Sunday, 5 November 2017

Mossdale Sessions 19-20

Mossdale Session 19  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Watership Dead'

Early start for a Sunday morning, 9am at Yarnbury.

Water levels in Mossdale Beck were up. Obviously put down far more water the previous day/night than I'd first thought. Placed a marker in the beck while we got kitted up and gave it 20/30 minutes before making a decision. Forecast was good with no chance of rain and the beck was surely on it's way down.

The dam busting has certainly given a slightly larger margin where passing the canals under such conditions are concerned. One thing I'm not disputing, especially with the frequency of our visits, is the high probability we are bound to get caught out at some point. I suspect it will be after a night of localised heavy showers and an early start on our part. We do both keep a good eye on the weather but the weather defying the forecast is hardly a rare occurrence up there. We are as ready as we can be and monitor water levels during visits.

I'd brought with us a roll of very durable and well insulated 1/2" foam matting. Long hours working in awkward surroundings whilst damp and against the bare rock were expected. Who's to know how long this siege will last, a little comfort will go a long way.

The canals felt colder for the first time in months. Levels were high but all was passable. The Duck (1st D&G) would have been desperate though had it not been for all the aforementioned work.

Satisfyingly speedy progress to Ouroborous. The bag of stuff stashed the previous trip was collected and carried with us.
I arrived just prior to the Depot feeling like 'Yeah! This is finally it!' But was then confronted with the reality of recent flash flooding. The Depot had been ransacked! A pile of clips had been moved and part buried, the two well anchored Daren Drums had been washed downstream as had some of the scaff poles. Even tools like a pinch bar had been shifted. The power of the water down there must have been rather uncompromising to do this!
While I got Adele sorting through the clips and WD'ing them all, I scratched my head and smoked. I was having a brief week long return to smoking, a shrewd move considering my shambolic progress over the next few visits.
I'd suspected it would take a few trips to really get started with the scaffold side of things but that didn't stop me placing myself under pressure to make rapid progress. I had a vague idea of how I was going to proceed but mostly I was relying on something that generally doesn't let me down, a mixture of spontaneity and a little ingenuity.

When I first visited Piston Chamber and the surrounding locality there appeared a good few possibilities regarding where to begin. But the obvious way forward at the far end of Piston Chamber was to much to ignore though. Attempts have been made here before, a timber prop and frame, that appeared to be holding up a large boulder were all that remained of what I assume was the previous attempt. Forcing a way ahead looked feasible but not without scaffolding to first replace the questionable timber and make pushing ahead a far safer proposition. The plan to begin with was, to build a cage under the propped boulder then chop out all the timber. How I would proceed from there was put on a back burner. I didn't want to rush the crucial initial stages by getting too excited and impatient about the bit to follow.

A lot of time and energy had already been expended just getting the equipment to Mossdale Scar and down to the Depot in Ouroborous. I could of course invite more folk to speed things up, but would rather struggle stubbornly alone than consider that option. There are some who believed this would only be possible with a big team. With the progress made so far, I've more than proved this is not the case. A life long involvement with the construction industry long taught me just about anything is possible with the right mind/skill set.

After a few hours with little progress, juggling scaff poles with little flat solid ground to build from I decided to call it a day. More than anything I was just dis-organised and trying to do everything in the squalid surroundings of Piston Chamber instead of making use of the Depot. I also realised I would need something solid to build off to begin with. There is only room for one pair of hands.

During the return I inspected the previous visits discovery near Cigarette Junction. This entailed digging out mud to aid passage of an inclined squeeze then cutting a few steps in the very steep muddy rift to enter a small aven. I found a chisel half way up buried fully in the mud slope. This aided progress up the final steepening headwall which was lethally slippy. A very refreshing draught was noted. I chimneyed up as high as I dared but failed to enter a slightly higher level. This has obviously been entered before but from the squalid nature of entry, the build up of mud and buried chisel this was probably a very long time ago. This feature is marked on the survey but to a very low standard, it doesn't fully portray the feature. A further investigation will take place as soon as I can spare the time. My feeling that there is more to this area than meets the eye is certainly confirmed with this re-discovery.

The water level marker just upstream of Boulder Hall showed there had been a slight fall in waterlevels.
We then proceeded with one of Adele's favourite pastime, dambusting. A good twenty minutes were spent doing this which hugely increased the flow and lowered yet further the canal upstream of the Duck (1st D&G).

Had a look for our mate the Shrew, still not 100% what it was, but there was no sign.

Mossdale Session 20  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Failure Inspires Growth'

Another Sunday meet but a far later start than the previous. I was already feeling the pressure that comes from trying to motivate oneself late in the day during the approach. This contributed greatly to the outcome of this visit and the overall feeling it was another wasted trip. There is of course no such thing as a wasted visit to Mossdale and I speak purely with regard my progress that day.

Water levels in Mossdale Beck were the highest we'd attempted a visit beyond the Canals/Ducks. Again I placed a marker in the beck just to see whether there was any change while we got ready.
I'd brought along a Base Jack, some short poles and a small spirit level.

It's fortunate we've done so much work lowering the cobble dams. This visit may have been impossible, or at the very least required some dicey submersion, had we not.

Mossdale felt cold and uninviting today. One has to wonder whether your mood can have an impact on how the place feels. This has certainly been the case on many potholing experiences I've had in the past. But on this day I put it purely down to the rapidly changing season. The canals were far cooler but still just above the point to make you cringe.
I commented to Adele how unfriendly Mossdale felt - she didn't disagree!

I forgot to set my usual water level marker just prior to Boulder Hall. So placed one in Confusion Passage. Setting these markers so far has been very helpful in indicating whether there has been any rise or fall in water levels, while underground. It has also confirmed my predictions about what the flow is doing up to press. Although there is still plenty of room to make a mistake or get caught out with this.

Good progress was again made down the length of Ouroborous. The routine has become a well versed script.

Once at the Depot I grabbed an assortment of stuff and headed down to the choke. Adele stayed in the Depot and completed a few Depot chores I'd asked of her. Keeping the assortment of clips well maintained was one of them. It's been a tough enough job getting all this gear here to then let it all go to waste through corrosion.

Very slow frustrating progress was made in the choke with little room to work. An awkward contorted position must be adopted which has taken it's toll on my back.

I had decided during the interim to create something solid as a starting point to then build the scaffold from. A Base Jack placed at the edge of the flat roofed boulder was a great solution, but on that day the practical side was far from it. The late hour and my impatience were the main issue. What progress I made that day was completely scrapped on the next visit. The next visit was when I really turned things around.

Packed up and left feeling a little disappointed. Knowing it would be at least a week before I could return was agony.

Adele lead all the way out and only really hesitated in a few places.

Not the best of sessions! Definitely got going far too late! Maybe these days are necessary in making sure I get on the right track. Failure inspires growth!

I really do wonder where we're going to find ourselves in the months to come with this one. I won't even speculate cos I've no idea. One thing I sense is the need for a break. But not till I've finished the scaffold cage and chopped out all the timber.

(Next Installment) Sessions 21-22 -

© 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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