Chris H, Mark R, Chris A, TomTom.
9th May 2014
After a hearty breakfast at the Climax cafe Mark and I headed to Rowter with a car full of kit. We were set to meet Ben Foulger at the farm having agreed to help us ferry some kit but we were 45mins early because Mark was feeling a bit keen. We changed in the light drizzle and took the first load of scaffolding and bags of clips across the field to the shaft. As we walked back to the car the wind picked up and the drizzle turned to lashing horizontal rain. A couple more trips and then Ben arrived to help with the last couple of loads to the shaft. We were absolutely drenched by the time 20 lengths of scaff pole, 40 scaff clips, 6 scaffold jack legs, rope, drill, bolting gear and a spot of lunch had been lowered to the bottom of Rowter Shaft.
The three of us lowered and passed the gear down Gin Shaft, through Fosters Faith and down into Badger Rift. It was my first visit since the break through the Fornix and I was equally impressed and terrified at the sight of the Bad Badger Choke. A heady mix of boulders appearing to be suspended by some magical force. The little bit of scaffolding already in place looking woefully inadequate.
Ben took a quick look around but didn't want to hang around, so he headed back out. Thanks Ben for the help hauling all that gear.
Mark and I started the laborious task of installing scaffolding. With Mark wedged in the choke he set about adding to the already installed scaff slowly making himself feel more comfortable. It started to look marginally safer but after a bite to eat it was my turn to work in the slightly more open area of the choke.
With my heart beating in my throat I surveyed the scene and tried to work out where to even start putting some scaffolding. The boulders above appear to be suspended in mid air. After installing a couple of shorter lengths I got Mark to pass through a larger one to place beneath a very large boulder. Once in place Mark commented that it was rather like putting a cocktail stick beneath it but it made me feel about 1% more comfortable. We continued installing the 20 lengths of tube until all that remained were two 12" off cuts. At this point it was 5pm.
We sat having another snack and waited for Tom Tom and Chris Adams to arrive. A few minutes passed and we suddenly heard voices above.
After a quick chat we made our way through the choke and down to the waterfall, Two Left Wellies and on to next, the Milky Relief. On route we tidied up the pitch heads by knocking down any large boulders that may cause a future falling hazard. With all the rain the waterfalls were in full force and some wet weather deviations might be required. Once at the bottom of the Milky Relief we took a look around inspecting the hole in the floor below the waterfall and then looked up into the rift that Mark and TomTom had inspected on the last trip.
I volunteered to head back along the rift to see if it went any further than Mark had seen earlier. Mark had described a tighter section which would probably have muddy footprints running up to it. I squeezed and thrutched and climbed and traversed for what felt like some distance then reached a much smaller section. The foot prints finished. Up or down? I decided to squeeze down feet first. Not too tight after all. I continued on along the rift till I reached a slightly taller thin section which appeared to open out. The left wall in the opening was coated in flow stone, white and pristine. The drop below was onto a flow stone coated boulder with a small crystal clear pool next to it. It was about 2m but the walls on either side were smooth. I climbed down and pressed on. The number of pools in the floor seemed to be increasing and they were becoming increasingly deep. I finally reached a section of upwards tube which was crawlable, below it was a slightly smaller tube, both of which looked like something from an H.R. Geiger set. Up the centre of the floor was a 'stream' of white calcite, it looked just like someone had dropped a tub of ice cream at the top and it had run down the tube. The Ice Cream Trail I thought. At the top of the tube the way on way through a tight squeeze with a short drop on the other side.
Mark had decided that I'd been gone some time so had set off along the tube after me. He finally caught up with me in the tube and was now following behind. I climbed down the drop into a small section of wider passage with a large deep pool of water in the floor. This continued to another tight squeeze at the end. I peered through the gap and it dropped off below, pulling the Disto out of my pocket I measured the drop, 4.9m, and I could see another drop after a short shelf. Shining the laser into the distance it read 12.4m of diagonal distance. After the small tube it was opening out into larger cave like a Wizards Sleeve. We were going to need some rope but we'd have to head back out for that.
We turned tail and headed back out to see what Chris and TomTom had been doing. They'd had a play around trying to move some boulders in the hole in the floor at the bottom of the waterfall. Time was getting on so we decided to head out and find some refreshments and some food.
Rowter's secrets would have to wait for another day.