It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gran Cenote: Lithium Sunset, etc.

We decided to go to Gran Cenote for the first day since it's a nice easy dive. Or so we said when we were trying to decide between it and Jailhouse.  I had a couple spots in mind, one of which was Lithium Sunset, and that's what we ended up settling on. With a side of the Cuzan Nah loop if there was time.  We got going at about 8 and after a super quick stop at ZG (to pick up some wet notes) we got down to Gran Cenote a little before 9. We were the only people there!  After Rob gave us a quick demo of how to back into a garbage can (twice) we managed to find a spot by the closest table.

It was quite breezy so it wasn't too uncomfortably hot while we setup gear. The stairs and deck are in pretty good condition with just one rickety step. We laid our bottles down on the deck and then while getting dressed a couple groups of snorkelers appeared. We also met a very friendly teeny little dog who could best be described as a ragamuffin -- super cute and fluffy but he looked like he'd been rolling around in the dirt :). Anyhoo Rob went for a swim once in his suit. By the time I was heading down the stairs to join him, he was heading up. Since Kevin announced that he didn't need a swim, I decided to skip it too and got geared up forthwith. We got into the water, did gear checks, grabbed our bottles and we were off. Kevin led the dive since he knew where we were going.

I have posted about various dives at Gran Cenote before (mainline and Box Chen) so I will focus on what was new to me.  We took the PDL jump and I really had no memory of how far up that line it would be to the jump. It ended up being about 35 minutes to the Lithium Sunset jump (though that included a brief pause to drop a stage just a couple minutes before). Once we put the jump in, lots of camera gear was dropped on the line, since we planned for pictures on the way out. For the first 10 minutes or so, the passage sort of alternated between bigger not very decorated passages and smaller "doorways" that were pretty well decorated with tall skinny columns you had to thread yourself between, soda straws on the ceiling and the like. We eventually came to a T. Kevin had promised a jump but instead we got a T. We went left into the passage which I guess is technically Lithium Sunset.

After the T it got smaller and more interesting. Lots of little doorways or underpasses before opening up into slightly bigger passages. And because the passages were smaller, you could easily light it all up and see all of the formations. It wasn't non-stop decorations but it was consistently interesting.  There were some areas that weren't really decorated at all but had lots of the more rough craggly rocks. There were also some interesting restrictions that we passed through.  Luckily we dropped our second bottles before the restrictions got too interesting.  There was an area where there were a bunch of ups and downs through interesting shaped cracks. This sort of reminded me of the path to Box Chen but on a much smaller scale.  The most interesting of these cracks was a flat crack, at an angle like 30 degrees from horizontal, right at the top of a hill, and you had to squeeze through at the right angle and in the right spot, while also sort of diving down the hill.  I watched Kevin go through and thought that I saw a way better way to approach it.  So I did, clunk.  I don't really think my approach was any better or any worse... just different :)  But once through that, it got bigger for a bit, flat but easy to pass through.  The bottom was very chalky at this point, and thus it was pretty easy to blitz the viz.

Eventually we came to a really interesting restriction, where the passage was VERY flat, what the term "tits to tanks" was made for.  There were also formations at various spots, which complicated it.  There were essentially 3 holes you could possibly pass through.  The one on the left was the widest, but also looked the lowest, and the line ran through it.  Kevin attempted to go through that and quickly decided it wouldn't work.  So then he approached the center hole, which was the narrowest, and wiggled for a while and eventually made it through.  While he was wiggling, I was checking out the right-most hole.  Once he made it through, I thought I'd try that, since it looked a little bigger.  But I quickly determined that it wasn't -- it was wider but not as tall.  So then I went through the center hole, and found it not too hard to get through.  Just after the really tough spot, the bottom was really chalky, so the viz was pretty crappy right after the restriction.  But then I popped out into a bigger room, phew.  We continued on from there for another 5 or so minutes, and then we came to another spot that looked very tight to pass through.  It was low and had lots of formations that you had to thread yourself through.  Kevin made a signal about it getting small and did I want to keep going (or that's what I thought the signal meant).  I said okay, and then watched him wriggle through.  As I watched him go through, I decided that I didn't feel like wriggling through another tiny hole, since we already had 2 tough holes to wriggle back through on the way out :)  So I turned the dive on enough adventure for one day.  I felt a bit bad to turn it AFTER Kevin had wriggled through, though he didn't seem to mind.  Later Kevin told me that he was signaling that the passage got bigger on the other side.  Oops.  I misunderstood that one.  When I turned and signaled turn, Rob showed me his gauge, to signal his disdain for me turning it early.  Teehee.

When we got back to the first (on the way out) tough restriction, things got interesting.  The viz was already a bit milky (from everything we'd poofed up on the way in), and this time we would be stirring up the viz before getting to the restriction.  And there was the little complication that the line ran through the slot that we had found too small to pass through (probably technically a line trap, I think, though it may have been possible to pass the line from hand to hand while going through the center hole).  I was on the line, and while the viz leading up the restriction was really bad, once I got to the restriction, I could see (through the hole that the line passed through) that it was really clear on the other side.  From this position I could also see Rob trying to get through the restriction... through the third hole (the one I failed to pass through on the way in).  I figured that once Rob made it through, I could reposition myself in the middle hole and have a clear view of the line on the other side of the restriction (with the help of Rob's light) and drop the line.  So I waited and watched.  I wasn't sure why Rob was trying to pass where he was... I didn't know if he had come through that hole on the way in, or if he was confused and meant to pass through the center hole.  I figured if it was the latter, he would eventually figure it out (since I was not really in a position to communicate that anyway).  And indeed, he did eventually figure it out, though it was after what seemed like forever (but was probably like two minutes).  I finally saw him back up, move over, and wriggle through the center hole.  That still took a bit of maneuvering, but he got through and waited for me on the other side.  I backed out of the hole I'd been watching him through, approached the center, and got through with really not too much difficulty.  After watching Rob and Kevin both go through both of the really tight restrictions, I realized that I really do have an advantage in this respect.  Once we have all of the gear on, I don't really think I am that much smaller than them, but I got through both of these restrictions a lot more easily than they did... and it's not because of skill!

Once we collected Kevin, we continued out.  Luckily the bad viz didn't follow us (or couldn't keep up with us).  When we got to the other really small restriction, it was funny to watch Rob go through, because at some point all I could really see was Rob's fins kicking around, because the rest of his body was engulfed in a plume of chalk.  I kind of plowed through the restriction, and waited for Kevin, and then we headed out.  From there, the rest of the passage seemed big, even though on the way in it had seemed kind of small!  When we got back to the T, Rob stopped and was shining his light on the other side, and then looking at our cookies, and this went on for a moment, while I waited for the question. And then it came.  Should we go up the other way?  I asked Kevin, who seemed to passive-aggressively agree to it.  I wasn't really sure why... if he didn't want to go that way, Rob and I weren't particularly invested in it.  We headed up that way for maybe 8 minutes... more than 5 but less than 10 I'd say.  It is quite nice.  There are a bunch of pretty flattish (but not small) areas that are pretty heavily decorated.  It's definitely a spot worth returning to.  There was also a neat little room at the top of a hill, where you swim up a slope and come out into this relatively flat but big wide plateau that is solid rock (without any sediment on top), and then head back down the slope on the other side.  At some point Rob asked if we wanted to keep going, and I suggested that we turn it, since he wanted to shoot photos on the way out.

So we headed out.  Kevin took a little bit of video on his hero cam on the way out, so we reordered when we got back to the T.  I ended up in front again for a time.  When we got back to the jump, Rob mounted the slave strobes on our tanks, and then we continued on, with Rob in the lead so he could stop us for pictures.  I think that lining us up for shots was a bit like herding cats, though even cat herders can benefit from the use of clear hand signals :P  When we got back to the mainline, we ditched our bottles and headed further up the line.  The plan was to do the Cuzan Nah loop.  I put in the gap at Ho-Tul... Rob pulled a spool and then handed it to me, since his hands were full with his camera.  So there, I did get to do something on the dive!  When we came to the jump to the loop, I dropped a cookie on the line, but we decided to follow the line instead of installing the jump and going counterclockwise.    We made it to the huge calcite mound by the cenote (is that also Ho-Tul?), where you come up to like 12 feet before heading back down the mound.  Just around the part where it gets small again (still on the slope), I couldn't clear my ears.  Rob paused at one spot (not sure why) which I thought would help.  Then when he started moving again, I tried to follow and just couldn't clear my left ear.  So I signaled to him that I couldn't clear and retreated back up the mound.  I came back out to the big room, where Kevin still was.  Rob did not follow me.  So Kevin went in to retrieve him, and I turned the dive.  As I headed up the mound, there was a bit of a screeching noise in my ear and then some clicking noises and then all was good.  Then when I came back the other side, I had no problems clearing.  Phew.  We stopped for a few more pictures on the way out, but otherwise it was a pretty efficient exit.  Once we got back to our bottles, we were really moving (I guess the flow, I didn't feel like we were kicking too hard) and made it back to the reel faster than I expected.

As we got to the cavern zone, I saw that there were a zillion swimmers in the water.  I could see tons of dangling legs!  We slowly meandered out toward the open water, with our lights off once we were in the cavern.  I got to the open water and my gauge read 3:58:30 or so.  So I had to wait for the clock to tick over to 4 hours.  Yes, I'm vain.  Or something.  We surfaced to a zillion swimmers.  We found a little rope to clip our bottles off to.  Rob got out of the water and then helped me up the ladder.  There are two ladders, and the one with the longer post at the top had a bunch of swimmers hanging out on it.  I find the taller post helpful to put my weight on when I climb that last tricky step.  So since I had to use the other ladder, I basically just polaris'd from the top step onto my knees on the platform, and Rob helped me up from my knees.  He gave me one hand to push off of to stand up.  As I was almost completely up, I think he thought I wasn't going to make it, and tried to "catch me" and ended up grabbing me by the face.  Awkward.  I headed up the stairs while Kevin was getting out of the water.  I got out of my (somewhat soggy) suit and went to the bathroom, and when I came out, the boys had brought my bottles up from the water.  Sweet!  Rob told me that my penalty was that I had to go back down to the water with a pair of fins to collect some water to rinse the suits with.  It seemed like an excellent trade to me... two stage bottles versus two fins filled with water.

We were all starving, so we packed up quickly and headed into Tulum for some empanadas.  And gelato.  Mmm.

1 comment:

Lynne said...

My hat is off to you for getting up that "other" ladder at Grand at all! I have never managed it, even with help. In fact, after the last set of repairs on the "good" ladder, I can't get up that one, either.