|113 - ,||Sonnenstrahlhöhle||4/S/T +|
The way on is up a climb of 3m to a horizontal passage. There is an area of hading rifts, not fully explored. The first hole descends a ramp over treacherous ice and rubble for 30m to the head of a pitch, Ibbeth Perilous Pot. A second parallel ramp connects to the same point. Both these ramps suffer from loose rock and are best tackled with a handline. The main pitch drops for 20m in a series of steps, best rigged. A final 13m drop then lands on a rock/ice blockage Marathon Ledge, which at one time contained the original explorer's helmet and lights, dropped from the head of the pitch. A hammered route past the blockage leads to two short drops, then a 6m pitch into the Opera House (see below).
A descent of the second major hole from the entrance is the normal route and leads to a ramp down, traverse across and the head of Point Five Gully. The gully is decorated with ice formations early in the season, as are all the useful hand- and footholds on the following ramp, so a rope is recommended to descend Fox's Glacier. At the foot, about 60m below the entrance chamber, is a low bouldery chamber, and a low arch leads to a larger chamber, Barnsley Methodist Chapel, which is 20m high and 30m long.
The Chapel is floored with large boulders at one end, but an obvious low sandy passage to the left leads to the head of a 14m dry rift pitch with a bouldery takeoff. The pitch is free-hanging after the first two metres, to a gravel-floored chamber opening off the rift. Water entering high on the right takes a floor trench 10m deep which may be traversed above to gain the Balcony of the Opera House, an impressive 20m diameter, roughly circular chamber. A 12.5m pitch (awkward takeoff as rigged in 1980) gains the bouldery, sloping floor. A scramble down boulders and a further 7m pitch over a very large boulder leads into a rift, where an awkward 10m pitch with natural belays and joke bolts leads to a flat mud floor at a larger section at the head of a pitch. At this point the draught changes direction, the cave becomes clean, and a stream is met falling from an inaccessible (and out of sight) passage, apparently at the same level as the pitch head.
Down the pitch, a rebelay (which is a very long stretch to rig unless you're very tall) avoids the worst of the water on Purple Pit. Quite possibly this could be rigged as a deviation (we didn't do these in 1980). There is a long section to a large ledge, from where the pitch leaves the fault it has been following and heads down a series of short steps with rebelays a few metres apart. At the bottom of this section, 60m below the start, a further fault is met at right angles, with twin holes in the floor. The first one is wet and nasty, while the second is tolerable. Both unite and go off to the left in a diminutive streamway. To the right above the holes is the entry point from Bananehöhle(152), explored in 1985.
The diminutive streamway ends shortly in a tight sump, but before this, a climb up leads unobviously to a traverse and then a crawl trending back over the entry point, Müsli Crawl. A number of acute bends are disorientating, then a short drop leads to a final rift and a pitch head. This is a thrutch to start, then drops 10m to where the water reenters. A series of drops, Sprucy Wind, follows, and some of the bolts (1980 vintage, greased in 1982) are easily missed, which makes the pitches wetter. There is a branch shaft at one point which is unexplored, but appears to reunite somewhat lower down. The pitches of 8, 26, 12, 10, 10, 20, 5 and 9m drop to a final rift chamber where an inlet from up on the left doubles the size of the stream on a rocky floor. This inlet responds to floods about an hour faster than the main water. The combined waters fall down a 6m drop and sink in a gravel-choked pool.
Climbing up opposite the inlet, a dry rift is a little tight but pops out into a series of dry passages, apparently quite unrelated to the rift pitches. This area, The Crematorium, is a good place to wait when the pitches flood. There is a large horizontal passage ending in a chamber with various bedding crawl extensions. Avens in the roof are hard to reach (one bolt used for aid) and don't seem to go anywhere. A narrow rift in the floor contains the stream, and a climb down can be made at one point where it is just wide enough. Thrutching forward in a traverse cum crawl a short way above the water, a couple more diminutive drops reach a place where to continue would be just plain stupid, since it is small and wet. The cave was rigged in 1982 just to go and push the end. It didn't go.
There is potential for further extension by traversing over down-ramps in the entrance area, and by gaining access to the source of the water (and route of the draught) at the top of Purple Pit. Apparently the Point Five Gully and Fox's Glacier Ramp was traversed over in 1987, and another ramp descended, but this seems to have rejoined the main route somewhere near Barnsley Methodist Chapel. This route was not surveyed.