Adam P, Luke N, Tom H, Mark R
4th May 2014
So... A good dig as it turns out!
Somehow, between Thursday evening and Sunday Adam had managed to swap his wellies for an odd pair of two left wellies so the rest of us went down the hole whilst he drove down to Hitch and hike in his furry suit for some new boots. I don't think this is the first time Adam has had to make a last minute dash to a caving shop in his furry.
Eventually, the four of us arranged ourselves at the dig in a chain along Badger rift and began passing rock from the undercut and choke back to a point where we had stacking space. We had taken a load of double clips down with us and ferried quite a lot of singles from the top of Gin shaft. As we pulled rock out from the undercut at Bad Badger Choke we inserted scaffolding as we went making it 'safe'. I managed to get in and have a look up, proclaiming it totally stupid and suicidal to go any further. The choke at this point was really open and before too long there was enough space to get in there and progress the scaffolding forwards, at which point it began to feel slightly more comfortable. Unfortunately it isn't beautiful scaffolding by any stretch of the imagination with not a right angle in sight. Every piece is inserted to hold in a specific boulder or to support a piece that does, but the result is what looks like a bit of a random assortment of poles.
After a few hours we had enough scaffolding in place to try to remove the two big rocks that were blocking the way on from the other day. Miraculously these came out with relative ease and before we knew it we had a hole in front of us large enough to get through. On the other side we could see at least 10m into a wide open space beyond and hear the sound of loud water. With a little bit more clearing we had just about formed a hole through the choke which, with someone watching my feet and back, I gingerly crawled through.
On the other side of the hole the choke continues above your head but it is open. There are some very big boulders perched in the roof. It's not a pleasant sight at all and some serious work is required to sort this section out.
Once through however, things got better. We climbed carefully down a rubble slope for several metres to the head of a pitch with a waterfall flowing over it, this was the water flowing out from badger rift. The walls up to this point are solid and water worn and the floor although bouldery is clean washed. The water and the void at the base of the slope has obviously kept this choke open over the years. The water falls down a shaft about 4m x 6m to a ledge 8m or so below. With great excitement we rigged our 20m rope at the head of the pitch and I descended to the ledge. I walked to the edge and peered over into the continuation of the shaft falling away perhaps another 25m below. How annoying to find ourselves short of rope!!
The shaft is a washed out vein cavity of sizeable dimensions and with nice solid walls. I could just about make out an oval floor far below covered in rocks and with standing water covering it. This isn't great news as it could indicate the start of a flooded section of passage or it could just be a rock filled plunge pool. The only way to know for sure is to return with a longer rope and carry on where we left off. That's a job for Tuesday night.
As soon as we know what is down there we will be starting work on the choke that it currently feels like we are creeping through on borrowed time. This will need a good dozen or so 5ft lengths of scaffolding, some wind down legs and 20 or so scaffold clips just to start making it feel ok.
As with before we have reported the new find and would ask that people respect our hard work and allow us time to fully explore the new shaft (Two Left Wellies). We are back on Tuesday night with a disto and some more rope and bolting gear to see what lies beneath... Let's hope it hasn't all collapsed- Watch this space!
On the way out we arrived at the base of the main shaft to find a tackle bag belonging to a lady who had met us earlier in the day on a solo trip down Rowter. We thought it strange that she was still down there as it was quite a while since we last saw her. Luke happened to mention that he had heard someone in one of the small side passages on his way back out so I went down to ask her not to go kicking about in bad Badger Choke on her own. As I approached I called hello and heard a voice in return. I asked if she was ok and the answer was "no, I'm a bit stuck".
I shouted back up to the others for a hand and went to find the lady hanging in her harness about a foot off the floor from a tatty old piece of hand line that runs up into a roof cavity in an obscure little chamber. What was most odd about this was that she had somehow managed to clove hitch herself to the handline direct to a krab on her D-ring!
She managed to step up into a loop in the rope and I untied the knot to allow her to drop to the ground. She was unharmed but I don't know how long she was hanging there for. We were greeted at the surface by 4 cave rescue people with another four at the car park, she had passed her call out and they had arrived to come and find her.
Earlier in the day this lady had also done something else which could very very easily have resulted in serious injury, one of the other guys fortunately managed to stop her before she did any damage to herself.
I'm all for allowing everyone the freedom to cave as and how they wish but I do think that solo caving is a frankly dangerous and irresponsible thing to do even for those who can be considered proficient in SRT. I have done it once or twice in the past (and didn't enjoy it) and certainly didn't feel comfortable.
I hope that this lady, if she reads this will put a stop to her solo caving activities which more than once have put others at risk and inconvenienced many more. It's not fair and it's not necessary. Someone, probably her is going to get seriously hurt.