The Ariston Series is the route to the current deepest point in the cave. The pitch series begins with a short pitch of 5m rigged from a large thread in the roof a few metres back, with a single spit for the vertical part, which is almost a scramble. This lands on a large ledge formed of boulders wedged across a narrow point, with impressive aven above. There are two choices of descent here: one to the north, You're So Veined (15m) which was used in 1999, and one to the south, Pot-U-Like (~35m) which has been the trade route since 2000.
One rebelay provides a good hang against the wall of You're So Veined to reach the foot of the pitch, which is in a spacious shaft, with an impressive aven above. From here, there are two ways on.
To the left, facing away from the pitch just descended, is a gully, which in 1999 contained a thick layer of ice. Carefully traversing this rather slippery section leads to the head of a small pitch of 6m, which was rigged with a Y-hang. From here a walking size phreatic passage, Rainbow, leads off, carrying a substantial breeze. The passage initially descends, but then develops a narrow floor trench; as the trench deepens, the phreatic part of the passage rises, and then ends abruptly where the floor trench turns right and leads off as a too-tight rift while ahead the phreas pinches out.
To the right leads into a small, very crumbly chamber, from which a short section of awkward rift leads to a fine crow's nest in the wall of a large rift. A very short pitch (5m) lands on a large ledge in the side of the Pot-U-Like shaft. From here a roped traverse along the left-hand wall gains the head of the next pitch of 12m, which avoids a large ledge which would have been in the way but for the traverse. This pitch currently requires a rope protector just below the Y-hang at the top. The landing is on another large ledge, where a pool can be used to refill water containers. This is also the landing of Pot-U-Like.
The pitch is rigged with a traverse line which descends steeply to the nose of a sloping rock wedged across the rift, from where an entertaining Y-hang on the left-hand wall provides a free-hang to the base of the pitch. A ledge is passed a few metres from the bottom.
At the foot of this pitch is a pool of water, or an ice pan, depending on the conditions that year. Crossing this leads to the head of the next pitch of 14m. A backup bolt is followed by a Y-hang, which utilises one very cratered spit only usable with a bollard type hanger. This is followed by a deviation from the opposite wall, providing a clear hang to the bottom. The landing is on a floor of boulders wedged across the shaft, although it seems sound. A backup bolt protects the approach to the Y-hang at the head of the next pitch, Steel Toecap (35m). After a ledge 3m down, where a deviation optimises the hang, the walls of the shaft bell out dramatically and the rope hangs in stimulating isolation. About 5m from the floor a ledge is passed, which could be gained by a swing across, where there may possibly be a passage leading off [C1999-204-20 B].
At the foot of the pitch, the way on is a very chossy, sloping descent which will require either re-rigging or bypassing (which may be possible by a climb up and over) in future. This leads to a further short pitch (10m), which lands in an aven chamber of ample proportions. From here drops an 8m pitch, landing on a rubble floor. The only way on is a tight rift [C2000-204-60 C], which was penetrated for only a short distance. More progress might be possible by someone small and imaginative. Not surveyed in 2000. From the aven chamber, a crawl leads off, followed by a descending rubble slope. The rubble slope curves round to the right, passing a tight rift on the left [C1999-204-22 C], to reach the bottom of a short climb up of 3m on the right, which is followed by a scramble down on the other side. From here, straight ahead is a climb up into the foot of an aven, half-right is a short ascending passage leading to a chamber where a traverse around the right hand wall leads to a slope down to Fledermausschacht. Full right is a stooping/crawling height phreatic passage with a mud floor. This passes on the right the other end of the crawl which led off from the foot of the previous pitch, which provides a convenient shortcut.
Some 50m of alternate crawling and stooping over soft crumbly mud, including a single point where the roof dips and the crawl is flat-out, leads to a small chamber. Here there are two holes in the floor. One leads to Kiwi Suit; the other drop is much shorter, and is split into two sections by ledges on each wall part way down. The first section of 8m reaches these small ledges, where a stream enters from the foot of a very large aven. The next section of 11m is wet, and lands on a small ledge overlooking Kiwi Suit just above the rebelay.
The first pitch begins with a funnel-shaped opening. The initial approach is rigged from a large pillar at the edge of the funnel (the approach to this could be further protected by a traverse line tied round an even larger pillar a couple of metres back). Suddenly, at the base of the funnel, there is an impressive black space. In 2000 the descent was rigged New-Zealand style, entirely from naturals, which seemed sound, but worrisome for us bolt-junkies, especially given the record of 'Bomb-Proof' naturals in KH visiting the bottoms of pitches; the current rig as of 2002 uses a pitch-head deviation, and a Y-hang rebelay around halfway down, to keep the descent clear of walls and the small trickle of water which falls down the shaft. This looks worryingly like it would become a huge deluge after rain, drenching anyone on the rebelay, but even during one epic trip in 2004 when water levels throughout the cave were extremely high this area was no more than drippy. The floor is reached after 54 metres of descent. The way on is a short traverse, an 8 metre pitch, another short traverse, and then a 20 metre pitch to a ledge. The final pitch from this ledge is an impressive rift of 47 metres depth, rigged from a Y-hang backed up to the pitch above. This is also rather drippy at the bottom if the water levels are high, but this is not problematic.
The bottom here is the start of the deep and strenuous Razordance series.
The traverse round to the pitch head is protected by a thread belay at the start of the traverse. A substantial thread (requiring 2 slings due to its girth) at the pitch head enables the first, sloping section of the pitch to be descended. Soon the pitch becomes vertical, and a rebelay on the far wall (at -5m) allows the next few metres to be descended. Unfortunately the shaft still hades slightly, and a further two rebelays (at -15m and -28m) are required before the magnitude of this 112m shaft starts to become apparent. A 40m free-hanging section leads to a sloping ledge, where the shaft dog-legs again and a scrappy descent down a gully, and a further two rebelays (at -68m and -80m), reaches a sloping ledge overlooking the final section of the pitch. A chossy traverse across the left hand wall appears to head into a parallel shaft [C2000-204-61 C]. A bolt round the corner to the right allows a descent of the final 22m to the floor to be made, where a boulder choke is met, with no way on. The whole pitch, particularly the far wall, is rather loose and due care must be taken. A large chockstone near the second rebelay could not be shifted, but should be treated with suspicion.
Nature Note: A bat was observed flitting around in here on two occasions.
At the start of the traverse to the head of Fledermausschacht is a small crawl leading off to the right. This is initially flat-out over crumbly mud, but enlarges after a short distance to enter a series of small mud-filled chambers. There is no obvious way on, other than to start excavations in the mud banks [C2000-204-62 Dig]. Not surveyed in 2000.