After many days of fruitless hacking on troggle, then losing my mp3 player sometime in the process of canoeing across Toplitzsee, and returning to hoards of very beery Austrians moving in on Base Camp like leiderhausen-clad apes with camper vans, I was seriously pissed off enough to go caving.
Team Tunnocks-string (Steve+Becka) had reportedly found some new horizontal levels at the depth of the 'Wares in 204, causing Becka to bounce down to Base Camp in order to type in her notes, only to find that she had forgotten to pack them in her bag. She had returned to Top Camp and tried phoning them down to me so I could type them into the computer, run the calculations, and find out where they were going in relation to the rest of the cave.
All I could see on the screen was a little knot of loops at the bottom of a 100m pitch, because that's all she had surveyed. Steve complained later about how all they did was survey short loops around phreatic pillars and not actually go anywhere. The wide open leads that were left undone were not part of the numerical data.
Lacking sufficient toll road passes to justify driving up on my own, I was pissed off enough to cycle up the hill (easy after a mental two week Alpine cycling holiday) and walk in to Top Camp without any mp3 audio entertainment to keep my mind from stewing in its own thoughts, just in time to cook for all the returning cavers.
In the morning, Mike TA also showed interest in team string's discoveries, so we were four.
"It's only a hundred metre pitch, same length as the entrance pitch, which you know you can do, and the knot pass is just like a rebelay," said Becka.
Accounting for Becka's legendary reverse bullshit about things she is keen on getting people into, it sounded absolutely horrendous, but as I was still so pissed off with the world in general that this was a moment to do something very scary owing to the terror of falling to one's death not being at the intensity what it normally should be.
At the entrance, Mike and I enjoyed the perfect weather and sunshine while Becka bashed around the bunda looking for the 30m rope that MartinH had secreted under a rock like someone hiding the nice cheese in an unexpected part of the fridge.
There were two knot passes in the entrance pitch, but they were on the snow slope, so were trivial. Steve left his bothy (a silly rolled-up orange plastic sheet that cost him all of five quid) at the bottom of the entrance for people to keep warm under while waiting for others to get out.
Becka launched herself down the 100m Usual Suspects pitch without any issues. Then Mike headed down and hit the knot linking the two bits of rope 25m down, 75m above the floor, and found he couldn't down-prussic with his new product-designed-to-look-more-attractive-in-the-shop-window-though-not-function-as-well-as-the-old-version Petzl chest jammer, freaked out, and came back up. He went off to join the Holly and Noel trip in the next door passage, until his lights failed, and then exited the cave on his own before anything else went wrong, thus breaking any naive design in troggle for relating caving trips to logbook entries with
Meanwhile, down at the knot, I was having a hard time due to a total lack of experience with knot passes, my fear of heights inducing hyperventilation and tunnel vision, and Becka shouting up from a great distance below that she was getting mightily bored.
I miraculously reached the ledge 70m down, stepped across it, and descended down the last 30m into the main chamber. Then I had to find a secluded spot under a boulder to deal with the consequences of scaring the crap out of myself for the last 45 minutes.
And so we went forth into the new discoveries.
Becka and I left Steve to rig his traverse with the 30m rope along a wide and drafty passage where the floor was missing and surveyed some mud and bat bone encrusted phreas while squabbling the whole time about whether we should explore the straightest, largest, ongoing passages first, as opposed to painstakingly measuring around every single trivial visible loop to produce numerical data that, if phoned down excitedly to someone at Base Camp, merely renders a little knot of loops at the bottom of a big pitch that don't go anywhere.
Meanwhile, Steve at the traverse changed his direction of attack from the right hand wall to the left hand wall to get to a "4m diameter phreatic passage."
He'd actually found one of those Kaninchenhohle-style quiet rifts where all the rock has rotted into rounded boulders coated with black skinned cheesecake slime. A narrow squeeze and climb down under a tall thin col reached a wide slippery pitch edge over a two second drop and ten second rumble. And that was that.
We returned. Becka derigged the traverse rope, and we all went back to our nice proper phreas to survey a couple more legs. I headed off for a slash, and, while I was waiting for the others to arrive, the sound of hidden waterfalls appeared like a radio turned on to loud static. It was exactly 6:30pm.
I manifested another dump. These states of scaring the crap out of myself are inconvenient.
The pitch now had a foaming river running down it. Becka tried to prussick up it, changed over after about 15m of becoming clean washed, and came down.
Change of plan. We were not going to get out any time soon.
We didn't return to the nice sandy passages we had been exploring because they were too windy. We tried making a place to sit it out at the far end of the pitch chamber in a deep open pit of clean razor sharp rocks. Becka and Steve unwrapped their emergency bivi bags (body-sized clear plastic bags) and pulled them over their heads cutting a hole in the top. I had nothing, of course. It was rubbish. After half an hour it was clear we had to do something else.
Opposite the waterfall there was a small patch of dirt under a perched rock with about 0.5m of clearance where it was not windy. We spread the rope out to sit on and cut apart the two plastic bags to form some kind of an outer wall to drape and hold over ourselves. Boy was it uncomfortable. Our backs were freezing from the gap under the boulder, our knees and feet were cold where they were poking out at the front, and our legs folded at funny angles were constantly getting pins and needles.
We stayed pretty silent the whole time and didn't waste energy with idle chit-chat. Time passed quickly. I wasn't bored at all. Although I hadn't brought useful stuff like my own emergency plastic bag or whistle, I did have a small thermometer which showed that the outside was at 2degC, while our improvized bivi scored an amazing 10degC even in the most miserable spots such as in front of my knees.
It was very difficult to gauge whether the water flow was going up or down. We should have made a better effort to remember exactly what it looked like when Becka first attempted it. It never looked great. Our concerns were whether the water flow was due to a sudden thunderstorm and flood pulse (good), or one of those long Austrian drizzles that can go on for days (very bad). It turned out to be the former. The hailstones at Base Camp were impressive enough for someone to save in the freezer.
We also didn't know the state of the top half of pitch. A 30m prussick up through absolute misery followed by 70m of reasonably dry technical rope-work would be okay, while 100m of nearly freezing waterfall would not mean we weren't going to do it.
We missed our 11pm call-out.
The well-oiled CUCC rescue machine at Top Camp swung into action, supercharged by newly arrived old-lags, and at 2:30am a shout accompanied by a swinging beam of light (Noel's) appeared above ceiling level in line with the waterfall. This showed the top part of the pitch to be in a side-pocket in the chamber so you couldn't see all the way to the floor from the top. We yelled back.
Having verified that we were okay, and confirmed the reason why we had not come out on time, the rescue was called off, and everyone went home. We decided that the top half of the pitch was probably okay enough to send Becka up to check it out. Wookey, at the top, noticed her light and stayed behind with all the now abandoned rescue equipment to make us hot drinks and cheer us up. "Looks like you've lived through this one, Julian" he said to me as I got up, having fluffed up the knot-pass on the way up and became incoherent with rage at the psychopath who put it there.
Steve passed us, having tested out his plastic orange bothy thing with me and confirmed that it would have been bloody nice to have had it downstairs where we had been waiting. I was pretty slow getting out. Far behind me, Wookey heroically dragged almost everything out of the cave including the rescue stretcher and still caught me up at the surface. I walked back to Top Camp in daylight. Almost everyone was asleep. I did nothing the following day, while Becka went caving. The day after it rained continually. Becka went caving again. I cycled down the hill and achieved nothing.
I would like to put on record that I would like a proper canyonning holiday next year before doing any expos to put me in a good enough mood to cope with this and keep on caving.
Derigged entrance pitches. Was reasonably wet.
Went back with another rope to attempt to get to the bottom of the pitch we had run out of rope on last time. Kathryn and Jess S went in ahead, Jess added extra bolt on traverse whilst KAthryn finished rigging pitch. Edvin, Ian and I followed down about an hour later, when we arrived most of the rigging was doen which was good :) Pitch called Fat Cat. Was narrow at top then opened out below first rebelay. Next rebelay was even more airy :S, this dropped to one of the floors of a multi-level floored chamber. Across pitch looked like there was some horizontal level going off but would probably need more rigging to be able to swing into this and enthusiasm failed us. Put in another rebelay from natural and walked down a rope to another floor of chamber, yet another rebelay led to another level with small slot down - B lead, would need more rope, so not explored.
Headed out - on way out rigged bottom section of Cat Flap and the handline pitch in Catwalk so leads could be explored if coming via Brian's Phat Shaft. Left up section of traverse rigged also. Derigged out to bottom of entrance series. Than you to non-zeusians Edvin and Ian for carrying out tacklesacks.
Having reached the bivy just fter eleven on the morning of the rescue, I met a scene of immobility. Lots of sitting around drinking tea and porridge/noodles etc. Only Edvin was willing to accompany me to KH to retrieve gear - and that only because his caving kit was there too and he'd already committed to a 204 trip. My excuse was a handy three days off at base and nine hours in bed (oblivious to any rescue dramas). Edvin has no such excuse, and our 17 minute trip to KH (and 19 minutes return) was rather indecently speedy.
Back at the bivvy, the zeuses were still prearing to go underground an there was plenty of time for noodles and tea etc. Kathryn and Jess having gone ahead, it was up to Emma to escort Edvin and I from the entrance. The trip was very pleasant and we soon seemed to pass the entrance pitches and snow slopes and be through Merry Fucking Christmas crawl and the slot pitch. Things were going well. Catching up with Jess on the traverses we paused briefly and took photographs. Getting closer to the front, we heard a distant "rope free" from a distant Kathryn and all assembled at the head of the new pitch (Fat Cat). Jess and Emma were to survey down, which would mean I and Edvin would descend first.
On a cursory - and alarming - inspection of the rigging I opted to descend last, which placed me in the surveying pair. A more shonky spit I have never seen. Still, the descent went smoothly, if slowly, and soon we were all assembled at the bottom. Finally - chance to have a wee!
A plan was hatched whereby Jess and I would derig back to Pussy Prance, a task which I willingly undertook. Jess went ahead once a sack was filled and I continued to steadily (read "safely") derig across the traverse and up Painted Lady pitch. Interesting games were played involving big first knots and pitch ropes piled out of reach on ledges...
From there on, things moved quickly (due to the stench of Zeus wee). Edvin, Jess and I set off out, leaving Kathryn and Emma to derig. Progress though MFC crawl was rather efficient, with Jess and I meeting Edvin on the far side. I waited for the deriggers whilst the other two continued out. A third passage through MFC and the zeuses were met on the far side. Another (very) efficient passage through MFC was completed with minimal fuss (perhaps excepting Emma's "Don't care, I just want it finished! Don't care, don't care"). More pleasant passage led to the bottom of the entrance pitches and a short prusik out led to the bivy: no walk required :)
So that's it: two men on a Zeus caving trip; new cave explored and surveyed; no big dramas; and an efficient and satisfying derig back to the entrance pitches. All in all: a fine trip in a fine cave. Well done Zeuses!
Derigged entrance pitches. Was reasonably wet.
S+B headed straight down. Surveyed several loops in complex phreas between chamber + main big passage; meanwhile Ollie "tame dangle-fairy" gave the pitch a few sling rebelays and new bolts.
O joined us; B then found a much safer route to main drag (up climb as per 28/7 trip, thgouh flat out section then up rift to R).
Surveyed passage heading S/E from where large phreas is entered. Traverses onver 1 pitch (QMB) and found another (QMA) to 2 junctions on R. 1st R: 1m passage, no draught: QMA. 2nd R leads to silent black space, long fall, QMA - no draught though. So carried on in main passage. Leads to pitch - could be traverses and has strong draught - QM A.
After much faff got to top of US to find Mike heading out owing to knot-pass not-fun times. Julian proceeded to smoothly and cheerfully descend and we allmet at the bottom. We headed to the S/E and S started rigging traverse whilst J+B surveyed up N?W phreas. Traverse leads out into complex chamber area. Several possible leads at floor level need a proper ????. Walking passage on R left as QMA.
Draught comes from passage on L at traverse level so headed over to this. Starts as large tunnel then climb down into rift; thrutch down at end passed by J+B leads to big pitch - QMA, no flat continuation - booo. Alternative to thrutch is 8m climb to col - needs rope for return - QMA.
On way back to pitch the QMA noted on 30/07/09 was now rather noisy. Bum. Remebered that US is nice, clean washed and drippy. Big bum. B went for a look. Looked soggy so we hoped it was a ?????, surveyed a few more leads up NW passages - nice 3m phreas.
Came back to pitch at about 8pm. Still soggy. Wait 30 mins in bivi bags (S+B) or in cold (J). B attempted pitch. Too soggy. Poo. So made a tent/bivi/hovel in earshot of pitch. Huddle. Periodically check sog factor. Repeat. Miss callout. Repeat more. Get bored. Repeat. Hear noise at top - voice? Start yelling. Lights and voice disappear. Huddle more. Conclude that if someone has got part way down we can get up - so sent B up to test theory. Pitch appears fine if moist.
Meet Wook at pitchhead. With my bothy which I had left at the entrance. Grrr. Plied with a drink. Head to entrance with Andy A. Kathryn and Emma ply with more tea. Back to bivy. Jess S plies with more tea and curry. Must get resuced more often...
Down Tunnocks to continue Holly and Noel's push down the Stomach. Took down 60m of rope plus drill, arrived at final bolt from previous trip, added y-hang (1 bolt each) and dropped the pitch - some to-ing and fro-ing to get the wider parts of the rift. At the bottom of pitch used natural to descend three c2s (bottom two are free climbable). Rift continues for a few metres until floor drops away again and will need rigging to carry on. Grade A lead.
Surprising degree of enthusiasm for caving today given that almost everybody stayed up until dawn on the rescue (thanks guys...). I fancied something mellow so we headed off to cross off easy QMs in Tunnocks and improved the survey (took the full print out with us and scrawled on it). Sorted out a mess in Germknodel and surveyed 50m each in QM30C and in QM37B (34B is a pitch). Return to Usual Suspects to remove the final bits from the rescue and I dragged the stretcher out as my pennance. Saw Andrew's disto-x/PDA combination in action underground for the first time - impressive though probably no faster than trad surveying.
Dragged in a drill and rope to check out more QMs. Checked on the Usual Suspects water level - siilarly damp (still raining). Started with a QMB nearly opposite Naughty Naughty in Dubious Pleasure and hit the jackpot - it started as a crawly/stoopy passage and gradually got larger and even had crusty stal formations. Traversed over a blind pit and then a larger drippy pitch on the right. At the next pitch the ledge looked too teetery so Andrew put in a traverse line on naturals (needs 20-25m). Then hit an even bigger pitch which Holly and I excitedly lobbed a couple of big rocks down before Andrew screamed stop at us. Spoil sport. "There's a rope". Oops. We'd managed to come to the eyeholes visible level with the main hang ledge in Usual Suspects. Got around to the second eyehole and then hit a short but monster section of phreas - maybe 15m wide with a howling gale coming out. We teetered up a vast pile of rocks semi-stuck together to end up overlooking a giant pitch. Unfortunately in the wet conditions we couldnt' see down as it was filled with a fine mist and the disto-x struggled too. Surveyed 350m - a fine trip. The end section seemed to have way too much cave and too little rock holding it all up.
Expo dinner day so it had to be a shorty (though we got an 8:30am underground start). After hinting heavily all morning, I managed to persuade Andrew to derig Usual Suspects since we'd had 4 hours of dry for the first time in forever. He got wet but the rocks we'd lobbed down yesterday had missed the rope. Then did a short survey in Frankly Freezing before it all got a bit chilly. I slogged out with 150m in Big Bertha whilst Andrew skipped along with more rope and the metalware.
Noel most keen on canyoning. Steve came too and got the best wetsuit leaving me with the 7 piece homemade. Gave lifts to Martin and Holly and 2 bikes to return via Ischl - Bla Alm canyon (Holly went up Loser too).
Changed at midday. Martin walked to top with us and was able to translate memorial to young digger driver on side of track. We found his wrecked digger far below in the middle of the canyon. There's also a prominent plaque at the head of the difficult double pot pitch to two dead canyoners in 2004. The water was not high, but it was fast flowing. Nearly drowned trying to get off inappropriate rack while Noel improvised a cowstail from a pull down cord and let the open tacklesack containing my SRT kit float over the waterfall and float round the swirl pool until the 2 plastic bottles slipped out and it sank without trace. We chained the rope (Noel didn't know how) to help with carrying, and tossed it to a person ahead at jumps until Steve missed his catch an that too sank without trace. Fortunately we didn't need it for rest or trip and got out after 3.5 hrs without our dignity. It was lucky Becka wasn't there.
3.5hrs to lose a new tacklesack, 2 ropes and a set of prusiking gear! Good going!
Team Vertical+Wook and Andrew - see separate write up Lugged all my kit over to 161G for a fresh assault on KH. Enthusiasm was noticeably lacking this morning from just about everyone but somehow no-one found an excuse big enough to jack. Hmm.
So anyway after two and a half hours of caving in which only I knew the way...
"there's a distinct change in colour here"
"the popcorn bit is handy on the way out"
"I went wrong twice here, where the dead bat is"
...we got to the traverse in Satan's Sitting Room. The old lags (see Wook and Andrew's separate write up) seemed to swallow all my youthful bullshit without complaint! From here, Becka and I descended to Silent Fellow with a 60m rope to see where the continuation of Solid Rock goes. Andrew and Wook began to rerig SSR/3WM traverse.
Having rigged Solid Rock, I realised we had only a few metres spare on the 60m rope so left Becka putting in a hand bolt whilst I went back up to try and persuade the others to let us have some rope. This was an embarrassing and energy-wasting mistake on my part. Team traverse was most accomodating and allowed me to take the 100m rope, leaving them with a 30m and a 10m (not enough for the 3WM traverse!) Having paid the rope tax, they decided they wouldn't have much use for the drill so I descended Solid Rock for a second time a considerably heavier caver.
Having gone to all this effort, it turned out that: (a) the continuation of Solid Rock requires only a single bolt to descend (good sneaky thread for a sling backup), and; (b) this continuation closes down to impenetrable rift after 10 or 15m. Hmm!
We worked out that Becka wouldn't have to come down if we put a temporary station on my knee :- that way we could do one leg down the pitch and have a two-legged survey. Hurrah! So I duly shouted up some LRUD measurements and began to "memorise" the plan and elevation. On the prusik up, I was foolish enough to look closely into a cleft in one wall and discovered that if I took all my extraneous drill, bags, danglies and shit off I could fit through. This is "Sorry Andrew" rift.
I went a few metres and realised that we ought to survey it so I called Becka down. It continued on and separated at a small inlet a few metres in. The continuation (right) quickly fell away into a deep hole, and a short bold step would reach a window looking into a fine clean streamway chamber. A chamber which looked familiar, as belonging to Private Investigations. Hmm.
We decided to make the most of the (barely used) drill and 100m rope. I bolted across the step and rigged a descent into the chamber to confirm it as that reached on 30/7/09 with Edvin. Edvin's big fat, red blob was easily located (station 1) and all was going swimmingly.
Becka then let out a yelp and a curse, and I looked up to see Andrew's borrowed DistoX come flying down the hole over which I have just traversed. A DistoX connections was confirmed between the bold step and the chamber below the one in which I stood. Hmmm!
A quick rig, descent, pick-up DistoX, ascent, derig ensued. We then buggered off out, knowing that Solid Rock is shit and horrible and that we shouldn't have gone there in the first place.
Team Vertical again +Wook and Andrew - see separate write up
Clearly not having been put off yesterday, Becka again joined me in a shaft dropping trip in KH. That this trip happened at all is a conundrum, as we hadn't a plan until we all got to SSR! Wookey and Andrew were dead-set on going to the bitter end of East Anglia and suggested that Becka and I drop the great black hole at the end of Far Too Far (a big wet-sounding undescended pitch - C1992-161-19).
Several Hiltis were put in on the way (predrilled in the 90s) and is probably took us an hour to get through 3 wise men and tinkle rift! Wookey and Andrew pointed out our hole and we all marvelled at the echo before they buggered off and left us to it. By "us" I mean "me" as Becka doesn't seem to like dropping great big shafts. So I "took one for the team" and went about bolting the first descent.
What a dream is was too: a large airy majestic shaft: clean washed and with fine sculpted walls. My lamp could just make out something at the bottom: a floor, a puddle, who knows? With sound, clean, rock a 100m rope in the sack and a pair of drill batteries, this was a real pleasure. As I pointed out to Becka at the time, I would happily drive to the Dales to descend a pothole like this on a sport trip. Poor, tireless Becka. I got all enthused again and began ranting about the finery of it all.
Suffice to say the pitch meets a bridge into a parallel shaft. Descending this, the water is met again. At this floor, a gully takes the water round a sharp (90 degree?) bend to the right and into a tall tight rift. A third shaft drops in on the far side, the water of which also flows into the rift. The rift could be pushed but must be a QMC at best. Hmmmm!
A trip into Stone Monkey to recover the 30m rope at the far end and to derig out from there. My first visit :- a very interesting place, glad I took the chance to see it! Packed all the derigged gear into the tacklebags, except the entrance pitch (92m) which we paellaed out in one go.
Impressed with: Caramel Catharsis traverse (textbook)
Not impressed with: entrance pitch bolts (triple fishermans on pitches are a bad way to join ropes and poorly dressed knots are difficult to untie) :-(
Carried all the shit back to the bivy in one go, and derigged half the cairn reflectors on the way.
A very enjoyable trip.
The three of us were still keen for our third KH assault in three days, then Martin piped up that he wanted to come along too since Ian had bailed out to help on the Tunnocks derig. Under Ian's expert tuition we'd pretty much sussed the route finding by now (the walk to the entrance is at least as tricky). Martin mashed his fingers struggling with the 2m pitch before the Bridge - I know its all of 2 prusiks but pretty please can it get a proper rig if/when people return there? Martin wavered about heading straight back but there was a definite lack of enthusiastic volunteers to shepherd him out so he was cajoled onwards. "Are we nearly there yet?" An onwards. We finally got to the down pitch (C1993-161-03) then up pitch that Wookey + Andrew had dropped then climbed yesterday. Wookey set off to descend the pitch beyond and dangled on rope for several hours squealing exitedly that drills were excellent gear. He ran out of rope 50m down then he and Martin derigged and surveyed out. Meanwhile Andrew and I started our survey from yesterday's down pitch and up to the head of Wookey's pitch and down a small horizontal passage which eventually mud-filled. The place is stuffed with pitches - the initial down pitch at C1993-161-03 continues large and deep below two huge wedged boulders where we got off to climb up. There's also a pitch to the right of Wookey's over a rok spur, though this might connect to Wookey's. However, spurning these obvious downs Andrew spied a traverse/climb up the rock spur "The Natural Ways", made significantly trickier because he could only use the right side of the arrete as the others were directly below him. After quite some time he shouted he'd got to the top and then I was left babysitting the rope whilst he had a swift scoop to check it was worth me coming up! It was...
The traverse is well-rigged on naturals though a couple of spits at the top would be good. It tops out at a ledge with a pitch beyond that, again, likely connects to Wookey's pitch. However, far more interesting a final step led into wide walking/stooping phreatic passage. We whizzed a survey up until it was 7pm and time to go home. Back to chivy Martin and Wookey out and to pack up the mounds of gear and derig what we could. Hard work until Repton where we dumped much of the gear ready for the 11/08/09 trip then poor Martin was flaging so a slow exit in the early hours and finally back to camp at 3am. Fortunately we'd already planned on taking the next day off.
Wook: pitch notes: "6 Mile Bottom". Initial clean pitch of 11m to sandy shelf. Window into big rift - 10x5m. Bolt in centre of rift. About 12m down shaft on West, wall has a couple of passages. Can take survey onto here before lower rebelay put in - needs bolt to retain rope! Rebelay 10m off the floor. Continues in fine form at the bottom - next bit is 14m, then more. Very reminiscent of Gaffered series - QMA.
Team Horizontal + Wook and Andrew - see separate write up.
We had previously decided that our final pushing trip would occur on the Tuesday and the we would attempt a full KH derig to leave Wednesday free for bivy fettling and gear carrying..
Well today was the day.
After a relatively relaxed start (somehow fate seems to have a lot of inertia) we got underground at the KH standard time of 10:30.
First on the agenda was a trip into "Where the Wind Blows" for a furtle about. This is a 300m long phreatic passage trending northish terminating in a draughting boulder choke not far from the current pushing limit in East Anglia. A connection would make exploration of the Far North a much easier task but alas we could see no obvious way through. Possible leads include:
After this little detour we got back on track and headed to Repton. Here Becka and I left Andrew and Wookey to play spiderman whilst we headed to last trips limit, to explore the horizontal walking sized phread. And because on the last trip the way had been derigged back to Repton we had to take a tacklesack to get there!
Nevertheless we did get there. Becka gave me a guided tour of the passage beyond East Anglia, and we came to the limit of exploration at a junction. Here I took the notepad and pencil and we made slow progress through a complex and multilevel sloping pocketed phreas. What a great place to first take notes! Seven legs later it was time to head out, for we had said 6pm at Repton when arranging to meet the others. Grade A lead left at the limit: a pitch continuation at the bottom of a rift mud slope :)
On the way back to Andrew's traverse ("The Natural Way") a black rift in the floor gives a genuine 5 second free fall. I spent a good while timing the drops with my stopwatch: of half a dozen stones which didn't touch the rift sides, not a single one took less than 5 seconds! :)
I was so preoccupied with the black rift that I completely forgot to have a wee. This duly done (down the black rift naturally), we kitted up to return along the traverse. Becka pointed out that the last belay had a dodgy rock which out to be gardened. Doing this turned the solid thread into a poorly positioned spike (i.e. the rope now pulls up on it). Big bang from the rock though.
Getting back to Repton at one minute to six, we found no sign of the others but for a solitary rope dangling from on up high. Becka went up in search of the others and I went up to the top of the boulder pile to make a cup of soup with Anthony's meths stove. Before I had finished my cup I could hear the others returning and more soup was had until the meths ran out. We spent about an hour (!) drinking soup and packing all the assorted shit into bags.
At this point Becka and I were given a tacklesack each and headed out waiting at the top of Knossos to regroup. Andrew and Wookey performed the derig role between them and we exited between 21:30 and whatever time Wookey got out. This must have been some time later as Becka and I got back to the bivy at 11:00 but the others didn't return until 1am.
A great finale to a great expo :)
We descended Tunnocks with a Makita drill with the aim of picking up some rope from the start of Stone Monkey. Not knowing the location og the new entrance to Stone Monkey I went around a long loop for 20 minutes to find Steve having already found the bag. We continued onto Just For a Laugh to look at pitches. The first near station justforalaugh.12 looked a little wet and appeared to have audible connection to the pitch near justforalaught2.1 which was considerably drier. I rigged this pitch with a natural thread in the floor as backup, and a y-hang across the rift. Additional passage may be reachable over the top of this pitch ot from a rift a metre of two down. At the bottom a narrow rift to a pitch went off as well as a small window to a parallel clean washed shaft, with a small stream coming in. I tried to rig out og this water with a wide y-hang and a rebelay out from the water. But this was in rain due to an aven further along the shaft making it drippy. I descended going down several ledges, that the original stream goes down. At the bottom a rift went off, which quickly becomes too tight, along with some small phreatic passage which also closed down. I retreated now slightly damp to survey out with Steve derigging, taking all the gear back to the bivy (all new bolts were greased).
Ian has covered most of the trip so here's our specific bit. Given only 30m rope plus a tiddly bit to rerig 3WM we left the lower old rope protecting the 8m climb and part re-rigged the traverse-proper. Slightly worrying hanging over a big drop on very aged string, but all was (of course) well.
Decided it needed another bolt to reduce huge rub at edge so put one in then rediscovered 2 holes drilled for better rigging in 1993. In a better place too! Having faffed for at least an hour replacing the rope already and being short of length decided to leave that for another time. Had also by now given the drill away so had no spits of the correct type.
Just about made it to the far side but now entirely free of rope so decided to ???? ?? a good poke about in prep for tomorrow's trip.
We had a proper look round the area immediately beyond 3WM. It's quite complex and really could use a few survey legs sometime.
Climbing out of area at end of 3WM (c5) there is a passage on the right partially fill with sediment. This goes for about 3m to a very tight zig-zag which is (looks like earbass too biscuit???). No draught. Ahead is a slope up to the right which leads to a high chamber. A climb ahead for 4-5m lead to several solution tubes. Part way up you can see across toward the tinkle rift passage. Turning right in the chamber reaches a climb both up and down. Down goes 2-3m where a tight passage looks through into something larger (QMC). This doesn't seem to connect back into main area.
Climbing up is an easy climb up quite high (10m) which comes back into main area at southern end. You can traverse across the shaft and climb into a hole. This goes about 3m to look out into the shaft which 3WM tyroleans across. At this level you can see into more space off the north side of the area (It seems to be mostly space round here).
Next we went all the way to the end of East Anglia, noting that Tinkle Rift pitch had been left rigged (forgotten?). Decided that end of East Anglia looked like most interesting lead because we might be able to go across. This it was time to go home and meet the others at SSR.
A steady return got us out in 2hrs 15ish, and walked back in the light, trying to remember rather complex route.
After leaving Ian and Becka at impressive black space of what was to become So Far Away we dragged sacks of rope to the far end. First a couple of easy (hand!) bolts to get started. Despite not being able to remember when I last put in a hand bolt (4 years ago?) I won the race :) Andrew set off and I went looking for survey stations and checking for QMs. At soily junction passage goes 4m to look down hole. Drauhting out and probably descendable so should be a QMC. Checked out streamway further back and decided too tight without capping. Impressive echo for tiny slot though.
Having got 10m down pitch onto huge choked boulder Andrew declared large pitch below, 'wet looking' with two incoming streams, so he went across. Turned out no real passage across pitch just climb up corner/slot which looked like it went somewhere. Andrew declared it more 'commiting' so let me do it. I put in a bolt whilst Andrew went back to fetch 60m rope. Climb not as bad as it looked and didgy rocks stayed put long enough to shin up. Rigged pith off mediocre thread, then had a look around. Exciting!
Found area was mostly big choked boulders over space. Long drop below through narrow slot. Threw some rocks - p60ish? Another pitch beyond through small winder, no overhanging death here. Horizontal passage goes back to East Anglia pitch and continues. Also comes out above P55 but entrance blocked by slipped block.
Andrew found another pitch traversing over the top of all this to the right. And then it was time to go home already. Put a second thread on the pitch and left to go out with Becka and Ian. Again back in daylight.
Brought a couple of rings out to rig bounce rift with tyrolean.
Andrew spotted interesting hole in roof of repton, 15-18m off deck.
Bedding it is in caused there to be a ledge(ish) from it back to the highest point of the boulder pile (well about 3m up at that point).
Andrew shinned whilst wookey belayed. First bit straight up wall proved awkward with heroic move needed onto ledge. Ledge full of KH mud of course and generally about 30-60cm wide and sloping away. Slow progress with a lot of muttering round an awkward bulge then good wide bit till nearly at passage. Narrow bit here with huge runout so 1 more bolt needed. 7 bolts in total. Seconding was even scarier as all the pro was just before each tricky bit! Wook had one major wobbly part way along, but made it after a lot of grumbling.
Naice walking passage about 4m x 1.8m was our reward. We rigged down-rope 1st then surveyed. Disto D2 was very troublesome - refusing to measure except one time in 10. Tedious. Surveyed about 100m, until becka arrived to point out it was hometime. Nice draught, passage continues. Fine thing to come back to...
[Drawing: elevation of climb]