Abseiling/packrafting mission to Lake Pluto

I recently came to the realisation that my go-to cave options are becoming rather dull… I’d also met a girl who was keen to tag along for an adventure so I thought I’d better come up with something interesting. It was through this that I came up with an idea: how about paddling across an underground lake?

I acquired the relevant permit from Parks beforehand, so that when the weekend rolled around it was a simple matter of packing all the gear required and jumping in a car with Sascha, my fellow adventurer for the trip.

Girl eating pancakes in a camp
Sascha getting ready to tuck in to breakfast. Throwing in Pancake mix was definitely a good idea!

Sascha combines a keen enthusiasm for rock/heavy metal music with the driving manner of a hyper cautious nursing home escapee. I struggle to contain my laughter as we headbang along to the danger zone song from Top Gun while creeping along at 30km an hour in an 80 zone. I shouldn’t joke about it really, sedate driving is a nice change from the usual people I go on trips with, who tend to drive as if they’re prepping for a James Bond style car chase…

Soon enough we make it to camp and I get our tent set up and cook dinner.

Campfire cooking in foil packet
Baked potatoes and salmon roasted on the coals of the camp fire is always a winner!

We’re up in good time and soon pack up and get on the road. Sascha’s 2 wheel drive gets a taste of a 4 wheel drive track and thankfully escapes unscathed (although in hindsight I definitely should have brought my ute). Soon enough we’re at the start of the cave track.

Rough gravel road
A bit rougher than I was expecting…

It was a bit of a struggle to find but after a bit of aimless wandering around (and me pretending to know what I’m doing with a GPS) we find a very poorly marked track and head off in to the bush. Thankfully route finding turned out to me much easier than I expected and we make it to the cave well within half an hour.

Caver

I rig up some ropes, first from a smaller tree (as an approach line for safety) and then a re-belay to a huge gumtree right at the lip of the drop. Not wanting to trust the vague guides I’d read about the height of the pitch I abseiled down over the lip of the edge just to make sure the rope was long enough before climbing back up.

Author half way down the abseil
There is an immense log that has collapsed in to the cave and is sticking up, here I am balancing on it half way down the abseil

I made sure Sascha was happy with her equipment before she led the charge down into the cave. It’s a very pretty descent with thick moss and ferns coating the cave walls.

Female abseiling in to a moss covered cave

The interior of the cave was spectacular but we pushed on a bit to make sure we made decent time. This was hindered by myself managing to pick the worst route through possible, involving a lot more tight squeezing and crawling than was required… Soon enough we arrived at our destination, the expanse of water known as Lake Pluto. It’s an incredible sight, stalactites spear down from the cavernous ceiling casting perfect reflections in the water. We inflate our packrafts and paddle off in to the depths.

Author in a raft on an underground lake

We spend a good while just lying back in our rafts and looking up at the stunning formations. It really is a bizarre experience, I can’t imagine there have been many rafting trips down here!

Person paddling on an underground lake

After we’ve paddled around the lake and spent as much time as we want on the water we deflate rafts and make for the exit. With an examination of the map we manage to pick a much better route out of the cave, which was nice. Before long we are strapping harnesses on and making our way back up the ropes. After a quick de-rig we were soon back at the car. Overall a fun and uneventful trip!

Female climbing a rope up a moss covered cliff
Climbing ropes is always a struggle but doing it in such incredible surroundings really doesn’t give you a lot to complain about!