Expo - the last Kraken camp of 2018
Blog Author: adam74aldridge
The trip was partaken by George, Becka, and myself (Adam). We went underground in Balcony on Friday the 3rd of August around mid day and surfaced from Tunnocks around 8pm on Sunday.
Following a generous helping of faff resulting in an irate Becka we set of towards Balcony with optimism. This would be my first ever underground camp trip, so there was a pinch of excited apprehension in my mood.
After the necessary commute in balcony we made it to the Mongol Rally, this 200m shaft, sloping slightly from the vertical, was by far the biggest i've ever seen. The decent, seemingly endless, is mostly experienced with blackness above and below.
After a short journey from the base of The Mongol Rally feeling suitably far from home, we started work at the pushing front.
Day one was finished with around 250m surveyed; George had dropped a pitch which led into large airy passages. Throughout the day George had been commenting on invasive smells. Most of these instances were a result of Becka taking out her pet mouldy cheese. I quietly found this rather amusing.
George and I awoke after a night at camp to find Becka doing lots of productive things, she had checked the radio (unfortunately without success) and was well on the way to making breakfast. Led by Becka's enthusiasm, day two was begun with less faff than the previous. We set of along Tentacle Traverse and down Octo Pussy towards the front.
I was feeling remarkably weary on this second day. There was point, as George and Becka shot off, where I was nearly defeated by a section of upward sloping mud.
An arduous (for me) and increasingly muddy commute later, we reached the pushing front: a muddy wet pitch, great! Feeling a touch despondent at this point, we pushed on; George started bolting the pitch while Becka and I waited at the top. Waiting very quickly got cold so in an attempt to alleviate this situation we started jumping about. The nature of this was quite comical, it was a fusion between a Zumba class routine and the irregular movements of telly tubies who have just been exited by the sun baby.
To our surprise and elation, the muddy gryke of a lead dropped into a dry spacious expanse with multiple ways on. We began surveying down a railway tunnel passage sloping slightly down. This, to our bewilderment, led to a gentle meandering river banked by sloped volumes of mud. All of a sudden, Becka became exited, George and I rushed over, she had found a sprout in the mud! A surreal occurrence at ~700m below. The sapling drank in our light deeply as we admired it's lone perseverance.
A few pictures later, we moved on, only to find a sump. This would have been annoying if not for the alternative upstream continuation.
Half an hour or so up this lead, much to my relief, we stopped on a muddy bank for a lunch break. The only way on was a 3m climb into a relic inlet. Becka argued that we should turn back as it was getting late (a sensible idea to be fair). Despite Becka's standpoint, George and I were up for going on. With Irate protest from Becka, George began the climb. Out of sight, George began talking in awe of an interesting blue lake. With more protesting from Becka, I climbed up as well.
The pool in question was like something out of a sci fi film, Its colour and complexity was preternatural. I could explain it to you by a picture able to convey more than words.
With rekindled enthusiasm for exploration we continued deeper into a truly surreal environment, the vast relic stream passage was littered with artefacts of its past; here and there, pools of immaculate water lay undisturbed for presumably quite a while; marbled fractal mud formations encrusted the lower surfaces; bizarre spiky rock formations en-habited the walls, formed by a vigorous torrent, long forgotten.
With over 400m on the PDA, we returned to camp. The commute seemed friendlier, for me at least, with a sense of accomplishment under the belt.
Waking up for the second time in absence of sunlight, the task for the 'day' was to de-rig and prusik out.
The camp was packed up and raised to the top of Kraken in five caries up the pitch (one by me two each by George and Becka). George competed a particularly obscene carry: a huge orange survival bag tied at the top with cord, he looked like a surreal speleo version of Santa Claus.
Once camp was sorted, we began the long ascent to the surface. Becka and I set of with some bags of rope while the machine that is George began to de-rig the pitches.
This was my first trip to Kraken camp, but it might also be the last. However as one good thing comes to an end, the next is on the horizon: with the persistent efforts of this year (especially by George and Becka) a new region of Balkony has proved promising, and so, the camp will be reformed there with new opportunities awaiting.