And so it was that at 12.41 on Monday 5th July did the weighbridge at Madingley Mulch pronounce one white Citroën C15D van, by the registration mark of L852 MFL, to be 400kg overweight – weighing in at nearly two tonnes. Mark and Olly were not best pleased, the previous days and morning having been spent cramming Expo goods into every nook and cranny about the van.
It was a combination of the appalling handling and the measly < 1cm of suspension clearance at the rubber stop which persuaded us to have the van weighed. It was clearly far more overweight than in previous years – so much so that it was more than 200kg over the total maximum load on the tyres!
We returned to the Tackle Store having summoned Martin and Dave, and soon began the tedious task of emptying about 300kg of shit out of the van – each item being monotonously weighed on Martin's bathroom scales. Many, many phone calls ensued and after various silly plans (including driving to Expo and then coming back the next day for a second load, utilising a cheap day return on the ferry from Calais!) we settled on a haulier who would transport it to Munich for 300 quid. Not too bad in fact, given it would cost well over 200 quid to do the two-drives plan. (In fact, subsequently a cheaper company were found.) We declined one company's quote of three thousand pounds, refilled the van with lighter items and set off for Milton Tesco's, to collect journey food. At about 5.40pm all was ready (minus the various tasks which we hadn't had time to do due to the massive hiatus). We set off for Earl's place and arrived without mishaps, planning to leave for Dover at 4am. Expo had begun.
I was phoned, "There is a problem", "Please bring your bathroom scales", "400kg overweight", "bollocks" (thought Martin). Solutions ...another car ... too crap .. another trailer ... too long ... DSL ... too expensive ...
After some time trying to find someone to fit a tow bar to Mark's van for a non-existent trailer, a haulier was found to transport from Newton Hall to Munich. This required me to find cardboard boxes, twenty minutes after the bloke came to collect them.
The next day Fast Freight hauliers gave a better quote. If I measured the height, width and girth of the pallet. So on Tuesday, I stacked a fine tower of boxes in the tackle store. I got a quote, and on Wednesday I stacked a slightly dodgy pile of boxes. The van turned up to collect it, with his hydraulic tail gate and his pump hand truck. The pump truck did not fit under the pallet, leaving the truck driver and I to lift the 390kg pallet on to another pallet. After much grunting and straining we lifted the boxes on to a "decent" pallet. On Friday I received a message saying the cheque I sent on Thursday had not arrived. So I ignored it, and it all turned up in Bad Aussee on Monday.
All went v. smoothly; up at 3am (ouch!), coach to Stansted, Ryanair to Salzburg, tram, train etc to arrive at Bad Aussee at around 3pm. Bus timetable appears to be beyond the comprehension of mere mortals, so I walked. Then fell asleep, woke up and spent four hours watching German TV. (Something important has happened to the state governor of Steiermark, but I have no idea what.)
Arose at 3.30pm and left Earl's place just after five past four on Tuesday morning. The ferry was at 6am and we arrived just at the right time after a stop for fuel. (Got to the port around 5.20am.)
The ferry was on time and we set off about 8.20am French time onto the motorway. Driving in shifts, there were no mishaps until Mark's shift around Nürnburg.
[The Nürnburg incident, which apparently involved a high-speed emergency stop with inadequate brakes, never got written up in the enormous space left for it on the page.]
Walked up hill. Snow level very high. Had considerable fun hauling gear out of Traungold (caving gear + some digging were needed).
More getting stuff out of snow-choked holes.
Rigged down to bottom of A entrance pitch. Owing to lack of rope we didn't get any further than that + ran out of excuses for walking downhill in the rain.
.. are here. Det er veldig variskelig å snakke [illegible]. Men jeg må prøve. We left Anthony's office at 3.00pm on Friday (I remembered the guitar). Getting out of Norge not easy, but achieved eventually. 6 hours Oslo to Gøteborg. Then lots more hours through Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Sweden + Germany go on far too long especially. Our stereo died, but it only cost 20 NOK so it's fair enough. No traffic jams once outside Sweden. It took ages, Dour ate lots of chocolate, I didn't fall asleep too much, Expo is great + so is Gösser.
[In different pen and Dour's handwriting] I say chaps, it's a dashed long way from Oslo to expo, what?
We set off for our 3rd carry to Top Camp, and for the first time it wasn't raining. As we got to TC it got much darker, and just as we started pitching the big expo tent it started to hail horizontally which was really quite grim... Eventually we got the tent up and went to look for Eislufthöhle (76), Olly knew where it was, but couldn't remember quite how to get there so we walked around a lot in the erratic boulders just below where 76 turned out to be.
Carried up our final load to TC, noticed that the tent had lots of big puddles. Perhaps optimistically, I assumed it had come into the tent whilst we erected it in the hail storm, so I bailed out the water + we set off for 76, armed with a GPS. We got to near the GPS point and wandered around and found 97 which still had paint marking it. This gave us an idea of where 76 was which we then found. About 50m from 76, towards the ridge, was a very very good potential bivvy site – a big arched entrance maybe 15m across and 1.5m high with a snow patch and a skylight. Probably room for ~6 people without too much rock moving + more people with more work, quite sheltered as well as it opens out into a small sheltered valley (with room for a small tent). We walked back to TC laying cairns as we went.
Oh, so caving songs get written in the rain, right. Well, plenty of rain here, so let's have some inspiration. There's Duncan's first bit:
When I first came to Cambridge I was only 18
With a fiver in my pocket and my old dangly bag
So I went down the Panton to check out the scene
But I soon ended up as a beardy old lag.
When the Mornflake + the Tunnocks bars were stacked in great piles
With the old Expo trailer we would drag them for miles
To the arse-end of Austria we carted our load
Knowing free schnapps awaited at the end of the road
INSPIRATION NEEDED HERE
[Later on in logbook]
Oh, the chill winds at night through the bivvy would blow
But there were boys at the stone bridge to guide you below
If you didn't fancy caving you could go and get drunk
There was always lots of festering down at old base camp
[Back with original flash of inspiration]
And now I am lying here, I ain't had no booze
I've been pushing and caving, and I'm all sore and bruised
I feel like I'm dying, and I wish I could beg
For a stretcher to carry me to old base camp.
Wandered in down 204A re-rigging on Dave Brindle's rope. Dour put in a bolt enabling me to get close enough to the 2nd pitch to see that it was open, which was a pleasant surprise seeing how much snow was around generally. At this point Dour returned to the surface while Olly, Stuart and I wandered down Ariston. Ran out of rope at Steel Toecap and headed out.
Woke up to find just how un-waterproof the tent was – lots of leaks through the ceiling and 3 puddles a couple of inches deep, wet sleeping bags and other wet stuff which wasn't nice at all. Eventually got going after a short delay to dry out the lighter before we could make breakfast. We walked back to 76 carrying lots of gear to re-look at the bivvy with a view to actually using it – and it looked a whole better [sic] than the tent. We carried another load from TC adding more cairns as we went.
Olly taught me how to bolt by demonstrating to drill a tag spit for 97, then I put ones in for tags for 76 and 76b (76a was already tagged). Then I went underground in the 76a entrance, it goes approximately horizontally for about 15m over a step on the way, there was quite a lot of soft snow on the floor but no ice visible till near the pitch, where there was a small ice-shell. The pitch continues down below where the 76 entrance shaft comes in (but this looked too loose to be worth using). I placed my first two underground bolts, then looked round the corner and saw an old spit which suggested that in the 70s the snow level was higher. I carried on down the sloping gully with snow on the floor, the gully flattened out to a ledge with loose rocks. Just round the corner was a nice looking 10-20m pitch which looked to land on a big snow ledge. Time was running out so I came back up and added a bolt to the top to make the rope hang in a nicer place. Then we got changed and walked back to the car via TC to collect our wet sleeping bags to dry them. On the way back we realised that Olly's GPS was still getting a fix by the bivvy... Oh, whilst I was caving Olly cairned a path from the bivvy to the 204 path.
Continued rig down bottom pitch of Ariston (which is shite) and 54m pitch in Kiwi Suit. Realising we had only three hangers left, we put in the next 8m pitch but didn't descend, + buggered off out. Nial + Mark apparently got lost in the crawls at the bottom of Wolpertinger Way and were out an hour after I was; I really ought to have hung around to point out the route – sorry guys, but I was cold + knackered + wanted to go downhill.
[Mark D's handwriting] Scientific note: air temp measured at Pot-U-Like 2°C.
Had much difficulty finding the entrance, it was further than I remembered. Took ages to rig the pitch, then went out.
We bolted on down from the head of Draught Bitter (where the draught was so fierce it made my eyes water while drilling a hole for a bolt). A deviation off a 70s spit got us to a little rock bridge, and a rebelay off another unusually well preserved and flush 70s spit to the "rock bridge lead". Rebelay off a natural spike (shape enhanced with a bolt hammer), and we're at our first lead. I poked out the looser rocks, and peered down into a serpentine rift below. I put in a spit, gardened more, and squeezed in, Jenny feeding rope from above (the bag was too fat). Along the rift, an aven intersects, and goes down a shaft. Another spit, and another awkward squeeze, and I dropped the pitch, but it was blind. Back up, and the rift seems to form a U, both ends look like the end at snow slopes, presumably out on the pitch (though we're yet to confirm this). We ascend to the rock bridge, and head on down. I can see a ledge which will keep us away from falling snow & rocks, but after two spits I'm still not there and my legs are losing feeling. Jenny is cold too so we exit.
Back down 76 again, this time it's my turn to bolt. I get down to the bolts Olly put in yesterday (after adding a spit for a deviation on the way down to stop the rope cutting through the big snow plug), and spend quite a while swinging around trying to work out what is attached to what (tacklesack, hangers, deviation...). Eventually I sorted it all out and follow Olly's advice to rig the deviation as a rebelay temporarily to enable me to swing onto the ledge more easily. The rebelay was all exciting and wide and free-hanging, but I managed to cope, then just as I start to swing I noticed the rope would rub, so had to go back up, pass the rebelay, add an extra maillon, pass the rebelay and start swinging.
I landed on the ledge and did some gardening of rocks, which boomed lots and made the ledge feel really rather exposed. Olly was complaining about the cold so I put in a bolt rather too quickly and he came down to the ledge. Olly took over the bolting so he could warm up, and started a traverse along from the ledge, passing a small lead up a tube on the left. Down and across a bit I think (I couldn't really see from where I was). After warming up outside + drinking some hot chocolate, we returned to survey from the A entrance to the pitches (draft bitter). Then returned to BC, racing darkness + an electrical storm.
Wandered down Gaffered, while Nial + Becka touristed up Swings and apparently pushed a QM somewhere. (Becka: where was it?) ([Becka's handwriting] By station 12 on RH wall, wasn't down as QM. Didn't go. Surveyed 2/8/04. Also looked at QMs on Colonnades, nothing easy.)
Met up again at the bottom of Tape Worm pitch, where Becka and I just about contrived to find the bolts between us. (Becka added a bolt to the traverse below Tape Worm.) Ran out of hangers after Eyehole pitch, so turned around and came out.
Becka suggested a wander up Treeumphant to Chocolate Salty Balls. It's very nice passage; we poked around for a while before heading out. On the way back, had a stare at what may be QM 00-34C – it's rubbish, a tube at roof level which might be climbable into with one or two bolts, but all the rock is awful.
Early start – underground by 10:00! Speedy descent to Kiwi Suit, where we picked up the bag of rope left on the 15th. We now had 3 1/2 bags of rope between us, which was considered A LOT. Mark rigged the bottom 2 pitches of Kiwi Suit, then Dour took up the cudgels and proceeded to rig Razor Dance down to the 2002 limit – the Steady Now pitch. Left the rest of the rope at that point and turned round at 16:00. Uneventful ascent, Mark D out at 19:45, Dour 21:15. Dour must buy a magic foot jammer!
Scientific note: the gravel in the crawl between Ariston + Kiwi Suit is very interesting and is in different sizes in different passages, which gives some indication of the water flow during phreas. This should be (a) recorded and (b) taped off to avoid damage. MSD.
Walked back up to the bivvy, and sat around for a while feeling too hot. Eventually got underground with a plan of finishing surveying what we have found. We started at Draught Bitter, and surveyed downwards. I realised how crap surveying pitches was, especially really draughty pitches that twist around lots meaning you can't easily do plumbs. Only once did we both need to be hanging from the same rope for a little while. Got down to the higher rock bridge (the one with the rebelay) before we got cold and un-enthused. Olly went out whilst I swung around looking at possible leads and so I could draw things better. The big snow plug appears to be partly resting on another rock bridge, with an alternative smaller route down behind it. There were also two smallish (~1 or 2m in diameter) aven tube type things going up from behind. I then checked out the small aven with ice near the top of Draught Bitter – this didn't appear to go too far. Once out we surveyed in the 76b entrance. This was less nice as the rocks are very sharp, the roof is a bit loose and there is a little climb in the middle. Definitely not worth using as an entrance when 76a is so much nicer.
Earl put in a Y-hang about 40% down from the top of Gaffered to help speed up using it + take us a bit further from the spray. Becka replaced the two ropes Dave rigged yesterday with a 9mm (bit too skinny) 91m then Earl continued to rig down Gaffered, adding a backup bolt to Eyehole and bolting the traverse up to Gaffered. Not long at bottom so we surveyed QM 03-8A which soon choked and went out. Takes ~2hrs from bottom.
Went in 2003-02 with Earl's drill and rigged to the bottom of the pitch. Abbed off pitch-head bolt put in 2003 down 6m to rebelay then 2 rebelays on far wall to main drop. Dropped a few stones to find best hang through a narrow rift 13m below; didn't quite judge it right so put in another bolt as a deviation when I got down to the rift.
Then a 43m hang to a rebelay where I wibbled a bit, feeling isolated and wet, then down to the floor. Bollocks! No way on. But wait, a short climb up the side of the shaft and another hole. But no more rope, so I went home.
Went in E, noticed rubs (Olly says it wasn't his (threatened with hammer)). Rigged Taking the Piss, with PPE green string. Rigged Wot No Bolts, from first hole using two bolts! (Deviation needed). 03-67B pushed to conclusion, 03-68B, 03-69B pushed to beginning of Faith traverse. Pencil broke, so took some photos.
Went back down 76 with bolting gear with a view to ticking off Olly's lead on the ledge and then rigging on down. I lined Olly up the short but exposed climb, then couldn't see what was happening for ages. Olly got to the end of the rope and assured me it was safe to untie, and then went off exploring. I sat on a ledge with my light off (in case Olly's passage came back to the shaft). Ages later, and just as I was getting worried, Olly returned. I convinced him that seeing as he was there it was worth bolting and then surveying. So whilst he bolted the climb I prussiked out for the survey kit.
45 minutes later I was back at the climb to find Olly had dropped my spanner after putting in the backup. I passed him up a maillon and he tightened the Y-hang bolts and I came up. The crawling passage led on past two sharp corners (Pool Sink fashion) and a passage off on the right to a pitch. We carried on, and after the odd lower bit some more passages branched off at a drafty spot: two more tube type things, one high on the left and one on the right, then a narrow (~50cm) crack on the left that appears after a few metres to lead to a snow slope. (Looking at the locations, we suspect this might be part of 99.) Continuing along the passage + past another low bit I suddenly emerged in the top of a big vadose passage, several metres high and going in both directions!
Upstream led to a choke, so we surveyed out from here, passing another couple of passages on the way. We had a quick look downstream, but didn't survey. Soon an aven joined and the passage increased in size and became looser. In front a pitch dropped down and the passage seemed to continue above. To the left another couple of passages left! Amazed and and pleased at our finds we continued to survey out, getting very annoyed with the crappy compass. After 35 legs we eventually tied the survey in with the previous one, and could leave the cave!
Carried in the pushing rope, and rigged the pitches beyond Steady Now. Ran out of hangers at the top of Yeast. Also placed a hand bolt at the top of Mystery Wind, so as to replace existing dodgy thread, but didn't have a hanger for it. Headed out without a great deal of speed (I was very cold and Olly very knackered).
NB The roof tube below Mystery Wind could do with a bolt and a sling or something as a handline – climbing out of it on the downstream side is very awkward if you don't get yourself into the right orientation to start with. (I did a bizarre Superman-style dive out of it which could have been very nasty. Fortunately I succeeded in landing on the tacklesack!)
Finally ready to roll pushing: looked at 03-29A rigged handline to edge of large chamber – no rope so leave that, plus 03-30B which needs a high-level traverse. (See our 22nd July trip.)
Ticked off + surveyed 03-28B, 03-27B and 03-26B. I think 03-25B can be downgraded to a "C" QM. Then up to crystal pool. Surveyed chamber at 03-31B. Nial climbed up to the mud filled pocket on the left of the chamber – apparently choked with mud. The small pit in the floor of the chamber is blind except for a miserable boulder-filled hole which you can get to the other side of from a small passage on the opposite side of the passage as 03-25B. There is a hole over your head in the chamber but Nial said the banks of mud would make it very hard to get into, plus a miserable little hole on the opposite wall. Then surveyed from 03-21B to 03-22C to complete a small loop. 03-20B doesn't exist, just mud-filled, though there is a miserable thin rift in the floor of the chamber it's in. 03-19C is still there (actually there are two roof tubes but the more promising, higher one would be tough to get into). Re-checked 03-23C – not at all promising, and 03-24C likewise – a v.steep climb.
That seemed to tick off all the horizontal leads in Sirens (boo-hiss) so we went back to Eeyore and Earl started to bolt 03-3B. Whilst he started, I checked 03-5B – it's a blind pit, only 4m down. I also went down to 03-4B – it's a smallish pitch/rift which looks like it would connect to 03-2B + big, chossy boulders at the top. Once again not at all enticing. Neither 03-7C or 03-6C look to be much.
Wandered over col beyond 204 towards Grieß Kogel then back round on plateau side. Put in two tags on new caves:
We also found (but didn't tag as didn't seem promising enough!)
We also re-found 2002-04.
Descended to Eeyore to continue rigging Kanga pitch. Bolts had been placed on the previous trip, so adding a deviation enabled us to descend. Tony and Brian had won the only available instrument set, so we escaped without surveying. Explored around the bottom; only way on leads to a small chamber with pitch (not promising) which may connect to a pitch in the main Kanga area.
After that we moved round to the Sirens traverse to look at rigging around the big pitch Black Maria (03-17B). First part of traverse was easy (big ledge, 2 naturals and a bolt) but then ledge ran out. Next bolt shattered the rock on setting, but there is scope for a good Y-hang to the floor. Traversing on towards 03-18B will be nontrivial; probably bolting into overhanging wall, losing height and scrambling back up to the QM. Ran out of enthusiasm, so left it at that.
Returned up Gaffered and wet for a tourist around Swings. Stuart found a previously unnoticed QM (later pushed to a blind pitch) (between 01-83C and the connection to The Slide). We then went to Treeumphant and Great Oak Chamber before returning via 204E.
Stuart continues: After scrotting around at the base of Eeyore etc, Earl managed to increase the grade of the climb out by ~2 grades by removing one of the footholds. This makes getting out for whoever surveys it "interesting". [It wasn't actually all that bad - DL].
Swings QM is a climb up on the right, where a gallery looks through several holes to Swings below. Hurrah for excessively bright + pointy lights in finding such delights.
Walked back up to our bivvy in the sun; when we got there, Olly wasn't feeling too well, so we decided that I'd explore 99 whilst Olly sat on the surface and patched his oversuit. I went down rigged off the v.dubious tag bolt and a spike. It went down an inclined rift with snow on the floor for a bit less than 10m then wiggled round right and then left to be below itself again. Here there were 2 old spits, the first of which I rebelayed too. After this a draft was coming through a small ice-covered rift heading roughly towards the appropriate part of Brave New World. I kicked lots of snow out of the way and attempted to fit through the pitch head; I got roughly half way before feeling it was a bit too tight and committing, and decided to come out, which was easier said than done.
After a while of fruitless wiggling I got a bit scared and asked Olly to put his caving gear on to come + help. As soon as Olly left I found a foothold and freed myself sufficiently to escape, but at least Olly had practice at getting into caving gear quickly! I came out, leaving the ice squeeze for either a day later on in expo with less ice, or a day with a hammer.
An exceptionally early start (9.30 am!) and a quick trip down to the start of Razor Dance. Reached the pushing front at about 13:30 after rigging Yeast pitch. Dour bolted the traverse while Mark quickly dropped the pitch on naturals. The continuation at stream level was really nasty. So we voted for the high traverse, which goes into a level with a real floor, The Nordic Traverse. We surveyed into this, eventually reaching a small climb/pitch down (approx 5m). This was duly rigged and it lands in a small chamber, Thirteen Year Itch. From here a further pitch of 18m was dropped back into the streamway. This pitch, Pepper Pot, was a real stunner – best pitch in the cave (imho)! Below the pitch, the rift continues in the same awkward style. By now it was 16:30 so we quickly surveyed the pitches and then headed out. Mark was out 20:15, Dour at about 22:45. See my note from the previous trip about Dour needing a foot jammer!
This was a fantastic trip, one of the best I have ever done in Austria. Home tomorrow, but a great memory to take with me!
Surveyed to bottom with short rope to investigate rifty hole at base of shaft: it closed down after a 5m climb down through boulders. Went home.
Started out walking to the NE of 204 area until we met the big change in slope overlooking the valley with the Stogerweg at the bottom. Then walked along side of valley until we found two entrances of note: GPSsed, tagged and photographed them.
Went back via Damoclesschacht.
Dave wanted to learn how to drill bolts so down to Earl's drill in the Underworld ... but first we surveyed + derigged Eeyore. Then Dave derigged the 26m that Earl + Stuart had started to rig along the traverse in Sirens yesterday (they'd hoped to get to 03-18B). Took all the junk to the end of Quiz Rift then Earl supervised Dave rigging 03-29A which went down the mud ramp then a Y-hang (bolt + boulder) then a rebelay bolt then drop down to sloping ledge (~10m) to rebelay off a small knobble then down to floor. Another pitch beyond this which Dave bolted but didn't have enough rope to descend.
Meanwhile Becka was hand bolting a traverse to get to 03-30B – three naturals and five (yes, far too many) bolts later I got to the muddy up-slope only to be told there was no time to check it out because I had to survey Dave's pitch. Actually I was pooped by the having spent half an hour suspended 5m above the floor in a rift far too wide to bridge, trying to get to the far side. I tried prusiking up my own long cowstail, putting slings for extra footloops into cowstails + sheer brute ignorance. It was also pretty exciting (i.e. dynamic) getting back – a free-hanging traverse. Surveyed Dave's pitches. Names: my traverse will be The Generation Game, Dave's first pitch is Gardeners' World, and his next one is University Challenge. Way out up Gaffered was way, way, way too muddy – I'd had to do a welly-brake on the way down + both my hand + my chest jammer were slipping on the way up ... but I didn't have nearly as much fun as Dave who became an incandescent Mr. Angry + ended up prusiking twice as far as the rest of us. I left him to Earl's calming tongue. [I think my jammers are knackered – the teeth don't bite like they used to.—DL].
Julia had asked people to look at Hauchhöhle so Pete and I decided to have a poke. A survey was produced showing the main way on to be to the left at the bottom of the (first) pitch. Pete rigged the pitch and followed my bad advice of rethreading the rope around the natural backup because we only had one sling. Dour had told me a deviation was needed to stop the rope rubbing and he was indeed correct. So I spent the next half hour putting in a spit and getting groin injuries, while Pete scrotted around in every unpromising lead he could find. At one point the digested aroma of shrimp noodles à la Blue Dragon chased him out of such a passage and the Flatulence Series was born.
By the time I had finished bolting, he had unfortunately found a tight rift that appeared to go, culminating in a climb that I had to convince Peter to descend (with the aid of 2 slings lark's-footed around a natural). After that it was all downhill as each unsurveyed bit of passage led to a further junction with two new leads. We pushed all the leads we could for several hours, with Pete pushing a particular oxbow several times (Clifton's Circuit). Then we ran away to the Stone Bridge and recounted tales of our great adventure and miles of cave passage to whoever would listen.
Pete and I had failed to walk up the previous evening so an 8am rising and a run to the bus stop was in order. Waiting in Bad Aussee allowed a random German bloke to approach and ask us if we could "show him the caves". Julia's powers of dissuasion are clearly lacking because this random person proceeded to follow me and Peter from the top of the toll road to the plateau and on to the stone bridge (Julia had lunch with Dour so didn't walk with us). Upon arriving he asked where the toilet was, "I need a big one", so I showed him the shitting grike. Thankfully his aim was true and no further flies were attracted to mal-aimed turds. He then had two cups of hot chocolate, took photos, and translated the phone message. We bid farewell at the entrance to Hauchhöhle, and despite my best efforts at looking for a corpse on the next walk down I found none and must assume he made it. Lucky really given his nice Nikon camera and the pictures of me and Peter on his 35mm film...
We went down 76 to push the pitch lead near the start of the "Test Tubes". It was unclear if the pitch-head was perched rocks or solid, so I used a mostly convincing thread as a backup, and put in a traverse spit, then a Y hang out in the rift. The rift was a good 1.5m wide, and tall so things looked promising. I descended and traversed upstream, but just round the corner was a pitch up. Downstream dropped away and got narrower. Two rebelays later we were in the top of the rift, with a barely feasible squeeze into a lower level. The bottom appeared to drop into blackness through a small hole – small stones dropped for a second or two if they got through the hole. The position is such that this is very likely to be dropping into the original 70s pitch series, so there wasn't much motivation for desperate squeezes. Jenny tried to get through at a lower level, but that didn't work. So we surveyed out to connect to the previous Brave New World survey and went home. Jenny put in a better placed spit for the ledge end of the pendule on the way out.
"Come and look at our great new cave" they said. "Could be a new 204 entrance" they said. "DON'T YOU DARE FIND THE END OF IT" they (Becka) said.
Having been versed in how to drive a survey notebook by Martin, we set off into the strongly draughting entrance tube, which was extremely good at removing any heat one's body could produce. After much laborious surveying around the small chamber at the end of the entrance tube, Martin returned from the front, where he was supposed to be bolting a pitch, announcing himself to be a fuckwit, and then scampered off to get the forgotten drill bit.
Very, very dodgy rigging ("It only rubs a little bit, so be gentle. Oh, and you'll have to ascend the arm of the Y-hang to get back.") leads to a huge black ice plug at the pitch's base, and a dead-sounding and dangerous boulder choke.
Desperate not to incur the wrath of Becka, the two passages leading on from the far side of the pitch became interesting. The lower one was very tight phreatic dropping at about 45° to a wide low (~1m high) chamber. The phreatic had a breeze but this seemed to disappear into a critical angle boulder slope. In desperation, a small chimney was pushed to no avail, and the other way on from the chamber stopped.
Some effort was put into starting a traverse line to the higher passage leading on from the pitch head, but thoughts of food, warmth etc. caused the general consensus to be "jack". Also, the probability of our only remaining lead dying was causing some perturbation.
Pete + Olly had returned to camp the previous day with tales of caverns measureless to man, and nothing surveyed. So I jumped at the chance to go and practice my survey note-taking, hoping to go on to bolt down the pitches (or rather show Olly how).
However I had somewhat underestimated the amount! Eleven hours later we crawled out, knackered, with 58 legs of survey in the book even ignoring all the oxbows and loops, and more passage still going. (Olly had put one bolt in the pitch before getting caught up in the surveying as well.)
Somehow I had ended up in 2004-11 again. Martin completed the traverse in record time and declared, "It's huge stomping passage, looks good". This was unfortunate, since we had ventured out that morning without instruments. And so it was that I chastised Martin, "You weren't supposed to find more passage Martin". This was the cave's undoing. 20 Martin-paces down a large passage it suddenly grinds to a halt. A survey (grade?) was scribbled on top of a laminated 2001 204 survey, using 20 Martin-paces of passage and 5 plumbed Martin-paces of vertical displacement above the previous day's passage. A mildly perilous 8m ascent into the passage roof yielded no further leads, so we left the cave.
And promptly ran away to 204, to avoid telling Becka the good (?) news. A sporting descent through the snow in 204d brought us to Swings, where Martin bolted a hang into Earl's supposed connection to Helter Skelter.
Stuart then bolted the pitch he had found previously in Swings. It drops to the level of Swings main passage, and does bugger all else. There is a small tight tube back to Swings at the base (SRT kit removal required) and it looks like there may also be an aven leading up elsewhere. No survey made.
We proceeded to Insignificant Chamber, where Stuart went down a hole, believed to be the connection to Rhino Rift, wherein he found survey station "T2", an old sling and greased maillon, and a difficult climb down. This satisfied Martin, and the only other noteworthy event was the Bastard Tackle Sack from Hell. This thing is inherently evil. Its malevolence knows no bounds. Small children hide under the bed from it. It eats small puppies. Several chapters of the Bible know it by the name Satan. It feeds off the terror, pain and anguish it creates. As an instrument of torture it is unparallelled. Within the Universe there is no darker force. To the unknowing observer it is a regular tackle bag, from which the shoulder straps have snapped at one end, and subsequently they have been tied to form a second donkey's dick. These two properties combine to form a dread object which is a blight to all caver-kind, getting stuck on EVERY SINGLE FUCKING THING, and thus causing its cursed bearer to fall flat on its nose every three paces. The horror inflicted by this item in Germknödel's Revenge mere words cannot describe. Let's just say that being moored by cave and tackle bag, and trying to turn round in the passage at the same time, is SHIT.
A complex plan emerged over breakfast. Team keen (Dave + Becka) would go in and do some more surveying; team fester (Olly + Earl) would bolt the pitch; and team artistic (Pete) would take some photos. At 11.30 team science (Dour) would shout down surface hole 2002-02 so we could check if it connected to the daylight aven in the main Hauchhöhle trunk. At 5pm the underground teams would meet up; Olly, Pete and I would bugger off down the hill and Earl + Becka would keep on caving.
This complex plan worked surprisingly well. 2002-02 does connect. Pete got his photos. Becka + I surveyed some existing stuff; Becka found a bypass to Tacklesack Blues via a roof tube. Then Becka spotted a traverse over the head of one of our pitches. After a quick detour to collect the rope, and using a sling larks-footed around my belt as an improvised cowstail, we were across. Hey presto, yet more passage! (Sweet Sight passage.) Stomp stomp stomp for 150m or so. Walked down the hill with 28 legs more survey in my pocket, in addition to the previous day.
[Continuation in Becka's handwriting] Earl kept rigging the pitch but the drill battery ran out after the pitch-head + deviation bolts (part way through a Y-hang ~20m down from the pitch-head – probably another 15m drop beyond here). We then went back to Sweet Sight passage + went up the left-hand roof tube QM just after the drippy aven with the bat skeleton. We surveyed 8 legs up there, past a tight thrutch into an aven with water coming in and a too tight rift off. Out + home.
We decided that today we would continue down the 70s route and see how far we could get with the rope + hangers we had. I wanted to play with the drill, so set off down to the current end of the rigging (the next ledge on from the Test Tube passage) and put in a nice Y-hang. Meanwhile Olly swung around on the snow plugs below to retrieve my spanner he had lost. The pitch was really nice – the best so far, a lovely hang in a huge shaft, on down to the next ledge + some 1970s spits, one of which was used as part of the Y, a deviation later and I was at the bottom of "Plugged Shaft" on a bouldery floor with a huge bit of scaffold bar longer than I am! The next pitch wasn't far away, and as we weren't certain how solid the floor was we continued the rope round – this is where the 112m rope ended, so we tied on the 85m and Olly bolted down "Saved Shaft" with, as is typical of this cave, a deviation. We now arrived at a HUGE boulder pile, with at least one boulder bigger than a car! The way on was under these with the draft. The boulders actually looked quite wedged, but it is probably worth trying to get over the top sometime (a) to see if it goes anywhere new and (b) in the hope that it is safer. Olly rigged a traverse line through the boulders, as once on the other side you are in a rift with very little in the floor dropping away into "Keg Series" 30 odd metres below. Olly rigged down this after doing some gardening of rocks at the pitch head, including one ~1m across... Olly got to the bottom of the first pitch and carried on down. I set off down this pitch, being really careful of all the loose stuff still there, and reached the bottom just as Olly had reached the end of the rope below. The pitch was quite drippy by the end, and perhaps needs rigging differently for times of rain. Anyway, with no rope, one hanger and no maillons left we decided to survey out, pulling the rope up to the top of the pitch so we can garden more next time. We wanted to survey with a plumb leg, but the pitch wasn't quite free hanging, so the plan was for Olly to go up, and swing across to where it would plumb from. This worked well until Olly dislodged a small rock with his foot which fell 12m to me below. As I was looking up at the tape it did not bounce off my helmet but hit me on the top of my nose / bottom of my forehead. It hurt lots and I screamed lots thinking I was properly broken. After a bit I realised Olly was asking in quite a concerned way if I was OK, so I thought for a bit if I was, my nose hurt lots, but there was only a very small bit of blood, and once I opened my eyes I realised that I could see alright, so I shouted back that I was OK, and cried some more until the pain died away a bit. We did a bit of surveying. Then decided to give up until we had done more gardening and rigging, and went back to the base of Saved Shaft. We surveyed back till it connected at The Ledge and went home.
Down Gaffered Series aargh, this rope is way too fast, welly-brake-tastic... To Gardeners' World + I went over my "Generation Game" traverse to check that it really did go nowhere (sigh) then derigged it (not too exciting bar one overly-dynamic swing into space). Earl then did some re-rigging of Gardeners' World + rigged the pitch below to Subsoil chamber. I was cold so scampered around for 5 minutes whilst Earl packed his drill up + I realised that we had some considerable new cave here – so into survey mode. From chamber surveyed around chamber + then up Hippo Hollows (lovely mud pots) to a thin rift with a large wet pitch around the corner then back to Subsoil + surveyed a loop then time to go home. Good stuff!
Oh yes, I forgot the crap bit, coming up the Gaffered pitch series the mud on the rope meant that not one but both my jammers were slipping, despite me having switched to a brand new chest jammer that day. At one point I got really unhappy and gave a mewling sound then thought of a solution: my spare hand jammer on a long cowstail went above my other hand jammer. A bit slower but surely not all three can slip? Finally got to the 70m Gaffered pitch which was lovely + clean rope (relatively) + I was going to survive. Earl Teflon-Jammers Merson was, of course, fine + blamed it all on my poor technique.
Olly fettled the rigging in the entrance to add a tight guide line above the rock bridge, and we went into the Test Tube, and onto Brave New World, this time turning right to the pitch, traversing round it (which I found scary as it was loose) and into the oxbow on the left, from here we followed walking passage past some calcite and gypsum pretties until we hit a T-junction with an even bigger passage. We followed this right and came to another junction, in from of us was a pitch down, with a passage appearing to continue over it, and passage heading off left, as we had no tackle we followed this to a junction / chamber. Here a very small passage went left, a pitch went down in front and a smallish passage went right. We decided to survey back from here till it joined with the 1st Brave New World survey.
Walked up to 204 in the evening to see where it was and say "hi" to Earl + Becka. 204 bivvy is ~45mins from our bivvy, but I don't walk very fast.
Earl was all for going straight back down to push Subsoil but I'd promised myself not to go down there again until there was fresh rope on it so we carried in a 100m and a 65m and re-rigged from Tape Worm all the way down (I replaced the top 91m – again – whilst Earl Mud-Doesn't-Stick-To-Me Merson zoomed down on the slimy rope + replaced the bottom one). Then Earl went off to have a third attempt at re-rigging Gardeners' World whilst I draped conservation tape around Sirens, Bracket Fungus, the Crystal Pool + Quiz Rift. I then got cold + grouchy waiting whilst Earl put in deviation after deviation on Gardeners' World plus fresh pitch-head bolts + then had two attempts at putting in a deviation bolt on the lower pitch (University Challenge).
Finally down to Subsoil with no time left to do any sensible pushing so Earl put in two final bolts for the 4m pitch over a boulder for the passage that leads to Earthenware whilst I checked that the Heavily Soiled passage went. A necessary but cold trip. On the way out we started a system to keep the clean rope clean:
I am about to purchase a scrubbing brush to leave in the pool after the traverse so, you dirty horrible cavers, don't go near my spanking new rope unless you're pristine. Thanks to Tony for cleaning + checking the two filthy tackle bags of rope we hauled out.
Decided to carry the drill through the Test Tube to bolt stuff in Brave New World. We decided it would be better to carry SRT kits rather than wearing them too. Carrying tackle made the Test Tube seem much smaller and more arduous... Turned right into BNW, and Olly got started with putting a traverse round the pitch that had made me scared the previous day. All went well till he dropped his stop onto a ledge a few meters down. Shortly, the stop was retrieved and the traverse line rigged across, we were a bit cold so decided to postpone further bolting and to survey leftwards at the next junction. This led to an aven that looked not too hard to climb and a probable passage heading off at the top. We surveyed back, then I started to bolt down the pitch at the end of the traverse line, the ~15m pitch came down to a high vadose passage that shortly led to a further pitch down that we had no rope for. Olly put in 2 spits in preparation for a later trip and we surveyed back out. We still had hours left before our callout, so we went to look at the stream canyon beneath the passage on from the pitch, assuming it would come out in the same pitch, soon it came out in what seemed to be yet another pitch... we surveyed this, then left the cave.
The Razor Dance team was all off for a long trip so we decided to join them since it's the dinner tomorrow. Bloody cold at camp + not feeling enthused with a damp furry but a lovely controlled descent on the clean rope cheered me up. Before that, on the first main hang bolt on Gaffered, I found the rope really tight. Having a handy Earl, I manfully sent him down to sort it. There was a yelp as he did a mini-plunge + then he said that seemed to have sorted it.
Right down to Subsoil, rigged the tiddly 4m pitch (8m rope) off the boulder then started surveying out of Subsoil up Heavily Soiled passage (very muddy – again) (need a 15m rope rigged off obvious natural to get down to it) with a good draft. Initially large, steepish passage ending in a broken down area then popped out on edge of a large chamber. We were on a bank of mud only ~2m above the chamber floor but we had no gear. The mud was crumbly and Earl was very cold so we stopped there. Also a drippy aven ahead there, again tricky to get there despite being very close given the dubious tensile strength of banks of undercut mud. Stopped the survey + stomped back to Subsoil. Earl then took the drill to put in too spits (last, highest one possibly dodgy as the rock cracked as he set it: "I think this is the best Hilti I've ... oh dear") Meanwhile I conservation tabled some crystals + the mud floor at the start of Hippo Hollows + the mud banks + spires at the bottom of the Subsoil chamber. Then we went up Earl's new 17m traverse into Earthenware passage, + we surveyed as we went in, past various mud pretties + pools, stepping over a large + wet rift pitch + lots of QMs until Earthenware passage reduced in size (but sill drafting? hard to tell – draft is very strong into your face at the start of Earthenware). At this point we decided to survey down the large passage off left that led steeply down + twisting (Stoneware, as we finally lost the mud), + ended in a muddy aven + then a drippy wet aven at a convenient 6.55pm, time to go home. Took the drill battery out. For two people it takes ~ 1 1/2 hours to get to the bottom of Subsoil and ~ 2 1/2 hours to get out again, if carrying no real load.
Finally set off up the hill to fetch the remainder of my caving gear at 3.50pm, intending to make a quick return in daylight with the gear. Olly M kindly came along for the walk and to help me carry. (Perhaps also the best way to ensure that I didn't get lost on the plateau forever more.)
The walk proceeded quickly and with minimum moaning on my part (due mostly to my empty rucksack). Olly and I deviated from the path to investigate a few cave entrances – turning out to be in the 80s. We were rejoined by Julian and Becka shortly afterwards, near the beginning of the slabs.
Towards the end of the slabs, I did the often done thing of slipping with one of my walking poles. I then managed to kick said pole, and due to the wrist straps not being used (for safety in case the pole got stuck), the pole was projected forward. The pole slipped, bounced, then fell. Fell onto the snow plug covering a ~20m deep hole. Rattle, slip, rattle and it was gone. Climbing round the hole revealed a 10m drop / abseil / climb down at one end, but the rock was far too loose to attempt the climb, so we continued less one walking pole to the stone bridge.
Eventually we got packed, fed and watered at the bridge, and after pausing to try and firebomb the fly infested facilities [and using up a substantial proportion of the stone bridge petrol supply in the process—DL], we must have left some time around 7.20pm. With us, Olly and I took some hangers (in case we found my old spits), a sling, karabiner and a ?m long 9mm rope probably de-rigged from Razor Dance. We intended to get that pesky pole back.
En route, we stopped off at Hauchhöhle to retrieve my caving gear and whilst there, I decided to go caving and retrieve my slings and krabs from the pitch/climb rigging. This was done quickly, replacing the sling + krab with a club pair, and the other Y-hang arm was rethreaded through the bomber natural instead of via the sling.
Once out of Hauchhöhle, I found Olly hunting around on the edge of the hole for a second thread / natural belay. Tony appeared on his way to the bridge, and recommended rigging a scramble down the back end of the hole, where the drop was more, around 10m. We did this, rigged from the single bit of usefully fixed rock in the vicinity – a bomber thread.
Pole was retrieved very easily by gently abseiling down and going around the snow plug. Very gently prusiking and self-lining completed the ascent (not wanting to damage the 9mm rope over the ledge. Pole was handed up on the end of the rope to safety.
Rest of walk on the plateau was uneventful, although both my wellies escaped my rucksack bindings and fell down different (but both shallow) grikes. Thankfully the weather remained dry in spite of ominous-looking clouds. The light was poor by this time, and I slipped and stumbled more than usual, hurting both of my ankles.
Walking back from the huts, we encountered several bovine obstructions blocking our path. In the first instance, a calf lying down in the path. Damn. This was not good. We were shortly surrounded by the cattle, who had all stood up and shown an interest. (Including some with excessively large horns which looked quite pointy.) Thankfully, walking slowly (very) and calmly defused the situation, and a similar one later on was similarly dealt with.
Got back to car park tired, sore and bruised at about 10:40pm. I suspect I'll sleep soundly tonight!
My drill was at the bottom of Razor Dance, and since I was about to go home I needed to fish it out. Since there was a shortage of people wanting to push the thing further, we decided to do one more push-survey-derig trip. Four days of attempting to dry out my fleecy undersuit proved futile (not helped by rushing up the hill in the dark and rain the previous night due to a 12 hour error in the recorded callout time for the Eisluft team). So at 8am I pulled on soaking wet undersuit prior to a 10am trip start. Twenty hours later I took it off again, and for most of the intervening time I was too cold.
Uneventful trip as far as the start of Razor Dance, where the water level was higher than I've ever seen – probably double the usual levels. The wet climb was unpleasant but passable so we elected to carry on. Most of the pitches were fine: an extra waterfall had appeared at Mash Tun, but it was OK. The bottom of Copper was very wet – borderline dangerous. The rebelay on Yeast is in a star place for avoiding the water (shame about the pitch head bolts, which need a tector). In conclusion, Razor Dance will be OK in the wet with an extra couple of bolts: one on the first wet climb, and another for a water avoidance deviation on Copper.
From the pushing front the stream continues in a tedious winding fashion. Martin headed onward with the drill (having earlier put in a rebelay bolt on Pepper Pot) while Dave + Dour surveyed. Dave couldn't read the instruments so I was forced to peer through the murk. Some creativity was required to fabricate some data. Much tedious dicking about in the rift to find the right level and a 6m pitch later we reached the deep point (204 now 544m deep) where the water goes down a tiny slot. Round the corner an ascending traverse goes to a much wider bit (~4m wide) – looks like a weak bed has been exploited to make the widening – the bed is visible cutting across the passage. A line is needed where the traverse gets muddy and slippy – lots of brown mud with a black crust with dessication cracks (at least there was before I stomped/bum-slid across it). The drill battery had done its usual trick of going from 4 bars to none in no time at all, so a Martin special pushing rig was put in place. Cartoon laws of rigging apply: the naturals are sound so long as you don't look at them too closely. More bolts needed next time. At the end is a pitch that we couldn't get close enough to see down – estimate 20m on the basis of throwing one rock down it (i.e. it could be any length at all). [Incidentally, this point is around 10m above the level at which the stream was last seen.—DL]
Thereafter we (read Dave) derigged out as far as God Loves a Drunk, where soup was consumed. The drill and a bag of rope walked out of the cave all on their own, whilst another bag of rope got tired at the bottom of Kiwi Suit. Team foot jammer levitated out whilst expending no effort at all, whilst this dinosaur frogged out at his usual funereal pace.
Pushing Razor Dance is becoming quite serious in terms of the amount of effort and gear required. It is only worth pushing next year if there are enough (i.e. more than 4) moderately hard (but not necessarily bionic) people interested in pushing it.
Didn't feel like carrying tackle through the Test Tube again, so took survey gear to tick off some leads (hopefully). The first lead we looked at was the tube on the right around halfway along, near the probable 99 connection. It got progressively narrower, and then there were some small pristine white stals. We decided that it would be hard to get past them without touching them, so surveyed out. Continued into Brave New World, and turned left to survey the oxbow passages, these are small and crappy and the 3 passages end up uniting and going to a pitch in a stream canyon – we surveyed to here and attempted to plumb the pitch. It is ~6m deep. Still had time left so went the other way along BNW, round the pitch and to the chamber we started surveying from on the 25th. Looked down the passage on the right, this gets bigger for a bit raising our hopes of this being the Train Tunnel passage we had been looking for, but it got lower and a crawl led to a big aven chamber which looked not too hard to climb. From the chamber it was not obvious where we had come from as it all looked small, so Olly named it "No Ways Chamber" though in fact I found another crawl out near ours that became vadose passage of a reasonable size to an aven – this is still to be surveyed.
Olly wasn't feeling too well, so he did some surface stuff whilst I went into Brave New World to retrieve the hangers, skyhook, slings etc, and to carry a bag of rope down to The Ledge ready for the next day.
Off to rig + survey leads at the end of Hippo Hollows in Subsoil. Nial + Becka surveyed two tubes on the left at the end of Hippo Hollows. First just popped out to look over the rift that the main passage ended on. Further back, the tube went steeply up to a small pitch. Earl put in two bolts for a Y-hang. We put in a comedy traverse over the top of the pitch (not far, but rigged on feeble naturals on the far side, and passing over slippery mud) and continued the survey up the tube the far side to a small pitch with a possible vocal connection to the rift at the end of Hippo Hollows. Pitch a QM B. Then back to the Y-hang and I descended the short pitch. A small crawl at the bottom seemed to immediately open out onto a pitch. I didn't push it (needed to take SRT kit off) but another QM B.
Meanwhile Earl had belayed Julian as he free-climbed down the rift at the end of Hippo Hollows to descend into Fat Worm Blows a Sparky. Becka and Nial surveyed down into FWBAS and started to survey there whilst Earl tried to drill spits for a more sensible rig down to FWBAS (and failed – we were using a rope dangled down the rift with lots of rubs so you have to free climb up and down). Found some weird white formations like plastic in a passage at the end of the survey, which Julian photographed.
Plan was to do a quick Hauch trip then a surface wander. Proceeded to bottom of pitch rigged by Earl on a previous trip, where there was a half-drilled Hilti hole. Drilled this fully, + placed a Y-hang (plus one duff spit that sank too deep).
At the bottom of the pitch is a small (~5m x ~8m) kidney-shaped area of floor. At one end is a rift pitch-head blocked by a large boulder. I spent a while loosening it, but although it settled slightly it wouldn't shift.
Drill battery unfortunately ran out halfway through the Y-hang. Stuart free-climbed down it (lunatic) and couldn't get back out again. I put in a very dodgy deviation + he prusiked out on the previous pitch rope. Apparently it is a ~4m climb initially and beyond this is a stream rift.
While prusiking out I spotted a window in the side of the shaft. Swinging into this revealed an upwards-sloping tube about 80cm dia; I wandered up this for 5m or so to a leftwards bend, at which point I decided to come back another day with survey gear.
HOWEVER while carrying out one of the tacklesacks through Doesn't Go Rift I did something rather odd to my back, so I haven't caved since. Buggeration.
Went down to the top of Keg Series with lots of rigging gear + drill. Olly did some more gardening (but there is still lots of loose stuff around) and went down; rather than heading straight down the pitch like last time, he swung across into the passage ~ 1/3 of the way down. The horizontal passage only went a few metres before becoming choked to the right, and rejoining the pitch on the left. Anyway Olly rigged down a different shaft leaving on the left that rejoined the direct pitch at the bottom + nicely avoided water + loose rocks. At the next pitch head I foolishly remarked that it would be nice if it sumped round the corner, so we could look somewhere nice (+ less loose).
The next pitch was actually nice, less loose + BIG, it was rigged with a deviation + a knot pass, but needs more/better deviation(s). This took us down to another ledge 25m below; from here Olly rigged a 3rd pitch (with a deviation in) that after 25m reached a really big ledge with (for the first time in a while) a solid rock floor. Olly went down a short, 5m pitch, whilst I commented on how big and therefore significant this passage/pitch series was. At the bottom Olly found a sump and I felt guilty for wanting one earlier...
I climbed down to check it really was a sump (it was, and not a very impressive one at that) whilst Olly looked at a small passage going off the other way till it got small; I came out and looked there – after a short crawl (~5m) it met a small stream passage which I followed for a short way till it felt small + committing – the passage does however continue. Meanwhile Olly had found a more promising lead by climbing above the sump and following a tortuous vadose canyon downhill until it got bigger and became another pitch series; we decided to leave this for next year and surveyed out to the top of Keg Series.
On the middle big pitch I had a bad feeling about the rope rubbing so was prusiking fairly gently. Once I was ~1/2 way up I noticed the rope was caught round a flake above the deviation and was rubbing lots + lots over a fairly sharp edge. This made me scared, lots. I wished we weren't using 9mm rope too. I shouted up to Olly what had happened + that I was going to prusik very carefully, unless he had any bright ideas for what to do. Olly suggested I prusik very very carefully. I carried on up, past the knot pass, cursing Olly's rigging (sorry) till I got to the deviation which I clipped into (keeping my jammers on as well). Despite the deviation being on a dodgy small spike with a retired sling I felt a whole lot safer and pondered what to do next. The only option me or Olly could think of was to pass the deviation so I could up-flick the rope, then prusik gently past the rub point. I was careful not to look at the rope until past the rub, because that was how Olly said cartoons work! Anyway the rope was only a bit furry, I didn't die and we exited the rest of the cave uneventfully.
Using club drill + blue dynamic rope, bolted around corner from pitch head bolt (2003-02-01 survey station #8) and up wall on right side of chamber to small window. Squeezed through to small chamber (~5m) with no way on. Derigged + exit.
Becka + Julian set off an hour ahead of the crowd + did some virtuous QM ticking by surveying up the sandy tube at the top of the Subsoil chamber where Gardeners' World / U. C. pitch comes in. The right tube closed down. The left one was small but straightforward and connected in to Earl + my Heavily Soiled survey so ticked off one of the sandy crawl QMs there too (still leaving another crawl QM off from Heavily Soiled to be checked). Back to Subsoil and met others. I went with Frank to continue the Earthenware survey, going straight ahead where Stoneware branched left. After a short while continuing straight ahead, I saw black space up to the right so we surveyed up there (care, nice calcite on left wall, we conservation-taped this route off on the next trip). Into big passage and surveyed left (north). The roof rapidly closed in due to massive collapse of rock from the roof to end in a boulder choke which didn't really draft.
Back to Subsoil and Frank headed out. Earl was still trying to get a better rig into Fat Worm Blows a Sparky (see yesterday). Nial and I continued the survey off FWBAS from Julian + his survey until we'd run out of time + pretty well ticked off all the horizontal leads. The last bit of our survey down a thin rift only needed a handline to protect a climb down and was the deepest part surveyed. [As far as I can tell from the survey this doesn't seem to be true – station 17 of the Fat Worm 2 survey is a good five metres lower.—DL] Where Nial and I started to survey, beyond the dead bat, there was a free-climb (QM B) up to the left which then needed protecting for the final few metres up to an enticing-looking lead. We surveyed a rift to the right. On an alcove on the left in the sandy floor were HUNDREDS of bat bones, as if a whole roost had died there. There are many bat bones throughout Subsoil (washing out of the mud?) but especially concentrated here. Heading down from this point on the 3/8/04 trip I checked this: it continued steeply down boulders to a small chamber with a small wet aven – just about a QM B. This is noted on the first page of the 3/8/04 survey notes from Becka and Nial (pocket 2004#44). Earl then was removed from his rigging and we went home, letting Earl escape first to get the food on.
Walked towards the high point approximately west of 76 and the bivvy. Just below (on the east side) of the high point we found a series of 3 entrances along a fault/joint; we called this 2004-05. They were 10m to a ledge, then seemed to go deeper, but we didn't have tackle and I couldn't get the rocks to drop there.
Continued further, going back to the bivvy, but further north than the outward route. Found a rift below a line of small cliffs - 2004-06.
Shortly later we found another entrance which was going to be 2004-07, until I found paint (90/5) and a tag (175), so we continued on until we say a walk/scramble-in entrance on the right. This has a drawn up survey and is 2004-07. [Arrow pointing into a blank space marked "GPS".]
Further still back, we came across a large chamber with collapsed roof and two entrances. We forgot to survey it at all put it was photoed by Olly and GPSsed. [Another arrow into the blank space.]
We then walked back to where Tantalus Schacht should be and didn't find it, but did allocate 2004-09, which is a shaft with "a good drop and rattle" – sorry no photos or survey, but it was GPSsed.
P.S. Olly's GPS seems to have lost these coords, so we'll have to re-find them next year.
Rigged in to base of pitch. Tony put in 2 bolts to climb A lead in right wall of chamber. Revealed short passage to corner; left way on blocked by boulders – persuaded downwards – revealing a climbable rift to a tube again blocked by removable boulders, to narrow low awkward passage to pitch head blocked by large boulder. Needed persuaders. Went home.
Martin was keen to see Gaffered. Julian and I were feeling a bit worn but went for it. Down to where Frank and I had finished our survey yesterday. We connected our survey in to an earlier point along Earthenware where Frank and I had made a vocal connection yesterday then continued the survey south going relatively slowly due to Martin's conscientious note-taking. Very large passage ended in a mud choke but we turned off left up a reasonably large passage heading up steeply. This closed down to a small chamber with an unpromising rift off to the left but it drafted well and after some short legs we popped out into the bottom of a large mud ramp. We surveyed up this as far as was sensible given the slope + the very slippery mud – would be OK with a handline. Then back down the slope and surveyed up a very similar mud ramp off to the side: this ended in a short climb which could be straightforward but would be best protected + wasn't worth us doing as it looked like it led straight to a pitch. Then retreated back to near the boulder collapse where Frank and I had surveyed yesterday and surveyed up a thin drafting tube that I had noticed yesterday. This led up steeply with a pitch (with a nasty mud slope at the edge and uncertain floor beneath); at the top and to the left is a small chamber with a boulder choke which is presumably the same as the main choke at the west end of the big passage. Out.
Went back down to the top of Keg Series, but this time continued down the 70s route, down a short climb to a small chamber. The route continued down the rift; we used a chockstone (a big one) as a backup and Olly suggested a good place for a spit. I climbed round and started to put the spit in; I got as far as it nearly being set when I gave up (sore ankle + leg cramp) + let Olly take over. Olly was impressed at how far out I had managed to place the spit and didn't call me a wuss for not finishing it. A deviation got us to the next ledge where Olly put in a backup spit and got started on a Y. Over the space of a couple of minutes what was a very distant small water trickle became very loud + sounded very close – I was concerned that a raging torrent along with loose rocks would appear from an aven above; fortunately it didn't and we didn't die. It transpired that it had started to rain about 40mins earlier. Olly carried on down the pitch and got to a narrowish rift; this widened out where a passage joined from the right into a chamber with big boulders (the Tap Room). This was very drippy and wet so we left rigging on for another day and looked at the other inlet, reached from a small climb. This soon intersected a big pitch, with the passage continuing on – it looked reasonably easy to swing across, but we left this for a later date. We surveyed and derigged out; I greased the spits as well, until the grease ran out at the bottom of Plugged Shaft, which was good as we had far too much to carry already.
Mark arrives at the stone bridge previous night, claiming thousands of new really good caves near Hauchhöhle, maybe doing important link of 204->161/elsewhere. Much amazement ensues.
1st Aug sees motley crüe going to look @ said holes, who then find most of them go ~3m.
Further exploration found large fault with a few caves of slight biggerness. Minging through trip found (minging whilst in surface clothes) and a promising lead or two also noted.
When finally changed into cave gear, one of these leads was surveyed (2004-14), bolted and photographed. At this point rumbling from the heavens stopped play.
Sheltering in the through trip cave, a small crawl was found (and later this cave was surveyed by Olly & Frank (2004-15), and crawl gets too tight).
Boredom set in, leading to a desperate flight across the plateau in the Donner + Blitzen, which was very silly.
Came back with lump hammer and crowbar and persuaded boulder to reduce in size. Tony forced a way through to place a pitch head bolt and descend to small chamber with a squeeze through a rift in the floor. Descended to rifty chamber with no way on. Went home.
Becka + Nial in early to take some BDH + Peli case sponsorship photos, and to derig the pitches into Rhino Rift and take the rope to the end of Swings + Roundabouts. Martin (with Earl as a backup rigger) then went up the rope which Martin had put in the bolts for earlier this Expo (and that Earl had climbed putting in hand-bolts in ?2001 / ?2000) and rigged down the far side and – bingo – found a survey station from Helter Skelter. Meanwhile team survey (Becka, Nial + Stuart) surveyed Trapeze, a climb to a gallery above the main Swings passage and a small chamber below which can be reached by a squeeze at the bottom of the main passage – Nial and I had looked at this on 18th July and Stuart and Earl had independently looked at it on a later trip. [21/7/04 I think.—DL]
Then off to the Helter Skelter connection and started surveying this whilst Martin + Earl took the drill to Insignificant Chamber to QM 2000-10A, where they put in a natural back up, Y-hang with spits, bolted deviation to a ledge about 15-20m down then two more spits in rubbish rock to descend to floor of Pleasuredome, maybe 45m down (this needs surveying).
Meanwhile Stuart, Nial + Becka had found a thin rift leading off from the pitch which dropped into Helter Skelter + surveyed down this (Cresta Run, as it zig-zagged steeply down) to a small chamber (apparently the boulder choke at the top end of this is very close to the end of Rat Biscuit on the survey – worth trying for a connection some time?). Cresta Run continued steeply down + we finished the survey at a pitch head with possible horizontal leads and a shortish pitch with possibly another chamber beyond. We then derigged the Helter Skelter pitch (but left the up-rope from Swings + Roundabouts – would be horrible to derig anyway) + took the rope to Martin + Earl so they could finish their Pleasuredome pitch. We then did a short survey to link the Insignificant Chamber survey to Julian Todd's climb out of Rhino Rift this year to complete the second large loop closure of the trip. A very productive + varied trip!
I thought it would be a bit weedy to just derig on the trip so I arm-twisted Nial into some QM-ticking + surveying and Earl into some rigging. We started by going to Fat Worm Blows a Sparky and I put conservation tape round the freshly (quite) dead bat in Bat Chamber and around the alcove of bat bones documented on 31/7/04, whilst Nial derigged Earl's (as yet unused!) rigging for the pitch into it. Helped Earl get the drill + rope to Subsoil then sent Earl off up Gardeners World with 40m rope and his drill to bolt down Black Maria.
Meanwhile Nial + I went to Earthenware and went up a QM A on the right (before Stoneware) that ended in a boulder choke. Off the side of this was a thin and very steeply rising rift which we surveyed partway up. I continued up it, climbing to only around 2m below where it looked like a horizontal phreatic tube was coming in, but it would be worth protection for the last bit of this climb up before checking it out. (QM B – drafting.) Then down + along Earthenware to a tube off to the left which drafted strongly. This was initially small but popped out to a complicated area with a QM A straight ahead. We turned right + briefly popped out into big passage. This was horizontal then sloped up steeply becoming a boulder chute and closing down, and finished at a pitch head with a drop of at least 2 seconds and maybe a way up above the pitch (but this would need protection to look at and the boulders were dubious).
Derigged the traverse + the 4m pitch into Earthenware and Nial [went] off to find Earl whilst I derigged Gardeners World. Earl had put in a bolt and a sling to let you get into / out of Oxtail Oxbow easily (we have taped off Bracket Fungus Passage to stop people using it, so everyone should be going via Oxtail Oxbow). Earl had put the spits in for Black Maria but didn't have enough rope so we gave him some + he put in a knot pass + descended. Apparently the shaft (large at the head of Sirens) narrows down so there is only a relatively small chamber at the bottom with only a QM C leading off downslope from the bottom. Nial + I were very relieved to find the tape was just long enough to survey to the bottom of the pitch without us having to descend it. Earl derigged and I derigged the traverse then we collected all our rubbish together at the base of the Gaffered pitches. Nial and I each got a a very stuffed tacklesack while Earl got his drill and associated rubbish. I volunteered to start derigging the 65m so went up last. I'd foolishly forgotten the traverse up to Eeyore – how? I had a brief + foolhardy attempt to derig it with my 1.5 tacklesacks. Wrong. I then moved the bags to the end of the traverse and had another go. Still impossible – nothing to stand on. Whinged up at Earl and was tempted to abandon it but I finally stuck a sling around a knobble at the top, derigged the top bolt on the traverse then free-climbed down the other side of the rift to the traverse (which was how Earl and I had rigged it this year). After that derigged the 65m fine + headed up slowly with both jammers slipping badly again on the rope due to mud – despite our best efforts at cleaning wellies and jammers. Waited whilst Earl put in one good and two failed spits at the top of Gaffered to improve the traverse at the head and out, at last, tired.
Went to Brave New World to look at the pitch lead, had too much gear to carry through the Test Tube, so whilst Olly started to bolt I went back for a second carry. I returned to find that Olly had traversed a short way across from the pitch head and stepped right into a drafting alcove; this led to a big phreatic passage which made a sharp turn and became quite a high rift. We traversed along near the top of this to some boulders where we climbed down to the bottom and followed round a few bends to a pitch into something big. Olly reckoned it was probably the bottom of Plugged Shaft; I traversed out far enough to see the scaffold bar, which clinched it. We surveyed out, but didn't drop the pitch to close the loop. (This rift is called Forward to the Past.)
Went back up to BNW to survey and fully look at the passage leading off from No Ways Chamber. Olly looked at a low crawl off, but it didn't go too far before getting too small (though it did draft). Went to survey the big passage I found on the 27th, at the aven at the end. Olly climbed up to the right but it ended. Straight ahead was another climb, but neither of us could quite make it without gear – it looked like 1 or 2 passages led off at maybe 6m high. Finished surveying and headed out.
In the absence of anybody else willing to do it, Olly and I derigged Razor. Delightful.
Found 1 Martin and 1 Frank after we had got as far as derigging bottom two pitches of Kiwi Suit. Assisted in derigging as far as top of Kiwi Suit, where Olly and I jacked.
A finely honed plan worked slickly: Nial down at 11am to pick up the pre-packed tacklesack I'd derigged yesterday. Earl in at 11.30 and derigged the 90m on the rest of Gaffered. Becka in at 12.15. Earl + I bickered over who got to prusik out of Gaffered with the tacklesack - my superior pride trumped Earl's superior strength and fitness so he got to derig Gaffered whilst I shuttled the tacklesacks up the cave.
After the sterling efforts of Olly, Stuart, Martin + Frank the previous day all the rope had made it to the bottom of Pot-U-Like. Newly recovered from a knackered back I was raring to go, but nobody else was very keen. Demonstrating keenness and stupidity in equal measure I set off alone and got lots of rope + sacks up the pitch, dismantling the paella as it arrived.
Of course once 90% of the stuff was up, the very last haul rope got tangled with the SRT line, so I had to go down the pitch to sort it out. At this point Martin + Frank arrived and hauled the rope across the top of You're So Veined while I derigged the short pitch. We rejoined at the bottom of Thread Pitch, hauled up that + derigged it.
From here we managed to paella to the bottom of Jim'll Fix It, then to the bottom of the entrance pitch, then out to the surface.
Went back to the pitch carrying on below Forward to the Past. Olly rigged down to the rock bridge down to to a ledge where a passage doubled back and dropped a small pitch which was choked at the bottom. The main pitch continued down the same fault plane (N.B. Fault has ~1m offset and dips slightly to the E; strike ~ 230°). This pitch led to another short one before things got smaller, we got cold and time was running out. We started surveying out from here leaving a pitch with a couple of seconds' drop (though the rock bounced once). Derigged back up to BNW whilst surveying and then traversed over the pitch to see if the main BNW passage continued; it did, initially quite big and rift-like with a trench in the floor (Olly named this the Boiling Tube). After a bit a passage left on the left followed by an aven, shortly later another passage (this time mud-choked) left on the right and the main one got smaller, so we surveyed back from here.
Again we had too much gear to carry out so I went back for the 3rd tacklesack whilst Olly abbed down to the ledge below The Ledge to derig. After this we both heroically carried out lots of gear + I derigged. I hadn't realised how much harder swinging around to derig would be with 2 heavy tacklesacks. By the top of Draught Bitter I gave up on taking both bags together and shuttled them up. By the end of derigging I only had enough strength to carry 1 bag out of the cave + stumble back to the bivvy where Olly had kindly cooked me food. He then went back to retrieve the bag.
Photographed and tagged 2004-15.
Followed draft into the cave, and investigated all obvious + easy leads. Draft was emerging from tight tube at floor level. This was squeezed to a small chamber. Still drafting. Rocks were removed and the way was squeezed to a second small chamber. Still drafting. Brian removed rocks outwards then Julian kicked rocks in to pass another squeeze into a roomier boulder slope. Downslope emerged into walking/stooping sized passage which was quickly by recognised by Julian as Iceland of KH. Found a red paint survey spot from 2003 G entrance resurvey and surveyed out from this. Exited cave and walked back to 204 via cliff. En route back Tony found a horizontal entrance that he investigated: horizontal phreas to T-junction, upslope to choked chamber entrance, downslope to more horizontal phreas bypassing pitch in floor. Tony exited. We went home. Cave tagged 2004-19.
We found a cave marked 108 near 76, but it doesn't match the description on the website (vertical entrance rather than horizontal) so we checked it out. It's marked with paint "108" and has a spit in the centre of the "0". The spit isn't great, but there's a good chunky flake to use too. The shaft descends ~9m to a ledge. At this level there's a horizontal passage which leads immediately to a 4m deep blind rift pitch. Back in the main shaft, a few natural rebelays get you to a floor just under 30m down. At one end of the rift a draught emerges from rocks, but removing some rocks it appears it would need quite a lot of work to make progress and the continuation may be too small anyway.
We then went to look at 2004-02. This is a draughting hole very near the 76 bivvy with a chossy entrance. Just inside is a crap snow plug which collapsed a lot. The draught issues from a too-narrow rift roughly below the entrance. The top of the rift has a large rock wedged in. This can be rocked if pulled very hard. Perhaps it's worth removing to see if the rift is wide enough at the top? It's definitely wider beyond the rift.
Very arduous and contorted route to cave. GPS essential. Surveyed in. Surveyed 2 entrances, one horizontal, one upslope vertical. Surveyed into cave via phreatic tube to crossroads: straight on, choked; right to choked chamber. Left through nice phreas with pitch shortly in floor. Bypassing this, passage continues to T-junction. Right is to choke but easily passable. Left to 2m climb to chamber. Left again to 2nd chamber and right, upslope to aven + daylight. We surveyed in the cave to what we thought was a plumb. Tony exited the cave to try to find this shaft. After much whooping and hollering he eventually succeeded and we made noodles and went home. Very arduous and contorted route back to stone bridge.
Descended 204a ent pitches and wandered up Near End Series as far as the supposed end of the Colonnade connection. Didn't look at all promising – clearing some cobbles revealed two passages heading in the right directions but both were far too tight. Derigged out of A.
After a cup of tea we went back down E and slogged across to the up-pitch into Cresta Run. Attempting to dig into Rat Biscuit was no more successful than the last dig, owing to the excessive mobility of the boulder pile (one the size of the tatty hut fridge nearly squished my leg). Some hammering revealed a hole in the floor, which consultant small person (i.e. not me) climbed into, and had rather more difficulty getting out of.
Having got bored of this we had a look at the pitch at the end of Cresta. The traverse round to the left proved possible without a rope (although somewhat entertaining on the return, as we were later to find). This revealed a tall rift passage passable at roof level, leading to a chamber full of boulders. The rift has a strong draught but this just disappears into the boulders. There is an arguable lead: a crawl underneath a boulder the size of a small car, supported a foot off the floor by nothing whatsoever. Surveyed out; maybe 25m of survey (I don't know, I left the notes up the hill – doh!) [Not a bad guess – it was 25.49m].
What an ace place. Really good. And that's only the walk-in. Probably required less rope than we took. Lots of silly jumping into deep pools, and sliding down dodgy waterfalls on one's arse. (But only if you are called Stuart or Martin. Mark was sensible and used ropes. How boring.) Personal highlight of slipping whilst jumping 5-6m from a ledge into a pool, and executing a perfect sideways belly flop (if such a thing is possible).
Woke up to the realisation that as nobody had appeared from base camp with a drill battery, and the club drill was not inspiring in its rotational speed, we had nothing better to do than re-rig Hauchhöhle, catch up on the survey backlog and derig the thing again.
This we accordingly did. The vertical squeeze past the boulder at the bottom of Pie Series is now Who Ate All The Pies. The side passage (Crust) off Kidney Pitch doesn't go; it narrows to a very tedious crawl over powdery mud, growing tighter so gradually that one might almost fail to notice quite how squalid the whole thing is.
Surveyed Pete's stuff off the left-hand side at the bottom of the ent pitch (Underhand Passage, as it is underneath the Left-Hand Series. Main passage goes on for some while before narrowing; at this point a meander off to the left enters a very diminutive streamway, probably passable, but equally probably very nasty! Didn't bother with the tubes off to the right [at the beginning of Underhand – explored but not surveyed by Pete].
Rigged and descended a slot at the edge of a choss bowl near 2000-08. It didn't go.
Free-climbed down another hole to the north [should read south] of this. It didn't go.
Descended 2000-08 to look at the supposed dig. It didn't go.
Climbed into 2002-03 (near Hauchhöhle). It didn't go.
Walked down the hill with 29kg of shit. Drank Gösser. Utterly failed to cook Germknödel. Got very pissed. Listened to Mark drowning out Tom Lehrer with random accordion noises. Eating almost raw Germknödel gives you a bad stomach ache. It remains to be seen what effect Nial will experience from eating knödel seasoned with molten colander.