Mark R, Mark K, Mark W and Chris H
12th July 2014
After a rediculously slow and long drive from London I arrived at Rowter Farm at 3pm to find three bundles of rope and a pair of elbow pads next to Mark's car. I changed, paid the farmer and headed across the field.
It had been a while since my last visit and I was excited about seeing the new extensions beyond and above the crystal orechasm. Making shortwork of the main shaft and Gin shaft I continued the descent noting the lack ofwater in the streams and waterfalls. I left the ropes in Decisions Decisions and started the slog along theIce Cream Trail.
At the end of the Powder Party I reached the pitch head and found two ropes, a white and ared. Shouting "Hello" to see if the others were around I got a response from Mark R who was somewhere out ofsight above me. He advised of the correct rope but it wasn't immediately obvious how to get up to where he wasso he explained the technique. Twice.
After a short wait to let some high priority rocks plummet to their demise in the Orechasm below I started myrope to rope transfer procedures. A little unnerving at first but I soon got the hang of it and quickly arrivedat the ledge where Mark was re-rigging some ropes. We made our way up to Mark K and Mark W who were waiting, inthe Hourglass Aven above, for Mark and I to get out the way so they could clear a few more boulders to theabyss below. The trio of Marks had been underground for about 4 hours before I arrived and had had a good look around to show Mark K the new bits and decide on the plan of attack.
After a quick tidy up Mark W and his belay, Mark K, set to aid climbing up into the ceiling high above us. MarkR and I started to install a section of netting at the head of the pitch to reduce the risk of bouldersfalling down whilst we are prussiking/abseiling the pitch and to reduce potential damage to the ropes as rockclatters down the slope and ultimately the pitch.
Excited to be using his drill Mark started drilling holes for the rawl bolts. While the drill was more thanadequate for the task his choice of bit wasn't. Without a sharp edge on the whole bit it was like watching a deeptrench being dug with a spoon. Fortunately the power of the drill alone forced the blunt bit into the rock andthree holes later the battery was spent, a poor show, but it was enough for us to get the netting in place andtightened up. We'd return tomorrow with more power and a better bit. We clipped the netting in with somechristmas cracker krabs and then took shelter while Mark K continued to shower us with rocks from the slopeabove.
Mark W was now high above us having made swift progress. The hollow tinkle of hammer blows against rock didn'tsound promising and after several more minutes of hammering and looking for somewhere to place the next bolt he decided enoughwas enough and started his descent. We'd have to rethink how to get up there.
A quick time check told us it was getting late. We started our trek back toward the Ice Cream trail where MarkK let loose a barrage of swearing and complaints as he struggled to push his body through the various squeezesand climbs.
Having been through it myself a number of times since my initial exploration of it I know where most of thedifficult sections are and have learnt to worm my way through them accordingly. It's interesting to bereminded how difficult it can be to make progress in there on your first visit.
We eventually made it out into a lovely warm evening, changed just before the rain and headed for a quick half a lemonade at the Cheese. Tomorrow was going to be another long day.