Coolagh River Cave

6 June 2010

Posted by
Matt Ewles

It was interesting to take a trip down Coolagh River cave again, as it was amazing how well I remembered certain parts from four years ago, and how badly I remembered others!

It was a lovely sunny day, we parked on the verge at the crossroads and walked down the road and across the field to the Polldonough South entrance, which is a grim wet wallow for the first several metres (interesting the entrance that bypasses this only 30m in appears to be open, contrary to the guidebook). A very long section of hourglass shaped passage with easy traversing then followed until the obvious drop down into column chamber, and then a slither down into Gour passage. I had forgotten about the long traverse, however, Gour passage was exactly as I remembered.

On our previous visit we had the tackle for the pitch to the streamway, so we headed left, however, this time we headed right, along several meandering and unobvious bedding crawls to finally reach the obvious narrow stream canyon passage that was the Polldonough streamway. Downstream, the second bedding cave followed, which became a low canal-like passage, bent over with water lapping at your waist, and this soon become flat out wallowing again to reach the junction with the upstream end of the main stream passage.

A magnificent stomp down the streamway then followed, and lots of fun in the deep plunge pools. As much fun as the water was, I'm not sure I'd ever want to be down here in the conditions that create the River of Guinness as depicted in Selected Caves - that would be terrifying, and the consequences of a flood are always obvious. We got to the downstream sump quite quickly.

Upstream again, and we returned through the Second Bedding Cave, to the junction where we originally joined the Polldonough streamway. Rather than following our route back, we followed the water upstream towards the Polldonough entrance. The Polldonough streamway is very variable, typically narrown canyon or crawling stream, with several side routes, however, most of the incorrect routes soon close down, and the best advice is to follow the water as best as possible. One bit where we went wrong was following the water, but this soon became very small and the correct way was a dry straw-covered passage on the left that we should have taken instead, soon returning to the water. After this another junction was reached, where both passages looked equally likely - we took the right hand route - I scuttled up the left one, which continued as a cobbled crawl for some distance, and probably reconnects further on.

Only 100m or so from the exit we had a slight communication error - Cat had started up a spacious passage, but then shouted back to Chad and I to ask if there had been any other way on from where we had just come, just to be sure we hadn't missed anything. I misunderstood and assumed this to mean that Cat had reached a dead end and we NEEDED to find another way. Sure enough, another way was possible, however, this went for 50-100m before closing down, with water cascading in over blocks, and a strong draft of fresh air! I though for a minute that the entrance may have collapsed, and started to contemplate a return journey back to Polldonough South. However, on return downstream, the miscommunication became obvious and we stomped out the spacious onward passage to daylight (a later look at the survey shows the passage we went up in error as coming very close indeed to the actual entrance and so the fresh air I thought I felt was probably correct).

Emerging into the forest we crawled through a dense pine tree area for about 100m to eventually find ourselves back at the road.

An excellent and very varied trip with a magnificent main streamway! The way out of Polldonough is quite long but makes for a more satifying trip. I'd quite like to investigate the possibility of entering or exiting through Polldonough North next time.