Fishface - Camp: Muddy Goons

Sun 06 Aug 2023
Hannah Collings

Blog Author: h_collings

Fishface Camp - Muddy Goons

I’d arrived at expo in the early hours of Monday morning having done a straight drive from the UK with Nathan. I made it up to top camp Monday evening after catching up on some sleep, excited to get underground. Unfortunately the weather was very (very) wet on the Tuesday, continuing the theme of this years expo it seems, so a day of top camp fettling was had and plans made with Nadia for a fish face camp the following day.


Nadia very happy with a tacklesack!

Considering we had a whole day to pack for our camping trip we thought we could depart the next morning in good time, but alas the faff gets us all. After a debrief of the current leads with the previous camping team, who had returned in the early hours, we set off from top camp shortly after 10:00. We had an uneventful walk across the plateau and descent to camp. I’d heard great things of the legendary fish face camp… kitchen sides… taps… and mud free passages. And I hate to admit it, after my stubborn commitment to Balcony’s muddy depths last year, but it’s actually quite nice. We dropped off our camp kit and enjoyed a noodle lunch before heading off to the pushing front.


Nadia enjoying underground camp cooking.

The report on the state of leads from the previous camp group was not overwhelmingly positive, with some promising leads having been abandoned due to wetness. However a lead that Nadia had found on a previous camping trip (described above) was still left for the taking; named Theophilus Goon. We headed across the traverse above clap my pitch up and off to the junction at the pushing front. We had a choice between walking height passage ahead or a small tube which would make for awkward surveying, so when given the choice by Nadia I naturally chose the small tube. The logic was that we would quickly close out this lead before getting onto the good stuff, but after 40m the switch backing crawl was persisting on so we abandoned it as a C lead and returned to the junction. With falsely high hopes for our walking height passage we set off again, managing one survey leg before turning a corner and finding the passage intercepted by a rift. After a short climb down we set off along the reasonably sized rift, still feeling hopeful, only to find it ended after several legs. We retraced our steps and contemplated a climb up that we had previously been unconvinced by, but now out of options was looking more appealing. Nadia waited below while I headed up to see if it actually went anywhere. At the top I found a crawling height passage that ended in a flat out muddy crawl. Shouting down that I wasn’t sure if the passage went, Nadia said to go ‘a bit further’ to check before she followed me up the climb… I misinterpreted this statement and disappeared off through the mud about 20m to find a walking height phreatic passage beyond. I returned to Nadia to tell her the good news… that she considered less good looking at the state of me plastered in mud. Understandably Nadia was not keen to get covered in mud before returning to camp, so we surveyed up until the crawl and agreed to return the next day.


Ruairidh and I trying to stay warm at underground camp.

A pleasant evening was had in camp with Ruairidh and Frank, who had been exploring leads beyond coconut shy. We returned the next day with some lacking enthusiasm for the mud which was in my opinion worse than Balcony, which is really saying something! The crawl was only 10m long but once covered in mud it was challenging to keep survey notes and disto clean. Nadia later commented that most people would probably have considered this crawl as ‘not going’ but I think my over enthusiasm got the better of me, it was my first trip of the expedition after all. Despite the unpleasant start to the passage, the rest was very pleasant with some interesting helictites found. The most impressive of which came horizontally out the wall approx 40cm, with a diameter of 5-8cm (much debate was had on these dimensions) and three crystallised bulbs along it… unfortunately we had both forgotten a camera and so no one else is able to appreciate these sights but we have made sure to tell lots of people about it! After 100m the rift passage became impassable, and with only two unpromising leads we suspected connected up in a subsection of the main passage, we turned around. Nadia aptly named our finds for the day Muddy Goons.


A sketch of the interesting helictite (almost as good as a picture...)

The pitches back to camp were painful, despite their shortness, due to our mud caked jammers. We reached the ‘tap’ near camp with relief and had a good gear cleaning session before making our way out. We were greeted on the surface with the impressive sight of an almost full moon, bright and low on the horizon, which lit the first part of the walk back before slipping below the mountain peaks - I have definitely missed life on the plateau since last year!

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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