Report by Jon Pemberton
Cavers: Jon Pemberton, Dave Brown, James Rhodes et al
Having spoken to Mark Noble and John Beck who've dug in their loads in the past I'm still not 100% sure we were in the right place. Pretty damn confusing!
But here it goes!
Waterfall entrance inc. Wardwins crawl is rank! Clive Hockenhull still says it to this day that it was bloody horrible to push through when they found the water backing into the bedding, removed flood debris and first entered the system in 1959. If we moan about the entrance we get called a bunch of puffs from the original diggers who used to do it in boiler suits all the time only to soak up all the water and still get a mega digging session out of it. Unless you want to try bail the water out with your helmet? Whilst it's on your head? Then its helmet off tackle! So you're pushing your helmet through plus a ladder and trenching tool and trying to stay dry at the same time in the mankiest water ever! When disturbed stenches something rotten! We've always said that it's last known remaining capture point of the plague!
If you weren't psyched up for it, it was definitely grim!
Id been to the top of Hockenhull's rift once before at the end of last year eager for a look down only to have been bitched on by Jams & Dervish who shouted that they weren't coming from the other side of Wardwin's crawl.
James Rhodes and I had a trip down one Friday towards the end of March. It was bloody pissing it down. We questioned our stupidity as the bus went past only wearing (a) Rab jacket on the top road out to Foolow. We found our way into Chandra's series which we thought was pretty damn interesting, "Mud chamber" quite large, loads a holes heading off through the boulder floor and obviously sumped to the roof in the lower part. In the corner a clean wash climb led down through a loose boulder slope to another climb to a sizable space between what can surely be more giant boulders. a tight rift lead off to the left and straight on gaps through boulders could be followed to a tight vertical drop from below water could be heard clearly topped with an old rusty anchor. I shouted up to James to come down for a look but he wasn't having any of it safely up in the Mud chamber. I tried down climbing the drop feeling for foot holds but with no vision of below I quickly decided against it and backed out.
Dave Brown and I were down again the following week. Fixed on his memory of co-operation aven and the squeeze through anything approach we had a quick look everywhere, Westy's bit, Chandra's series, Jim's bit and Co-operation aven where Dave got well and truly lost having pushed into a very high place in the choke with four holes in the floor not remembering which way he'd climbed up! Fun times. Whilst in Chandra's series I took him to the clear wash climb and mentioned the drop that needs laddering, we agreed to return shortly.
On Saturday 4th April we laddered the pitch which dropped at an angle of about 60 degrees on sharp rock which finally dropped to a total depth of 8m. This landed you in a horrible rift, each side closed up but not completely. Left dipped down a mud slope to a static pool of water, very hard to get out of. Right the rift closed to a couple of inches wide but through the rift water could be heard flowing immensely!! Still not tested to where its location is in the known cave but almost certain a known part of the system i.e. not below the deepest part at the bottom of EPS aven where the stream from the waterfall sinks into boulders and mud.
The floor of the rift was lined with the thickest stickiest mud piled up at one side at the bottom of the ladder obviously from previous digging attempts. At the line of the mud floor a bedding line stretched across the rift which was closed at all but one point. You could just about make out a stretch of passage through the crawl which emitted an encouraging draught. We made a quick attempt to dig out the mud floor to get a better look to the point where you could lean on your head in a hole in the floor looking upside and up into this short stretch of water worn passage. Freezing from the draught we departed knowing we'd catch James plus guest on the way out, who were meant to come and join us on a sort of, spur of the moment type of thing. All that was said was once in the cave make loud noises! We were going to scare James mate with the likes of "mud men" but were soon encountered by voices thus stopped us in our tracks. Gutted! Could've imagined it now covered in mud shrieking!!! James dropping everything and doing one screaming and running for his life while his mate stood there stumped!
Back again for an evening dig accompanied with Dave's recently purchased trenching tool, mine still in Dynamite series somewhere. We laddered down into Boggies bit and quickly started digging away at the floor stacking under the ladder. We were quickly body length in the passage which was tight and heading uphill. It required digging out in front of you pushing spoil to your side, kicking it down behind you whilst the other chucks it up the bank under the ladder at a synchronised pace so that the digger didn't en-tomb themselves.
We pushed as soon as it was big enough to grasp hold of something. this involved the person in the inclined passage gaining leverage from the accompanied diggers back whilst sat down in the pot freezing there arse off! The passage forked, left was soon too tight with a maze of mud coated solids heading left and upwards. Right continued up to an eyehole that seemed to be heading more towards the right beyond and looked larger (heading towards the sound of the water hopefully.) The only thing that stopped us was a head sized boulder in the floor that required digging out. We left it there that night having managed a 3 hour session the climb out of Boggies bit was taxing. Climbing back out of Boggies bit is the most awkward part, it involves one person up at the anchor ready to de-rig and pull up the ladder on the incline whilst the other hangs on the pitch un-snagging until the bottom of the ladder reaches their hands. If not the ladder gets caught and the sharp rocks with ease. Still it's a right bastard climbing the last 3 metres!
Dave, James and I returned on Thursday 23rd April to remove the rock, show James the dig with the most important reason to retrieve Dave's trenching tool meaning we wouldnâ€™t have to go back down again! We were all not in the mood to drop waterfall hole. On discussion we had all thought about backing down but were all hoping somebody else would've done it first. Nearly had a quick â"Oh No, my lights not working", from Dave but it fixed itself which was a twat! At the top of Boggies bit James was mumbling hell to himself wishing he hadn't come down with us, oh well. Dave started digging kicking down loads mud whilst I threw it up to James. James not being in the mood stopped all communication and slowed his actions only for the mud to be thrown at him sticking to his over suit. Dave chucked the boulder down and thrashed his way forward into what was not described as an aven that you could stand up in. At the far right end an impenetrable inlet was found in the roof with no ways on, terminating the dig! Oh joy! I took a quick look whilst James declined for some reason?
We made our way out with the trenching tool overwhelmed with the newly discovered 5+ metres of grot we had discovered. One place to tick off in there. Our plan was to try gain voice connection with the stream passage through the tight rift but nobody wishes to join us down there. From the survey it appears to lie above Jim's bit, but it's a very complex 3D place.
Or a Dervish has described it, "eerie"