161, Holey Cow

Tue 16 Aug 2011



We intended to bounce down to Base camp to change Andrew's phone to sort out his courtesy car, which is a pretty lame excuse to slip a day when things are going well but my body really wasn't going to take a 3rd day anyway. Down at base camp washing up was piled sky high. Olly said it wasn't his problem, and anyway he had spent all day yesterday in bed with a bad tummy. He then did it while I made chips. At 4.30 when we were intending to go up, the rain was hammering down, and I had a headache and felt that I had caught Olly's cold. We changed plan to go up in the morning. I slept the rest of the afternoon then spent the evening printing out maps of the 30m now between 161 and 204, along with route description to Phat Shaft and Fat Cat, in an attempt to entice people go rig down there with the rope they were pulling from Tunnocks. All focus on the connection could have got it done. Had Neil the connection wizard been there, it would have happened. And when both sides were either side of the big hole that would require 14 bolts to traverse around I had a reel of strong thread that we could throw across to the other team to set up the Tyrolean of life so that the 161 people could come out a much shorter way. But it was not to be, the derigging momentum was in full flow and they only thing that could have interrupted it was a bad accident at the far end.

Cat, Andrew and Me left base camp at 6.30am in good weather, and had breakfast at the stone bridge, and carried on to 161g, and through the whole cave to our extensions. Where should we start? Let go to the far end of where we left off and kill that lead, then work backwards to any other leads until all the horizontal stuff is over. We left our SRT kit at the start as we had no further rope. I look some photos of the fly rock. The breakdown chamber where we finished last time was obviously going to end with some perched pitches from dangerous wedged rocks, but having climbed up and under the biggest boulder it was found the passage continued. The whole trip was like this. You'd do 50-100m of fast easy passage with 15-20m legs in freezing cold wind and then hit an obstacle, which turned out you could get through if you had the nerve. The first was a 5m climb up to a slot in the right wall. Then there was a 4m climb down to a splashy floor after a tricky shuffle along a muddy ledge that would no longer be possible without a rope once it had been smeared into slippery stone enough. This was followed by a climb over and through some rocky arches with side holes everywhere in which your body would disappear out of sight if you slipped down them. Then the cave began to really open out. We went passed about a dozen QM leads that you can walk into, not the rubbish kind that Wookey left in Mordor that were all pitches. Cat went down a small side lead at one point and had to be surveyed back out to the main passage. Only one other time did we back out of a lead, going downward from a junction (it was downward all the way in ) when we reached a small awkward pitch. We started to go upwind through wide unfamiliar passage that looked more familiar once we'd shaved off the cheese cake top layer into that white stuff with our boots. We broke into a large chamber at station 50 and carried on through. It was getting late. At the next obstacle, a pitch in a 2m wide going passage, we declared it was a day. Andrew went back up to it to paint the survey number on (56) and noticed that there was an easy way around. But we had to save our energy to get out. One way to save energy is to leave some ropes in for access to the connection from 204 so wookey's cracks of doom Mordor pitch was left as well as the German pitch.

While Andrew reduced the capital values of these installations by replacing slings and krabs with cut rope and mailons Cat got the brew kit left by Emma and Olly. It was so good. I was so tired. I went on ahead to Knossos and up to the drinking spot where I was so thirsty the water didn't even feel very cold. I polished off the final pieces of the cricket ball sized bag of 2011 apricot flapjack i'd grabbed before leaving camp. (Oh, the pools of water at the far end appeared to have black mould growing in them. No idea what it is). Everyone was asleep and not interested in what we'd found, which I think is better than the connection, which is inevitable and doesn't take to anything new. Survey plan not too bad, but I wish i'd drawn cross sections. We'd made a loop that almost came back to Chicken Flied Nice by 30m. Some of the survey drawings that would be in the 1989 book, if that can be found