Buttered Badger Potholing Club
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Decisions Decisions

Chris H, Mark W, Bob Toogood, Mark R
17thMay 2014

My ankle hurts, I have bruised hips, when I bend my left knee I get a sharp pain and my fingers ache and are covered in cuts and scrapes but yesterday was a great trip!

As Chris and I headed down to the end of the ice cream trail to cap more of the pitch head and get it rigged, Mark and Bob followed down and re- rigged some of the Two Left Wellies pitches and the Milky Relief. Following on from Thursday night’s trial and error the capping went really well and after an hour or so we had enlarged the pitch head to what looked like a nice manageable size. Because everything around was just calcite we rigged the start of the rope 10m back up the tube in some decent rock and ran the rope all the way down to the pitch head. I tied a knot at the right place in the rope and clipped in with a cowstail then posted myself through the newly opened slot feet first.

I found myself suddenly hanging at the head of a free hanging pitch with nowhere to stand, attached to a 10m long bouncy 9mm rope running over numerous sharp bits of blasted calcite in the floor. It didn’t take long to get a new bolt in and clip in but it was a very nervous few minutes. Thank goodness Tony Seddon (Starless River) had donated some XL stainless through bolts to us- they were absolutely ideal for the calcite and provided just the peace of mind we needed. Once I had a bolt in and was a bit more comfortable I was able to turn around and have a first proper look at the mighty Crystal Orechasm. We had emerged out of a narrow calcite rift under an undercutting roof. The calcite roof sloped away upwards for another 12m or so and up into the top of an aven that I couldn’t really see into. The far wall was about 14m away, we already knew this but it wasn’t until I looked down that I realised our guess of 17.5m was way off! The rope did touch a ‘floor’ of sorts but it was really more of a bouldery chossy south sloping ledge some 15m or so down. I pulled up the rope again and Chris helped to knock off some more loose capping debris that was still wedged at the pitch head. Eventually it was time to descend.

The Orechasm is really very big, averaging about 15m across in an e/w orientation and around 8m in a n/s orientation. As I approached the ledge it narrowed slightly to about 6m. I got to the rubble heap and hovered just above it on the rope taking in my surroundings. It didn’t look great- the bottom 10m or so of the rift was full of debris and vertical faces of boulder clay which has collapsed into or been washed into the void below. With great care I kicked off some big loose boulders and found a small ledge to perch on out of the direct line of fire from above and just above the most promising and least loose route to the bottom. Here I reached the end of the rope and called for Chris to follow down with a few more bolts and some more rope.

Chris arrived a short time later and we placed some more bolts on a short traverse over the chossy ledge and rigged the last rope to the ground. Before I had landed I knew that it wasn’t going to be great news. I hit a boulder floor and stopped. The only saving grace was that we could definitely feel a draught coming up from beneath us but the prospect of sinking another shaft in here with no definite starting point seemed fairly grim. We had a poke around in some of the more loosely packed corners and eventually Mark joined us having left Bob waiting at one of the squeezes in the Ice Cream Trail. The floor was bouldery with patches of gravel and mud but everything was covered in a fine layer of silt. This place definitely fills up with water at times. There was a calcite flow covering the eastern wall- where this water emerges from isn’t clear and will require further investigation, (as will the aven) but there most certainly isn’t enough water coming down to account for all the mud. We knew we were deep and close to sump level so concluded that the water must rise through the boulders from somewhere beneath us.

Mark left first and Chris and I started to survey out. It was when Chris was part way up the first pitch though that I sat down against a piece of wall slightly up from the lowest point in the chamber and noticed it draughting particularly well. I looked down and saw a tiny black hole between a couple of rocks, which wasn’t unusual down there. What was unusual though was that when I pulled one of the rocks out a stone ran down the hole and fell for 2 or 3 metres. It was very open and loose packed down there. Chris changed over and came back down and we spent the next hour digging with our hands as best as we could. Eventually we had a hole opened up that we could look down and shot the disto for 4m. the most interesting thing though was that at 4m the wall undercut to the south and a large enough stone had enough momentum to roll under this undercut and send up the sound of a deep ‘sploosh’ as it rolled into a deep (?) pool of water.

This choke, although open and fairly easy digging is less than easy to get to. It’s a definite lead but will definitely NOT be a mid- week dig!!

With spirits raised we made our way out, not looking forward to the awkward pitch head. It wasn’t until I arrived there though and started to try and thrutch my way off the top of the rope that I realised quite how bad it was. Much later on when we eventually met back up with Mark and Bob on the surface we all agreed that this is without any shadow of a doubt the hardest piece of SRT any of us has every had to do!

Chris and I spent the next few hours photographing in the Ice Cream trail and cleaning off some of the formations that were already starting to go brown. We put some more tape round one of them and will be placing a hand line across the Frozen Falls to try and keep the left wall clean.

Before we departed from the previously un-named chamber we had a quick dig around in the wet choke and became excited with the prospects there. THAT is a good mid- week projectJ

The way out was slow and hard with three bags of kit all the way but we emerged 11 hours after going down battered, bruised but happy to have added another 28 (+?) m of depth to Rowter taking it to a total of 177.6m and 101.8m from the top of Gin shaft :D

So, in summary from the top…

Gin shaft- Foster’s Faith- Badger Rift- Bad Badger Choke- Two Left Wellies- The Milky Relief- Decisions Decisions (the un named chamber)- The Ice Cream Trail- Frozen Falls- The Wizards Sleeve- The Crystal Orechasm- The Last Mohican.

Yesterday’s photos to follow…

More to come!!!!J

Just a quick note- if you do decide to go and have a look please bear in mind Bad Badger Choke still needs work and the Ice Cream Trail and Crystal Orechasm should not be tackled lightly. It’s tight and very hard work and an accident on one of the many climbs in there would have very dire consequences so please be extremely careful! If you do go, let me know and you can take some scaffolding!

Mark R