204Steinbrückenhöhle5/S x

Razordance and beyond the sump


At the bottom of the 47m pitch, a merry little stream is reached (similar volume of water to the Top Camp waterhole in spate). Upstream was not pushed, but reportedly leads quickly to the foot of a waterfall [C2000-204-63 B]. Downstream quickly narrows to about 50cm wide, and progress is made by constantly changing level to stay where the passage is wide enough. After about 40m a small cascade of about 4m is reached, which could probably be free-climbed, but has been rigged with an SRT line to avoid getting soaked; if the water level rises much this is still rather aqueous, and probably needs at least one more bolt. The passage is considerably wider for a few metres below the cascade, but soon resumes in its previous manner; it is helpful to traverse quite high up in this section.

Suddenly, the head of a pitch, Black Lightning (13m), is reached. The streamway continues past a 2m climb and 2m pitch leading to the 25m pitch of Mystery Wind; this is descended via a crow's-nest which gives a dry sloping descent to the floor, protected by two rebelays. Immediately beyond this is Dave Dives, an awkward roof-tube climb to bypass a tight spot; this should on no account be descended head-first. A bolt here might render the process safer. The streamway continues to the twin pitches of Easy There (15m) and Steady Now (4m), the 2002 limit; the head of the latter is difficult and tight, but it seems unlikely that the rig could be improved by any alteration not involving a large hammer.

2003 saw further pushing to a short, rather damp down pitch (3m) shortly followed by a climb up over boulders into a large chamber, God Loves a Drunk, where an (apparently impassably tight) inlet enters from the right. Immediately beyond this are The Mash Tun (p8) and Copper (p17). In high water levels these are both very wet, dangerously so given the cold and draughty nature of the passage; a deviation around halfway down Copper could potentially help matters. There may be a continuation at high level via a loony bolt traverse across the head of Copper [C2003-204-48 B].

Beyond this the rift becomes tighter and more awkward again, leading to the head of yet another pitch, Yeast (p10). Shortly beyond this the bottom of the rift becomes rather tight and an ascending traverse can be followed, as far as a local widening, the 2003 limit; dropping back to stream level rapidly becomes tight again, but a traverse line across, Nordic Traverse, gives access to a dry fossil passage to the head of Thirteen Year Pitch (7m), which drops into a spacious dry chamber. Here a tight and scrofulous-looking rift leads off to the right [C2004-204-03 C] , while the chosen way on is to descend Pepper Pot (20m) back to stream level. Here the passage returns to familiar rifty crappiness for a few metres; it is helpful to take a relatively high level for a while until the passage widens again, at which point a 6m pitch, Paster of Muppets, regains the stream level. Shortly afterwards, the stream can be followed down to the top of a short wet drop [C2004-204-02 B] or a phreatic widening can be followed upwards. This leads to some key hole passage, which immediately has a large circular pit in the floor, this can be descended and the other side can be climbed, preferably with lines. The phreatic part of the passage then takes advantage of a sloping weakness, which goes up and to the left. This can be followed to a right hand bend where the floor drops down with the weakness to yet another pitch Buttered Scones (p20), the top of which marks the 2004 limit. It is noticeable on the survey that from the bottom of Paster the passage swings southwards away from the consistent NE-SW alignment of most of Razordance.

2007 saw a big push with several old lags teaming up with new blood to try and finally bottom the bastard. From the bottom of Buttered Scones, a climb down and a short, muddy passage reaches the head of a pair of spacious pitches, Left Zipper (p12) and Right Zipper (p12). In flood conditions the stream re-enters from a window [C2007-204-29 C] part-way down Left Zipper and makes Right Zipper extremely wet. A short section of comfortable walking passage heading almost due north inevitably gives way to more rifty thrutching, passing an inlet on the right [C2007-204-30 B] where the stream re-enters. This marks a return to the previous south-westerly line of the passage. After a few metres, a climb down at a corner if followed by a squeeze to reach the head of The Holy Hand Grenade (p3), an irritating little pitch with an awkward pitch-head. 8 metres further on are a pair of short, splashy pitches separated by a wet ledge: Unicum (p7) and Zwack (p5). The next 100m of passage is a ruler-straight muddy rift running to the south-west. After some narrow sections it is possible to climb up into a large roof tube, which gradually descends to a balcony overlooking the final sump, Now Be Thankful. Here the wind from Razordance goes up a large aven above the sump [C2007-204-31 X], while a long bolted traverse, mostly on the left-hand wall, gains access to The Far East.

The Far East

The Silk Road

A slippery climb down from the traverse over the sump (an extra bolt would be a good idea) gains a keyhole-shaped inlet passage with an elliptical roof tube and narrow floor trench. Like Razordance, the passage draughts towards the sump. The passage here is The Silk Road, and runs south-east along the strike for about 30m before turning north-east and heading up-dip in a series of steep meanders for a short distance. An unpleasant 3m climb up marks a return to south-easterly progress. The passage briefly splits, with the stream flowing through a pool in a low section while a large oxbow to the left provides a trivial bypass. Just beyond the oxbow is a junction. Straight ahead, going upstream, 40m of stooping and crawling over muddy cobbles leads to a chamber where the stream emerges from a tight inlet [C2007-204-32 C] with an obvious passage visible 7m above (which can be reached from beyond Carry-on up the Khyber).

Back at the junction, the left turn leads up an abandoned series of dry cascades, Carry-on up the Khyber. Ten climbs of varying difficulty and ranging in height between 2 and 4 metres pass a lead on the left [C2007-204-33 ?] to reach a relatively well decorated section of walking passage. This becomes a sandy crawl which branches; to the left is unexplored [C2007-204-34 C], straight ahead reaches a hole overlooking the continuation of The Silk Road, while to the right quickly reaches a loose 2m climb down into the same place. Right here is a 3m climb down followed by a short section of passage to the head of a 7m pitch back to the inlet at the foot of Carry-on up the Khyber. To the left, The Silk Road continues as 4m wide passage with a rocky floor, passing a stooping-height passage on the left [C2007-204-35 A]. After 60m, a gap between boulders leads into a 30m-wide chamber, The Forbidden City.

The Forbidden city is a boulder-strewn chamber of fine dimensions, reminiscent of Knossos in Kaninchenhöhle, sloping upwards to the North west and the exit into the Gobi Trail. Near, but below and to the right of the Carry-on up the Khyber entrance, is a rocky crawl which leads into a wide but choked space below the Carry-on up the Khyber passage. There is at least an aural connection up to that passage. This may be the closest point to Siberia in Kaninchenhöhle, but is clearly a long-term dig [C2007-204-50 D]. In the Southern corner of The Forbidden City is [C2007-204-36 X].

The Gobi Trail

A large (8m wide) bouldery passage leads off from the upper end of The Forbidden City heading steadily uphill and north-north-west. There is one notable climb up a large sloping rock which needs a little care (handline). Just after the climb a passage leads off to the right ("Silkworm"), which is the quickest way to Crouching Tiger. The main passage drops to being a low crawl to reach a complex T-junction 110m from The Forbidden City. Down to the left is Enter the Flagon. To the right a rocky passage carrying a strong draught leads downhill and south into the Crouching tiger. Straight on is a small passage [C2007-204-45 B].


A short passage connecting the Gobi Trail to Crouching Tiger, shortcutting the crawling and complex junction at the end of the Gobi Trail. Halfway along is a 6m aven [C2007-204-39 X]. At the same point there is a tight connection to near the start of Crouching Tiger.

Crouching tiger

A tight passage on the right apparently connects into silkworm (aural connection?). After 40m at a 90left corner is the junction with Silkworm (off to the right).

Beyond here the passage is full of unusally fine light-coloured sand, from which the area gets the Gobi Trail name. It is comfortable but not particularly large, with some crawling and stooping where the sand fills much of the passage. [C2007-204-37 C] and [C2007-204-38 B] are along here.

After 70m an aven 20m+ high is reached where water can be heard at the end of the rift [C2007-204-39 X]. The strong breeze continues down the passage which now gets rather smaller being stooping and crawling all the way. It winds for 90m to a short 2m drop into a small chamber where there is a 4-way junction. A crawl leads off uphill to the left (East) with a strong outward draught[C2007-204-40 A]. A keyhole passage comes in from the South [C2007-204-41 A], up which most (all?) of the draught goes. And a low passage containing a vadose trench heads down to the West past a pillar [C2007-204-42 B].

Enter the Flagon

Left at the end of the Gobi Trail is Enter the Flagon. 50m of passage leads past a climb [C2007-204-45 B] on the right and [C2007-204-46 C] on the left] to a point where a vadose canyon intersects. 5m back from this junction is a short loop looking over the canyon passage. It contains [C2007-204-47 B] on the right. Right (up) along the canyon leads to a 6m aven, reasonably climbable with some gear [C2007-204-48-B]. Left leads, via a climb down, to a continuing rift which heads towards the left zipper/right zipper area in Razordance. The phreas clearly continues over the top of the vadose canyon [C2007-204-49-B] but it would require some effort to reach it.