Buttered Badger Potholing Club
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Assessment Day

Mark R, Mark W, Jack Loftus, Luke N

“My head feels like someone has sandpapered the inside. I might come over slightly later if it’s OK with you!” That was the test I got from Luke at 08:13… so Mark, Jack and I got changed in the rain at 10:00 and marched off to the hole.

The plan for the day was to continue the climb reported in the ‘Spidermen’ report a few weeks ago. We had two 30m ropes to leave in and would take out the 50m 9mm we are climbing with. The first job on arrival at Hourglass Aven was to de- rig the aborted climb that we did last time and that was rigged with the bottom end of the long rope. Fresh from his L2 IRATA assessment the day before Jack got yet another test as we described what needed doing and sent him on his way. (we should take IRATA technicians with us more often- it was very handy!). Whilst Jack rigged a pull through on the old climb Mark and I ascended to the ledge we reached at the limit of the last trip.

As is normal, the way on looked smaller than I remembered but was still inconclusive and definitely worth a climb. Jack eventually liberated the 9mm rope and made his way up to the ledge, re- rigging everything on the 10.5mm as he went. Mark set off and climbed for about 15 or 16 bolts, I think before running out of gear and abseiling back to the ledge. It was drippy and cold belaying on the ledge so I was grateful for the waterproof jacket I had brought- an essential for long belays in the future I think. I jumped at the chance to warm myself up again by taking over on the climb and continuing on upwards. I re- ascended mark’s rope, trailing a new piece of 10.5mm from my harness with which to rig the pitch once finished. I reached the top of Mark’s climb. He had tied off to the last two bolts he placed, leaving a long tail hanging into which I could easily tie and carry straight on again. His last bolt was in great rock in a fairly spacious rift but just above the rift narrowed again as the walls stepped in, thick with calcite. I climbed up to the calcite overhang and passed this with a couple of bolts then unclipped from aid and free climbed up to a ledge. At this point the walls were close enough to make getting the drill in across the rift a bit awkward. I placed another runner and set off again, free climbing up the chimney wedged between two walls. I was within 2m of the very top of what was almost certainly the blind conclusion when I eventually saw it… a step to the south and a continuation!

A few seconds earlier I was certain it was going nowhere now I could see up into a passage of sorts heading south and even better, I could see some clean rock! Hooray!! I got to the lip of the passage and threw a hand over the top. My fingers curled over a sharp edge into a pool of water and as I pulled myself up my fingers crunched through what I realised was the delicate edge of a small calcite gour. I grimaced at the thought and grabbed with my right hand as well, crushed some more gour calcite and sending a stream of water down the pitch below me whilst I pulled myself over.

I was sat in a small pocket with a short section of passage (2m) leading into a E/W trending rift with calcite flowstone running in from the left. I placed a bolt in the good rock and set to screwing in a hanger. Just as I was nipping it up it suddenly began spinning again. I assumed I had stripped the threads but later on I prised the hanger back out of the wall with the bolt attached, for some reason it hadn’t set properly!!! Eventually though I got a couple of bolts rigged and went for a quick look. The rift was small and immediately closed down to the right. To the left I could see up over the flowstone into a slightly larger continuation beyond. The hole to get up into this is too small to pass right now but could be enlarged very quickly with a couple of caps. Neither the bit I was sat in, nor the continuation were big but it is definitely worth a re-visit with some tools.

The other two came up for a look, Mark commented that it was “alright for Dwaafs” and the little pocket had its name. We decided to call the pitches up “Assessment Day” after the chaotic rope obstacle course we had negotiated the last two trips, it really did feel like an IRATA assessment day at times.

It wasn’t until we were back at Decisions Decisions that we found Luke, digging away alone in the mud filled alcove/ passage. He had been there for 3 hours and managed to make some decent progress although it’s still not clear what it is.

Pub, beer and a Thai takeaway awaited us and Luke and I spent some time putting together our bit of the presentation for the Derbyshire roundup at Hidden Earth. A great day, nice to meet Jack (thanks for the help by the way) and one more lead to add to the list.

Mark R