Left my bike at Kulm then drove to Neiderstuttern (this is definitely the better route for the bike->car shuttle as all downhill!). Set off 8:45 but already hot + near heat stroke on the initial ascent. I had 3l water which wouldn't have been enough except there's an excellent spring some way above the Grimminghutte where we refilled. Q a few wires + metal foot poles so like an unprotected via ferrata on ascent + decsent + may be problems with snow earlier in year or in a high-snow year. Descent down deep ridges + narrow stony gullies in a fairly improbable manner - impressive there's a route over at all. A very fine day out though sadly Julian didn't get to hang-glide over us though we collected him from his field in Bad Mittendorf.
After day of topcamp fettling we set off to Balcony to rig the entrance shaft, after initially intending to do only a carry. We reflected en-route, so as to be able to find out way back, arriving ~ 8pm. I rigged the first few rebelays, not really understanding what the bolts wanted me to do. Elliott took over & we eventually got to the bottom with some bodge. Due to a lack of inspiration we headed back out & back to top camp, getting there ~midnight.
Feeling Keen we set off to rig Tunnocks entrance shaft, optimistically we took ropes /hangers to get to the bottom of ducks on ice. Burdened by 2 bags & equipped with me skyhook I set off; several exciting swings & wall destruction (by skyhook) complete saw Ash & I in sight of the bottom ice/snow plug; after a final swing & lunge to gain a skyhook placement I put a bolt in & looked up to see the other hilti for a u-hang out of reach. At this point I got fed up of silly acrobatics & we went home despite the end of the entrance being in sight.
Got sufficient gear up the hill to go caving ish (failed to remember sunscreen my safety cord and a few other things).
Went to 2007-71 to look at pitch leads. Started with 07-02C, as it looked easier to get into than 07-01B. Pitch drops down on right, passage continues a few metres on with a couple of other holes to the pitch then ends as a tight inlet.
Olly rigged down, natural backup in main poassage, natural, bolt, bolt, deviation to get to the floor. Pitch got wider on the way down to end in a moderate sized chamber with an icy/rocky floor and a very pretty snowcone. Sadly no way on. I pushed into a tight passage, but it only went a couple of meters. Exited, confirming that 07-01B connects.
Left rigged to survey once we've calibrated the distox.
Checked 15-01B - it is too small to get in to sadly. It might be possible (but not trivial) to move the rock.
After a disgustingly warm carry up the hill with Anthony, Ash & Elliott, Elliott & I decided we still wanted to go caving. We headed over to Balcony with 100m of 11mm snake rope, bolting & surveying kit. Derigging the far too thin, previous rope we set about swinging into windows on the 34m pitch, my only lead from 2014 that hadn't been snaffled. (for good reason after a loose climb & another scary climb (that Elliot went up) it crapped out, giving the grand total of surveyed new passage of ~10m. (swingers) After re-rigging the entrance on speedy 11mm we went for a little bimble & found the natural highs had been derigged. See below for rigging guide.
100m + 20m
~17 hanger required
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Rigging trip down Tunnocks, Anthony continued rigging down string Theory whilst I sat & refrigerated. String Theory rigged we consolidated rigging Kit and Anthony continued rigging down procrastination. I continued to refrigerate. Rigging complete we headed out. 9 Krbas, 9 maillons, 9 hangers (N of Beast, magic glue (dev))
Got a lift up the hill in the morning and learnt to use the distoX and topodroid in the bivi cave. Learnt enough to go and do something useful, so headed to 101. Sounds simple. Sadly we didn't completely remember where 101 was (having last visited in 2012) and we had no data in the GPS to help. Spent over an hour wandering around the plateau in caving gear. Headed back to camp to enlist the GPS + an old prospecting map print out. Found the cave easily!
Surveyed in splaying and topodroiding (in colour!) as we went. Got past the skylight entrance and down the climb before it got too tight for Olly, and we were cold. Headed out surveying out the skylight entrance as we went.
Down to the Ngauruhoe snowcone and surveyed out. On the way we lost the nail polish back down the pitch (I looked for a while, but gave up in the end). I swung across into the parallel shaft from 07-01B and confirmed there were no further bolts. Derigged and planned to move onto 15-02B, but had failed to bring a drill battery. Had a wander on the surface instead looking for new entrances.
Later on went for an unsuccessful walk looking for 2004-04, though it did at least warm us up.
Set off to continue rigging down Tunnocks (aiming to carry 2 bags to camp). On the way the one bolt wonder handline before usual suspects was converted (more or less) into a bonafide traverse line. Picked up Krabs, hangers & maillons from bottom of string theory & carried on down procrastination; Wookey rigged number of the beast & we carried on down to magic glue, putting deviations in along the way. Once at magic glue faff ensued with rope misbehaving & getting tangled. Once I was at the bottom, wookey instaled a deviation; having previously dropped Krab/sling down the pitch: "It's a good job we're not climbers or we'd have to retire that", on a spike, bags were left just below magic glue, with a long plod out.
Stuff left: 2 bags of camping stuff, 1 drill, 2 drill bits, 1 battery, blow tube, hammer/setter & hiltis No drill tackle sack 8 maillions, 6 krabs, 4, hangers, 2 bits of tat
Went for an explore with a few 30m lengths of rope. Was mine & Andrew's first trip down & Becka hadn't been down since 2014. Andrew was initially considering dropping down one of the pitches at Natural High but George suggested a better option further on that turned out to be called consolidation Pitch. Rigging of a bolt on the traverse across a series of pitches down to a ledge with a clear 4 second drop straight down with lots of water dripping. Due to lack of reop we traverses over to the opposite ledge to descend the pitch beyond that was dry. [unfilled blank] m down with a couple of rebelays ended on a boulder slope with a smaler passage coming in from the right & a squeeze over a 4m drop at the bottom but we had no rope left.
Callout book entry
Olly rigged down 15-02B. Sadly it ended about where the final disto leg of 2015 landed. Derigged out and removed all of our gear from the cave. I was very sad it had ended. Went to look at 97 (The day before I had climbed down the entrance chimney to see if the vocal connection to 2007-71c was worth digging - it isn't as it will just be too tight after the dig. The chimney is a fairly easy climb but tricky in current ice levels to exit at the top - it is tight and you are wedged in at the top of a 10m climb!). Anyway today we surveyed from the tage the doline and the climb.
Had a look at the surface near 2007-71, There is a strong linear feature with a small chamber off it, but not really an actual cave.
Took the first rope in to 76 to make a start on the rigging. I've barely rigged in years, and not been to 76 since 2007, and was using the stop that Julian kindly lent me, having only used a rack for years. Anyway it all went fine, and 76 was comfortably familiar, the hiltis has survived the last decade fine (though the one at the top of Draft Bitter had a bit of rusty grease in it). Got to the rock bridge rebelay and decided a drill would be useful to add a higher deviation so I came out, ready to walk down the hill and experience going to the dentist in German the next day!
We went back to investigate the lead with some more short pieces of rope & 100m of 9mm. Having received a 13m piece of rope that had been dropped at Natural High. We rerigged the initial drop & continued back to the bottom of the boulder slope. Squeezing round a piller we descended into a wet chamber with some pretty & sharp rock formations. The passage continued round the corner & ended with a hole in the floor & a sloping aven coming in from the right, where we found a survey station. This turned out to the where elliott ended up at the end of last year having come in throught the passage coming in from the right at the top of the boulder slope and free climbed the squeezy bit? He had just run out of batteries for survey equipment & not been able to return (hence the name - Batteries). We decided not to survey the incoming passage & instead Becka went down the main 75m pitch to investigate and survey. There was nothing at the bottom & surveying turned out to be impossible as the disto we had that day was only up to 50m (the one we used the day before was 100m) so we de-rigged and came out.
Fettled Tunnocks entrance: - Replaced all slings in deviations with tat - Fiddled with hang on a 2nd rebelay (clown) - Fiddled with deviation on a 2nd rebelay (taken out) - Re-rigged final drop onto ice plug (similar to 2015 now as opposed to 2014 rig? - Added natural to y-hang at Caramel Catharsis pitch
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Nat and I had good memories of the leads down Champagne on Ice so we packed four tacklesacks and ~260 rope and started rigging. Missed the 1st two pitches by (something) Tom Claytons sneaky route through boulders below the short climb on the main route. Took turns rigging + cursing the rigging guide which gave no indication of scale + insufficient detail (Nat got particularly) grumpy but after a couple of false drops + some hunting for spits (not helped by thorough greasing of the spits making them near-invisible) we rigged to the bottom + the short traverse beyond.
Callout book entry
Nat promised me an “adventure” and so led me down Tunnocks after excessive faff to push a
lead he’d last visited in 2014. We descended relatively efficiently and route finding was not
much of an issue. The following changes were made to the ‘champagne on ice’ pitch series:
-Replaced sling at 1st pitch head with additional bolt to form proper y-hang
-Improved the traverse at the very end with the addition of a single bolt in the ceiling of the passage at the very bottom of the series.
Beyond this I rigged a P5, although it should be noted that this pitch is probably larger than 5m as an 11m rope was insufficient to reach the bottom. After rigging a pre-bolted traverse we soon arrived at the lead, a drafting hole atop a seemingly easy climb just beyond a >10m hole. The traverse required to get round the hole was somewhat more sketchy than Nat remembered. For a fully comprehensive recreation of the sounds Nat made during the sky hook facilitated bolting of the traverse please consult either Nat or myself. ‘What would you Mother think’ traverse was rigged around the corner too a floor at the base of the climb up to the lead. At this point we turned back due to tiredness, cold and Nat being a big baby. This far the traverse consists of 4 bolts ascending to a further 5th bolt up to a ledge around the corner (backed up with by a spike).
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Back into 76 to continue rigging. Olly continued where I left off starting the 65m rope at The Ledge. This year we rigged along the ledge side, with a deviation on the Test Tubes side. This was a good success - it uses fewer hangers, is easier and quicker to pass and hangs better. Olly rigged tightly - the Y-hang at The Ledge Below The Ledge was temporarioly a single hang with a deviation. I was about to complain about the tightness of the rigging when Olly shouts up from Yesterday's Terminus that he has got to the end of the rope and could I feed 2m of slack through! I wasn't convinced there was 2m of slack rope in the whole cave let alone at this pitch. Anyway I converted the comfortable Y-hang to a single hanger with deviation, then the rope just reaches. We realised this wasn't very workable, but also a knot pass isn't good in a trade route rig. So we headed out to rethink.
Callout book entry
Callout book entry
At 22:00 David and Roshni's callout went live. We scanned the hill for lights, but saw nothing. So we prepared for a rescue and departed for the entrance. We had the response bag and Mark had some extra emergency equipment in his own kit. Nat stayed on the surface, prepared to run for more help if needed. Mark and George descended the cave and established contact halfway down the entrance pitch. Mark went down through the water (it was very wet) and arrived at the bottom to see a rather cold and worried David and a VERY cold Roshni. Because of the risks of descending the pitch, Mark signalled to George that he should go back out. First action was to put extra clothes (duvet vest) on Roshni. We then set up camp. Tacklebags etc. on the floor to sit on and then the bothy to get onto. Hot soup and plenty of flapjack. Candles for extra warmth.
At 05:00 we judged it sufficiently improved that we could try to get out. That went very smoothly. Mark gave Roshni an assisted prussic and she put in as much effort as she could. We met Becka at the col whilst slowly making our way back to camp.
We came up with a plan of starting with our one remaining thick rope (29m) and shift everything else down accordingly. Olly needed a day to rest his knees, so I spent the day untying and re-tying knots in Plugged Shaft. On the second go I got the 29m to reach the second of the twin rebelays (31m would be better). Then the 65m reached Yesterday's Terminus (again a few m more would have been better). Then the 48m comfortably reached the bottom of Saved Shaft. I tweaked some of the lengths on my way out. Today the weather Gods smiled on me, and I got my gear dry before the heavy rain started.
Went down to Long Drop after Haydons desire to do some f**king caving after ecoli.
First tried to approach pitch from wrong direction after Marks misguided directions from last year and Haydon hanging off questionable naturals. (Hammer and setter may have been left here!).
After continuing to the correct pitch Haydon continued to rig the pitch only to find that the hammer and setter was left at the last pitch. Ash and Sioned retrieved this from the previous pitch while Haydon gardened some sizeable boulders from a ledge 10m down, that Ashley could hear from the other end of Balkonhöhle.
After rope and setter had returned Haydon dropped the pitch to approx 50m and the first main ledge, to continue the next drop having cold grumblings from the top of the pitch (who knows why?).
Ash's perspective continued below:
After Sion and I retrieved the hammer and setter that some numpty had left at the previous traverse (aka Haydon!), Haydon began his dodgy bolting down the pitch. In between, Mark, Sion and I froze at the top of the pitch and quickly got bored. So we decided to do some survey practicing down a side passage of loose rock. After giving up, as using a PDA is a right pain in the arse, we continued to freeze our tits off at the top of the pitch. Eventually the c**nt (Haydon) returned from bolting and we were able to leave this stupid pitch that will be the end of me.
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Much wetter in Plugged Shaft today, but totally passable. Got to Boulder Chamber and Olly started to rig Keg Series. We were last here in 2004, despite me remembering which rope we rigged it on then, I had no idea on the actual rigging details. Olly started from the Follow Thru' Shaft end. I had a go and concluded that was wrong. I also concluded that the original rig needed bolts adding, was loose and looked pretty drippy. So we decided to change plan and rig down Follow Through Shaft, then go down the Adventures in Time and Space route to the bottom of Keg Series (last visited by us and Dave Loeffler in 2005). Again we were hazy on the rig.
I was happy that the traverse had been left rigged at the top and was only a bit drippy. Olly rigged down for a bit then I took over, eventually finding a suitable deviation for the final bit. Last 10m or so was drippy (but less bad with the deviation in). I had a quick look in Razor Advance while Olly came down. Keg Series was very wet and drippy, but Razor Advance was dry, so we left the drill and survey kit there and headed out. When tired and unfit it took just over 2 hrs out.
There was no cock to crow for the momentous day of Independence for the country served by K Bender, but fortunately Densham did arise at Dawn to faff impressively before going down to camp. We waited for Elliott to get back from retrieving his thermals before going underground, thus achieving plenty of faff ourselves. Underground by 3pm. We went to Haydons big pitch whilst looking at leads still to be pushed en route. These consist of Natural Highs and Pit Pot mainly, along with possibly something at the end of Bipedal Traverse. We arrived at Haydons big pitch and were impressed. Then a fast team of me, Nathan, Elliott and Katey we on out while Alice, Frank and Peachey took photos. I dropped my tackle bag down a hole and so was duty bound to retrieve it the following day.
Callout book entry
After a fairly restful trip with Haydon down Balcony (pushing londrop). I came back to camp to find Chris attempting to recruit people to go to camp. As he’d only managed to recruit a partially recovered Wookey I reluctantly volunteered to go to camp.
After ~3.5 hours I reached camp and set up the washing line (major task #1). Wookey & Chris set off to fettle Tentacle Traverse whilst I caused havoc by spilling mushroom soup everywhere. After a brief scolding from Chris we ate dinner & went to sleep (n.b. creamy pasta with herbs & risotto travel lunches are very salty).
The following day we up at 6.30 am (!!!) and were caving by 10(?) in massive phreas. Surveying continued until ~9 (an ~11 hour surveying day without significant breaks). We managed to generate more leads than we killed, byepassing a pitch Chris rigged, surveying tunnel sized passage & finding a stream (!!!); a greasy traverse above the stream was deemed to need a rope & we went back to the draughty railway tunnels. After a scary slop (Working time directive), made harder by technical caving boots, Wookey & I started to grumble about dinner, after several more hours we were allowed back for dinner. The following day we went & surveyed ~250m? of passage that was unkillable (Hydra). After a few hours we headed back to camp to be met by Becka, David & a haggard looking Julian. 4.5 hours later saw me catch up with George & Luke who’d been down Champagne on Ice. [Nats boots developed large holes across the toes on this tip, kicking walls hurts with no foot protection]
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We got to the entrance at 10:45am and started the long descent leaving behind a plateau asleep under a blanket of clag. Down we went, accompanied by a backing track of grumbling from Julian. He was clearly enjoying himself.
Kraken was as big as promised and we made it to the camp at about 4:30pm just as the previous team were coming up Octopussy. Nat bubbled with excitement as he described what lay below. Wookey sketched out a plan of the leads they had found - our survey missing some 800m of passages. The only bad news was a shortage of bog roll having been promised there was plenty! Fortunately we were able to separate Nat from his emergency supply.
After some soup we descended Octopussy; a fantastic 5m wide steeply sloping tube. We then headed to our first A lead - a large phreatic tube heading up a muddy slope. We followed this for at least 100m before it ended at the bottom of a downward slope where the mud filled the passage. This passage had some pristine white formations and excellent mud floors. A fine start to our surveying.
We proceeded to explore the remaining known passages. Discover the upstream sump from which a small stream emerged. Julian spotted a large collection of dead 'cave lobsters' in the passage leading to the sump (washed into a muddy crawl during a flood).
This ended our first day of exploration and we made the tough ascent of Octopussy. The mud makes the climb slippery and impeded jammer operation. On return to camp we set about making dinner and getting ready for bed.
After a relatively comfortable and very warm night(compared with the night I spent underground a few days prior) we arose. Julian and I were moaned at for our lack of enthusiasm for leaving our nice warm pits until after breakfast. However we were soon once again doing battle with Octopussy.
We set off down our next A lead- relatively horizontal 5m diameter tube heading north. This passage had 2 smaller passages off the left which we connected back into known passage. The large passage reached a fault in the rock where a short pitch of ~20m would no doubt resulted in more cave. Having made good progress (survey legs typically exceeding 20m) we started on another nearby A lead where Chris's team had turned around. We followed more massive passage before reaching a chamber around a stone pillar some 10m across, Five ways lead off from here. One passage slopped down to the sound of water requiring a rope another 2 tubes (only 2m in diameter) lead off upwards while the 6m passage took a downward direction after meeting another large passage from above.
First we set off down, the passage meandered before reaching a pitch roughly 30m deep, it couldn't be approached safely without a rope. However the real highlight of this passage was a living cave lobster! Whilst sat at a survey station I noticed it climbing up the wall, no idea where it thought it was going, or what it could be eating, but it could certainly move. My comrades took photos and video. To finish our survey we ascended the aforementioned slope leading to a large rift. The two up sloping tubes connected and lead to a 4m free climb which we left for the next party. We met the team in question at the camp whilst eating our pre exit dinner (~4pm). A long prusik followed.
Sorry for the write-up delay!
After Haydon had headed down the hill, Nathan, Peachey and I took over the 'project'. Haydon had said he had dropped ~60m to a large ledge, before getting a 6 second drop off it! Of course, we didn't believe him.
We tidied up the initial traverse, before Peachey went off to get bolting. As Haydon's team (the lazy, good-for-nothing *!?#*!?'s) hadn't surveyed squat, Nathan and I got on with it. Approx 50m to the first ledge, which then forms the take off to a >120m pitch! Balcony has some surprises yet...
From the LHW, a short traverse takes you to a pitch head proper. Approx 25m down, working towards the right, a good sized window gains access to "ICU with a view". Chock stones provide a chossy floor on which to stick up a bothy.
I found Peachey in the ICU, having a good garden and looking slightly taken aback by the scale of things! After re-supplying him with kit, he set off down a rift that leaves the ICU from the North. Masterful bolting from Peachey saw us ~60m further down a lovely section of rebelays. The pitch follows the RHW (looking from the ICU), pulling you away from the initial, pretty loose rift. The passage is 4-6m wide, but runs N-S from the main shaft, towards the North for ~80m.
Peachey had got cracking on the next drop, but we ran out of hangers and rope.
NB This actually occurred over two days!
Underground by 11am. It being Alice's first expo, we wanted to give her some experience of rigging in Austria and this seemed a good choice being close to the entrance, quite deep but not too deep and promising quite a few leads to push later. Alice rigged very well - safe, tight, high and functional rigging all round and efficient to. Once at the bottom, we decided to have a look around at the leads and what had allready been surveyed.
First we went left from the bottom of the pitch series to a small bouldery chamber, from there we went left and along a tightish passage to a draughty aven. Quite a promising lead via a traverse over the aven and into a small phreatic crawl was left. Then we went back to the small bouldery chamber and went up a vadose ramp to Spunge Chamber (4 pots in a row), this back to find some excellent mud formations. Then back to the bottom of the Hilti-a-Plenty pitch and turning right to the large bouldery chamber with many leads. Leaving pushing for another day, we then headed out.
Callout book entry
Descended lunchtime and sent down at a steady pace. Met up with David, Julian and Becka at the camp. After a quick brew we went off exploring. WE headed to the 4m climb mentioned by the previous party's write up. Mark climbed it and beyond the passage soon reached another pitch down where we could hear water. After that it was time to get back to camp for dinner. The night was pretty comfortable.
Big day of exploration. First lead was the "short pitch of 20m". A quick rig from Mark and it was 12m. Below a fine piece of passage led to a blind alcove. A smaller side passage led directly to a mud sump the consistence of a blancmange. We christened this "The Wrong Custard".
Next up was a ramp just after the northern branch splits off. Luke took the lead and up we went! Some superb cracked mud floor at the top.
Then we finished off with a crack at the deep pitch in Lobster Passage. Mark put in the first few traverse bolts in, then Luke took over and rigged the actual descent. A superb 45m freehang into a chamber. At the bottom was some very glutinous mud and a sump. An inlet passage led to an aven at least 20m high.
We had breakfast and then Mark went up the boulder slope to get onto the rope..but couldn't find it. Anthony (our illustrious trip leader with a pocket full of surveys and notes) came up the slope prepared to point "the old duffer" in the right direction. But he soon realised that the rope really was missing. With our lights on full power we managed to locate it about 20 m off the floor. Bugger.
To avoid wasting a day we decided to go pushing anyway. A rescue seemed inevitable but we couldn't do anything about it.
First up was a B-lead not far from the bottom of Octopussy. This went for ~140m, sloping down all the way to a very muddy conclusion. After this, Mark went back to camp (in case another party came down). Meanwhile Anthony and Luke took a look at the two pitches nearby. One (to the left) proved awkward due to a big loose boulder. The other (to the right) is in a rift and was easier to rig. Anthony took up the cudgels and descended down to a chamber/passage with two ways on. Either another pitch or an ascending ramp. Those were left for another day. Dinner was calm and we spent some time inventing ridiculous games to pass the time in case of a protracted wait for rescue. "Soup snap" was one idea.
At about 11:45 we heard the first sounds of rescuers approaching. Soon after we welcome sight of Nat abseiling down meant that we were at last able to get out. An efficient prussic out and everybody was back on the surface by 17:00.
Many thanks to all the EXPO members who organised a very efficient rescue!
Headed into Razor Advance with drill, rope and survey kit to see what happened next. On the way in we had switched the rope in Adventures in Time and Space for the 72m - a few m longer would be better. We also added a bolt to protect the traverse across to the rope up to Razor Advance (but there was insufficient rope to add a backup).
Followed the rift on, and it quickly became apparent that the rope was needed. Olly put in a few bolts and we got further along the rift to a nice spot to descend, a Y-hang gave a lovely hang - this is an inlet into a much larger cross rift. Water comes out on the right part way down - it seems likely that this is the Keg Series water from the size and position. Pitch is slightly drippy but not too bad in dry weather - who knows in wet weather. At the bottom is a huge block that has fallen from the roof. Way on is down stream in a canyon. We followed at stream level round some corners, past a narrower bit and a couple of climbs to a short drop that didn't look climbable. Went back to a higher level that had a phreatic roof and was sometimes a separate passage. Got slightly further, but again to a not free-climbable drop. Attempted to survey out, but after a couple of legs realised the disto wasn't properly calibrated (we discovered this quickly thanks to Andrew's advice to take three readings of a leg in different directions every so often). Gave up and exited.
I'd noticed that 171 was a moderately sized cave on the plateau that was unsurveyed, so decided it was a nice job for a rest day. To make life easier just took helmets, clothing and survey kit. We'd spent the morning successfully recalibrating the distox2 inside the bivi cave. Started at 171a and surveyed to 171b - a nice phreatic passage with multiple skylights. A low bit in the middle. Continued a bit beyond the "b" entrances, but decided to return to finish with oversuits.
Frank brought his spade/shovel along in case of digging potential, but unfortunately his illness prevented him from achieving this. Then me and George went to the pitch down the sandy ramp and climb. I bolted the pitch and put George on book. It turned out this was a bad idea. 14 legs of shit later we derigged and left for Spunge Chamber. We tried to find survey stations but they were not especially well marked. We found station 73 and got started. Turning left at the t-junction we passed an aven on the left and down a 2m climb to 5x5m borehole passage. Excite! First we went right down hill to a dripping pitch, which could also be traversed to a continuation beyond.Then we went uphill to a pot which could be dropped (pretty draughty) or traversed over to the right for another horizontal continuation. We did a bit of an exposed traverse to a straight on lead, heading up a 5m climb to an uphill ramp to a big draughty pot. Around 150-200m in the book then out.
Intended to go back and finish surveying 171, so took ovesuits, kneepads as well as helmets and survey kit. Olly wanted to try a different route to walk there so headed past 2006-70 and up from there. I saw a few shafts and had to have a peer down each one. Near the local high point was an especially interesting hole. I climbed down the 3m climb into the snowfilled shakehole, at the S end a key hole passage led off. I followed the top of it, in lovely solid clean white rock, down a couple of climbs and with a draft. Very exciting!
I went out to get my oversuit, kneepads, survey kit and Olly. We returned and descended a couple more climbs. This reached a harder climb down to a ledge overlooking a larger chossy chamber. Olly traversed round to get a better look and realised this was also free climbable.The chamber was drippy and full of loose rocks. Down a climb to the bottom end led to a squeeze overlooking a dirty snow plug. Back at the climb a pitch goes back underneath - this is undescended. Surveyed out. Cave drops a surprising 40m (over 80m of survey) all descended without gear.
After discovering lots of easy horizontal passage the day before, we returned to get that sorted. After 11 long legs. we popped out in the big bouldery chamber. We later found out that Nathan had surveyed this passage - quite annoying. Then we went to bolt the pitch at the end of cock piss partridge - pre-emptively named Cashback. Cashback appeared to be a premature prediction as the aven crapped out into an immature meander immediately after we got to the bottom. George then bolted the pitch below the Cock Piss Partridge, which also crapped out immediately. Then out. Still lots to go at!
Headed to 171 with oversuits and kneepads to finish the survey. On phoning basecamp discovered that the camping team were overdue, but that things were in hand, and there was nothing we could do in the short term. Took the phone with us to get updates.
Started at 171a and surveyed down to the final daylight entrance. Heard the rescue helicopter, which worried us, but no message from basecamp, so we continued. Went down the wide but low and breakdwon-y side passage. This continued to pop out 2/3 of the way down a day light shaft. Headed out after surveying this, and failed to identify the daylight entrance from the surface - it must be a narrow gryke by the surface.
Headed to 171b and surveyed north along a slightly drafty passage - there is a parallel rift on the rift with a snow patch and another daylight aven. There is a small passage doubling back here that we didn't thoroughly explore, because we assumed it would trivially reconnect. The main passage finally ends at a low drafting (out) choke. Looking at the survey shows this is very close to the end of [gap in logbook, probably meant 250]. Got a text message reporting from basecamp the camping team were safe which was a relief. Olly cancelled our callout (by phone) which unfortunately didn't make the call out book. So team rescue very efficiently came down to our camp to check we were safe - thank you!
Callout book entry. Have rope + spare drill battery on surface if needed
Team were overdue in Tunnocks so me and Nat headed down to camp with the grab bag and first aid kit. Underground by 8.45. Arrived at Kraken for 11.45 to find rope caught up beneath the overhang rebelay on a ledge. Then started to head out. Rope at the bottom of magic glue got wrapped around a large boulder - be aware of the rope catching on the boulder when you ascend the pitch. Out reasonably sufficiently after waiting to see that Mark D could untangle the rope from Magic Glue.
Callout book entry.
Callout book entry.
A most amazing trip, which despite being shortened by the rescue of the previous day, managed to provide much new cave and a lot of new prospects. We arrived at camp for 1.15pm and ate some noodles and soup. Off down Octopussy for 2pm. Headed to the bottom of the 30m pitch bolted by Anthony et al on the last camping trip. After a quick reconoitre of the area we split into 2 surveying teams.
Myself and Chris initialy headed in a Northwards direction into a rather nice and very pretty chamber with a number of very nice stalactites and a wonderful poached egg on the floor. On the far side of the chamber was a 7-10m climb which Chris started but then encountered too many delicate calcite crusts/flakey formations to continue. Predicting that we might well drop into the passage from somewhere else anyway, we left it behind for another trip (which there hopefully will be, a lead ramping up heading north and strongly draughting in Tunnocks is not to be sniffed at!). Then we headed on toward where the others were surveying in the other direction. Chris soon decided that if we caved ahead we could easily back survey to them and thus avoid the frowned upon scoop - little did we know of the wonder that lay ahead. After a lot of sprinting along a muddy boulder floor (with an additional handline on a particularly treacherous mud slope that Peachey and Katey descended with nothing - naughty!) we arrived at a point where we were presented with two routes - a narrow slot up and a way down among boulders. I took the slot, but before that we noticed that both routes had one thing in common - we could hear a massive amount of water up ahead, of a magnitude very rarely found in this cave system. After coming out through the slot, what I saw was just incredible - the absolute essence of why caving is such an amazing exploratory sport. An absolutely huge passage, at least 15x20m width for height, and sloping steeply down at around 45 degrees. For those who have been to Octopussy, think slighty less asthetically pleasing in terms of true borehole shape but overall far more impressive. The roar of the water was by this time was truely impressive - similar in size to Penyghents streamway. Caught up with exploration fever, Chris and myself climbed a long way down the boulder ramp until Chris got a hold of himself and decided we were being unnecessarily silly and, the grip of exploration fever having ebbed away, we surveyed back to the junction where we met Peachey and Katey. Almost unable to contain our excitement, we told them of our findings. They then headed off up a ramp in the opposite direction to see what could be found (apparantly a lot of passage) while chris went to fetch the 100m of Anthony's 9mm so we could rig this thing properly and safely - we were conceivably 800m deep if not more! I was ??? with bolting it, and soon we we were down, albeit with a few annoying rub points en route!
After dropping this ramp, we headed down through the slippery boulder slope below the master cave only to find the most amazing development at the bottom: an upward ramping phreatic borehole 4x4m and certainly getting bigger! By now it was long after 10pm and only getting later, so we resolved to survey the scooped passage tomorrow and headed back to camp for a welcome tea. In bed by 1am. Up at 8am and needing a shit - the facilities are excellent! The camp overall is excellently thought out and organised. Many noodle and oatso along with a great water supply, make for a wonderful stay. After breakfast we headed back to the lead for a survey accompanied by some excellent photographs in Octopussyand at ???. 2 hours of surveying later, myself and Densham had arrived at a steep boulder slope (slippery with a long way down) which at this depth really needed bolting. Leaving it for the next trip we headed back to camp before attempting to head out of the cave. I unfortunately got to Procrastination at 7pm just as a flood pulse hit the pitch. I was at the first rebelay when the pulse hit and luckily was prepared to change over quickly and descend back to Bring on the Clowns to wait it out for 12 hours until we made a break for it at 8am the next day after a rather restless night.
After making a break for it after a long 12 hour wait, I was swiftly out for 10am to meet with Luke and out the entrance series. Overall a truly memorable and excellent trip, one of my best ever and one to remember my whole life!
Callout book entry.
Callout book entry.
Olly's knees were recovered enough to cope with prussicking, so we returned to Keg Series with the now happily calibrated distox2. Started surveying in to get the pitch done, in case it rained later, or it took a while. Happily got it first time and in 1 leg. From the bottom followed the stream to the drop, and Olly rigged down. *IMPORTANT: this hilti is not properly set*. I've marked a nil polish slash across it. If anyone goes there again, please set it first, or else rig from higher (probably better).
The rift continues beyond this, at stream level it is tight, but higher is much wider. Shortly the roof drops down to the wide level, and it becomes the phreatic roof tube of a very tall keyhole passage. I stopped following this when it reached some loose looking perched rocks above a climb. I retreated and wriggled along at stream level, down a drop and through some bits narrower than my helmet. Reached the base of the climb I'd looked down on, and ascertained that it was climbable and the rocks were well wedged Climbed up to get the survey kit and Olly. Again followed ledges above the stream until the roof dropped down, and we reached another drop. This was wider but not freeclimbable.
Surveyed out. I derigged to Keg Series and left the rope bag at the Tap Room. Took the drill bag all the way home.
As we were ascending Follow Through Shaft, we heard a low rumbling noise, it sounded like people coming - I wondered if we had a callout mix up, and people were coming to rescue us. Then the rumbling got louder, and louder and it became apparent it was raining. Fortunately we were past the Tap Room and Keg Series, so had an uneventful exit.
Set off with the intention of derigging traverse beyond Arctic Angle and pushing Nat's lead ("What would your Mother say") before finally derigging the Champagne on Ice pitch series and derig traverse beyond Arctic Angle and WWYMS. Off to a flying start I forgot both drill batteries, only realising at the bottom of Champagne on Ice. Subsequently, myself and Becka went to replace slings on Andrew's traverse past Arctic Angle with rope cut from excess length of the existing rope and salvaged a couple of hangers from the traverse. At ~14.30 we went to meet Nat to see if progress had been made on his bolt-less bolt climb. WWYMS is easily found by bearing left at the 1st junction after the P5 (probably longer than 5m). The way after this is cairned at major junctions and involves a traverse around a large ~30m hole. We discovered that Nat had bravely/foolishly allready reached the top of the climb some 6/7m above the traverse previously rigged on another trip. The new rigging differed in that it comprised completely of extremely sketchy naturals with not a bolt or reliable belay in sight by virtue of my forgetting to bring drill batteries. We tentatively followed Nat to the top of the traverse/deathtrap - see below for updated rigging diagram.
From the top of the climb, following the draft/draught? leads to a 2/3m climb down, continuing emerges into large hading rift and good "A" lead requiring rope to continue further. The only other alternative passage atop the climb leads to a large aven (very drippy at far end) with stream descending 10-15m through hole in the floor (?c).
On the descent, after having surveyed as far as possible, Becka knocked a fairly integral natural belay off the wall with suprisingly little effort. As a result the rigging was modified to allow me and Nat to get down "safely", see bolow.
To avoid monumentous clusterfuck this was left rigged but using the rope to ascend beyond the bolted traverse should be done so with EXTREME CAUTION or not at all due to the nature of the naturals it is backed up to. Rather cold and glad to be alive we began the return journey, derigging the traverse and P5 on the way. Upon arriving at the bottom of Champagne on Ice pitches (~19.00) Nat reported hearing a flood pulse. At the bottom of the 15m hang we encountered a waterfall not previously reported that rendered the pitch impassable without getting soaked. We waited ~5 hours in bothy at a ledge below for water to ease. Eventually prussicked out when flow was weaker but still involved swinging under very drippy section. Higher up was still a bit drippy but not too unpleasant. Everyone out of the cave by 03.30. Several empty tacklesacks were left below the wet section and one full sack. Drill was brought out with some hangers.
Nathanael should not be allowed to rig unsupervised in the future.
Callout book entry.
Callout book entry.
Callout book entry.
Callout book entry.
Down to camp
Being the 6th? camping trip to Kraken, we supposedly had a lot of leads to choose from. Getting to camp was easy enough, there being almost twice as much rope as passage length along the way. Eliott, Nathan and George descending using stops were faster than me with my rack, and we went underground at 10.30am and arrived all at Kraken camp by 2.45pm. A brief rest and some noodles and we were set to go pushing.
We went down Octopussy to the gear dump, Elliott bringing up the rear and replacing the 100m line on Octopussy with a 50m one as the lower section was nicer by comparison. At the gear dump we put together a pushing bag with drill, battery, hangers and such, with the new liberated 100m pushing rope. This was taken down as yet unnamed "Luke's Pitch" (Indian Rope Trick).
Coming to the start of SOng of the Earth, we left the drill for whichever team needed it, and split up. Nathan and George took a phreatic tube going upward, and Elliott and I went to find the deep end of Song of the Earth, hoping to push the cave even deeper.
Song of the Earth continued as a large phreatic tube angled downward at apptox 30 degrees, heading almost exactly west. The floor was treacherous boulder choke, covered in a layer of slippery black mud. After about 100m of similar passage, with the occassional rock arch or muddy helictite, it came to a large chamber approx 20m high. The climb down into the chamber was tricky, but when there the black mud dissappeared from the boulders. A depression in the floor looked to be the filled in way on. Skirting around the depression and a large boulder pile showed two passages on the far side. The first was a short way to a solid mud sump that currently marks the lowest point of Tunnocks at -903m, obviously impassable.
The second lead went to a small squeeze with a gravel floor with a howling gale coming through. Not wanting to stop there, we dug the squeeze until it was large enough to pass through (Don't Stop Me Now). this entered another vedose passage now leading upward and north east, obviously a different passage feeding the large chamber. We only followed this a short way because we ran out of time, and headed back to camp.
On the way back, we found another 20m of rope had been tied to the end of the shortened Octopussy rope. Apparantly Nathan and George had found the rope a bit too short, and had spent 40 minutes digging footholds to get up to the rope. We were all back in Kraken camp by 10.30pm.
Intending to get up and do some pushing before heading out, we agreed to get up at 8am. However it turns out we were all very good at faffing about, so no caving got done in the end. It didn't help that Nathan and George crapped out all their leads except ones that needed bolt climbing, so the only viable lead (Don't Stop Me Now) was a 4 hour round trip from camp. Instead we opted to wait around for a bit to see if the next camping group arrived before we would leave. By 1pm noone had arrived (they had intended for a 6am start) so we opted to go out.
Nathan went first,and just went hell for lesthor prussicking out, leaving George behind to also exit the cave alone. Not a clever move since Nathan was supposedly leading the trip. I came third with Elliott close behind, he being faster than me. In the end, we were all up on the surface by 7.30pm, where we found the wether a bit grim and claggy. That was the reason the second camping group hadn't come underground, and indeed lower Procrastination had been a bit drippier than usual.
Walked up in the morning, having had a tooth extracted the previous day - I promised the dentist that I would avoid strenuous activities for a few days and also not cave if it was raining (he was very concerned that we might underestimate the flooding risk underground!).
Went to look at the remaining lead in 16-JB-01. This time we had a rope so started it on the ledge overlooking the chossy chamber, avoiding the dodgy climb, I put a bolt in and Olly went through the slot while I fetched the survey kit. Olly got down with a natural rebelay to a small aven/chamber. This led to a second connected similar aven/chamber, but no train tunnel passage sadly. We each climbed up in different places, my climb from the 2nd chamber looked to connect with the second slot near the pitch head. Olly's from where the chambers join became an inlet.
Surveyed and derigged out. I carried gear up the climbs, while Olly had a final look in the chossy chamber, and found us another lead for the next trip.
Callout book entry.
Callout book entry.
It rained and rained some more, so enthusiasm was low for going underground and getting wet. It brightend up in the afternoon (ie was claggy not actually raining) so Olly made up some cave tags and we changed the Bivi cave (2004-01) to 269, then I walked to Cairn Cave and tagged it (2006-70) and finally retagged 1987-02 as 267.
After a morning of grim rain delayed the campers from camping, myself and Luke became bored of shit-talking and card games and headed to off into Balcony in the mist to see what could be found. In quickly and soon I was bolting one of the three pots that me and George found in "Lets be Appalling" last time in. After a wee while, and one rogue bolt which decided to fall out along with some of the wall while I was setting it, we were down. It was pretty draughty and seemed quite promising. We could see a shit looking immature rift in the floor below where we had hopped off the rope with some water in it. Not so promising. An upper continuation of the rift with a big draft into ran left - I believe it links in with the most northerly pitch of the 3 we found in "Lets be Appalling". To the south of the pitch was a significant warren of nice sandy floored passage ramping down - great leads! After a quick scoop, we got on with surveying as much as we could. We pushed some large passage to a pitch head which we left for another team to probe. We then headed south to find the dripping most southerly pitch in "Lets be Appalling" - traverse across still to be done but not as promising as the pitch from earlier. At the bottom a small streamway flowed out, culminating in a too tight passage with what appeared to be a mud sump at the end. We then went uphill on the ramp rather than downhill and found a promising horizontal B lead - continuation of the ramp - and a climb up a phreatic tube in which the sound of water could be heard. Exciting stuff, and judging by the survey heading off in an as yet unexplored direction - an excellent prospect for next year!
After a rather late start to say the least (Anthony & I seem to have a way of starting far to late when we cave with the other), I arrived at balcony Gear Dump (Having shown the Hilti-a-Plenty leads found the other day to Pete, Elliott, Aiden & Martin beforehand) at around 3pm. We then headed to the bottom of Long Drop, where kit was sorted & we all got to business - Anthony bolting what was to be the final push along a traverse in a dripping rift, with Ash & I catching up on the survey back log behind. The pitch is very impressive, and the ending to its story is something of an anticlimax - Anthony bolted around the corner & could see around 20m to the floor where the thing closed down into an immature? meander with water in it - seen that before! With all looking rather shit, we decided to turn around. I sprinted up the pitch, having absolutely frozen my tits off despite wearing all my clothes (belay jacket!) while surveying. I sat in the group shelter alone waiting for the others, then we got the derig under way - a warm up paella for the big derig on Wednesday in Tunnocks.
Everything went pretty well, with only 1 intermediate pile before the top (at ICU with a view) and despite an extremely antisocial double fishermans right below a rebelay we got all the knots out and it ran pretty smoothly. At the top it was 10:15 & we were pushing callout, so I headed out while the others sorted things out. Back at Top Camp for 11:25, our midnight callout was made. Great success!
To be read in conjunction with Fleur's report...
While Fleur and Peachey headed to the uphill lead, Elaine and I went down to the lead advertised as being a 2m wide rift with a howling draft, reached by a massive chamber with a mountain in it! Wow! As it turns out, the chamber was similar dimensions to the rest of the preceeding passage... okay. The sandy crawl was rather less drafty than advertised, but drafts are fickle, right? Three survey legs later we reached the end for that day. A 6m climb up lead to an upward sloping phreatic passage with a mud/water channel in the floor. The climb was a bit neeky for -900m and Elaine didn't fancy it, so I marked the final station and climbed down. The continuing passage we called a QMB and it will likely need some bolting to progress - steep incline + slippery mud = sadness. The climb up will also need bolting for any handline/rope. That done, and slightly disappointed, we headed out to meet Fleur and Peachey.
It was supposed to be a 2 night camp starting on Sunday. But on Sunday we woke up and it had been raining in the night and continued to rain. So we deferred to avoid starting off cold and wet. Instead an "alpine start" was called for and I got everyone up at 6am on Monday. We were underground by 8am and down at camp for a late lunch. The idea was to try and make some good going leads in Song of the Earth. Elaine and Katy went to the downstream limit, supposedly drafting and blowing sediment in your face. Meanwhile I agreed to belay Ian up the upstream lead.
As we left camp I was impressed with Chris and Anthony finding the way on via Tentacle traverse - now a very slippery beast indeed! Luke's Pitch down into Song of the Earth was much bigger than I expected, and perhaps a tad underbolted.
As we entered the master cave, Ian and I went "upstream" via the bouldery awfulness eventually arriving at the limit of exploration. Ian was certainly correct that it was a promising location - howling gale going uphill and the ??? appearing to continue in a ramp translated higher up. However, it was a long way up!
Ian was efficient though, climbing up around 10-15 metres until the rope drap was too much, while I went through my song repetoire. He then rigged a pitch for the first section while I took some photos. Then, after chocolate, we both went up to the belay so Ian could climb the next section. This was mostly a ramp as opposed to a true pitch. Although Ian was efficient again (another 15+m ascended) I got very cold tied off to the belay. Unfortunately at the top of the pitch the passage got smaller, continuing as an upstream canyon with trickle of water, before finishing at an aven. Time to go home to Kraken.
By this time Elaine and Katy had appeared so it was a quick survey before departure. The others had not had much luck "downstream" so it was decided to derig the master cave. I was very tired (+ Elaine very cold) so Ian and Katy did this while Elaine and I took the drill, etc back to camp. We arrived back about 11pm after 15 hours caving. The other two were about an hour to 90 mins behind us.
The campsite was great, and we had a comfy night, oversleeping and not getting up until almost 10am.
It took around 3 hours to get breakfasted and pack up camp. We sent Elaine out first. Then me and Katy. Ian derigged Kraken and we three paelled up the master cave ropes in the base of Inferno. [Note - Octopussy, Tentacle, Luke's pitch etc all left in situ]
I left the base of the Inferno pitch around 5pm. Half an hour later Ian was shouting up about something catching. He and Katy ended up derigging a little more. Meanwhile I prussicked on, catching Elaine up at the top of String Theory. We did the last section together and exited around 11pm.
Ian and Katy returned to Steinbrucken about one hour after us.
Weather wasn't great, so we had quite a slow start. Headed back to 16-JB-01 to look at Olly's new lead. Again we started the rope at the ledge, but went down further along, then Olly went to the northen end of the cheesey chamber and over a rock bridge to a rift. The end of this dropped down to a very dirty snow cone, with deep drip holes. Firstly all looked south, and saw two tight rifts dropping in (the ones we were the top side of on the 9th). To the East was a short passage heading off which quickly ended. Traversed round the west of the snow, underneath is a layered snow plug, so presumably it has been here for many years. Passage continued to the north through a squeeze, through some rocks and up a climb. Although there were a lot of boulders and collapse it felt fairly solid. Decided that we couldn't get further without gear. Surveyed out.
Went down to limit of exploration. David rigged a couple of 10m pitches but both were choked. Walls covered with some nice "flapjack" crystalline calcite.
Meanwhile Mark and Ashley explored a B/C lead. A couple of dead bats. After about 50m it began to get lower, but a flat-out crawl popped out into a big, obviously well used passage! It turned out to be right next to Trident Junction.
We finished off by detackling the upper way into Cathedral Chasm. Any further pushing can be more conveniently done via the crawl, rather than going all the way round, which includes a slightly dodgy pitch and a couple of traverses.
The team kept pushing the lead below Hilti-a-Plenty rigged by Rob and Luke on 17/7/2016 (Evening Breakthrough). Rob kindly showed the rest of the team to the right place. Aiden and Pete surveyed upwards from T-junction up a steeping phreatic tube that was muddy but relatively easy to climb. The passage had the sound of water (mmmmm) and a draft (mmm) but the muddy phreatic tubes choked. The noise came from a squeeze on right into a tight meandering rift. Pete squirmed down rift for 5m to small stream. It was too tight upstream and would need a lump hammer to make progress down stream -although it seems to widen a bit after approx 5m. I wonder if this is the same stream heard at bottom of pitch rigged by Rob and Luke the day before.
Meanwhile, Elliott had rigged and dropped a nice 15-20m pitch from the end of Rob and Lukes far point. This is very promising and goes into a bigish chamber with two ways on. But the two ways on may be going to the same place. They both have a good cold draft. The first way involves scrambling easily around a big jammed boulder to the low point in the chamber. Elliott climbed down sketchily for approx 7m to see two possible pitches that are probable 10-15m deep?
The second way on from main chamber is a 15m traverse from the jammed block into a large descending phreatic tube. Nicely rigged by Martin from a bolt and various naturals/slings. It then goes to a blind aven, but there is also a 10-15m pitch down with good draft.
Overall, these are A leads with a draft.
Decided to derig 76 whilst it wasn't raining, and to free up rope for 16-JB-01. Last year I masterminded a very efficient derig of 107 with 3 people and 6 bags of gear. This year we had 2 people for 76, 4 bags, and 6 bags worth of gear. I went down to Keg series to derig that. I met Olly at the Tap Room, from there I shuttled bags out the cave while Olly derigged.
5 hours after entering the cave, after much miscommunication, shouting and inefficiency, we had 3 and a half bags out and everything derigged to the Ledge Below the Ledge.
Went back in for another 2 hours of derigging (Olly) and bag shuttling (me). Now we never need return!
Continuing to push the same route as 18th, we (re)rigged on the way in, then dropped the down-climb we'd called it a day at, then down a short pitch with a rebelay to reach some large boulders with a view out into a void beyond. A thrown rock suggested a 20m drop but we only had a couple of metres of rope left, so surveyed back to the end of the previous survey, briefly hampered by Jenny taking out a survey station which turned out to be less well connected to the boulder it was on than it appeared to be.
The objective of this trip was to derig at least as far as the top of the flood-prone Procrastination pitch. The intention was to use the PAELLA (Pull An Extremely Long Length Altogether) technique which, a practice run in Long Drop apart, none of us had really done before. A planning session the day meant we had a good idea of what we wanted to do on each pitch, which made for a pretty slick operation. The previous camping team had also done us a massive favour by tackling the Kraken pitch and the bottom hang of Inferno so we only had to go two thirds of the way down Inferno.
The paella proceeded as follows: (diagrams)
AT the top of Procrastination, the timely arrival of reinforcements in the shape of Pete, Ash and Aidan allowed us to paella and derig up String Theory by means of brute force.
At the top 9 tacklesacks were waiting, so all the rope (approx 1200m of it) was bagged and ferried out of the cave. A most satisfying and effective detackling trip and a good, solid effort from all concerned.
Other events of note:
When prussicking up the bottom part of Widow Twankees, Rob managed to pull a TV sized boulder off that caught him a glancing blow on his helmet and shoulder, smashing the glass on his Duo. He walked away shaken but substantially unhurt. It could have been a lot worse - care required!
When derigging String Theory, Elliott left his personal bag at the bottom so had to put a couple of bolts back in to go down and retrieve it. This news was greeted by sympathetic laughter at the top.
This had to be our final trip, so we could carry gear down the next day. Managed to get underground at 9:05am to maximise our chances.
Whizzed down to the pushing front and Olly started off with the rigging, from the final bolt of yesterday, a couple of naturals then a bolt got us down to a big boulder slope - a scary boulder slope at about the critical angle of slope failure, with boulders arange of sizes. Olly crossed the slope to the other side and put another bolt in before I crossed. After I crossed and Olly was placing the next bolt, some of the slope started moving towards me. We survived.
Another few bolts got us down a short pitch (formed by some very big boulders) to get more boulder slope. this was marginally less steep and therefore considerably more stable. This was fortunate because we had run out of rope.
Continued down the slope - passage got narrower, and was noticably draughty (out). Finally the roof came down, the passage appeared to end. The draught came out of some gaps between big boulders. This looked stable, and plenty big enough, and appeared to drop about 10m. It did not look freeclimbable. We contemplated going back up, cutting the end off the rope and going down, but there really wasn't going to be time. So we looked down one last time, imagined the caverns measureless to man that lay beyond, and surveyed out.
Looked at a few inlets/alcoves at floor level on the way up, but nothing went. Higher up there are many inlets 1/2 + way up the walls. Derigged as we surveyed and survived the boulders again.
Surveying finished, I shuttled bags as Olly derigged. Placed a hilti at the entrance, to which we added a tag two days later while pcking the bivi. Noticed that the entrance is incredibly close to the old path to 204/topcamp (i.e. the one in all-with-tracks).
Went to explore Hilti-a-Plenty and push a pitch discovered by Rob and co. This pitch was eventually named Deep Space 9 - suggested by Rob on a later trip. Martin bolted and rigged, before we descended to a large rocky passage. At the end of this was a promising pitch which Martin began to rig. Meanwhile I started surveying a scrotty side passage.
The side passage was shite for a fair bit before emerging into a sandy chamber. From here an archway led to a massive chamber - Galactica. Petzl Duo could not make out opposite wall, left wall, right wall, ceiling, or floor. Recalling Martin, with spot light could detect walls now. 90m from side to side and 50m to near floor - could not actually make it out. Will need to go back next year.
Concluded the trip by surveying a smaller lead off the first chamber to conclusion. Good 150m of cave surveyed not including mahoosive Galactica. Of course it was the last day of pushing.
Went to show Rob Galactica before then the big derigging began. Derigged Deep Space 9 then the traverse of Om? then Can't Stop Now this is Bat Country. Also finished an odd bit of surveying left behing by Rob from before on the pitch. Then I derigged Hilti-a-Plenty with a tackle bag a tad too small. One rebelay near the top proved particularly difficult to de-rig, resulting in a slip and swing and crash, to my discomfort.
We met Elliot and Michael near the entrance pitch and left them to de-rig this as we headed out. Rob left before Martin and I, dissappearing down the hill rather quickly. We were a bit slower, weighted down with lots of gear. And after today all of Balcony was finally derigged and the derig was completed for this year.