Fishface - Underground camp

Sun 06 Aug 2023
Nadia Raeburn

Blog Author: Tinywoman

My first underground camp

Everyone was chased down the hill by a forecast predicting a lot of rain and a temperature of: feels like -2 on the plateau. (Everyone except a few young new arrivals and one crazy returnee to show them the way. They headed up during peak storm to get soaking wet before experiencing one of the coldest nights as their first night. Youth…) After a night at basecamp everyone was keen to make the most of the sunny day forecasted for the day afterwards and we wanted to head up to top camp to pack and have an early start for an underground camp trip.

Arriving at top camp we realised that we had misjudged the weather. We all shivered, too cold to think about packing for our underground camp. Overnight everyone shivered in their sleeping bags as the wind whistled by. Waking up in the morning I saw the sun outside which motivated me to leave my less than warm sleeping bag. Unfortunately the sun was sporadic and it wasn't actually warm outside. We begrudgingly packed for our underground camp while wishing we could bask in warm sunlight.

Having never been down to the camp before I was intimidated by the depth as I struggled with my two tackle sacks, one normal sized and a massive but light one with our underground camp sleeping bags. My intimidation was needless because it turns out going up with only one bag is easier than going down with two.

After finally arriving at camp Botch and I headed over to a lead called gerbil hole, due to the small and apparently very tight squeeze that leads you into a reasonably sized rift passage. Botch had been their previously with Becka and Luke. Luke had been so terrified of returning through gerbil hole that he carried on through the exposed rift to find an alternative exit. Luckily for him he found a hole to pop out of in a previously explored connecting passage. The route he took looked too sketchy for Becka and Botch to follow so they returned through gerbil hole.

Botch and I's mission for the day was to bolt down what Luke has previously free climbed and then head on to the leads down the other side of the rift. Unfortunately, this proved more difficult than expected because Botch didn't know what level Luke had been in the rift or how far along we would have to go. We eventually made it to the connection but not before running out of rope making the continuing leads inaccessible. We surveyed the passage that we had come down and headed back to camp a bit disappointed and a bit early for a cold night at camp.

Curry and gnocchi for dinner cheered us up as we waited for Kai and Rob to return from their trip. They brought great news of a new traverse into a phreatic window with a few unexplored junctions. After dinner we settled into another cold night made better by the memory of an even colder night before. At least it wasn't as bad as the night before.

Waking up had me worried because even with all my layers and a thick sleeping bag I wasn't warm. But coffee coaxed me out of bed and the movement and hot food warmed me up. We all headed off to the traverse they had found the day before. Rob's plan was to rig the pitches below the traverse (clap my pitch up) while the rest of us explored the horizontal leads. Rob went down first and said he was out of the way and we could carry on the traverse. This turned out to be false. He was directly below and the mud was thick and clumpy, and try and we might, we could not prevent it falling from our boots. Rob, increasingly annoyed by the mud whistling past his head, eventually decided to seek cover. We later found out that he managed to find new phreatic passage in his search for shelter.

Eventually making it to the window, we got our survey equipment out and decided to head down the least promising lead of a small phreatic tube. About half a metre wide. We figured we would quickly tick off this lead and save the best for last. After about 4 legs we found an excellent bat skeleton and another junction! We carried on 'straight' to a walking height rift with small flowstones and crystals in the ceiling. We also found a 30cm stalactite that had small crystal hairs. A photo was taken but the camera is at top camp so I have no photo to share.

After about 20 legs Rob had finished his rigging and came and collected Botch to survey the new passage he found while hiding from our traverse. Kai and I carried on a little longer until we got to another junction and decided to end our day at this promising location. We later uploaded the data and learned we had discovered 125m of new cave that trip! We headed back to camp, packed up and started our long prussik out. We returned to top camp at midnight pretty tired and glad it wasn't too cold finally.

(In a subsequent underground camp trip I returned to the same area but Hannah will be telling you about that adventure. I brought my down jacket to underground camp and found that to be a game changer. Not only was I warm at night, somehow that heat carried on to my caving trips. It was amazing)

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No survex files found for this date.
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Logbook trips on this date:
    Fishface - Underground camp
    Fishface - Camp: Muddy Goons