Chris A, Tom Tom, Mark R
10th June 2014
Imagine my surprise when I entered the field to find the other two already in caving gear... Amazing!
Unfortunately though I had to go and pay a visit to speak to the farmers before we could set off so they amused themselves with... well, with something.
I have been in touch with Natural England recently to get retrospective (and ongoing) permission to dig in Rowter Hole. Natural England are involved with this because of the SSSI designation of the rake. I had a consent notice from N.E. which had to be signed by the landowner. After a short and interesting conversation they signed the notice and we became an official dig in the eyes of N.E. The farmers up there are used to dealing with them on various other matters.. flowers, thistles, birds and so this was nothing new. All we have to do is dig in accordance with the guidance for digging in a SSSI, available on the DCA website.
Eventually though we had to leave the sunny surface behind and go and do something underground, we had three aims for today- climb into the hole that can be seen on the far side of the rift at the top of Two Left Wellies, climb into a roof passage just off Decisions Decisions and photograph the pretty bit we found last week as well as anything else we could find on the way.
The climb into the Wellies hole was really more of an awkward traverse and diagonal abseil but still required 5 or 6 bolts to get it done. After much delicate ledge clinging I arrived at the natural bridge of mineralised calcite that spans the passage near the roof, from here it was a diagonal abseil and one more aid move to get myself sat backwards in the top of a pair of holes that sit above and below one another. In the back wall of the mineral vein that connects these holes was the target. Even when I was only a metre or so away I still couldn't tell if this was going to be a goer. There was a sort of low bedding plane discontinuity within the back wall of the vein which seems to have had mud flowing out of it at some point in the past. I had to lie on my back and slide head first into the top hole before lowering myself down into a position where I could see into the back of this slot- totally silted up and very narrow. Not at all inspiring. It's a shame because this is heading west which is a very interesting direction. Just as I was almost back at the start of the climb again, Tom and Chris had a photo set up and managed to get a really nice shot of the top of the rift.
Target two was a short climb into a roof passage that we knew linked with the pretty bit in a high tube near the start of the ice cream trail. We knew this from light testing last week. The climb was straight forward, only complicated slightly by a pause for a photo. It led into a high level tube which sure enough connected with the pretty bit. There was a hell of a draught blowing inwards along it, some of which seemed to blow upwards through a slot just too narrow to get through and into what looked like a slight enlargement above. In all likelihood this just follows the vein above the ice cream trail and joins back in somewhere else further along but it just about warrants going on the bottom of the 'future bits to look at' list :)
I abseiled back out, leaving the rope rigged for a photo model to climb back up. I had been using through bolts throughout for the climbing and deliberately over drilling the holes. This means that once the hangers are removed we can hammer the bolts back into the rock until they disappear and plug the hole with a bit of mud, which is exactly what we did. As Tom went up the new climb Chris and I took the camera up into the other end of the pretty passage.
Tom proved to be an excellent model for the photo and after some careful placing of towels and Daren drum lids to get into a position without spoiling any calcite on the floor we had lots of shots in the bag. Before leaving we taped off either end of this passage with orange tape to hopefully preserve it forever.
Tom has recently totted up all trips done by everyone involved since the start of the dig. One of the top three contributors of time- Luke has un fortunately been suffering from revision and exams ever since the breakthrough of Bad Badger Choke so has been missing all of this excitement. In honour of his earlier efforts we named the nice bit of passage "The Absent Medic". Hurry back Luke!
As we exited I counted two, possibly three final climbs that need doing on the pitches or in Decisions Decisions to close out all those holes in the roof. They will almost certainly do nothing other than add a few metres of vertical oxbow to the survey but we have to be thorough! I got to spent a few minutes digging in the big southern trending silted 'tube' too whilst waiting at the foot of the pitches- I still can't decide if it is a passage or an alcove!!
Good (and late) trip and now can't wait for Saturdays big Orechasm Climb in our Natural England endorsed dig :)