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Our ongoing plan to encourage French Jeff into the Eldon instead of some lesser temptation continued with yet another trip down Nettle, this time into Hell. In the unlikely event that he doesn’t enjoy the cave maybe at least he’ll be impressed by our honest determination for quick projects.

With the entrance and Crumble & Beza already rigged, getting to the entrance of Hell took no time and our fingers and toes were just about thawed after snowy changing conditions. Hell is well named with the start being tight, awkward and seemingly designed to not be pleasant, especially with large bags. However on today’s light weight push I was loving the place, finding the sneaky places to turn you head or bend your knee the right way, and the mix of phreatic and vadose keeping the brain hunting for continuation clues. Once on the first pitch (Bingo Pot) rope the progress is much easier, shortly reaching the second pitch (Eyes Down) after a short rifty squeeze.

Today’s project started here. The plan was to return to a bit of cave I discovered back in 2006 to finally get it surveyed, 13 years on. 2/3rds of the way down Eyes Down I climbed off the in-situ electron ladder and through a very tight squeeze into a roomy, tall chamber. I didn’t remember the squeeze being that tight. This chamber is on the original 1987 survey, however it seems the original explorers had failed to climb a few metres up a loose climb to gain access to a slowly ascending passage coming in from the south. It is a lovely phreatic rift passage, pleasantly passed but never easy. After 12m a tight rift off to the left is reached through which I could hear Luke and Jeff who were waiting at the top of Eyes Down. Luke came back through the rifty squeeze and used his military-trained noggin to devise a system to pass the survey gear through to me.

The 2006 Passage
The 2006 Passage

Luke moving equipment like a pro

I suggested Jeff came for a look whilst I continued on to the end, a loose, shattered choke. As appetising as I remembered, however a more informed me now reaslised that this was probably quite close to a dig in Red River which we spotted last week, so I didn’t bother have a poke. Instead I took one final look around and started surveying out.

I heard Jeff banging about behind me. Turns out he didn’t like the squeeze so used his French-trained noggin to dig a pointy rock out of the floor to make it easily passed. I agreed that the rock was annoying but opted for the bruised hip rather than 2 minutes digging. We checked out a few other leads in the roomy chamber and agreed it would be worth bolt climbing into the roof, especially as the phreatics seemed to be heading up that way. We surveyed back to the electron ladder which turns out it was not as good as hoped with every other rung now popping off on us! Luckily Jeff’s now nearly in Team Awesome so we both just hand-over-handed up the SRT rope next to it like legends.

Beyond the Squeeze

Emergency pub alarm went off and we made tracks. Turns out Luke does have off days and we had to drag him up and out of there to get to the Wanted Inn in time. Jeff then had his tail between his legs when he had to admit to the Bull Pit digging team who there in there that he’d found other entertainment for the night.

Survey data now entered and indeed the shattered choke is very close to Red River so not currently worthwhile pushing. Additionally, an appetising choke at the head of Eyes Down is very close to the rubble floor of Fourways Chamber, only 3m above. It’s surprising therefore that this connection was never forged as it could have given significantly easier access to the dig at the bottom. All proving it’s a bit of a warren down there and I reckon it still needs more looking at….