Buttered Badger Potholing Club
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Eldon Begins

07/05/15

Mark W, Tom Tom, Mark R, Dan H

Ahh yes, I remember this- standing in the garage bundling planks together with lengths of wire, only this time I can load them into the back of the van rather than my company car.. much better!

We were off to make a start on the dig in Eldon Hole. Well, in reality there wouldn’t be any digging actually done but it would be madness to go in and out empty handed. Mark Tom and I were all early to the parking spot so geared up and trudged up the hill with 4 planks each and the odd bucket or piece of rope. We chose the north route this time, it is partially rigged so we only needed a short rope to gain access. It involves quite a bit of walking down sloping ledges so it’s a pain in the arse with planks. I think in future we may rig a couple of routes. A vertical one for descending with kit and a second for speeding up the group ascents.

We slithered our way through the muddy smelly crawl (which at some point needs some attention) and emerged into the large chamber. Tom and I were there first so we immediately set about snapping some photos as a record of the ‘before’.. We didn’t go right to the very bottom (Tom is scared of frogs) but got some shots of the top of the dig- the bit we will be working on first.

Once the whole team had assembled we began by having a big clear up. There is now a mountain of rubbish- old wood, wire, metal buckets etc in one corner of the chamber which we will gradually clear out as we go. We assembled all the useful tools and materials next to the dig and spent a few minutes scratching our heads. The plan was eventually formulated and we set to work removing the huge rubble slope that runs from the slimy crawl all the way down to the top of the retaining wall built near the top of the dig. We would need to shift a huge amount of stuff to create space to remove the retaining wall and insert a new squared off shaft top to the dig. The three of us spent perhaps a couple of hours continuously removing stone from the intimidating, loose and over steep slope above us and by the end we had a much friendlier place to work. It’s hard to visualise what things will look like and even harder to force yourself to dig tonnes and tonnes of rock that isn’t even in the dig but it’s essential we make space and get off to a good start if we want things to work for us later on.

The top of the dig will be pulled back by about a metre and squared off to give us a good edge to build down off. We will drop this in quite large proportions (7ft wide or so) for about 2m to a level where you can enter the rift comfortably. From here we will step forward and beginning with the squeeze (madness!), enlarge everything as we go. The whole dig will be brought back by at least a metre and everything currently placed in there will be stripped out and replaced with square, vertical, neat scaffolding and boards all keyed into the solid rift walls with stainless pins. Boulders in the way will be capped and pulled out and a tensioned line will be installed in the roof of the rift to haul buckets diagonally from the end of the dig to the main chamber. It’s likely to need two haulers when it is all done but that’s much more acceptable than the 5 people it previously took for the old diggers to remove spoil.

It was a good start and we made it out in time for a pint, even better!