Simon B, Jim Lister, Adam P, TomTom, Mark Richardson
It was a busy field that saw 5 cars arrive, each carrying their cavers from near and far (Southampton in Simon’s case). Despite having taken down all the diving gear during the week we still managed to have a tackle bag for everyone full of bolting and photography gear. Today was going to be a special day, no matter what we found so we wanted a record of what we were doing.
When we arrived at Decisions Decisions I started showing Jim around. I took him over to the start of the ice cream trail and suddenly remembered the low flooded passage that runs beneath it- we haven’t been to the end of this yet for fear of getting wet legs, now was the perfect opportunity for Jim to go and have a look for us! Because of the mud we decided to leave that until later on so as not to introduce a load of muck into the main sump.
Jim decided to first go for a swim with just a mask on and have a good look around at the end of the flooded passage, we still didn’t even know that it was definitely a sump. After just a few seconds of poking around he returned to the water’s edge with some good news- it was definitely a sump and it was definitely open. How exciting!!
Jim stayed in the water and the rest of us ferried his kit down to him. He opted for a single cylinder and no fins to start with and would just tentatively go in and have a feel around before returning for the rest of the kit if he thought it warranted it. There was just enough space in the drippy passage before the sump for Adam and myself to crouch and watch as Jim strapped his kit on, checking everything as he went and briefed us in what he was about to do.
The two of us sat in silence and watched his light slip beneath the water’s surface. The regular bubbling of his exhaled air was comforting to hear but at the same time undeniably eerie in the confined space of the sump passage. It was an odd sensation watching the glow from his light gradually fade and eventually disappear completely!
It was just a minute or so before the light returned and Jim appeared again. It felt like much longer than that. He immediately filled us in on what he had found- the flooded passage was wide- about 2m or so but it was constricted with mud to within a foot or so of the roof. He had managed to get 5.5m down and to a depth of around 1m before the mud constriction became too tight and he pulled back out. The constriction definitely needs digging, it is just a question of whether this is done from underwater (lengthy and difficult process) or we try and find a way of draining the sump in low water conditions and try to dig it dry.
We weren’t disappointed with this news, it would have been lovely to have a quick answer and duck into wide open passages beyond but at the same time we now know that it’s a sump and there is going to be some passage beyond it. Monday's dye test will be interesting.
After posing for a photo in the sump and having one last poke around and dig about with a small spade we pulled the diving gear out and Jim packed some kit away. It was now time for target number two and three.
Whilst I started a bolt climb into the roof of Decisions Decisions with Adam belaying me, the others began digging mud out of the big silted ‘tube’ (?) on the south wall. We still aren’t sure if this is definitely a piece of cave passage heading south or just a silted alcove or oxbow, even after an hour of digging it wasn’t clear but we do know that this will require several more hours of digging to be sure.
The climb went well and after 8 or so bolts I was right up in the roof and climbing into the feature we couldn’t see into from the ground. Apart from a few small straws in the roof (yes Mo-holers.. straws!) the feature ended up being just a 3 or 4m pocket in the joint.
Once the climb was de-rigged we began packing up and started taking some hurried photos. Everyone there had something or other to get out for, so we couldn’t afford much time but we did manage to get a few snaps done.
All in all it was an excellent days caving- how often do you get to bolt climb an aven, dive a sump and dig in a 2m dia. silted tube, all for the first time ever, all in one day, all within 20feet of each other and all in Derbyshire?.. Not very often. We are a very lucky sett of Badgers indeedJ
Many, many thanks to Jim for his help, we really do appreciate him taking time out from his own projects to come and help out in Rowter, especially with something as potentially dangerous as diving a new sump. We all have a renewed respect for what he and other cave divers do on a regular basis. Jim, I hope we can all return the favour one day soon (in some way!)
Photos to follow
Jim off for a swim