The Eldon PC has for years been active in Gautries Hole, but especially over the last few years.
This activity has been concentrated on the discoveries of 2008 in which members of the EPC walked and crawled into +300m of new cave, after Pool Chamber had flushed itself empty during a storm.
Since then the club has extended the cave further and discovered many unexpected features, revealing the true complexity of this cave system.
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...
Things have been busy at the Dambusters Dig in Gautries the last few weeks, following a pause whilst Ben and I were away with work and holidays. There’s now a scaffolding structure pinned to the walls that’s been boarded out to prevent the mud from Pool Chamber slumping into the dig. The previous trip had involved bringing those boards into the dig. Quite an exercise getting ten 6-foot-long boards through the south-west passage and muddy duck!
The trip yesterday involved first collecting some final bits of scaffolding from Mark Noble (many thanks, Mark). Then once these were secured in place, a trench was dug in the floor to drain some of sloppy mud and lower the water level in the sump. Just before leaving, Ben capped a large boulder that had been buried in the slop. It turned out to be bigger than we thought, but it’s mostly gone now and we should get it out completely in the next trip.
Also in the next trip, we’re planning to put the plug in place when we leave, to divert the stream along the south west passage and though our dig. It’ll be interesting to see how much of the floor it washes away. Maybe then we can finally drain the sump completely and find that undiscovered passage leading off somewhere new…
Had a productive evening in Gautries last Thursday. Ben Stevens and I met at the Perryfoot car park at 6pm-ish. The snow had mostly gone by then, but it was still fairly baltic. Ben hadn't been there since some cave rescue a while back when some muppets got flooded in...
Anyway, we first had a tour of the chocolate ice cream dig, past stalactite grotto. The hose was blocked with silt or something in a couple of places, so we spent a while tried to dislodge these. The blockages shifted further down the hose a little but it still wasn't flowing. Something to sort out next time... It looked like the hose had worked for a while at the end of the dig, where there was a small enticing opening at floor level. Interesting stuff, but it's a three-person dig there so we continued on to have a look at the rest.
Past the nice pretty bit that's like a miniature P8, we stopped to have a look at the lower sump between angle chamber and pool chamber. The water level there has definitely dropped since we started digging dambusters, it's only knee-high deep now. Going back up from this sump and over the top, the duck was pretty dry, we didn't even get our heads wet (bonus!). Beyond pool chamber, we had a quick down look at plug sump (beyond the lower entry to Nun's chuff), which was open and the floor seemed lower than I remember.
We then spent an hour or two at dambusters working together to dig out the floor and lower the water level. Ben built a decent wall out of the larger stone blocks. The floor is now partially exposed within the sump area on the right hand side. It seems like the way on is probably straight ahead with the floor dipping down gently. It's fairly easy progress and we're both keen to go back next week if the weather is dryish. The plan is to try and syphon the sump and/or continue digging to drain it. We'll see.
Out for 9pm and a nice warp-speed drive home :-)
Dambusters Dig - Photos by Simon Gant
Simon and Rob
At the end of last trip we pointed the hose at the bouldery clay wall, and on returning yesterday the partially submerged boulders were now clearly sticking out and the whole area washed clean. A good method of progressing whilst away.
One person dug the three big boulders out further, whilst the other jumped up and down on the spoil in the "washing pool" for the water to take it away, which seemed to work very well. We then capped the rocks very successfully, put a futher pinned scaffold pole in place, Simon carried out two tubs full of rock, and we called it a day.
Good amount of progress for a short evening trip, and hopefully the water will do lots more before the next trip. Not currently sure what the roof is doing, but it seems like we're in quite a big bit of passage (for Gautries) so the prospects are good...
DaveH and RobE
Quick evening trip before the pub meet. After a bit of chin wagging we came up with a plan. We decided to avoid the big boulder which is stopping us from following the water, as this would lead to complications with the current scaffolding. Therefore we've started tunneling through the bouldery clay to the right, with the aim of following under the roof until we reach the water again.
Unfortunately the clay is really tough to dig, the boulders are bigger than expected, and the roof seems to have disappeared. Slow progress, but at least we've now got direction.
Simon & Rob
Went through and inspected the Pool Chamber Sump area, to see what the recent floods had done. Answer was not too much. Obvious way to progress is now to board out in the base of Pool Chamber and to start proper digging the trench. Not sure if it's worth it at the moment...
THen went and had a good dig in the Chocolate Icecream dig, and boy that does look good! The high water levels meant the flow through the hose was enough to take most material away, just mostly removing the large rocks to the side. Some big boulders now may start to slow progress, and some more shoring is due.
Tim, Simon and Rob. Another prospecting trip to the Pool Chamber Upstream Sump dig (now nicknamed Dambusters).
Firstly the 6.2mm of rain we had one evening last week seems to have not caused a flood, so the dig was unfortunately as we left it. Tim and Simon eagerly set to work digging the rocks out of the floor whilst I, this time armed with loads of caps, had a date with a large rock sat in the middle of the future trench. This rock was about the size of a table, and after 20 caps is approximately the size of a table still! Thankfully the boys had been busy and the sump has probably dropped another 6 inches, so hopefully the next flood will make a dramatic impact now….
Out of caps we then put in a traverse handline on a slippery climb up into the 2009 stuff and then headed back to the entrance. Here, to assist with diverting the flow down into Pool Chamber, we installed a new flap which blocks the pipe, flooding the entrance. This time it is attached to a 30m rope which is lined back to the entrance, so upon arriving we should be able to pull off the flap and get in. We were hoping to install a few attachment points along the length, to reduce friction, however out of drill power we had to settle with one pulley attached to a natural thread directly above the pipe. We tried it out, but with little patience we only waited for the water to back up for 5 minutes, so we’ll have to wait and see to see if we can pull the flap off when there is a full ~3m of head on it.
Just me n Simon again, so with not enough to dig the Chocolate Ice Cream Dig we were forced to make another plan. We decided on having a go at dropping the Pool Chamber Upstream Sump, hoping it would shed some light on where the large passage has formed from.
During last week's trip we shifted a large boulder out of the passage just downstream of the Sump, in the hope that the next flood would shift the sediment behind and below it. The morning after our trip was a big downpoor, and we were surprised that it had actually made quite a difference, dopping the floor upstream of where the boulder was by about 30cm.
So we set about moving all the big boulders that we could up to a distance of about 15m down from the sump. This gives a potential height drop of over a metre, which would be enough to get into the sump and dig out where necessary. This drop could also be increased to over two metres if we go another 10m down from the sump.
2m would also be sufficient to almost completely dry out Angle Chamber Sump, and our theory is that once dry we'll find an upstream passage on the SW side of the sump heading towards (and beyond) Sheepwash Swallet.
Now we just need some big floods to do most of the work.
Just myself and Simon, refamiliarising ourselves with the cave after 6 weeks of no action.
Firstly the dig pipe was installed back into place (after being washed out during recent floods) and some new drag trays taken to the dig. Not much changed, just needs more digging done.
We then went for a detailed inspection of the rest of the cave to see if anything had changed due to the floods. It was instantly apparent that a significant portion of the cave had flooded since anyone had been in there, as we were laying fresh footprints almost everywhere we went. In some sections there has been significant sediment erosion, indicating both that the drainage has changed significantly relatively recently, and also that the Worst Dive Base Sump at the end will still be taking a lot of material, so I doubt this will reopen anytime soon.
It's hard to believe that the water required to flood this cave is from the entrance of Gautries alone, so I'm sure there's more going on that we don't yet know.
One theory is that water enters at the southwestern end of the cave, as it gets much bigger from here on. The Upstream Pool Chamber Sump, which presumably takes water from Angle Chamber Sump, may provide this entry point for other feeders. On inspection it had indeed opened further and was now big enough to get it. It's low but quite wide, with only a very slight slope. Going feet first i got about two bodylengths in to a blockage. It would be worth dropping this water level (by trenching) as it should be easy to progress. It may just go to Angle Chamber Sump, but who knows!?!
Just a quick evening trip planned, although it turned out to be a bit longer, missing the pub by 4 and a half hours!
Took more scaffold in to the dig and shored up the lefthand wall. Then the three of us set to digging straight ahead, hauling all the way back to the stream. Made good progress, about 1.5m, mostly through sand and hard clay with very few boulders.
Before leaving we dug a hole in the floor about 1m deep to see if we could get water to drain away, but we didn't get out of the sand so no good. This was suprising so it is now a litte unclear which way to head...
Left the dig at about 10:20pm to find the cave entrance sumped. We were eventually dived out to make the surface at ~03:30am. Turns out it had rained 12mm whilst we had been underground.
Just myself and Dan this morning. After the 15mm of rain the day before we were lucky to get in; only ~6 inches of air space.
We carried in 6 scaf bars and got the hose running to the end. After ~1 hour of digging we got the back wall boarded out. Most of the spoil went away with the flow in the floor, but the bigger rocks and clay were brought out and stacked in a corner out of the way.
By the end the hole in the floor easily took away most of the spoil and the slightly dipping roof ahead provides a clear way on.
We left the hose running, so hopefully it wont have all collapsed by the next return.
Dan, Tim and Rob went on a morning trip for a change, due to the holidays.
With Tim hauling like a machine, the team managed to shift +50 buckets worth of mud and rocks from the end in less than 2 hours. Half of this was removing what Rob and Simon had dug last week, and then progress was made mostly downwards. This was in an attempt to make a drain hole which would allow for the water to be piped to the end again.
This plan was very successful, with now a space big enough to stand up in above a clean washed hole heading down into boulders. The stream can be heard clearly in the hole and the air is very fresh.
We then spent a while shoring up the back wall with boards and scaffold, a job which will need completing before too much more digging is done. One shored up properly we should be able to leave the water pipe running all the time, which should hopefully speed up progress.
No Dave so just Simon and Rob made it in this trip.
With only two people the hauling is a bit trickier, as the front person needs to fill the buckets and bring them back to past the dogleg, for the second person to then haul out. Water levels were high so we could dump the buckets straight into the stream to see them away (hopefully forever!). Again we dug the lefthand passage, which has all manner of fill to keep you interested (including thick grey clay, wet mud, glass and bones, and now dry sand).
The walls are looking nice and solid and we even have a solid roof to follow, plus a slight draught.
October was mostly spent failing to remove some big boulders at the end of the dig.
Then November was mostly spent either sumped out or involved with other jobs.
So come December we decided to get back on with it. After the heavy floods the hose had managed to flush some of the end away, but unfortunately the pipe had come off the dam at some point so not much change since the Octobber visit.
This was an evening trip with Simon, Dave and Rob. We spent this trip removing the ~20 bits of boulders. Where the boulders had dropped from did not look very hopefuly, so we set to digging the lefthand side to see where the walls and floor go.
Shame the Wanted is still closed, so back to the Red'n for a pleasant pint.
Rush before the rains...
Pre pub meet trip with Dave and Simon.
It's been very dry now for a good few weeks and the entrance stream is very low. However the heavy rainfall anticipated for Friday morning made us think it was a good time to get Gautries a bit organised.
Firstly I went to the dig and replaced a bodge bit of wood with a pinned scaffold brace, making it ready for a flood.
Then we cleaned out the water collection point and concreted in a short section of 180mm OD plastic pipe. This will provide a much better seal for the collection hose, and also make a more efficient way of diverting the water down into the lower cave, should it be required for other ongoing projects. This concreting needed to be done in low water, and was only made possible by Simon's temporary sandbagged dam just upstream.
Evening trip with SimonG and TimW (SUSS).
First went for a checkup of the rest of the cave, all the way to Poundland. Everything very dry. Plug Sump was open with very limited clearing. The next Sump was dried up to the lowest level I've ever seen, exposing the easterly tube that connects through into the further sump window. However it is still full of silt so no hope for divers yet.
Quite a lot of further moving of sediment and rocks just downstream of Pool Chamber, this cave is changing so quickly at the moment! Still blocked upstream in Pool Chamber Sump, will need concerted trenching work to drop that water level.
After the jaunt we headed to the dig to find the water hose had eroded around part of the right hand wall which was now sitting in the middle of the dig. 10 minutes of hammering and it was removed. Then two other large bits of wall and roof were dropped, but we could only break one of these by hand, the other will need more persuading...
Evening trip with Simon, Dave and TimW (SUSS).
Firstly Simon and Dave got digging, whilst me n Tim surveyed from the small shakehole up near the edge of the field, down to the entrance. This shakehole is thought to be directly above the boulderchoke we are currently digging, so we'll see what the survey says once tied in.
With four people we were able to kibble spoil all the way out of the dig, and so could also turn the water off, allowing the digging to speed up. Unfortunately after ~1:30 hours the air at the end started to deteriorate quite badly so we had to retreat. Before leaving me n Simon completed a survey of the dig, which now also needs tieing into the main model, and then set the water going again...
Finally me n Dave had our last after-caving pint in the Wanted Inn. What a shame it's closing, not sure we're gunna get on as well at the Devonshire Arms in Peak Forest.......
Evening trip with just me and Dave.
The last 3m of the dig has been with a good righthand wall and roof, skirting around the muddy bouldery choke on the left, but it was always feared that the wall on the left would slump in in high water conditions. Therefore last night we carried in planks and scaff, courtesy of Hucklow Digging Stores, to shore up the lefthand wall. We first dug out an extra foot for the full length and the boards went in nicely, using natural keyholes for the scaf. Needs a cross brace next trip, but otherwise its fine.
Dave then extended the hose so that the water reaches the dig face and we spent some time inspecting the "solutional pocket" in front, rather than following the main passage to the left. This pocket was never dug by the previous diggers, presumably because it doesn't look very promising. However a roof tube suggested there may be more to it, and after 20 mins digging the lefthand wall straightened up and it looks like a passage may be lurking behind!
Lots of digging to do now......
Progress has been steady at the Chocolate Ice Cream dig in Gautries. The team are progressing around to the right of the choke, following a righthand wall and even a roof!
The plumbing is now being worked on to supply water all the way to the dig face, allowing for instant, easy removal of spoil into holes in the boulder floor, hopefully never to be seen again!
After a productive trip yesterday with Dan and Simon, the entrance streamway dig in Gautries has now been aptly named the "Chocolate Ice Cream Dig"...!
After a winter of distractions, Gautries is being attacked again by various members of the Eldon, lead by Dan.
The target this time is the boulder choke near the entrance, where the water disappears. This was dug in the 90's a certain distance and boarded out with timbers and scaf. This was in a bad way and really too small, so it has all been ripped out and replaced.
At the end is easy digging through rock and mud, and the rumble of the streamway below (or ahead?) is very encouraging...
The 2009 extensions were found after a large flood.
The 2011 passage beyond Plug Sump was found after a big flood.
What will open up after the next big flood...?