Buttered Badger Potholing Club
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Us And The Astronauts

Mark Sims, Mark Richardson
22nd November 2014

For various family reasons it was to just be me and Mark today. We were off to White Noise in the Party Sausage to carry on where we left off last time. Knowing it would be wet we both opted for the PVC over suit option and marvelled at how badly fitting they  were as we got changed in the field. Another group of cavers arrived, some of whom I recognised from a past trip and who were planning to go down Rowter, through the Ice cream trail and see how far they could get. We never saw them again.

We moved at a decent pace through the cave, stopping only to collect a bucket as we went and could hear White Noise long before we could see it. The plastic roof was still there and the big load of stuff we had dropped into the dig at the end of the last trip looked depressingly voluminous. We fixed a pulley above the hole and began pulling out buckets of rock and rubble. A couple of boulders were capped and removed but progress was slow. Despite the roof we were still getting wet and the fairly compact floor soon led to a re-assessment of the days priorities.

We had a cup of tea and packed the capping kit into a bag then headed out of the Party Sausage. Leaving gear at the top of the big rubble slope we climbed up into Breathless and Sunrise to show Mark the choke at the top and a possible bolt climb that needs doing at some point. We had a gentle poke around in the back wall of the passage near the choke, it's pretty loose and scary up there but very intriguing.

On the way back down we collected the capping kit and had another tea on the rubble slope before ascending Assessment Day into the roof of Hourglass Aven. We knew that it was going to be wet- all the water that flows out of Alright for Dwarves falls down the aven and all the way to the bottom of the Orechasm. Mark went up first and called rope free just as I was at the wide wet ledge. From there it's about 30m to the top, all of it in the water. The deviation we had in to avoid rope rub when we climbed it pulled you nicely into the main flow and the constricted section near the top ensured you awkwardly prussicked up the narrow water filled rift getting a good wetting. Neither of us could remember the last time we climbed such a wet pitch and despite the initial scoffing, Mark eventually came round to my comparison of Hurricane Pitch in flood in the Berger three (four?) of years ago.

Glad of the badly fitting PVC now we set about the task we were faced with- capping through the constriction into a slightly more open rift beyond. Now I have capped calcite before but never flowstone with water running over it, drilling uphill above my head... Needless to say there was mixed success with each shot. Some took some nice pieces off, others just puffed and did nothing at all. We swapped round a couple of times to keep warm and after 2 or 3 hours crouched in the awkward space and maybe 15 or so difficult and ineffective caps we had made it slightly bigger. To the point where Mark took his SRT kit off and forced his torso through with helmet off and one arm out In front. As he pushed himself into the drippy tight rift we discussed how privileged we were to be exploring the unknown. "Us and the Astronauts" I heard the muffled voice say from beyond the constriction while I sat contorted in a cold puddle looking at his feet. "Us and the Astronauts"

We didn't get through the gap in the end, we really need either some more bang or an SDS hammer drill and chisel bit to peel off some more of the calcite flow but one more short trip should do it!

Cold, wet and hungry we turned round and left the cave, no breakthroughs but some solid work done at the top of Assessment Day to set us up for next time.
I think I'll call the constriction "one small thrutch for man" I thought as I drove home and felt the cold aches creeping into my body.

Mark R