In Search Of Salamanders

Sat 15 Jul 2023
Christian Kuhlmann

Following an impromptu pre-expo-dinner dinner the night before, we all arose with a tinge of hangover. Rapidly consuming breakfast and packing kit, we set off at 8:30am, only 30 minutes after we said we would which in all fairness is very good going for us. After a smooth ferry to the Loser car park by our wonderful chauffer Alice, we set off up the mountain. Almost immediately after we left the car park a navigational faux pas was made and we found ourselves on the wrong path, and with a small section of off-roading, we headed up to top camp with no other further obstructions.

Upon reaching top camp we were greeted by our fellow plateau dwellers and began the ceremonial scrannage of noodles. Spirits lifted and full of noodles I repaired some of the drill batteries, apparently broken from over-excited handling; followed by a brief faff session and subsequent departure from Stoney Bridge. En-route, I found that bringing my 35-litre rucksack was a mistake. The 100 litres I normally brought was a far more suitable size and the choice to go light for this trip would not be repeated. The resulting journey was incredibly tedious and required a camera in one hand and a sleeping bag in the other. This would become a recurring theme.

Plateau stomping completed, we arrived at the entrance of Homecoming with Ash and Ely closely in tow. Proceeding another bout of faffing and packing, Merren disappeared over the lip of Homecoming and began our quest into the cooler climate we so desperately needed.

Upon entering the entrance series, we began to realise that Homecoming, topologically, is not well suited for dragging camping equipment in. The bags became the bane of our collective existence, constantly getting caught in rifts, getting tangled in ropes, and just being generally annoying. With no small amount of effort, the bags were dragged into Swiss Cheese after surviving the toils of Wilfully Endangering Lives. Leaving our kit behind, free of (some) of our burden, we headed off towards Lizard Queen and beyond in an effort to survey some passage we were unable to survey before and begin some more bolting adventures.

As we bottomed Salamander Queen II I fired up the noodle factory awaiting Merren and Wassil’s arrival. As usual, the flavour sachets were incredibly awkward to operate without becoming caked in grease, so we settled for dry flavouring alone. Better than nothing.

Again full of noodles, we entered German Engineering, more aware of how much two of the bolts needed replacing than before, we carefully traversed the exposed rift. Dropping the next pitch into War of Attrition and traversing the associated rift, we approached the end of what had been seen before. Upon reaching Salamander Queen, I was welcomed by a two-bolt y-hang in slightly chossy rock backed up by a good bolt with the only issue being it had enormous amounts of rub. This needed to be fixed. After descending the pitch, I collected the drill and bolts and began my way back up. Reaching the top I was met by the dulcet tones Wassil and Merren surveying War of Attrition and I began adding more bolts. The back-up bolt was turned into another y-hang and the original y-hang appeared to be in good rock but maybe 20cm below this, the rock crapped out and needed gardening. After pulling up the old rope, Wassil gave in to his gardening addiction and began yeeting large quantities or kitchen appliances down the pitch. After breaking half of the cave, I re-rigged the y-hang on a rope that, this time, did not require a knot pass, and did not rub a scarily large amount. En-route to the floor, a re-belay was added to reduce the chance of being chossed and to enable faster ascending.

As Merren and Wassil surveyed the previous sections, I began to explore and try to locate the most promising lead. At one end of the chamber was a small stream flowing out of the wall. This did not go (but did provide good noodle water). On the other side, I bolted a small, maybe 7m, pith aiming to enter a large clean-washed aven. At the end of this is sharp clean-washed traverse over what seemed like a 30m rift. Reaching the end of this I began bolting a new traverse over a now, much larger, chamber which looked like it was about 20m wide, very long and about 50m deep. Continuing over the top of this in a keyhole rift, we were greeted by a phreatic tube.

To our surprise, this was an lovely stomping passage with some squidgy silt on the floor and a set of small dry waterfalls. This continued for about 100m and ended about a huge chamber where water can be heard from a good instance away. Here the strong inward draught returned, and our hopes were revitalised. Wassil and Merren caught up here and I was strongly encouraged to drop the pitch as Wassil who was incredibly excited. After bolting the Y-hang and dropping our rope (we think about 40-50m) it did not reach the bottom and we headed back to Swiss Cheese with our tails between our legs. Returning to Swiss Cheese we noticed that some traverses were a little vegan for our liking and required a couple more bolts to be deemed reasonable as a route for more people to use. This was a job for tomorrow (or rather later today).

Reaching the underground camp at about 4am, we devoured a collection of noodles and freeze-dried curry before settling down for the night. This night was miserable, little sleep was had and escaping our beds was truly a battle. After some freeze-dried “porridge with strawberries”, which turned taout to be amazing, we trekked back to Lizard Queen, this time exhausted. Merryn waited in Lizard Queen II and Wassil and I made our way to Lizard Queen. Upon reaching the top, Wassil awaited my return, and I ventured down to retrieve all of the pushing equipment from the bottom. I was not happy about this.

Reaching the top of the pitch again, I handed the bolting equipment to Wassil and made my way to Merryn with a large quantity of metalwork and rope. With Wassil only having bolting kit I felt very overburdened and a little hard done by on my journey. Despite this noodle provided a fine remedy upon reaching Swiss Cheese with Merryn.

Wassil later joined us and we all finished off the noodles. This marked the strat oif our arduous escape from the Second Coming and Homecoming in general. Laden with camping kit, most of the metalwork, lots of rope, and the bolting kit I was far slower than normal and at some points found the normally airy traverses thought provoking. Here Wassil left Merryn and I in pursuit of a faster exit with the guise of carrying the “heavy group kit” (this group kit was lighter than Merryn and I’s group kit and mostly consisted of his own shit).

The escape was awful and became briefely less awful upon leaving the bolting kit at the split of Hobnob Hallway, The Second Coming, and Watershed. Here we found a beautiful note left by Becka’s group requesting some bolting supplies to which we left a not by our supplies. In my dehydrated, exhausted mind, I misread a request for a shelter being left at the bottom of Gromit as a request for it to be left at the top. In hindsight this made no sense and was pretty stupid. No shelter for the I guess.

The entrance series proved to be the worst section, despite having left the bolting bag. Additionally, near the end of our exit, the rope I’d carried most of the way-out abandoned ship and was later found by Becka’s group later.

TLDR: Overall, a great trip with over ~294m surveyed and more promising leads found. Couldn’t recommend camping in the second coming more!

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Survex files on this date:
Wallets on this date:
    2023#26 Salamander Queen ['SalQ plan', 'SalQ plan']
    2023#29 [] ['incavenotes-2', '2023BL02-cavesheet', '2023BL01-cavesheet', '2023BL03-caveshe…
    2023#42 Bunderstruck ['2018dm04sexytopo', '2018dm04', '2018dm04 plan', '2018dm04 ee']
Logbook trips on this date:
    Prospecting - Up to Homecoming from the Col
    2018-DM-04 – Prospecting, exploring, surveying
    In Search Of Salamanders