Fischgesicht - 2022 exploits in Fish Face – Part 3a of 3
[From blog post dated 19th August.]
Up bright and early for a shit and freshly ground coffee. The Jape had claimed he would not be shitting while in the cave, but after seeing all of us do so he became jealous and headed off to the chamber we were using to house the shit drum. After checking the CaveLink, it appeared that our messages of last night had now been sent – happy days! The timing of these messages did cause some confusion on the surface though, as Frank thought we were japing around by saying we were ‘kreshing down for the night’ at 7am! It was decided that Mike and I would continue to tie up loose ends surveying while Luke and the Jape dropped a small pitch at the Elizabeth Line pushing front. After around 30 legs of largely uninspiring (though easy to draw) passage, we had ticked all of these small leads off, so went back to camp for lunch (only a 15 minute commute!), and then went to see what Luke and Jonty were up to.
It turned out to be big. A small pitch had been dropped and then a short section of meandering passage led to an apparently huge largening of the rift ahead, which would eat all of our pushing rope. Luke was still questing downwards when Mike and I arrived, with Jonty worshipping a tiny flame from a tea light in the group shelter in a nice alcove. We backtracked and began to survey from the end of Elizabeth Line, reaching the pitch head just as Luke bellowed ‘ROPE FREEEEEEE’. Mike set off into the blackness wielding the disto, while I scribbled notes and drew frantically behind. Luke had rigged the pitch very nicely with lots of y-hang rebelays, making the SRT very easy. We soon arrived at the end of the ropes on a drippy ledge, where delicate scuttling around the edge of a big hole led to a further continuation of the rift. Luke flicked a small rock over the edge and we waited around 4 seconds till it hit a ledge and then a further second until it clattered to the floor. We would need to return with more rigging gear, but we wanted to save the nice 8.5mm pushing rope, so Mike stripped that out leaving the metal in place.
By now I had been on book for over 60 survey legs (spread across the two days) and around 300m of passage, so I requested a change of role. Luke said he had just the thing for me: a naughty traverse over the top of a huge hanging flake/block in Keanu Breeze, where the Japes claimed they had seen a horizontal continuation on the far side of the shaft (the bottom turned into a miserable dripfest). Jonty and Mike made preparations to drop an unexplored pitch heading down towards the streamway in the rift (a little downstream of the Tap) while Luke and I headed to Keanu Breeze with Mike’s drill. The aim was to kill off this lead today so that the rope left there could be repurposed at the earlier find. Keanu Breeze is located in a huge fault and thus the rock on the shaft walls was often poor, meaning I needed to be a bit creative with the rigging (but also not wanting to use too many bolts on what we assumed would be a no-hoper). After plenty of skyhook japery on the traverse and subsequent rebelays I was hanging in space trying to kick across into quite a substantial window on the far side of the passage. This eventually done I shouted to Luke to come and join me with the survey gear and drill bag as the meandering passage beyond clearly continued. I bolted the next small drop in the rift while Luke came to join me, muttering about ‘japery’ and ‘not a trade route’ as he did so (I never said the rigging would be beautiful…). A quick scamper along the rift led to a further small drop which I rigged to land in a continuation of the meander, now heading northwest, which had descended into a slippery shredpiece which reminded me of the cave we had explored in Albania in 2017: you want it to end, but you know it won’t for a very long time.
We considered continuing, but now I had a medical issue of my own: some shrapnel had got into my right eye while I was hammering above and it still hadn’t cleared and had become quite painful. By now Mike had joined us, with Jonty having headed back to camp to take on some fluids as he was dehydrated, and he again derigged the ropes as Luke and I surveyed back out. At the first aid kit drop above, I attempted to clean out my eye with saline solution but it stubbornly refused to improve. Vision by now faltering, I struggled back to camp to find Jonty again worshipping a tiny candle. After prising him from his sermon with the flame to have another go at cleaning my eye (which still didn’t improve), I began boiling water for curries and couscous. Luke and Mike arrived back having repacked all the rope and the final half of the bottle of schnapps was finished off before turning in.
Bedtime. Photo: Luke.