Tuesday 2nd September - Luke Cafferty, Rob Eavis

After the exploration of the last trip we were left with 6 leads. Three bolt climbs, the muddy tube near the top, and the small inlet sump, all mentioned on the previous report, plus a dig in the floor of the lowest part of the rift. This latter dig was the objective of today’s trip, primarily due to the 3d survey suggesting that if we drop into floor by ~1m we would regain the main bedding and join the continuation of the Crusader Passage, if there was one…

With Luke rigging the two of us made good progress, getting to the rift (now named The Nights Templar) in 1 hour 45. Luke had made a start on the dig on the last trip, but was stopped by the two fridge sized boulders about to fall into the hole on top of him! After much shoving and pushing we just about moved these to the side allowing us now a good view down. The wall quickly undercuts to reveal a small passage running perpendicular to the rift! 

It took a while to clear the rocks around the entrance, as some of the bigger ones simply wouldn’t move. Then we heard a rock below us drop and rattle away. Then another. But it wasn’t into the passage, it was below us. Sticking my head down the hole as far as possible I could through a gap into a large void directly underneath us! This void is the continuation of the same rift, separated by only a 1m thick pile of suspended boulders. It is hard to see, but it looks like the floor is roughly 5m below, but it’s impossible to see how far along the rift the void continues in either direction. If the floor (roof) was to go with you on top, the fall would be bad, but it’d be the 100s of boulders from the slope above that would inevitably land on top of you that would end the day! This is now really quite an unnerving place.

With that all in mind we quickly moved the last few rocks and slipped down into the security of the solid walled and roofed passage. A little wriggle over some rocks and we could stand up and see what was facing us; a stopping height vadose passage winding off into the distance, and with a great echo! That’s enough to get excitement pumping through the system. So off we went, bend after bend, it just kept going! It’s quite a small passage, with the majority with a slight Figure 8 cross-section so it’s a little awkward in places, but nowhere tight. And it felt like it was staying heading roughly east, so extremely exciting as the next known cave passage (Peak) is 800m away!

After 8 or 9 minutes (so maybe 100-150m!?!) it starts getting lower, and muddier, and wetter. Three not great qualities. Also the big rumbling echo was mostly coming from behind us. Soon I was laying flatout, helmet off, half under muddy slop, fighting to slide further along the passage. Then the inevitable end presented itself, a totally filled boulder choke! Looking up through the rocks as best I could did not reveal any enticing black spaces above, and the very unpleasant conditions means this is unlikely to be dug. Which is a shame because it’s the only lead currently heading East. Also the fact it’s vadose if very perplexing, as everything so far has been firmly phreatic…

Back in the Nights Templar we had another look at the void below the floor. Getting into this safely is going to be very hard, but it does look good and seemed quite drafty. One to think about…… As we started our way out we could still hear small rocks dropping away, so maybe by next trip it will have sorted itself out (although possibly blocked any way on in the process!). Last person was on the surface by bang on midnight, so the shortest trip yet, which is good considering we probably found the most meterage of any trip yet. 

Next will be to survey the new passage and to formulate a route down into the scary void, hopefully nest week….


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