161 - France

Wed 26 Jul 1995
Julian Haines

2 days after the first trip to Death's Door II / Stairway to Hell it was clear that we were imagining the appalling level of squalor that lay beyond and so it was time for a second attempt. This time the intention was to push/survey the new lead.

Several diversions occurred on the way down. Firstly I returned to have a look at the hole on the ledge at the start of the traverse into Mississippi. After a bit of thrutching it was obvious that I wasn't about to emerge in Sultans of Swing, confirmed by the rope hanging above my head. "Oh bloody hell it's Algeria again". And so I'd found the "walking" route from Algeria to the Mississippi series. Then we continued along Mississippi Mud Pie, to beyond Hob-Nob passage, up a 2m climb to an alternative route into the rift that eventually forms Rich Tea. There is a ledge on the right hand wall, not quite wide enough to stand comfortably on, which it appears may well lead to at least a small-ish chamber with potential ways on. We didn't rig it, but it would be an easy job with the drill - about 1/2 hour.

Next job, Death's Door! All 3 of us carefully climbed up through the boulder choke, carefully avoiding the small perched rock which held up a wall of choss, to emerge unscathed in a largish chamber (approx 8m x 5m x 4m high). This had a muddy climb up about 45deg heading roughly NW at one end. Just as Andy + Wookey had started to explore at the top end of this, there was a rumble from below. A short debate followed as to whether to get out quick before the whole bloody lot fell in, or to explore anyway since we'd now done the worst bit. The latter won and so a short while later Andy and Wookey reappeared having found a few hundred metres of hading rift running roughly NE-SW.

That was considered enough, and all three of us agreed that we weren't going back again. Wookey exited first, to find the crawl part blocked by a largish rock which had fallen whilst we were above. Once shifted exiting was relatively easy. All were very pleased to be back on the right side of the hole. DON'T GO TO DEATH'S DOOR II / STAIRWAY TO HELL. IT IS BLOODY LOOSE AND MAY WELL COLLAPSE. WE'RE NOT GOING BACK - IT IS RUBBISH!

Grade I survey sketch follows.

[Sketch plan & elevation of Stairway to Hell & Forbidden Land]

Since there was all this hading rift above the boulder choke, it seemed likely that it would cross Rocky Horror, since this was only slightly lower and in the right direction. So, we started looked around in the walls. Part way back, at the junction with Fudge Brownie where there is a complex arrangement of shafts/choss/pillars/chamber we found not only an undescended pitch (p15?) but also several small side passages. One of these had what was for me a tight squeeze at the end, but then opened into moderate sized passage.

After a bit more caving Wookey found a short climb up (c.3m) into much larger passage. Following this eventually led to a virtually straight passage with mostly sand/mud floor of width around 10m and height up to 6/7m. After walking along this for about 200m (ish) we came to a wet shaft. Lights filled promptly went out, so it was time to exit. Enormous amount of cave found. No idea how many leads. Guessed roughly E-W direction of main passage on way out. Well worth many more trips.

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Logbook trips on this date:
    161 - France
    161 - Gob, pushing lead over Alexander Technique
    161 - France, surveying Regurgitation (Goulash)
    192 - Prospecting nr France