Thursday June 23rd 2016
Gary, John D, Matt, Will, Adam Walmsley, Josh Young,
Having visited Cullaun One exactly ten years ago and turned around at the first ladder pitch I was keen to return and this time complete the round trip at the end.
Cullaun One is rather tricky to find, the entrance being in a forest clearing far from any paths. Head up the Cullaun road (the fourth main left turn after you head north out of Lisdoonvarna, just where the pine forests start). A major parking area on the right is passed after a few hundred metres (the usual spot for parking for Cullaun Five), followed by another major parking spot on the right several hundred metres later (the usual spot for Cullaun Two). Continuing on past these, a farmhouse is passed on the left hand side set a few hundred metres back from the road. About 200m after this farmhouse is a short stretch of tall hedgerow on the left hand side directly next to the road. Park in the small layby just after this (or in a larger layby about 200m further again).
Walk back down the road to the area of hedgerow by the road. On the left (east) is a VERY vague gap through the trees. Selected Caves describes this as a more obvious firebreak, which it may have been when the book was written, but now it is more mature forest and the gap is very vague indeed. Head into the forest along the vague gap for about 150m to a clearing (on the left if you are following the vague gap). There are several depressions amongst this clearing but the entrance is a large 4m drop into a canyon passage surrounded and well hidden by smaller trees/bushes. A GPS would be very helpful overall.
If you have managed to find the entrance well done!!!
The entrance was an easy free climb. Heading downstream involved initially a few slithers over slabs, and an easy climb into a large chamber. Beyond here (just follow the water downstream) soon became a fine walking height streamway for some considerable distance. The Selected Caves description for this and the subsequent sections is excellent (although I would dispute how fine the formations are further down the streamway).
We reached the first pitch where we had turned around ten years ago. We had brought a ladder for this (easily belayed off a muddy stal pillar on the left above the pitch). It is free-climbable and only 4m deep but it is quite wide, wet, slippery and with reasonably few good footholds so the ladder was worthwhile. A short crawl from the bottom reaches the second section of the pitch which drops 3m into a pool of water and is a moderately challenging climb. From here is the Bastard Crawl, a scalloped nearly flat out crawl in the streamway for maybe 20m which really is nothing to be concerned about.
I was first down the crawl so went to check out the squeeze at the end of the round trip... this is a tight flat out crawl to a chimney coming up from below, and is definitely a tiny bit pinchy but nothing to worry about for most slim to average build cavers. Unfortunately at this point I heard that Gary had hurt his hand on the pitch and was going to wait there while we did the round trip. A quick read of the description identified the horrors that lay ahead and it sounded likely to take a couple of hours. Not wanting to leave Gary to wait for two hours (nor liking the sound of what lay ahead) I headed back to go out with Gary while leaving all the youngsters in the group (and John Dale) to head on. John, now highly concerned about the age gap between him and the next youngest person in the group (about 35 years) decided he did not wish to show the young whippersnappers up and so decided to also retreat.
John, Gary and I dabbled with photos on the pitch and in the chamber above for ages and slowly headed out at a nice leisurely pace. We arrived back at the car and were just finished changing when the others returned. They had reached the canal and didn't like the look of it at all (apparently it is horrible) so had declined. After taunting them about how I would have been through it no problem when I was their age (which of course I wouldn't have!!!) we headed to Lisdoonvarna for ice cream.
A nice easy and short trip as far as the Bastard Crawl, but don't bother with the round trip unless you want a miserable wet and tight few hours.