Balcony - Tying up loose ends in Far Side

Mon 18 Aug 2014



I was up bright and early at 7 to go up the hill with Becka. It was not to be an epic, with a start before midday not anticipated, so Becka was keen to push some leads in Balcony. We got up the hill around 11. After a tragic yet amusing incident involving me, the grike & the poo drum, we set off. The weather, for once, was pleasant, ensuring a dry descent at 12:15, the first for a while in Balcony!

We took it slowly on the way in as I showed Becka most of the important junctions. We arrived at the pushing front, as described by Holly & Noel, at around 2pm. There, holly, Noel & Andy showed us the leads they hadn't yet looked at. There were a lot of them, and all very pleasant caving - we [something]! The first one we looked at was at the junction after the crossroads (station 46). This turned into a sand choked dig after only 4 legs.

We then headed to station 69, where on the left was a lead that Noel was dead keen on. However, this also proved to be a damp squib as it connected back in with the main passage above some mud formations which have been taped off. 2 down, plenty to go! Next, we set off to the crossroads to check out the 2 unexplored leads there. The first, near station 36, became too tight after less than 10 legs. The second, a slightly thrutching rift, ended up linking back in with the main passage again, taking a 90° turn and coming in on the other side of an aven which Noel had down as another good lead. The connection involved quite an exciting traverse that Becka declined to do, instead coming round the main passage.

At this point, it was getting on for 7, so we decided we'd do one more then call it a day. Holly, Noel & Andy had headed out, but on their way bumped into us having a chocolate break and told us about 2 new leads they had discovered, one being a 6m climb down into an aven with more passage on the other side. We decided we'd like to find some passage that actually went & headed off.

I had been on notes all day, and had finally got a system sorted - proper layout, able to draw backreadings properly, elevation down. I was also a lot less faffy than before - bonus! Our hopes were still dashed, however, as this passage led to a drop down through quite a small hole that would have shredded Becka's oversuit and probably not advisable without a rope. There looked to be a reasonably sized passage below, and it was drafting quite strongly, so we left it with reasonable optimism that it would be returned to.

Heading out was no bother at all, with Becka finding the way easily. We caught Martin & Sophie on the entrance pitch, which saw us out around 9:15pm. Vis was low on the surface so navigating back was a bit more challenging than normal. We were back at the bivi a very reasonable 10:45. A fine trip, despite the lack of going passage on our part!