Balkon- Blog Post bit - Second half of expo

Thu 25 Jul 2019

Thur Jul 25

The second half of Expo picked up a lot: the sun came out and most of us ventured up the hill to stay at top camp. See Reuben below in the bivvy: [photo]

I spent a deal of my time practicing my rigging skills in Homecoming but my last two trips were into Balkon with Radost.

We went to explore a lead that Rad had assured me was going to be spectacular. The lead was an aven reaching up from a cavern just off the side of the trade-route away and out of sight above us. Water dripped down one wall and down through an impassible hole in the floor.

We adopted the tactic of Rad climbing up a short distance, attached to one end of a rope. Then we would pass the bags up one by one on the rope before Rad made an anchor for me to prussick up too. We repeated this twice before Rad decided that he would like a bolt in for the next bit of the climb.

So up went the rigging equipment, bit by bit. Only when Rad shouted down "Crossley, do we usually have to hammer the Hiltis in?" did I suspect we might have made a mistake... As it turned out, we were now 15m off the ground with an 8mm drill bit and 10mm HKDs. Oops.

We decided to call it a day from there - but on our return to the ground thought it might be entertaining to try to fit through a constriction in the right hand wall. I went first, pendulumming around to the squeeze and wriggling through. It went! We had emerged into another aven, larger than the last. On the left hand side was a sloping wall with lots of holds that must surely lead up to above the drippy pitch we had previously been ascending. We brought the rope through the squeeze, leaving one end tied to the anchor that we had just been abseiling off, and Rad began to climb again.

This time, we had no bags with us so the going was easier. We regrouped on a shelf just above yet another big hole in the floor and from there, Rad traversed along and up until he came to a boulder choke. Through the boulder choke, he set up an anchor and belayed me up the climb (my climbing ability and confidence being much less than his). The chamber we were in showed no signs of crapping out - indeed it only got bigger as you went up.

Finally, we were both through the boulder choke and directly above our initial aven. We had a brief poke around at the leads: phreatic continuations in both directions, holes in the floor of the meander, and two intersecting streamways. We decided to call the chamber and general area "\" in an attempt to upset the sensibilities of our surveying software (it did, a little too much. We had to rename it "the_backslash" to avoid melting the system).

Now for the last challenge: to retrieve and sensibly rig the rope. Rad rigged the rope off some handy naturals and I abseiled down it until I was level with our original anchor. From there, I undid the anchor and swung over to the squeeze to pull the rope though that. Once the dead end of the rope was in the big chamber, Rad pulled it up through the boulder choke and to the top of the pitch, where he re-did his natural rigging and abseiled down to level with me, tied a rebelay, and went down to the ground. I grabbed the bags from where we had left them tied to a handy spike and abseiled down to join him.

The next day, we returned to the lead (with a 10mm drill bit) and I set to work rerigging the pitch to avoid the worst of the rope rub and spare the rope being tied directly around any rocks (opting for slings instead).

After warming Rad back up with some noodles, we started to survey our way up the pitch. We tandem-prussicked, with Rad on Book and Instruments and me as the Dog - handing precariously on my sky hooks to paint survey stations on handy rock points.

Once at the top, we took some splays of the chamber and decided to follow one of the streamways up. This involved yet more of Rad lead climbing and then anchoring me up. At last, we came to a section to steep and drippy for Radost to comfortably climb and we resorted to bolt climbing, discovering (as have many before us) that setting Hiltis one handed while standing in a sling through a sky hook is no mean feat.

After two bolts, we made it over the lip of the climb and into yet another aven. The streamway showed no signs of constricting as it went up but we were both ratther cold, damp, and tired. We decided there to head out and back to camp.

And that was the end of my Expo this year, I hope to come back to this lead in 2020, and hopefully to push it to the top (and ideally to a new entrance to 1623/264-Balkonhoehle). I'm afraid I didn't have a camera with me on these pushing trips else I would have posted some pictures. Instead, here are some that Rad took on the surface: [photo]

All the best,