Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mossdale Sessions 4 - 9

Mossdale Session 4 


(Simon Beck, Alex Ritchie)

'Independence is far less hassle'

Another scorcher of a day. Fortunately there was a ferocious breeze throughout the approach to counter the effects of overheating. I forgot during the final leg to get call-out, so had to leg it up the hill to get a signal. A rarely visited view and a cracking photo of the scar were given in exchange for my forgetfulness.

I'd toed and froed with the idea of heading to the dig at the end of Far Marathon but felt it was a tall order after an already hectic day. There was also the issue of not really having enough time once there to justify the 3 hours of travelling time, there and back.

This visit marked the first of the Ouroborous project preparations. Although at the time I hadn't decided for sure where my efforts were going to be concentrated. Nevertheless a small bag of clips plus a few other bits were deposited with the cache of telephone wire in Boulder Hall.

Rough Chamber and Great Aven were then visited via Syphon Passage and Straightway. This was Alex's first visit to the Aven, I recall him been rather impressed. He seemed taken with the idea of attempting to climb the thing at a later date. The usual light deluge in the Aven was non existent meaning visibility was clear all the way to the ceiling. I believe this is the first time I'd ever seen the top of the Aven so clearly - it's far taller than I'd first thought for sure.

Had a brief look at the complex under Rough Chamber. Most ways on are badly cobbled up but some loops were completed amongst the boulders.

Another priority on the list of things to do was to take one last look at Piston Chamber. Before committing to the idea of pushing the site. My companion having been with me during my last visit there didn't seem too bothered with the idea, so I decided to leave it till next time.

With that it was decided to head for Mud Tunnel and investigate a few things on the way back. The Drain was one such target and although I failed to find it initially, having headed too far upstream in Confusion Passage I did eventually spot what looked like a long duck heading in it's general direction. This was left for another day. Further short sections of telephone line were collected on the return to Boulder Hall.

While Alex lead on upstream I began collecting up two of the three remaining long sections of insitu telephone wire. The first ran from Boulder Hall through the Swim to the 1st D&G. This was coiled up and stashed in an alcove for collection later. The 2nd of these ran from just upstream of the 1st D&G all the way to Razor Rocks. Alex completed one of the water logged cross rift type loops situated at the downstream end of the 2nd canal - from memory a gloomy affair.

Cold Pool was then visited and given a brief investigation before we headed for Mud Tunnel.

We both took turns to visit the final little chamber in Mud Tunnel. I wasn't particularly inspired that 2nd time round and felt a lot of prep work and especially digging to remove mud and make space would be necessary to give it a good go. It would suit somebody for sure but it's not my cup of tea for the time being. It's an impressive piece of passage along most of it's length and no doubt has a piece of the jigsaw puzzle to offer. Possibly even an alternative entrance.

An exit from Mud Tunnel was made via Phoenix Crawl, a little gem of a passage. The Broad Street loop was then completed in order to wash off the copious amounts of mud before the exit was made. I sensed Alex didn't think we'd got a lot done, but for an evening visit I felt we'd done alright.

Several weeks were then endured due to poor weather before the Swims were passable and I could get back down to Ouroborous.
Due to another uncontrollable factor that came from this visit I decided I'd rather undertake these projects alone than compromise my own agenda and schedule to cater for others.

Mossdale Session 5 


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Every Mossdale trip is now a working one'

A very hot day. The most debilitating of the year I can so far recall.

A mid-afternoon rendezvous, meaning the approach was horrendous. Felt thoroughly toasted by the time we'd got there.

This was Adele's first visit through the canals and ducks. While en-route to Ouroborous we collected up one of the final long sections of telephone line - stretching from mid-way down Blackpool Sands to the upstream end of Razor Rocks. Adele had kindly purchased some decent wire cutters for the job, thanks Adele!

Confusion Cavern was visited for Adele's benefit in passing.

The entry squeeze and awkward bits that form the beginning of Ouroborous were all passed stubbornly but with little fuss from Adele.
A noticeable draught appeared and disappeared over the terrain to come.

Inspection of the choke was undertaken alone, while Adele waited just up passage.

A brief inspection took place of all nooks and crannies within the choke, this included the higher level section and the tube running North East for 20/30' to a solid wall of fill (rock/clay?).
The place to push here was obvious, but at the time no definite conclusions were drawn. The need for scaffold was undoubted. Which was the reason I was so desperate for one last look before I began humping the stuff up there.

During the exit of Ouroborous we investigated a sand/mud filled oxbow. This we decided would make a fun little side project from the choke. I later dubbed the proposition 'Bit on the side'. I'd be extremely surprised if it had never been dug before, but have yet to read of this thus far.

I have long felt that there is more to the area around Easy Passage/Serpent than meets the eye. This has a lot to do with the noticeable change in atmosphere and a sense of something looming. The silence of this region may well be all it is.

Rough Chamber and Great Aven were then visited. Not a bad start for Adele on only her second visit.

More bits of wire were collected during the exit. The majority of the mainline route between the entrance and Rough Chamber is now completely clear. I never believed I would see the day!

Mossdale Session 6  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'And so it begins!'

Two visits to Howgill Nick with (Rich G) were had during the interim. The 2nd of these, the evening prior to this trip, I deposited a length of scaffold part way along the track to Mossdale.

Another very hot day and another tough evening approach. Brought two more poles and picked up the one left from the previous evening.
The entrance series was a noisy clangy affair with three unprotected steel tubes. I hadn't yet taken delivery of a vast amount of foam scaffold protection from a friend at that point.

Two lengths were left at the temporary stash in Blackpool Sand and one was brought with us. Tools were picked up at Boulder Hall. These were dropped at the Serpent before we made our return. We exited to an anvil shaped cloud and rain for five minutes. Forecast of course and the reason for the brief trip.

Mossdale Session 7  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Mossdale is no longer a dream, a novelty, but instead a reality'

Another impromptu evening visit. The way I like it!  I've never liked making plans days or weeks in advance and where visits to Mossdale are concerned, an impulsive rule of engagement tends to work best.

Took a few more scaffold tubes. Thanks to all those who've donated the poles and clips or sold me stuff cheap. All the poles would now be protected for the underground leg. It also made them a little more comfortable to carry overland as well. The underground segment was now far more peaceful an affair.

The poles were left with the rest at Blackpool Sands.

A visit to the Old Entrance via Assembly Hall was made to show Adele where the old way in used to be.

The atmosphere down there that evening was definitely one which issued caution! A major rain storm began as we made our way back to the cars, drenching us!

Mossdale Session 8  


(Simon Beck)

'I rushed back early the moment I was allowed. Alone and mixing one world with another. I turned around in Rough Crawl wondering why I even needed to be there. Trouble would have visited had I pushed on that day'  
(Quote from an article that never saw the light of day. Relates to an intoxicated solo) 

A very last minute trip. I'd written the weekend off based largely on a mid-week forecast. After finally coming to (waking up) on this Saturday morning and staring baffled at clear blue skies through the window. It took me a few long minutes to realise what it mean't and believe what I was witnessing. I indulged in spectacular last minute style and had arrived at the scar a few hours later.

Even though there were a tonne of cars at Yarnbury, I didn't see a single soul all the way there or the way back.

Grabbed a scaffold pole in passing from the stash at Blackpool Sands and dropped at the Serpent.

I had intended on drawing up a rough measured survey of the area around and including Piston Chamber. No sooner had I begun, I realised there were more important things to be doing and the survey could wait. I spent the time instead inspecting the lower part of the choke and coming up with a plan of attack. I also made a decision to ring Dave Brook.

Mossdale Session 9  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'There exists a hint of bewilderment at why this burst of inspiration did not occur far sooner'

Another scorching day!

The plan for the day was to get as much stuff to the operational end of the project as possible. This failed to materialize in it's entirety. It was incredibly ambitious on my part for thinking we could.

We were both tired after a debilitating approach with packs that felt twice their usual weight.

The scene at the scar was one filled with all the most endearing qualities of summer. A very inviting place it can appear on such days.

The temperature in the cave fluctuated greatly today. At times like a sauna and others like a freezer.

I over enthusiastically lashed all the scaff poles together at Blackpool Sands in an attempt to stick to the schedule. Fortunately the foam protection allows one to be a little heavier handed. I didn't get far with the whole load though and submitted to carrying them individually. I lost a 3' length in the Swims when it slipped through it's leash. It turned up right behind where I'd noticed it's absence, but only after I'd returned some way back before bumping in to it on my return.

I sent Adele on ahead with a Daren Drum of tools and a short scaff pole. Call it training! While I dealt with my over ambitious load. I was sure of her continued assistance by this point and had begun testing Adele's ability to fend for herself down there, in case something should befall me.
She was never too far ahead but admitted she'd seen a side of Mossdale she had yet experienced.

Broadway was likened to the tropics. Visibility was almost zero due to the intense steam. The waters appeared to crash quite violently, which felt odd on such a day. The significant lowering of the main cobble dam we undertook during Session 2 has had a marked effect on the output of the canals, especially during low water.

The intense humidity of Broadway is quickly lost on entry to Righthand Passage and replaced with a buffer of cold air. I've long noted a marked change in the atmosphere in this section but today the difference was remarkable!

One could say I'm getting complacent where this supposed killer is concerned. Maybe I am, but within the time parameters I've been maintaining when the forecast is fickle - it would take a freak to catch me out.

On arrival at the Serpent I could see my original resolve (plan) was crumbling. I was pushing a little to hard and getting greedy. I had vowed at the beginning I would take my time and accepted that results could be some time in coming to pass.

Transporting the scaffold tubes through the opener to Ouroborous was bloody slow gruelling work. Care must be exercised through the section of breakdown. Thank god for the foam cushioning.

I was still undecided at this point relating to where I was going to use as a depot/workshop. There was little room to swing a cat in the choke. I could have managed of course but it was preferable to have somewhere spacious to store/maintain equipment and prepare and cut the tubes. Originally I'd intended on using the reasonable sized opening between two bends about 200' down Ouroborous. This was where we deposited our load for the day. But I couldn't help feeling it's distance from the choke was more of a compromise on space than I could accept.

During the exit we had a very successful clear up of YET MORE! odds and ends of telephone wire.

After the ice box of Ouroborous, Easy Passage and Righthand; Broadway was an oven! Adele admitted afterwards that she was a little freaked out by it all. She began to think the conditions were the result of some major meteorological event going on above. I assured her at the time it was all okay and purely down to warm water and cold air colliding. I will admit the scene was a spooky and bizarre spectacle.  I suggested a little further on that Adele make her way out alone, while I dealt with some earlier spied wire. She made it to the surface with little fuss which I think boasted her confidence massively!

I have to laugh at the comment in my diary after this trip that states; 'The trip after the next will definitely be a scaffolding one'. Little knowing at the time it would take another ten visits before I was ready to begin.

Note: the cache at Razor Rocks had been washed away by the previous flood. Fortunately it was all found just downstream of the oxbow bypass. The Boulder Hall cache is definitely flood proof so no hurry but the pile upstream (Razor Rocks) needs completely removing asap!

(Next Installment) Mossdale Sessions 10-18 -

© Simon Beck, 2017. The copyright for this article and photographs remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.

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