The team out in the first week had done a tremendous job, rigging Tunnocks down to Kraken in 3 days. After arriving we washed, dried and stuffed 1km of rope into tacklesacks and carried half of it up the hill. On Tuesday morning we packed the camp kit, drill, rigging gear and Elliott managed to cart a 200m bag of rope down to camp. I fettled the rigging as required on the way in eg a deviation on Magic Glue and eliminating a catchy rub at the bottom of Inferno, which now lands on a rock bridge, saving ~10m further descent and re-ascent. I added a traverse line and descending Kraken was rewarded by the green glow from the Camp Kraken tent. Katey and Elliott had had to drain it and scrape the mould off the floor to make it habitable - even having to scrape calcite off the zip to get in. It was a comfortable night.
NB - Elliott from here:
Day 2 saw us heading down to the pushing front at Paw Paw passage. All was left rigged, bar the Song of the Earth ramp. ~120m of rope disappeared on that one. We carried on to the mud sump (-902m) and took some photos. We retraced a small continuation when a more modern stream (read trickle) had carved out a bit of the mud. Katey went for it and found it too tight… she did notice a draft however, albeit a small one.
Onto Paw Paw, katey climbed the C6 left last year and bolted it. The passage up a rifty (but still phreatic) section, approx. 3 - 6m wide, 6m high, still drafting. At this point, Elliott climbed an aven to the left (West) whilst Chris and Katey surveyed. Two rift passages soon crapped out. Elliott’s aven (‘Aye, there’s the rub’) rises for ~25m before leading to a ~20m pitch. Katey found a rising tube to the North about halfway up the climb, 2 pitches here, again ~20m. Out of rope, battery and willpower, we headed back to camp.
Next day (Thursday) we headed out. Left camp at 10am, out between 13:00 - 16:00.
After a slow start at base camp, Luke, Brendan, Nathan and myself went up the hill so Brendan could have lunch. This done, we had to go caving, myself and Luke tasked with rigging Tunnocks, using Anthony’s 2015 rigging topo as a guide for the entrance series. The rig was very faffy and not much grease had been used on the derig last year which didn’t help. After much faff, we reached the snow slope which was sporting some very large icicles at the bottom. Out and back for 9pm.
After failing to locate any ropes longer than 61m, myself, and Luke headed back to Tunnocks, underground at the more respectable time of 11am rather than 3pm. I fettled the entrance rig a bit on the way in, replacing some ropes and some of Luke’s krabs whilst he rigged Caramel Catharsis. This done, we went to rig the traverse across Usual Susspects, which wasn’t very nice. I missed quite a few of the naturals the first time around, which Luke then found and added in with some red mammut tat - recommend that this is left in on the derig - while I rigged String Theory. This made a relaxing change from the Entrance Series and Usual Susspects traverse. Then on the way out we fettled the Entrance Series a bit more. Still not ideal, but when has it ever been perfect? Icicles still there. Bit dangerous, should probably destroy them in a controlled manner before they chop us or the ropes to bits.
With me having a plane to catch and having had all evening the night before to pack gear, a very efficient start was had, underground by 9am! Luke went ahead to rig Procrastination whilst I again fettled the Entrance Series (icicles still there) and Caramel Catharsis, where a rope protector cannot prevent rub from the single bolt hang at the top, where there was a shit Y hang using a thread last year. Then I went to assist Luke, who had run out of hangers and had also missed some bolts. After a bit of faffing, the rig was almost perfect and we were on to rig the shit little traverse and pitch before Bring on the Clowns. It was barely gone 1pm at this point, so we decided to see how far a 39m rope can get you down Number of the Beast. It turns out you can get to the first rebelay (though this length + my rigging style rendered it a little tight later). Then out and down the hill to print boarding passes and rigging topos.
Note: the y-hang at the top of NOTB should be a bunny ears style knot for ease of safe rigging.
Rigged Balcony entrance series with 100m + 20m rope following [Ed Nathanael’s] 2016 rigging topo.
Rigged Hilti-a-Plenty pitches with 80m rope using Martin’s rigging guide.
Rigged Tunnocks from Number Of The Beast to Kraken. Missed a rebelay on Inferno and decided it required a longer rope. Rigging done by: Luke (Knicker [Ed. Widow Twankey's Knicker Elastic] and Kraken); George (Magic Glue and Inferno).
Went down Balcony to Bat Country and dropped b lead near Galactica. Pitch rigged using sam rigging guide earlier in book. Turned back at next pitch due to lack of rope.
Rigged pitch/traverse to ~100m good horizontal passage. Ended in multiple pitches with horizontal continuations over them. Surveyed.
Dropped 20m pitch in SS [Ed: Sloppy Seconds] to immature meander: found small horizontal passages that all crapped out in mud and immature meanders.
This was myself and Corin’s first trip underground whilst on expo. Ash took us down Balcony to Cathedral Chasm. He gave myself and Corin a lesson in surveying which was great because he uses a PDA which - so I am told - is a very efficient surveying technique. We surveyed a total of 79 metres!.. In about 2 hours… By the end of this we'd found 1 C lead and 2 B leads, one of which resulted in a grim mendip crawl that only Ash ended up doing and surveying. Michael thinks that the other B lead could connect to Tunnocks… We'll see.
NB: Ash’s alternative account
After the rain prevented caving the day before, the four of us set off to Balcony at long last. Got underground just before midday and soon we reached the bottom of the entrance series. Lydia and Corin had not been into Balcony before so this was a nice introduction to Austrian caving. Successfully remembered the route to the Trident junction turn off. Lydia rigged the intermediate 10m pitch. The bolts had been left in by Luke who had removed a slightly too short rope. I showed the others the bat skeletons just before we got to the rift B lead we had planned to explore. I taught Corin and Lydia how to survey in paperless style so progress was slow but successful. The rift interconnected in a couple of places before heading off in the direction of Tunnocks. Passed an aven - possibly freclimbable QMB - before getting to a 4-way junction with 2 QMBs and a QMC. Pushed one of the QMBs which got smaller and turned into a crawl. Michael called for a ‘Mendip caver’ up front so I pushed a squeeze leading to a more sideways thrutchy crawl. This continued for 30m through a couple of other squeezes before crapping out. I then did a 1-man disto mission to survey it.
Meanwhile Corin and Lydia took some photos. Michael and I caught them up and we then exited the cave. Entrance pitch was a bit drippy and quite cold.
Went down Balcony for a quick refresher trip in order to familiarise myself with the cave. Luke helped guide where I went wrong and also did some rigging. Most of the way from the entrance to Ice Cock had been left rigged from the previous year. I took a photograph of Ice Cock aven ice waterfall.
Elliot, Nadia, Rachel and I went down to Galactica to survey it and drop a rift pitch at its northern end. Rachel and I drew triangles all over the floor surveying it whilst Elliott and Nadia dropped the pitch in cheesy rock. It crapped out wetly. This leaves a wet QMC below the entrance pitch to Galactica and no other leads. Galactica is dead.
Aim was to drop the famed QMA (9A) lead on the right at the handline up at the end of the Natural Highs traverse. Rachel started bolting and then recognised she had been on the shelf on the opposite side in 2015. Then Adam and I found a way halfway down the pitch form the rabbit warren at the far end of Natural Highs down to an easy free climb. Her ewe could see the others’ lights and there were bolts already in to drop the rest of the pitch. Rachel had nearly finished rigging but we decided to give up given that it had already been dropped.
No GPS so we were relying on phones for location. We headed off beyond the cross country ski-pole line after refinding 2010-07 and 2010-01. Right next to 2010-01 is a drafting shaft blocked by very loose boulders which could perhaps be dug out in a couple of hours.
Found an open 10m+ shaft, ~3x2m opening. 33W 550789E 7885325N, 524067Y 3117175X according to Martin’s phone - may not be correct!
Second open shaft, ~20m deep, 2x0.7m opening, tagged CUCC-2017-03, same location as above 10m+ shaft.
Only find definitely worth returning to was a refind of 1623/110, had very faded red paint and fitted the description (I crawled in quite a way in a T-shirt, painful and low but an excellent draft). Tagged CUCC-2017-04 but no bolt for tag so just got balanced. On my phone’s GPS cords were 47.693408, 13.812227 or 47°41’36.3”N, 13°48’44.0”E. The cave is on the Top Camp side of the ski pole line by 100 - 150m, maybe 1.1km from Top Camp..
A bad weather forecast saw most of Top Camp head out prospecting instead of caving. Nadia found and tagged 2 caves, one of which crapped out quickly (2017-NR-01). The other was a 20m pitch which crapped out in 2 tight directions at the bottom (2017-NR-02). Good bolting practice though. Both tagged, notes and photos taken.
21st: underground at 10am, camp at 12:30 including Luke adding a couple of spits on Kraken pitch. Then took 90 minutes to get to top of pitch Elliott climbed beyond the mud sump in Song of the Earth. George rigged a traverse then an airy pitch to whoops - it was a huge chamber! We surveyed around the outside and then had a second wander around it but despit some dodgy free-climbing by George (aided by Luke providing a memorable foothold) and plenty of scary furtling amongst really loose boulders we couldn’t find a way on. We derigged the pitch; then George spent 2 more hours trying to find a higher level way on to no avail despite the strong draft. Eventually we set off back to camp at 8pm with Luke pulling through to retrieve Elliott’s rope and derigging the long set of pitches/traverses in Song of the Earth. Back at camp at 10:30 after a long day out.
22nd: Luke started rigging the pitch to the left of Indian Rope Trick whilst George climbed the boulder ramp below Indian Rope Trick with me belaying. This lead to a large, low phreatic passage which we surveyed and eventually looped to the pitch Luke had rigged and to a pitch down to a significant streamway and a large pool. Sadly we couldn’t get down to it as the 2nd and last drill battery died as soon as George tried to rig it. We finished the survey and then ran all around Slackers to check out other potential leads; we also surveyed 2 QMs, finishing one and leaving another as a good ongoing lead [this later turned into Grike of the Earth].
23rd: headed out taking up to 3.5 hrs to prussik out followed by a swift trot down the hill as everyone else (nearly) seemed to be having the weekend off.
Due to another apocalyptic weather forecast, Phil and Nadia decided to do another day of prospecting north of Balcony rather than potentially getting marooned down a cave. We went back to a potential lead at a cave tagged 2012-OK-01, for which the existing prospecting notes were along the lines of ‘tagged, undropped, unsurveyed’. Not quite as bad as some of the notes for prospects, which were along the lines of ‘lost’. We dropped 2012-OK-01 off 3 naturals, to find a pleasant amount of nothingness with a peephole through to a depression in the plateau. Another one crossed off the list.
We then went back to a potential lead north of 2011-01. Shining a headtorch down it showed a passage and a lot of dry dust. A handline was rigged (p8, 45° slope) gave us access to a cave. With a drafting phreatic passage leading off at 45° down at the bottom. We followed this down 30m until the slope angle increased and a rope was needed (which we didn’t have). Surveyed, photos and GPS coordinates taken. QMA! Nadia christened the cave ‘Bad Forecast’ since it turned out sunny all day.
Based on tunes originally whistled by Kristian Brook
I woke at 10am to find Becka screaming that she had not gone caving in 24 hours (it had only been 13 hours). Whilst George was laughing he asked me if I was keen for a trip; I responded by packing my caving gear. The destination was ‘The Beast’ to explore a window George had seen when he last went there. After the 50000000 rebelays of the Tunnocks Entrance Series we made it to the top of the Beast. Becka and I descended the Beast in order to survey whilst George took a drill and 2 dubious batteries in order to rig a separate shaft called ‘Not the Beast’. We would link into the window at the bottom of The Beast in order to look at virgin passage.
George set off down the passage first and crossed a low risk, high severity traverse. This was rigged with the remaining rope that we had and whatever naturals we could see. The dubious rigging inspired the passage name ‘Rig-a-Mortis’. There were 3 streams passing through the passage and sinking into person sized stream passage. These leads would have been pushed enthusiastically in the UK but in this situation they were too cold to push on. A trip back with a wetsuit is recommended if they are to be further looked at. On the way out Becka derigged The Beast and George derigged ‘Not the Beast’. I was knackered going out of the cave so Becka and George took all the rope and bolting kit out. Exited the cave at 2am, 13 hours underground; a new personal best for myself.
Everyone in Top Camp festered because they were scared of the high water levels. Nobody caved.
After walking across to the Organhohle bivvy in the rainm and then getting cooped up by the weather, Elaine and I decided to push GMH, a lead very close to the bivvy which had been followed to a T-shaped rift by Haydon and Elaine a few days before. The cave starts with a choss slope and then appears to end, but up to the right a short bolt climb across the T-shaped rift leads to further passage. We followed it past a junction approximately 25m through a fairly tight section to an undropped pitch.
Elaine and I returned to GMH the following day to bolt the pitch and survey the cave as nothing had been surveyed past the entrance pitch so far. Below the 12m pitch at the end of the T-shaped rift (‘Waterfall Rift’) there were several horizontal leads. Down a short climb put us in a chamber with several routes leading off from it. On the right a short rift a short rift leads into a small chamber with drips coming from a small hole in the ceiling. Also on the right is a low crawl which reached a sandy junction and immediately crapped out beyond.
On the left from the chamber a fairly large section of walking passage continues past a hole in the floor to a junction, the left hand route leading to a drippy aven and a small stream which we did not follow (it was quite committing and damp) and the right hand route led to a promising little pitch. Because we had left the surveying gear at the top of the pitch, we turned back at this point and surveyed from the pitch head to the cave entrance. Just as we reached the choss slope, Haydon and Elliott arrived, having got fed up with the Organ Grinder. Elliott helped us survey the pitch while Haydon went to have a look at what we had found.
Found ~40m horizontal passage heading due east at 45°, passage ended in ~35m pitch dropping into large phreatic passage. Way on is undropped 20m pitch to the north that lands in a large continuation.
The continuation chamber has several avens in the roof, as does the choked phreatic chamber. Hopefully it doesn’t crap out with breakdown debris from the roof, since it looks as if it lies on a fault. Progress down the passage prior to the 40m pitch was slow due to bulldozering several cubic metres of cobbles dow the passage continuously. We got to know some of these cobbles quite well.
Went back to Cathedral Chasm to finish off what was done the day before. Started by going left at the junction, this was after rigging the traverse to Cathedral Chasm (17m) and letting Elliott loose at the top of the really loose pitch.
Elaine and I surveyed along, eventually reaching an aven and pitch. Both crapped out, with the small stream we found en route disappearing into a pebbly floor. There was a bat skeleton at the top of the aven.
Elliott then met up with us to inform that the pitch had crapped out. I joined him to survey it, apparently it got very wet and loose near the bottom of the first drop. A definite QMC, but around 80m surveyed.
Elaine had become rather cold at this point so we got her bolting a B lead traverse with [ASH COME ON WHAT THE FUCK DOES THIS SAY] I went digging. 5 trowel fulls of earth made it through. The lead then crapped out after 10m. I then put some conservation tape around the 3 bat skeletons in the main passage. By this time Elaine had finished the traverse, so we headed out leaving the lead to be completed later.
After hearing about Luke’s many QMAs I decided to join him on a trip down Hilti-a-Plenty to ‘Nothing to See’ just below Bat Country. Kristian and I crapped out 2 QMAs whilst Adam bolted a pitch, being supervised by Luke. One of our leads went for ~20m before ending in a little chamber. The other went to a large which could link into Galactica.
We then took some pictures of ‘Dinosaur Bones’ found by Kristian which looked and felt a lot like rocks. Then we went down to the pitch that Adam and Luke had rigged and surveyed it. This ends in a rift that also looked like it connected into Galactica.
Deciding that we hadn’t yet done enough caving we then went to another pitch lead, starting with a dodgy free climb which we then put a handline on. Kristian began rigging the pitch. Two of us went down a tight C-lead which popped out halfway down the pitch. [ UNTRANSLATABLE SENTENCE, PROBABLY NOT EVEN IMPORTANT]. Then in a very tight bedding heading toward Galactica which I decided was too tight after a dogleg. We then reconvened before the batteries died on the drill. Left the rope and [OTHER HORRIBLE WORD] to cave back to find the pitch Kristian started. The prussik out was long but efficient, with Kristian taking a bit longer due to the ‘bones’ he decided to take out. Still a fair bit to do down here.
After the rain on the 24th delaying our startwe were all packed up for the morning of the 25th. We arrived at camp at 2 and had a quick lunch before setting off for the Tunnocks Master Cave [to be later renamed ‘Denshams Master Cave’ after disagreement about its Master Cave status from other expo members]. We got to the Master Cave at around 4pm where Chris insisted that we rig a traverse from the start of the rift. Around every corner Chris would claim to have not gone past it the year before only to be proven wrong by footsteps and survey points.
Upon deciding where we would start rigging the traverse line our one and only drill battery only had power for half a bolt. After considerable swearing it was decided that Chris would go back to camp for another drill battery while Haydon and I went to check out other leads in the area. Haydon and I were given clear instructions as to where to go so naturally we did not find what we were looking for; however, we did find a small waterfall lead that we decided was too grim to do ourselves.
Chris returned with hopefully charged drill batteries and we began rigging the traverse and surveying the passage. The stream at the end of the passage dropped down about 10m into a rift while a phreatic tube continued above the rift with considerably muddy and slopey walls we decided to end the day there and make a decision on our plans over tea.
Considering our lack of faith in our remaining drill batteries we decided not to continue with the battery eating rift and went to pursue another lead. (Sidenote: we thought we would like to go for something a little less muddy). We set off for a pit in the north of Slackers. Down a 3m climb we were dropped into a muddy pit and the more we moved the more the mud stuck to our clothes, wellies and gear, doubling us in weight.
Haydon dropped the rift pitch, which had phreatic properties. Chris and I sat getting very cold in very drafty passage, occasionally going on a run around to warm up and check out the area. Chris went to the waterfall lead Haydon and I had been in the day before to find a massive waterfall where a small one had been. Proving that conditions underground must be much more pleasant than those at Top Camp.
Once the pitch was rigged Chris and I surveyed down and became very excited by the sloping phreatic tube with hard mud plates coating the floor. We began to feel guilty for ruining the plates like bulls in a china shop. Then suddenly the way on was entirely mud choked. Bullshit! On our way out we considered the cross sectioned phreatic tube about 5m from the floor. We determined that the draft was coming from there but did not have time to inspect the tubes.
The next day we slept until 12pm waiting for the water levels to recede enough that we felt motivated to head up to Procrastination. En route out I had a slightly embarrassing route finding incident near Caramel Catharsis, ask Haydon for further details.
After beginning to cairn a route the evening before, myself and Becka decided that despite the sure-to-come rain we wanted to check out the howling draft at No helicopter hole aka 110 again. Due to a shortage of drill batteries that contained charge, we brought a hand bolting kit and a short length of rope. The route taken was convoluted to say the least, and visibility was not optimal, but after an hour or so the cave was found.
I quickly changed into my caving kit and crawled inside the low and chilly entrance. After ~10m, I came to a small constriction which was passed without much trouble. After some ~20m further passage sloping at ~30° and a further small crawl the 8m climb described by the original explorers was reached. I began to down-climb this but then realised that most of the rock was very loose and one wall was entirely made of loose boulders. A retreat was made to get a rope and Rachel. Once attached to the rope, tied round a big boulder, extensive gardening occurred to the point at which the pitch would need to be bolted on the far wall for a safe descent. We then exited the cave and had a very welcome lunch. I was finally able to warm my freezing hands up. This cave is pretty miserable all round, being sharp, cold, drippy and small. This was to be a prevailing theme of caves in the area.
After lunch, we decided to prospect further in the surrounding area to see if other easier entrances to the same system could be found. In total, six prospects within a 100m radius to the east of 110 were explored, none of which had any potential or anything like the draft felt at 110. Myself and Becka then surveyed 110 until the pitch was reached. After this. We began to prospect further west of 110 before the mists came in and a tactical retreat to Top Camp was made.
Tempted back by that sweet, sweet draft, this time with a drill no less as the only good rock at the pitch in 110 was in the ceiling and placing hand bolts in a ceiling was beyond my stoke remit. Bolts were placed and a descent was made. After a look around at the bottom, I frustratedly concluded that the ‘dig’ in the chamber which had been described would be a major operation and unfeasible without a lot of time and materials.
I summoned Luke and Becka in, with Luke complaining substantially about the misery and shitness. Survey done, we headed out and again had lunch. Further prospecting then again failed to reveal any alternative ways into the cave, after looking south-west by around 200m from 110. Two shafts were dropped, CUCC-2017-21 (tagged, GPS’d, surveyed) and CUCC-2017-22 (tagged, GPS’d). 21 was a pitch of around 15m leading to a breakdown area at the bottom with no way on. 22 was of good novelty value as it was filled with ice and snow at the bottom of a 7m climb, where a small gap behind the back of the snow plug could be slid down. Nothing at the bottom though.
Slightly dejected, we started on the walk home. En route we found some excellently drafting holes after deciding to divert from the cairned route. We did a quick dig in one to find a large passage which led to a smaller diggable passage. I then explored the other entrance for ~20m in shorts and t-shirt to a very loose climb down to large walking passage. In light of these excellent prospects, we decided that the area merited another visit the next day.
We returned with more rope and drill batteries to rig the loose climb in CUCC-2017-24 (GSH or Happy Butterfly Hole) and to continue digging CUCC-2017-23 (KWH or Not Watermelon Hole). Whilst Luke entertained himself by digging in a shit muddy shakehole I got on with bolting the climb, which was trickier than anticipated due to the sheer abundance of shit rock. Soon I was down and the draft was confirmed to be a gale force wind. I headed out to find Luke, who informed me that Becka had also broken through digging in KWH. Great success!
We decided that we would survey GSH first, with Luke and Becka surveying whilst I bolted a second small hole which was to the right of the initial climb at the T junction. I then followed them to act as varnish bitch. We soon reached a T junction and first took the right branch, which headed down a large (~3m diameter) steeply ramping phreatic passage which had quite a few holes in the floor. When skirting round one of these, Fat Bastard Luke Stangroom managed to exacerbate its collapse greatly by slipping at the outer edge whilst investigating it and half blocking the hole with a large boulder.
Just after this we got extremely excited, however, because the wind turned into a Baltic storm, positively whistling through a small sandy hole towards us. We surveyed to just beyond this and then went back to the other branch of the T junction for a couple of legs before returning to survey the climb I had just rigged.
Myself and Becka had only just reached the floor when we heard Silverback Stangroom beating his chest in triumph, for he had found a bypass to the pitch via a nice boulder choke. We surveyed this passage until we came upon another potential dig QMB).
We then went to survey KWH, which Becka thought was a great cave, and which me and Luke kept downplaying, though the passage was pretty big (‘It’s 6m wide!’). Then we headed out and home. En route home, we found a series of exciting holes, one ~50m north-east of GSH and blowing extremely strongly, and one tagged 2012-SW-02 which looked promising.
After the excitement of yesterday, having left all our personal kit and a set of bolting kit at the cave, we returned optimistic that we would find something big today. We were under strict instructions from Becka not to crap out KWH, which she considered her cave. We headed off into GSH to continue surveying from where we had got to the day before. We first went up the right-hand fork at the second T junction. After one further survey leg we realised that we had reached a pitch of about 12m, which had not been noticed before due to the strict scooping restrictions imposed by Becka. These restrictions were to prove a great inhibition all round throughout the day.
We decided to survey as far as possible in the other direction before returning to bolt it, having left the drill etc on the surface. A reasonable distance (~60m) was surveyed, but as it was drafting inwards we suspected that the passages were leading to the surface. We found four ways on, three of which became choked with boulders after only a few further legs. The fourth was a ~5m climb up a drippy aven which had horizontal passage leading off at the top, but we didn’t climb this as we thought it was heading to the surface and the climb probably needed a rope for the way down. This done, we went back to the surface for a melon break.
We then returned to the pitch to bolt it. The rock again was extremely poor and there had clearly been some major ceiling collapse. Huge boulders were loose at the pitch head. After the drill battery ran out having done 3.5 holes (with the second battery - taped, #1 - doing zero holes) a scrappy descent was made using the tacklebag as a rope protector at the top. At the bottom, a rift led off for ~20m before arriving at another pitch head. This one was huge - at least a 3s drop. Exciting! We would return with more batteries and rope tomorrow to drop it. We exited again for a second lunch of snowmelt, noodles and soup.
Then we went back to KWH, where both of the going leads crapped out after only one more survey leg each. Another example of where further scooping would have given us extremely useful further information and saved us a lot of time. The final example of this was when we stuck our heads into the other drafty hole found the day before, which Becka claimed to have ventured ~20m into. After ~50m, we found a very drafty pitch which looked much easier to drop than the pitches in GSH.
So, with two excellent prospects (along with two excellent digs for Ash to investigate), we returned to Top Camp quite early but in high spirits.
After having worked out the optimum route the day before, we headed back to the cave with Nathan and Nadia in tow. They we to drop the other hole while we went deep into GSH and then surveyed back. The rigging was again made difficult by a proliferance of shit rock until the lower depths of the pitch were reached, where the rock was excellent. Prior to this, we had spent a good hour crow-barring big table sized boulders at the top of the pitch rigged yesterday.
At the bottom of the pitch, a rift was followed for ~60m under and over some boulder obstacles until another pitch was reached. This was where we stopped for the day, placing two bolts with the last of the drill battery before surveying out, which due to the enormous dimensions of the passage (a huge fault-controlled rift with multiple avens coming off it) was a twat to visualise on paper.
Soon out and en route back after receiving a message from Nathan on a soup packet: ‘Nadia injured leg. We need your help. Time now 16:00.’ Three hours behind, we packed up Nadia’s caving gear and set off back, picking up her rucksack as well en route at the sight of the accident. Apparently she had pulled a big boulder onto herself. There was an obvious section of disturbed mud but we didn’t see the proclaimed blood splatters.
(Katey and George failed to write trip reports of the first 2 trips, maybe they were both a bit distracted)
*What George said*
‘Who wants to go caving with me?’
*What George meant*
‘Who would like
to come and sit at a pitch head while I bolt for over
1.5 hours 2.5 hours?’
Having lost all enthusiasm for caving yet needing an excuse to stay at the Stone Bridge, I saw a golden opportunity to utilise the Brendan Cave Cinema SystemTM.
This device had previously been tested with great success in Balkonhöhle with Corin. We were able to watch the whole of Skyfall before ASH had finished rigging his pitch.
Adam and I found a comfortable spot next to a window through which we could see/hear George rigging. I told George he would have to scream at least three times before I could be persuaded to leave the warmth and comfort of my cave cinema.
Adam and I watched the whole of Limitless and half of Focus before leaving to check on George (at around 5pm we heard flood pulses around the corner). George and I met at the pitch head to catch up. He had rigged to the bottom… it crapped out. But the good news was it ended next to another pitch [later termed ‘Not the Beast’] which had been rigged previously…
On a wet, claggy day we decided that we should at least try to go caving, so we set out to try and find Bad Forecast, based only on a GPS pin and the instructions: ‘you go to Balkonhöhle, then continue up a bit.’ Given the visibility was ~50m and dropping, it took a long time to get to the right area, and then even longer to find the cave.
Once we had got to the vicinity of the GPS point, we spread out a bit because we were unsure of the accuracy of the fix and the reader we were using, or even if they were using the same datum. We found 2011-01, which we had been told was less than 30m away from Bad Forecast, then proceeded to go in every direction except the right one. We eventually found the cave, right where the GPS told us it was.
Having not found any surveying equipment at the Stone Bridge, we had two objectives: to garden a dangerous slope above the large pitch, and to better cairn the route there. Low visibility prohibited any cairning, so we set off down the steep chossy slope to the pitch head. We had a look down below the pitch to see the large chamber and where the rocks could fall.
Coming back up, I theorised that the second hole near the start of the pitch traverse would connect to the second half of the large chamber, so dropped a rock down to let Corin hear where it would fall. It actually landed in the first half of the chamber, about 2ft from Corin, so don’t do that.
We pulled the rope on the pitch up above the pitch head (undoing the rebelay) to put the rope out of the path of falling rocks for gardening. 2 hours later we had improved the pitch head from ‘loose gravel’ to ‘muddy gravel’, which we decided was as good as we could get, the actual rock floor being several feet below. The walk back was no more visible.
Returning from the previous day, to surface survey another entrance that I saw on the way out the previous day. After failing to see the disto laser in the bright sunlight, I returned to the Stone Bridge to pick up a tape, compass and clino to do the surface legs. Overall, not an entrance worth doing unless the handline is not present on the main entrance.
The four of us set off with the intention of dropping some pitches in Sloppy Seconds and photographing Galactica. When we got to the junction between the two Brendan and Fleur went down Galactica and Pete and I headed on to Sloppy Seconds. When we got to the pushing front we scouted out the leads and decided to traverse around one of the pitches for a horizontal lead.
Pete was almost finished rigging the traverse when Fleur and Brendan arrived having had a surprisingly efficient photography and derigging trip. The only issue being that Brendan had derigged on his cave lunch.
It was decided that I would drop the pitch we had traversed around while the others surveyed past the traverse. I tied into the traverse bolts and dropped down to do a rebelay. The others carried on and after a few metres found another pitch. After three failed attempts at placing a bolt the battery ran out and the others were done surveying. I swapped over with Brendan and he dropped down to a platform. We surveyed the platform level and found four more pitches to be dropped of varying pleasantness. We also confirmed our suspicion that the nearby holes on the level we had started were connected. We found multiple mud slopes leading to avens.
We left a horizontal lead at the higher level, traversing over the second drop encountered after Pete’s traverse, which a traverse line could be rigged for. There is also still a pitch at the turn slightly higher than the rest on this level that potentially does not connect with the rest of the holes. As well as the obvious lower level pitches which we did not drop.
The two of us were led to a surface prospect by Luke and Rob with a blowing draft and pitch that needed to be dropped. Because drill batteries were in short supply I sent the efficient Nathan to bolt the pitch while I soaked up the sun at the entrance. After a while I mustered up the enthusiasm to enter the cave and was immediately greeted by Nathan complaining that the drill battery was dead. He sent me to check if Luke and Rob were using theirs but not being able to find them or the bolting equipment I assumed they were using it. Nathan had rigged a traverse using 6 bolts to the pitch head but had run out of battery before being able to drop it.
We then headed back to camp early and tried to add extra cairns to the path. I climbed up a bit of a ridge to add one, but failed to find any suitable building materials and climbed down. On my way down I found a microwave sized loose boulder and dropped it onto my leg. With it being so early in the day we assumed no one would be at camp. We sat around for about an hour and a half and then decided we might as well try to head back. An hour later we had gained about 150m with some bum shuffling progress. As we carried on I got better at using my leg without hurting myself and three hours after setting off we arrived at camp. Having learned to walk no one believed I was seriously injured. The next day I set off down the hill with Rob and Kristian and after 5 hours walking I too no longer thought I was seriously injured. It turns out I am really hard and had a broken leg. It then later turned out it was a pathetic fracture.
We went down Balcony to investigate Cathedral Chasm following suggestion that ‘there will be 100m of rope waiting there’.
THERE WAS NONE
Prussiked back up.
Set off from the Stone Bridge at 8am, planning to spend 2 nights at Camp Kraken in order to follow leads in Snake Charmer. Underground at 9am. Route finding was simple enough, no major mistakes, and arrived at camp at 12:40. Dumped camping gear and picked up rope and drilling kit, headed down Octopussy, took two of three drill batteries to the pushing front.
On the way Rachel put in another bolt to the lowest rebelay on Snake Charmer, and a handline on the climb down shortly after. Arrived at the window looking over the lead, Rachel and I sat in the bothy and put on extra layers while Becka bolted the main pitch [named Snake Pit] down to the water.
The water came from a large ~15m aven just upstream of the pitch. The majority of the water went down a low passage, along ~50m of vadose rift with frequent pools and free climbs with flaky sharp limestone. The main route comes up and left of the water into a rift canyon with pools and a short 2m climb. Eventually a pitch head (P6) comes up marking the start of a series of three short pitches.
Ended at the second pitch, uneventful back to camp. Up early on the 1st, headed back to the front with the remaining drill batteries. Third pitch becomes tighter and leads to a fourth pitch.
Unfortunately, here we ran out of drill battery so had to turn back, both to camp and then out to the surface. A brief lunch of noodles fuelled Rachel and I while Becka powered on out. Return journey also uneventful, exited the cave at 10:30pm.
On 1/8/17 Becka and co came out with instructions of pushing beyond Snake Pit pitch which they had descended on the previous trip.
We were underground by 9am on 2/8/17, in the back of our minds that it might rain that morning. But we sailed past Procrastination with no trouble. Onwards to Kraken arriving after ~5 hours. This was Ash’s deepest trip by a very long way and due to be Pete’s most substantial trip post hip op. so all was good. After quick noodles, we set off again, marvelling at the beauty of Octopussy and Living the Dream. First job was to derig Indian Rope Trick so that we had more gear for rigging.
NOTE: it was impossible to unscrew the clown hanger at the pitch head so we had to cut the rope out and leave the hanger in situ.
Then followed Becka’s detailed instructions down Snake Charmer and Snake Pit to the impressive stream falling from two inlets. We took he flood overflow ‘dry’ streamway, arriving at due course at the pushing front. For expedience I started bolting - a short traverse then partially down a small pitch. As the rift at the base was small, we progressed at part height before descending the second part further along.
Then the rift degenerated into small and catchy passage. After initially trying to go for a ‘look-see’ in case of another pitch, I returned and stripped off all the drilling paraphernalia. I thrutched at mid-height then climbed down and squeezed through at low level. Meanwhile Pete and Ash surveyed behind, and poked an alternative route in the roof. We both independently popped out into the base or side of a muddy boulder choke.
Inching forward we entered a larger passage. Sadly very soon it became clear this was Song of the Earth. I found a survey station for us to tie back into. Then we derigged back to the base of Snake Pit. Here we left ropes in allowing for pushing of the streamway, but also untied the rope here from the base so that it could be derigged from the top easily. Left a gear dump at the base of Octopussy. Back to camp 14 hours after entering Tunnocks.
Nice enough night at camp then out by ~6pm the next day. Just in time to miss the impending thunderstorm.
Revisited 2016-01 (explored briefly the previous year). Coordinates: 33T UTM 0411651, 5283655. Elevation: 1888m. Also went to find the drafting hole, untagged, identified by Pete 2(?) years ago. Coordinates: 33T UTM 0411202, 5283393. Elevation: 1782m.
2016-01: 3m climb down into 2x3m surface depression with muddy floor. Single bolt in wall at head height, descending small hole (obvious) at far end of depression. Optional deviation from chockstone adjacent to hole, rebelay ~2m down shaft. I descended to the end of the rope (22m + 9m - too short!) then downclimbed the rest of the shaft (~6m). Passage continues underneath ledge turning back on itself (limit of 2016 exploration). Further 4m downclimb and the passage very soon gets too tight/filled in. ascending passage on the left ends similarly. DEAD.
Pete’s hole: wriggle down a slot and climb down ~2m. Very short crawl immediately ends in tiny chamber with draft emerging from under large slab of rock. Spent some time digging out cobbles but slab requires capping for further progress.
We headed to Balcony with the intention of pushing Sloppy Seconds. We were underground by midday and nominated Rachel as leader as she knew how to get to Hilti-A-Plenty. However, none of us knew for sure how to get to Sloppy Seconds (we were looking for Bat Country first off).
I enjoyed the entrance series and the completely dry big pitch (this is apparently abnormal) and the following pitches down Hilti-A-Plenty. We took a left at the bottom in the hope of finding the right way, but sadly this was not the case. After much fun exploring, we decided to head back to the bottom of Hilty and take the other (correct) passage. It soon became clear that we were not going to find Sloppy Seconds, so, as it was my first trip, we replanned for a tourist trip to Ice Cock Aven.
After ascending the pitch leading to Cathedral Chasm, Corin decided to head out with Ash’s pushing rope as he had been to Ice Cock Aven only the day before. The journey for the three remaining was very enjoyable as I like a good climb and there were some good sandy crawls. The ice formations were as good as promised and Michael gave a great tour of the area. We then set off out.
I was first onto the ‘15m pitch’ when we heard a rumbling noise. We gave each other a worried look before quickly deciding to retreat away from the pitch to see where the water would appear. It was 5:40pm at this point and we found out that although the far side of the chamber gets wet we were alright to go up.
Our next concern was how far Corin had got as the entrance series big pitch is too wet to pass in flood. Thankfully we found him in the bottom of the entrance series in a bothy bag singing contentedly. He had had a similar close call, having retreated after just putting his croll on the rope.
It then became a military operation to put on out extra warm layers and prepare for a long wait in the bothy bag. We sat on rope and put tacklesacks below our feet to keep warm. The efficiency was excellent and we soon had water, food and a seating plan ready for our party. We pulled the bag over and made sure to leave a small hole for oxygen. Six games of ‘what time is it?’ and lots of chats later, Rachel went to check if the much less noisy pitch was now only drippy. After shouting down that it was good we all gradually left the bothy and headed out safely, almost missing callout at 11pm. What a first trip.
With Rob escorting Nadia down the hill Becka was keen to see the continuation of GSH. Successful distribution of drill batteries. Set off to cave, route needs cairning but only takes 30 minutes. Mike and Nathan in CUCC-2017-28 (now named Fisch Gesicht Höhle). Inspected some horizontal leads at head of big pitch but crapped out immediately. Still had drill battery so descended to the pushing front from last trip. Battery wouldn’t die so had to keep on going, multiple options but ran out of rope.
On exit flood pulse happened at the top of the big pitch so not sure how it responds to water. CouldaWouldaShoulda was rigged perfectly out of the water. Exited cave, tagged CUCC-2017-28 noting that Mike and Nathan had probably not had any drill battery. Back to Top Camp in 40 minutes, confirmed that Nathan and Mike got no holes. Almost acted as callout for Balcony crew who got rained in despite the rain happening for 30 minutes 5 hours previously.
My first trip on the hill having arrived and walked up the day before. Good introduction to Balcony pushing in the Nothing To See area. Kristian tried bolting the pitch at the end, only to find his two drill batteries were flat. So he went back out to get fresh ones from Top Camp.
Meanwhile Adam and I rigged the pitch from the naturals available, first dropping a tube to the right of the traverse which was choked with boulders partway down. After unsuccessfully trying to clear the boulders by kicking them into the void below (too stable to be safely moved), we then dropped the main lead to find it also choked by boulders below the second pitch. I was able to squeeze past into a 8x3m chamber below, but Adam declined to continue. From the chamber, a tight meander could be slithered along for seven body lengths before becoming too tight. To the right a phreatic passage 3m above the floor was choked by mud. In the roof two shafts came in, both appeared choked with boulders part way up, the right-most shaft being the one I had dropped earlier, and the leftmost joined the bae of the first pitch. We surveyed from above the boulder squeeze, but having forgotten a pencil Adam had to engrave onto the page.
We had finished by the time Kristian returned with the ‘fresh’ battery. So we went to investigate the climbing lead Adam, Luke and Rachel had previously tried but thought it needed bolting. It was an inclined phreatic tube ~30m high, easily free climbable but exposed. From the top, another parallel shaft was to the left which continued up but also needed bolting.
To the right a narrow passage soon joins another shaft similar to the other two, which we suspect drops down to the choked pitches we had rigged earlier, but also continues up, requiring bolting. At this point Kristian’s fresh battery was also flat, so rigged off a natural and then made our way out. The shafts need a return trip to survey and possibly bolt.
Tourist trip to test out Philip’s gear (and Philip) in 204, doing the first two pitches. The snow plugs were the smallest ever seen, according to Becka.
Went to drop the pitch reached by Nathan the day before, having rigged a traverse before his batteries died. However, our drill battery was flat. No surprise. Nathan very angry. We surveyed up to the top of the pitch. On the way out, instead of dropping the pitch and surveying, I dropped the survey down the pitch. Nathan very sad.
Note to self 1: do not stuff notebooks down jumper when only wearing shorts and jumper and over a pitch.
Note to self 2: cave very cold and windy. Do not wear shorts and jumper.
Underground just after 9am. I had not been to the deep stuff in Tunnocks before, so I waited at the bottom of Caramel Catharsis for Becka (Rob had gone ahead) and route finding instructions. Apart from the bottom of String Theory, I did not have too much trouble finding my around, and we were at camp just after 12:30.
From here, we went to try and push a lead below Snake Pit, which is very Yorkshire-ish stream passage. We followed it to a pitch which had not been dropped. Once Rob had bolted it, we surveyed to another deeper pitch which took he stream and (we assumed) dropped into Song of the Earth. We then derigged our way up to the bottom of Octopussy. From here we went into the far north of Slackers to investigate a lead that George had been talking about that morning. For a while this tested Becka’s route finding ability (she was the only one who had been there before), but eventually we found ourselves above Grike of the Earth. The lead was above this, up a short handline climb (which gained a not-so-helpful rebelay at the request of Becka). The pitch we dropped led down to a large drippy passage which carried a small stream. After 20m the stream disappears down a crack in the floor while the way on continues above this, with one hole below that presumably leads back down to the stream which we left as a question mark. The passage became smaller and draftier and, below another short pitch, became steeply sloping with a dry muddy floor. By this point it was 9pm and in order to sleep at any way a reasonable hour we had to leave, which took some careful diplomacy by Becka and I. it was still a promising lead and would need to be visited again one day. We named it Beckoning Silence.
On our way back we derigged everything below Camp, and then ate everything we possibly could at camp before bed. Despite missing/failing to set our alarms we were up and ready quite early and we were all on ropes carrying other ropes (and drills and poo etc) by 9:30am. Rain was forecast for the afternoon so we wanted to make sure we were all above Procrastination with plenty of time to spare. All went very smoothly until the entrance pitch, where we had to pass Ruairidh, Aidan, Fleur and Pete on their way down. Got to the surface just in time to get rained on on the walk back to Top Camp.
#1 ‘Delicate Bridge Hole’: near skipole, rigged from natural and steelpole section to snowslope, 40m. Tagged. [Adam and Corin returned to this the next day and crapped it out).
#2 and 3: three big holes and pit, see survey notes. [WALLET?]
We descended the entrance series at around midday to investigate some leads found previously by Mike and Alice. Adam and I surveyed the main chamber and some side passages whilst Rob dropped a small pitch to the left hand side of the main chamber below the pitch.
Quick note from Rob: the passage is along the ‘windy tunnel’ as termed by Mike and Alice, and the pitch was rigged on naturals (I added a bolt on the next trip) as the drill battery died immediately when I was trying to drop a rift slightly further along the passage.
Aidan continued: Once we had finished surveying, Adam and I met Rob at the head of this small pitch, where he had identified several promising leads which we then surveyed. One lead arrived at a choked crawl, down a small climb; another lead produced a pitch with a promising potential traverse, which we left for another day due to the dearth of drill battery.
The final lead produced a long rift after a slightly dubious downclimb (which I nearly fell off), eventually leading to a stream flowing underneath the rift. We then headed out as Adam’s fingers were starting to become painful after his mishap at the lake, and reached the bivi before sunset.
Radost and I dropped a pitch bolted the day before by Rob after he ran out of rope. The pitch was some 50m down a small icy pitch series to the right of the entrance. The pitch we dropped passed through the icy layer of the cave to one somewhat warmer. Whilst the top of the pitch was promising, the bottom was less so - one crawl, which choked after 10m; one tight, inaccessible rift and on the opposite side of the base of the chamber there was a rift that could be squeezed through for 15m or so until it became too tight to navigate. We both tried again without SRT kits, as the rift was drafty, but little more progress was made. Eventually, we sacked it off and derigged the pitch hang; Radost thought he saw some leads halfway up the pitch on the way out, which may be worth another look.
Firstly we went down to the left of the entrance pitch with the help of a handline towards a tight rift [explored the day before by Adam, Rob and Aidan]. Ended with too tight passage. Went back to the entrance chamber to survey it. Across the ramp bolted and rigged a pitch to the right. Successfully descended pitch onto a massive block of ice. Horizontal rift passage leads to junction: forwards in an icy tube leads to an aven and right to a chossy passage that needed rigging. This stopped us from progressing further [though the pitch was mainly dropped]. Surveying backwards we exited the cave safely.
We descended the Balcony entrance pitch, myself taking it embarrassingly slowly and cautiously due to my lack of caving for several months. On reaching the bottom Kristian led me to and down Hilti-A-Plenty, and then on a sporting romp to Nothing to See (featuring a traverse, a sandy crawl and a bold step that was ‘a bit dodgy’ - K Brook, 2017).
Once there we completed surveying as far as possible and took some distances up two potential leads that required bolt climbing to reach. Once this was done we bumbled back towards Hilti-A-Plenty and took some amusing sponsorship photos, featuring myself jealously guarding my Tunnocks bars and Kristian enjoying a refreshing drink of pesto. Nothing to See was then derigged and we made our way out slowly due to my tendency to prussik at a snails pace. We arrived back at camp in time to watch a lovely sunset and moonrise.
Haydon and I went from the Stone Bridge and met Elaine at Tunnocks (with Elliott) at just after 10:30am. Haydon went in first and zoomed ahead while Elaine and I were a bit slower. The original plan was to head to camp at Kraken to take some sponsorship photos with Tunnocks bars. However, issues with Haydon and Elaine’s SRT kits forced us to change the plan. We decided to take some photos at Caramel Catharsis and head out. Pester Haydon for the pictures.
Had walked up on Sunday ready to hit Sloppy Seconds the next day when drier conditions prevailed. The absence of a good draft last time meant I was not too optimistic, but also committed to try and trace the draft on the way in. the draft going into Galactica came from Sloppy Seconds, but but mainly up from the base of the second set of pitches (see trip by Rachel, Adam and Nathan earlier in the expo). In fact, the draft on this trip came up here and into the horizontal passage.
We carried on to our previous limit, where Pete chose the right hand pitch lead. This route was initially muddy, then drippy as an aven with a small stream was passed. However drill battery failure (again) left Pete in a small clean rift looking down a narrow pitch with no more drill power. With two slings he got further and saw pitch continuing, but small and wet (QMB). Hence heading back up to try second (left hand) pitch as best we could on a couple of slings. Tied rope around huge rock and Corin made his first descent of an unexplored pitch. A sling made a rebelay and I followed adding two deviations.
At the base one way choked after two climbs down. But the other way led to a drafting tube - yay, we had refound the wind! More dodgy natural rigging saw us at the end of the rope staring down a two metre wide steep phreatic ramp. Game on!
Having escaped the deep Tunnocks derig, I sneaked in another trip to our Second Wind lead in Sloppy Seconds with Pete. With an absence of functioning drill batteries we decided to go old school and hand bolt.
Relatively good progress to the limit where we spent three hours placing five bolts to get down the shaft that followed the ramp. Rob and Becka had left us a starting bolt, Pete added a Y before two more rebelays to the end of the 28m rope. We then swapped so Pete got a chance to shiver whilst I tied in the next rope and added another belay to reach the floor 20 - 25m below. Here I landed on a boulder pile. A small hole led into a rift. Not looking promising. A final spit allowed me to abseil into the hole, but there was no way on. The draft we were chasing was coming out of the boulders and there was no option but to derig and go home.
Took out as much rope and gear as we could manage, making it out at 11pm. Had some final excitement as thunderstorm broke while I was on the entrance shaft and got a soaking. But out to amazing lightning show and lots of thunder.
Batteries were in very short supply (three total at Top Camp, ) so we headed off with our allocation (one) plus three ropes and lots of metalware down some seriously slippy rope to the ‘ramp’ at the pushing front from yesterday’s Second Wind trip.
We arrived, Rob kitted up and set to on the first bolt. Drzzzzzzzzzz… went the drill. Grrrrrrrr went Rob. He managed to wheedle a single bolt out of the battery, put in a deathly dodgy deviation from a perched boulder and abseiled down a bit. The ‘ramp’ rapidly switched from steep to vertical with not a hope of naturals so sense prevailed and we gave up there, leaving the rope for a better equipped party.
We returned to the top of the Second Wind pitches and dropped the pitch opposite the horizontal passage at the bottom of Sloppy Seconds (straight on rather than through the mud tube to the left leading to the start of Second Wind). My ‘pitch head’ natural was a monster but the next one immediately cracked off when I weighted it. However, some mud excavation gave a convincing thread for a rebelay down to confusing bridge area. Rob came down and we spent some time digging mud out to give a second decent thread anchor to descend to one way to a dead end and then a second way which continued as a pitch/climb down. We had nothing to rig this but Rob clambered down on shitty rock (later regretting his boldness) and it continued (QMA, pretty drafty and cold but shit cave). We finished the survey, getting very muddy, then headed out.
All of the more experienced expedition cavers seemed to be busy, so a fairly straightforward trip was needed which we (Aidan, Alice, Radost and I) could take the new arrivals on (Sarah, Ruairidh). The aim was to derig the pitch in Cathedral Chasm which Ash had rigged (over many hours, entirely on naturals) and use the rope to drop a drippy hole nearby. We eventually passed the Balcony entrance series and got to Cathedral Chasm. The number of people on this trip was clearly a few too many.
Aidan, Sarah, Radost and Ruairidh went to have a look at Ice Cock aven while Alice and I went to derig the pitch. The pitch had some unconventional rigging, and was rigged very tightly on naturals with some awkward sections. Neither of us had done much derigging before and we were both somewhat intimidated so we promptly fucked off at speed. We apologised to the others and then bailed on the trip. Six people was too many for this trip so it was a bit of a clusterfuck, but eventually gained the surface.
Note from Alice: the bottom of the pitch series led to a shelf that I was unable to reach. The cross section below shows the rigging at the time.
The aim of the trip was to derig Cathedral Chasm and poke around George’s lead in the Dark Arts. We followed Ash’s exceptional rigging and were thoroughly impressed with his resourcefulness and creativity. The man deserves recognition and from now, the pitch will be known as the Mashterpiece.
At the bottom of the rigging, a ledge led to a short crawl and a 5m pitch. We considered how much rope we could cut off the Mashterpiece given the swing across necessary to ascend. We tied off the rope with a length of cord we had brought.
The 5m pitch gave way to a north-bound rift with a crawl, QMA, for 10m after a C4 down and we left it at a 20m+ pitch, drafting inwards. The obvious way on from the P5 is up a C4 to another chamber, then C14 (chimney) down to a large, echoey chamber. This had a huge jammed boulder, heading a 30m+ pitch, also very worth dropping (QMA). We surveyed from the bottom of the Mashterpiece to the C14 climb, but it needs tying into the above survey (we were unsure where this ended, so didn’t bother to risk duplicating work). We promptly ran away to the Dark Arts.
George had tried to drop a P15 for the previous two years, and we finally dragged the final four functional drill batteries through the crawling rift with trench in the floor. I was somewhat behind with the rope bag when swearing filled the passage. It transpired that George had done a bad thing. He had let the drill bag slip down the rift whilst leaning back through an awkward dog-leg at the pitch head.
The next 20 minutes involved a whole hearted effort of ‘hook-a-duck’, where I tried to manoeuvre the bag with a snapgate, tied open on the end of a piece of cord. For reference, if possible, hauling from the top/bottom of the bag may be more successful than the shoulder straps. George gave his best in forcing his arm down the rift and the bag was eventually retrieved.
George set about bolting the awkward pitch head. Batteries 8, 13, and 15 successfully gave us half a hole in the shit rock, before the mighty number 14 finished the job. The 25m pitch gave way to a ‘skanky’ (George, 2017) pool of water and parallel shaft that also went nowhere.
Quite cold and disheartened, we left to find the entrance series rather wet. Deciding to give it half an hour, we set about investigating the flood drum. Some items are of obvious importance, although the absence of a pan is noteworthy in the presence of a stove, gas cylinder and large selection of oatso’s and soups. Fairly frustrated, we braved the not-very-wet entrance.
From camp, we headed north to a bolt climb lead (QMA). Mike free-climbed 5m to a ledge and was unable to climb further, so he placed a bolt and pulled through down.
Note from Mike: rock was very flakey, holds were coming off in my hands, would need thru bolting to progress. Also loose looking boulder above.
Back to Rachel: in Grike of the Earth, from the ledge we headed northwest, following pleasant walking passage, turning into inactive stream passage with higher false floor. This led to a 40m pitch to a large rift chamber, clear sump pool and drippy aven. No obvious leads could be found from here. From the ledge, southeast tunnel, dropped 20m on a ramp down to a mud sump. A previously noted ‘too tight rift’ directly north was followed for ~20m where the draft disappeared into the choked ceiling. At 3am, we headed back to camp, to derig the next day.
We decided to investigate leads in Tunnocks due to expected rain. I went to the base of the entrance pitch whilst the others negotiated their way down. Eventually we met the campers (Rob, Becka and Jacob) who passed the others on the entrance series, and Ruairidh and Pete headed back to the surface after some extensive SRT practice.
Fleur and I checked out a number of leads in Tunnocks (three QMA in the Double Barrel area, all small pitches to be dropped) which fell apart due to apparent dodgy historic surveying. The first QMA we checked out was through Starfish Junction, again past Petticoat Junction; however, we came across a 15m pitch in the way of this lead which we had missed on the survey, and could not cross the pitch so abandoned this lead after some viewing.
As an alternative we went the alternate way down Hedonism Highway to 2008-41-B(?) in Rocky Road. This lead was very promising, continuing for 40m or so up some climbs until we found a 2009 era rope down a pitch lead. As a result we abandoned these leads and decided to investigate the survey further.
Note from Fleur: I could find no record of this lead being pushed in the 2008 - 2016 logbooks, no data in Survex and nothing in Tunnel. A mystery!
Back to Aidan: an alternate route down Rocky Road led to a series of P5 pitches which allegedly produced a QMB; however, after dropping these with naturals and hand bolting (good practice for me) we discovered this lead was in fact an aven.
After this, we headed out. The trip was very good practice for me and I hope for Ruairidh as well. Mainly, I hope Fleur enjoyed a run around Tunnocks as much as I did.
The paella had been unanimously sacked off. (Real reasons apply). After arriving at camp, we learnt Rob had investigated Anthemusa and was thoroughly unimpressed.
Note from Rob: I wouldn’t say I was thoroughly unimpressed after a look at the survey and consideration of the possibilities. Big potential, could find another Kraken. To access, cross Turtle traverse (slippy, bolted, can do without a rope but high stakes if you slip) and ascend choss slope. Possible to kick rocks down so care required. Good draft coming out of entrance to Anthemusa chamber proper near top of slope. Enter drippy chamber where draft dissipates. Chamber very large with a lot of loose muddy boulders. Hard to work out way on. Pre-2017 survey and 2015 logbook have pitch noted in northeast corner that I could not find (though didn’t spend very long there). Needs another look by a team who enjoy boulders and technical bolting. I didn’t do much poking as I was on my own and having a boulder move under the circumstances would not have done well.
Rachel continuing: after we had stripped camp Alex set off with three hefty tacklesacks, Rob following with two whilst I derigged Kraken to remove it from the cave. The rope for Inferno was pulled up and coiled in sets up to the rebelays to support the riggers next year, left at the pitch head. Magic Glue was pulled up and left at the pitch head, one of the deviations was removed (can’t remember which). Widow Twankies rope was removed from the cave, with Rob ferrying seven tacklesacks from pitch to pitch as far as the bottom of Procrastination. The short rope below Number of the Beast was derigged and coiled.
Tacklebags were removed including the camp pits and degradables (full list available). Three tacklebags containing rope from below camp were removed, in summary, and all but three rope bags which were left at the following stations:
A very solid effort put in by all, as Rob and I exited the cave shortly after Alex. Hiltis greased and reflected appropriately.
P.S. I did the ‘womens work’ of cleaning the tent floor with disinfectant and then washing up and tidying up whilst Rob and Alex did the ‘proper work’.
STUFF LEFT AT CAMP 14/8/17: