204 - Push Subsoil + start to derig Gaffered

Tue 03 Aug 2004

I thought it would be a bit weedy to just derig on the trip so I arm-twisted Nial into some QM-ticking + surveying and Earl into some rigging. We started by going to Fat Worm Blows a Sparky and I put conservation tape round the freshly (quite) dead bat in Bat Chamber and around the alcove of bat bones documented on 31/7/04, whilst Nial derigged Earl's (as yet unused!) rigging for the pitch into it. Helped Earl get the drill + rope to Subsoil then sent Earl off up Gardeners World with 40m rope and his drill to bolt down Black Maria.

Meanwhile Nial + I went to Earthenware and went up a QM A on the right (before Stoneware) that ended in a boulder choke. Off the side of this was a thin and very steeply rising rift which we surveyed partway up. I continued up it, climbing to only around 2m below where it looked like a horizontal phreatic tube was coming in, but it would be worth protection for the last bit of this climb up before checking it out. (QM B – drafting.) Then down + along Earthenware to a tube off to the left which drafted strongly. This was initially small but popped out to a complicated area with a QM A straight ahead. We turned right + briefly popped out into big passage. This was horizontal then sloped up steeply becoming a boulder chute and closing down, and finished at a pitch head with a drop of at least 2 seconds and maybe a way up above the pitch (but this would need protection to look at and the boulders were dubious).

Derigged the traverse + the 4m pitch into Earthenware and Nial [went] off to find Earl whilst I derigged Gardeners World. Earl had put in a bolt and a sling to let you get into / out of Oxtail Oxbow easily (we have taped off Bracket Fungus Passage to stop people using it, so everyone should be going via Oxtail Oxbow). Earl had put the spits in for Black Maria but didn't have enough rope so we gave him some + he put in a knot pass + descended. Apparently the shaft (large at the head of Sirens) narrows down so there is only a relatively small chamber at the bottom with only a QM C leading off downslope from the bottom. Nial + I were very relieved to find the tape was just long enough to survey to the bottom of the pitch without us having to descend it. Earl derigged and I derigged the traverse then we collected all our rubbish together at the base of the Gaffered pitches. Nial and I each got a a very stuffed tacklesack while Earl got his drill and associated rubbish. I volunteered to start derigging the 65m so went up last. I'd foolishly forgotten the traverse up to Eeyore – how? I had a brief + foolhardy attempt to derig it with my 1.5 tacklesacks. Wrong. I then moved the bags to the end of the traverse and had another go. Still impossible – nothing to stand on. Whinged up at Earl and was tempted to abandon it but I finally stuck a sling around a knobble at the top, derigged the top bolt on the traverse then free-climbed down the other side of the rift to the traverse (which was how Earl and I had rigged it this year). After that derigged the 65m fine + headed up slowly with both jammers slipping badly again on the rope due to mud – despite our best efforts at cleaning wellies and jammers. Waited whilst Earl put in one good and two failed spits at the top of Gaffered to improve the traverse at the head and out, at last, tired.