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.

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