the cave and then realised that they didn’t actually know how to get through the cave. So one of them prussiked back up the rope (with one prussic and a gri-gri) Pretty impressive stuff. See they’d only told one person (informally) at the campsite that they were going to try this trip.. and so they might not have been spotted for days. All ended well though.

These pics here, were taken by Dave Hume (our leader for the trip), but on a previous trip.

You’ll excuse me a little … flowery description of the absail. Hehehe, someone also had left a little plastic skeleton hanging by it’s neck 15m down on the first pitch – I didn’t see it though, but anyway – yes – the absail. It was scary, no doubt about it. Easy enough to get down to the re-belay – where Dave had also absailed into and was watching people go through it (which was just so great!) Then, once you’d switched over ropes (a lot easier than in the practice session we did) it was a total free-fall to the bottom. Well, not fall, but you know what I mean. IT was slightly strange, as you do start to rotate (any momentum and you just keep on turning) so there I was, twirling around in mid-air, trying not to get disorientated and not particularly liking to look up – or down (long way down!!). Eventually though you settle into it and just enjoy it, then it was cool to look up and see Dave suspended sooooo far above. So far. It was, to be honest, quite beautiful to watch the drops of water caught by the sun go whizzing by. Really spectacular.

Once down the bottom we all moved off to one-side while the others came down (there were two trips made – both on the Saturday) It was great – I was in the second trip so got to have a nice lie-in until 11am Lovely. So when Dave had come down to join – Joe, Susan, Clare, Greg and I, it was off into the cave itself.

Here again is a pic of Daves – this time from inside (no kidding)

The cave itself was a marble cave – with some limestone formations. It was ‘sporty’, which means it was quite tricky, lots of little absails inside, and squeezes and bits of climbing. But all in all it was one of the best caves – well the best longest cave I have done to date (though I still loved the blow-hole one in January)

Then we came out into the Starlight Passage. So called ‘cos it’s covered in quartz and it shines like stars. Quite pretty.

Heluva slog back up the mountain, quite glad to be doing it in the dark (we came out of the cave at about 7:30pm) The best part of doing it second was that Chris, Nick and the others had cooked dinner

Which was just amazing of them. Quite a few beers and most of a bottle of Port later, it was time for a well earned sleep!

Very lazy day – reading my excellent book given to me by a friend (Paris) before I left. Called ‘A Mad world, my Masters’ by John Simpson – he’s the BBC foreign affairs correspondent. And an excellent writer he is too, and finally the long drive back to Christchurch.


6 comments on “Harwoods Hole

  1. Hey Pat!
    Would you be keen on another trip in February?


  2. Hi Patrick,

    Thank you for the great read! I was looking at stuff to do around Abel Tasman and came across Harwoods Hole, since then I have read all the blogs I can find and watched numerous videos. I’m traveling to NZ from America in March and was looking at doing Starlight. I have 4 years of sport climbing experience, but haven’t been in a cave with the exception of the state and national park tour guided walks. I have read a lot about Harwoods hole and would love the chance to go for a visit. Do you know of individuals or companies that would take newcomer on to the team for a trip?


Leave a Reply