Cussey Pot

During Lockdown 2020 a new hole was spotted to draught bigger and stronger than any cave in the Peak. We dug it open and this is what happened....

Full description of the trip can be viewed here.

The current survey can be downloaded from here.

After last week's breakthroughs and voice connections it was quite obvious what we'd get up to tonight and we were all pretty stoked.

Firstly RobM had sub'd in Jack to assist with the diving of Downstream SMMC. This was Jack's first Cussey experience and they had a long trip planned so they set off early whilst we sup'd our pre-beers in the sunshine.

Team A (Me, Joe and the newly promoted SamP) went next, ladden with rope, bolts, capping gear, survey gear and one SRT kit between us. We caught up with the divers halfway along Vulgarious. I think Jack was taking his time to savour the place, especially with the heavy bag. We left them at Sump 2 and headed off to Rat Hole.

Whilst i start surveying what we found last week, Joe and Sam could hear Team B, (JonP and JimT) who's job tonight was to push Black Draught (a flatout crawl off of Inglorious Bastards in Cussey), and they squirrelled up into the Roof Dig to see how far away they were. Close but no light connection yet, so they came onwards to me and we rigged the rope beyond the Rat Hole dig down into the chamber below, now named NGA Chamber.

Sam doing the first descent into NGA Chamber, by RobE

SamP had been here last week so once we were all down he showed us the way down through very loose looking, recently tumbled boulders, some the size of houses! The chamber is actually pretty large, with a weird sediment wall taking up the whole northern end. The large white scoring on the walls was over the soot-darkened bedrock, suggesting these collapses have happened quite recently!

Joe by the wall of Sediment in NGA, by RobE

We cautiously got down to the squeeze with the plan to cap it open a bit to allow easier access (for JonP). However this spot is right below some very loose and precarious boulders and i was very much against the idea of hanging around, let alone doing any capping! So we chickened out and just squeezed through without any modifying. To be fair it is very tight, so massive kudos to Luke for pushing it last week!

Joe not enjoying the NGA squeeze, by RobE

Once we were all through and we'd tied the survey loop in, we celebrated the first ever round trip here and the third connection into the Master cave by simply heading straight out via the lower Wet West route. Back in Cussey there was no sign of Team B so i went for a quick inspection of their handy work whilst Sam and Joe started up the ropes. They'd made good progress but still the way on at the end of Black Draught is a little unclear. I think we're going to need a few more trips to really see if this is going to be a long project or just a short poke through to the other side...

Back on the surface still totally covered in Loper Lust filth we briefly caught up with Team B and shared stories before heading home. It wasn't until nearly 1am that i got a message from RobM saying they were out fine. He'd managed to lay 40m of line in big passage with it still very much open beyond. Very exciting times for us and for Stoney caving in general! Well done all.

Rob, by Jon

Team A: JoeB, RobM, HelenF, RobE

Team B: JonP, SamP, LukeC

A much anticipated day with lots happening, and thankfully it lived up to (most) expectations. Main aim was voice connections between a few of the potential connections between Cussey and A Race Against Time, with the hope that one of these could provide an easier route than Vulgarious Bastard. Tagging on was Rob and Helen who planned to dive through Sump2 and maybe have a go at SMMC Downstream Sump.

Pre-beers in the sun and we were off. Team B would follow along slowly at the back as their sides of the connections were much closer to the entrance. It was clear quite early on that Helen wasn’t feeling it tonight and she suggested me n Joe overtake so we could get to our connection side on time. Our first spot was RAT Hole, a small clean rift at the eastern end of Race Against Time. This was good for us as it needs capping so we set to work straight away and made remarkable easy progress. How pleasurable it is to have a clean, dry and spacious dig for a change!

After 15 minutes or so we hear a general chit chatter coming from ahead. Team B had got into their first position, a natural choke at the end of a wet level at the bottom of the Wet West workings; and we could hear them quite well! We keep digging and after a few more minutes we could hear Luke really well! He’d manage to pass a squeeze at the end of the choke and enter into a large natural chamber. He was so close we even did a light check, but unsuccessfully. He described that our voices were coming from a passage in the roof, maybe 10m up, but he couldn’t free climb it. Meanwhile SamP joined him, leaving only Jon behind. TBF to him, I’ve been to that squeeze three times (the first time in 2012, how close we were back then!) and I didn’t think it looked possible so never even tried it!

Jubilation engaged, they head off to their next voice connection place, Inglorious Bastards back in Cussey. We remained digging and continued to make good progress, capping big boulders out of the passage and passing them back. Only downside is I’d forgotten my capping mat so was using a tackle bag which I was very unhappy about, especially after getting hit in the face.

Joe Drilling in RAT Hole, by RobE

Shortly after they left we hear RobM behind us. Turns out Helen was too tired to dive so they were heading out, but leaving all the gear so he can dive next week. Helen is a strong caver so this was a good reminder to us that Cussey is not an easy trip, and certainly not somewhere to be caught out.

After about 20 more minutes I hear Jon again, this time up in the roof. I leave Joe digging RAT Hole whilst I go up a climb at the end of the passage into a bedding plane passage called RAT Roof East. Jon was in Black Draught, just off Inglorious Bastard, which is exactly where we thought this connection would be. We both pushed to the end of our respective passages and sure enough we were close, maybe less than 10m away. This is great news as a connection here would allow access to Race Against Time and the Master Cave without enduring Loper Lust or Vulgarious Bastard! Oh yes please.

They say that they are heading out whilst I hear good hollers from Joe below. I race back to him and sure enough he’d managed to move the last boulders and breakthrough the RAT Hole! It does involve sneaking under a very dodgy looking boulder (which he said he hadn’t really noticed) but beyond it is stooping passage to shortly reach a pitch down in the floor into a large looking chamber, presumably exactly where Luke and Sam had been 30 minutes ago. The passage continues over the pitch head but unfortunately is blocked soon with sediment quite quickly.

We look down the pitch longingly, as it would be so much easier to go out that way. But alas we turn tails and start the long plod out to the surface. After 7 of us had passed through LL in both directions tonight it was truly horrid and we got to the surface probably dirtier than ever. Thankfully Mark had warned us over a raw sewage leak in the village that was overspilling into the Saltpan so we decided not to wash off, and simply enjoyed our beers in the carpark after what was a long yet memorable trip.

Priority plan now is to knock through the Black Draught dig as soon as possible, as that really will change the game for us. But it’s great to also have the RAT Hole connection made, so we’ll stick a rope on it and survey the link soon also.

Just TAP (Rob & Jon) again. Tonight was the night we were going to finally survey the connection. It's a squalid job but someone has to do it. I took my camera gear too with intentions of getting a picture at the connection. So geared up we headed underground and quickly made our way to the start of vulgarious. It wasn't long before we reached For Buck's Sake where Rob got his lovely clean disto out from its case and started lasering. The funny thing was the disto only had one bar of battery left. So without messing about we started to survey through the connection. I was to crawl through first whilst Rob surveyed to my tackle bag. Once Rob then reached the tackle bag I would progress forward and he'd shoot again. This worked quite well and we made quick progress through the squalid section to the climb down rift. We had a quick think about how we were going to survey through the duck and the connection, but after some consideration we just carried on in the same method and finally tied in the survey to Rob Middleton's station in race against time with just enough battery left!

Now it was time to take some photos. Rob was very kind and posed for long enough whilst I got my s*** together. We then headed back for a connection photo, which as you can imagine was rather grim for both parts but more so Rob who had his face in the water for around 5 minutes. Slowly out whilst Rob carried a cylinder. We made our way to surface quickly washed off and headed to the Moon for a celebratory pint as Rob won the bet of carrying out the cylinder.

Team: Ben S, Jon P, Luke C, Sam P and Jim T

I was beyond excited about this trip. a couple of weeks ago I messaged Rob to inform him I had Norovirus, I was willing to take the risk of wearing a wetsuit despite getting a 3 second toilet warning; but understandably Rob didn't want to experience the purge and so I bowed out. That evening i got the message that they had broken through to SMMC. absolutely gutted.

So tonight Jon said he wanted to go and have a play with his camera in the new bit and I couldn't wait. pulling up in the car park I met Jim and Sam (who is essentially Jon with less hair) Their plan was to find the Inglorius pitch as they had missed it on their last trip. That in its own right is worth visiting because the chamber is a complete change of character to the rest of the cave.

Luke, Jon and I geared up. Luke had a brand new warmbac wetsuit. I could have cried for him there and then. I feel this trip definitely needs a wetsuit, but given how tight and rough in sections the cave is, you can just hear it rubbing and snagging. Joe once said every time he snags his wetsuit he thinks "there's another tenner gone"

I have been in cussey a number of times now and learning its nuances well so within no time at all the 3 of us were leaving our SRT kit on the big boulder in Inglorious and headed for Loper Lust. 

Good news, it was not sumped, the syphon had done its job and loper had not refilled. much to Jon's disgust however, the remaining water had created a mud soup. For those of you not in health care, I will refer you to the Bristol Stool Chart. This muddy tube was half filled with Type 7. Rob had free dived this a number of times and it was something I was curious to know if i could do, and so as i entered the slop I held my breath and dipped half my face in as i negotiated the lowering ceiling and popped up into the  first airbell. Ah that wasnt so far. i did the same again to the second air bell. again short and sweet. the third smaller airbell swiftly followed and you had to be on the right hand side for the air space. so far i felt like i could free dive this if it were to sump. the final section was the longest bit of breath holding and as you go up hill i wasnt sure when to start breathing again as wasnt sure how high the water would be. I suspect its one of those free dives thats not as bad at you think it will be, however there are plenty of places to get it wrong. maybe ill give it a go one day.

Anyway, we are all through and swiftly down the ladder and yomping to Vulgarious. The last time i was here we spent around 90 mins hauling drag trays back and forth. making good progress but rob felt like there was still plenty to do then things seemed to progress rapidly from there as whilst the digging still sounded challenging, there were areas to stack spoil and so no more hauling. Jon warned us that there was one commiting and claustrophobic section halfway down vulgarious but that we shouldnt worry. 

The poo theme is entirely relevant here as the mud is just on another level of slop. we crawled down vulgarious until we reached beyond For Buck's Sake, the section Jon had warned us about. i slid into the tube after Jon. This was brilliant. its a human sized tube, you cant really look up properly as your helmet hits the roof. the floor is soft and progress isnt the easiest. i had both arms out in front of me. your arms arent entirely useless here, but they arent the greatest of help either due to the confines. i would dig my toes in and push to make progress, but the mud would also grab your wellies and try to suck them off. I actually loved it. i seem to have some perverse love for situations like this. this section takes a good 5 or so minutes. we eventually pop out into a rift.  

Wow, how can something so big suddenly appear after flatout crawling. Jon again warned us not to die here and so as i attempted not to trust my life to the worlds slippiest but cruical stemple i carefully climbed down and headed to the breakthrough point. 

Jon told luke and I how he and Rob nearly gave up the other night due to the conditions and that they felt they had needed to drain the duck. but perseverance or stubborness payed dividends for them, and so here i was. i had to take my helmet off because my spare light was once again pushing my face into the water and trying to drown me. Another fun and commiting section though which was giving me the gentlemans fizz.

And then just like that we were into something big, very big. jon had gone ahead so make sure all was ok as i bought his camera gear through. Luke and I on all fours crawling along in elbow deep gloop that just gave me flash backs to enemas gone wrong. less than an hour from the surface we were stood by a pool below sump 2. Jon was laughing at the state of Luke and I and said that we needed a wash before any pics could occur. so we both got in to the pool. "some people pay good money for this" Luke said as we lay there with our mud wrap on.

We poked around sump 2 to see the progress so far. i hope this is passable one day as i cant wait to see what is beyond it. I followed the pristine and large streamway downstream until Jon set his gear down and exclaimed that this was the picture spot. I practiced my best blue steel face as Luke was tasked with flash gun duty and the poor guy spent an age focusing on my bum. 

We then headed further downstream as Jon was keen to show us a special shell bed. the streamway gets smaller and smaller until you are on hands and knees and here i was cursing the inbuilt knee pads on my wetsuit because they were nothing more than a thin layer of rubber. Eventually the solid rock roof parted, literally, to be come a shell bed and the further we got the better it got. some of the shells were as big as tennis balls. we stopped just short of the sump for some pics. it felt really dark and remote here. only a handful of humans have visited this spot, and that felt very special to be a part of. pics done attention was drawn to closing time at the pub and so we headed out, stopping to investigate some leads on route. 

I'm not a fan of prussiking and so it pleases me that i only have to do so on Inglorious, as i free climb the other two pitches and back out into the warm night air. blimey, last time it was still freezing and we were huddled in my van for warmth. we were in a bit or a state for the pub and so cracked open the post cave drinks and chilled in the car park. this trip just keeps getting better and better. certainly one for collectors. would it go in the infamous black book? i dont know the criteria, but its a dam fine trip, but not for the feint hearted.

Luke after his enema, by JonP

Team: RobE, RobM, MikeB

An unusual saturday trip for me, this on the request of the two divers who had a long trip planned. I got changed too eagerly as they continued to faff for ages (diving looks complex!). All three of us loaded up we head down at a leisurely pace, showing the wonderous sights of Cussey to Mike who'd never been before. Nothing like what they have found, but at least he was impressed with Inglorious Bastards. Moving with two cylinders wasn't actually too bad and we soon were enjoying the sloppy filth of Loper Lust followed by the sloppy filth of Vulgarious Bastard. RobM was at least a little thankful that it was now slightly bigger and less committing, although the connection duck was still pretty wet.

Now in Race Against Time they start their second faffing session of the day with kitting up whilst i spend 30 mins starting the trench downstream from Sump 2. This actually made good progress and looks like with a few caps we could drop the sump level 300mm quite easily. Any further is hard to judge.

All set up they head off towards SMMC and the Upstream Sump, which they plan to dive. I was just in a furry and was getting very cold by this point so I head out, taking some unwanted gear on the way and having a bit of a dig at the connection section to make it slightly less horrific. 

News on the street is that their dive went very well. The sump was only 15m long and they explored more passage to a second sump. The verdict is still out however about whether Cussey is easier for them than Cliffstile, especially if using big cylinders.

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