Some shoots come together. Other do not. I‘ve just returned from what was intended to be a unique caving expedition, shooting new content for the next Petzl catalogue. They’ve just launched a series of new head torches and I was keen to use them as light sources inside the cave, shooting ‘available’ light as an alternative to flash heads. In theory it’s easier to focus and build the shot as you move head torches around, creating great shadows as you go. The seventh hole is part of the Selma Cave Plateau, which also includes Majlis al Jins, the world’s second biggest cave and one that could accommodate 50 jumbo jets. Seventh hole is as special as it is unique.
Access alone is tricky, starting with an amazing 200 metre abseil through a crack into a huge chamber followed by two more abseils to descend further. From there, a tunnel system, featuring rare rock formations en route, eventually opens up at the side of the mountain. For caving freaks, it is utopia whilst for me, it brings an unquenchable adrenaline rush along with a great challenge to shoot.
Prior commitments in Dubai until 10pm on Thursday evening, meant a late start for the seven hour drive to Oman. Yes; Oman again, passed Muscat and Quariyat towards Fins on the coast and from there up into the mountains. I got the camp GPS locations halfway through the drive. The guys were dropping down into the cave from 5am on Friday so I needed to keep up a steady pace. The drive up the mountains was hardcore, taking my Landy up some seriously tracks, shifting constantly between first and second gear. The tracks were steep, rocks loose and sheer drops hung precariously throughout so in hindsight, driving in the dark was a good thing. By 5am, I hit the plateau yet my GPS wasn’t playing game. The coordinates were 7km out east but with no mobile phone reception, no obvious solution sprung to mind. There we were; immersed in mountain territory, in the pitch black, the clock ticking. What to do? Exactly, what to do? I ended up driving around for four hours, repeating the route and finally, a little after 8am, I found a solo biker who knew the cave and sent me in the right direction.
By 9am I rolled into a deserted camp. All, except for a few non-cavers, had already gone and would not return to camp until 8pm. I felt annoyed. Not only was I letting my client down but I was missing out on an awesome adventure.
On the other hand, I had made all efforts to get the location details at the ready beforehand. It’s not like I had set off without a map! Normally, in situations such as these, everything ends up falling into place but this occasion was unfortunately an exception.
The following day, Saturday morning, was scheduled for the dismantling of hundreds of meters of rope and their supporting bolts and karabiners. I did, as a result, get to drop down the first abseil, which if truth be known, I found pretty intimidating. I fast fell in love with two nifty Petzl belaying devices, ASAP and ?? and I managed to take some quick shots in the hole before getting winched back to land thanks to a bad weather forecast.
It’s a shame this job didn’t work out quite as anticipated but sometimes, things just aren’t meant to me. Besides, not that I know where to find the cave, I’m ready to give the full traverse a crack.