Me and Ben arrived at the Perryfoot car park around 6pm last Friday. I'd had one of those manic weeks at work that leaves you looking forward getting underground to shovel some mud and rocks.
The last time we'd left Gautries, we'd plugged the drain hole in the first chamber in order to get the stream to flow along the south-west passage and wash through our dig. With visions of new sparkling stream-washed open passage in mind, I'd brought my long-suffering camera. It has had a few previous caving trips in Gautries and is therefore a bit worse for wear (trench warfare comes to mind). Some buttons are so deeply encrusted with mud that they no longer work.
After a while faffing with flash guns and everything it seemed to be okay in the car park, so we headed on over to the Gautries entrance, through the shoulder high nettles in the hollow. The owl that had greeted us the last few times was nowhere to be seen, but we carried on down. Ben pulled the rope to un-bung the hole and drain the entrance, whilst I buggered about trying to sort out some photos. It seemed that the camera knew what was coming in the evening ahead and had shut itself down permanently for protection. The cheery green battery light didn't come on at all when I tried to turn it on, despite it working fine a few minutes earlier in the car park. Ben was off down the entrance passage exclaiming about some weird noises as the entrance drained itself down the hole in the floor, so I packed up the camera and followed him down.
It's amazing that it all drained within a couple of minutes, and leaving the camera bag in the first chamber, and tying a knot in the rope holding the bung so we didn't inadvertently sump ourselves in, we headed off down the south-west passage. The last few times down there, it had been fairly dry with a few big puddles, but this time as we followed the water that was draining itself down the same passage, there were a few bits that required getting your ears wet. I think Ben and I were both quietly thinking to ourselves as we crawled through the pools that it would probably be navigable when the stream was flowing down the passage, provided the stream wasn't flowing too much. Anyway, the climb up and over the bypass and through the duck was uneventful and we were soon down to inspect the dambuster's dig.
Visions of newly opened passage soon evaporated, but the floor of the dig had been washed out a few inches and the big bastard boulder in the floor was a bit more exposed. After a few minutes of faffing and shovelling, we decided to head downstream from the dig through the slightly dodgy boulder bit (Ben: "I'm sure that big boulder has slipped down") past the bottom of Nun's Chuff and down to Lisa's Christmas Present Sump to see if there was anything new (yep, I don't know about the name of the sump either, but I can only hope she got something more ... err... clean, for Christmas). I've been down the passage leading to that sump about a half-dozen times now and I'm sure it is getting taller. Quite impressive at around 10-feet tall in places, which if you've seen the other bits in Gautries, you'll know is quite amazing.
Anyway, Lisa's muddy sump was still there, but I noticed the body-sized hole in the wall above it that I'd not explored before and posted myself into it for a look. After about a body length, the little passage divides into two. Left goes down to another sump with a similar water level to Lisa's, and right leads round a corner and through some impressive scalloping upwards in an Eavis-sized passage with the end out of sight. The passage seemed to draught slightly in my face and I could hear some kind of tinkling waterfall in the distance, but I decided to leave it for another day/smaller-person and backed out to find Ben and pursue some digging.
After about and hour and a bit of shovelling and emptying buckets, interrupted by Ben capping the big boulder )which turned out to be the mother of boulders), we eventually left and exited back through the duck, though the wet south-west passage and washed off. The hole in the floor has been plugged again and I was back home to charge the camera batteries and keep on wondering about that stream-washed open passage...