Monday, 23 April 2018

Mossdale Sessions 32 - 34

Mossdale Session 32  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'The pulse of any given project, is crucial to it's survival'

Almost two weeks since the previous visit. Was beginning to feel impatient. I again reminded myself how fortunate I've been to keep things ticking over this winter. Lowering the main dam a little, was again, a damned shrewd move!

The overland approach was unpleasant and incredibly boggy. A good % of snow was still clinging to existence. Some of the banks and drifts were huge.

This was just a supply run. There was no intention to pass the Swims. Which I doubted would be passable anyway. I decided it was best to make use of the poor weather with a resupply of scaffold bits. There's a lot to be done at the choke once the weather improves. I've a feeling I'd cut corners at this point, to get work done, rather than carry over the necessary items. A few scaffold poles and clips were among our inventory that day.

Levels in Mossdale Beck were as expected and the area around the Scar was still heavily capped with Snow.

Getting changed was a rushed affair under very unpleasant conditions.

Our cargo was cached in the vicinity of Assembly Hall and an hour was spent looking at stuff in the Near Series.

The only other significant mention was our route back to Yarnbury that evening. I couldn't be bothered dealing with the deep snow banks to regain the top track, so invented a route back to Yarnbury via Bycliffe/Gill House/Fossil Pot. It was pitch black, foggy and we got lucky there was minimal snow down there. Considering I'd never walked from Mossdale direct to Gill House before, navigation was impeccable. All was silent at Gill House and Adele remarked how spooky the creaking trees and scene before us was. Very heavy rain began just as we regained Yarnbury and continued through the night. Dowbergill Passage would be the scene of a huge rescue the following day and night.


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

Visited Mossdale again but decided not to bother kitting up. Water levels were way higher than they were Friday, but that wasn't the reason. We just couldn't be arsed that day. Decided to retrace our steps from Friday night and make use of the daylight. Found an old dig I'd had with Rich Gibson 3 years back. Have planned a return to this when we get chance.

Mossdale Session 33  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'The 40% rule'

Another resupply of scaffold bits.

Very boggy overland. Followed the main track via Coppola to stay off the worst of it.

Felt like hardwork today! Bloody cold! But mainly that shitty Ortlieb rucksack of mine. 60 litre capacity is too big without a back system, unless you fill it full of feathers. Need to sort something else fast!

Mossdale Scar was a wonderful sight. The entire base of the scar was one continuous ice shelf.

Supplies were deposited with the rest at Assembly Hall then we headed straight out.


Another resupply. This time a bag of scaffold clips. Felt ill and developed very sore hips on the walk over. Swamp hopping and trying to stay dry under an umbrella were no doubt the culprits. I hate wearing waterproofs which was confirmed when Adele lent me a pink umbrella instead. Decided not to bother with an underground visit. Clips dumped near entrance. Painful walk back.

Mossdale Session 34  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Why save for a rainy day, when it could well be the death of you'

I was beginning to think this day was still some way off. Six weeks since I was previously beyond the Swims and at the Choke. My only regret is not making better use of that time with a few more resupply visits.

Due to the boggy land I'd been toying with the idea of approaching from Consitone instead. This visit would be the last time we met at Yarnbury for a while. Needed a change of scenery, but the boggy overland journey was beginning to get on our tits.

My hips were still tender so brought my only trekking pole. A gift from god was presented to me en-route in the form of a 2nd pole. Thank You! I wasn't sure how to respond to this one so pretended to be an upstanding citizen for a few days afterwards.

Air temperatures were on the rise and the fells were a little busier.

I'd expected lower water levels but was horribly wrong when Mossdale Beck was found to be heavily swollen with flood waters. A good chunk of the western end was taking water that day.

I was confident the Swims would be passable, and with no poor weather on the forecast for the next couple of days the trip would go ahead. We would play it by ear though.

The only alteration to the plan was to abort loading up with scaffold while in transit. In those conditions the drill box was enough of a burden, and the way I saw it, anything we got done today was now a bonus. Weighing ourselves down along those 400' + of flood prone passage in fickle conditions would not have be a wise thing to do anyway. 

Call out was set for the following day. Which mean't we had plenty of time to sit it out and wait for falling water, should conditions have yet to reach their peak.

The spiders appear to have reclaimed the entrance slot hugely this past week. Adele was not best pleased. Can't say I'm a big fan myself, but I comfort myself with the fact I'm higher on the food chain than they are.

Even before we really got going I had to laugh at the overall mood within the cave. A dark, dripping, foreboding place it felt today. Even with the same lighting, there's just something in the air that taints it all.

The 1st canal at the downstream end of Blackpool Sands was intimidatingly low airspace stuff. Adele issued a slight murmur of concern, as if to inspire a positive one from me. I just said any time you want to turn round we can. I would be lying if I said I didn't find those conditions intimidating myself. Treating it all as one big fiction only gets you so far you know. I was thankful I hadn't had to do it alone that day. A glimmer of weakness showing there, albeit it's just a bi-product of company, you're defenses aren't tuned quite the same.   

Razor Rocks did not disappoint. The scene was fearfully chaotic. This was stepping up to be even higher than Session 28's personal record conditions. The freshness of the froth indicated just how closely we shadowed this recent flood event. As expected the main duck was easily passed. We agreed to keep on top of the main dam, it's beginning to build back up again. The 3rd Canal and old Swim was desperate going.

A very accurate set of markers were placed at the Beach Head Station. There was no argument this was the wettest visit I've had beyond Blackpool Sands. It wasn't by much, but at this level every inch makes a startling difference.

A series of pools along the length of Easy Passage showed just how high it'd been. I've learned a lot about this place over the past 3 years, probably more so than in the previous 10 years put together. Light as certainly been shed on things I couldn't quite put my finger on in the past, no more so than this past year. I learnt a little more on this day. Some of it, I'm afraid, is for my armoury and mine only. For those who haven't got the judgement gained from somewhere in the region of 70 visits to this cave, I'd be careful, and wouldn't recommend following my lead. I'm far from claiming I'm on the right side of this place believe me.

'I believe there are those, who've done there utmost to curtail exploration at Mossdale. By exaggerating the dangers and dissuading generations of cavers from visiting. There is one in particular I'm fairly certain of. A person who I believe never had any interest, nor experience of the place, and even had the nerve to bad mouth me to close friends when I first started visiting. You people know who you are, and even to this day, breaking down the barriers you put in place fills me with the greatest satisfaction'  (Quote from another article that never made public opinion, but may well someday, called 'The C Word is for Club')

Fresh deposits of mud/sand/water were noted along the length of Ouroborous. The work area in the choke was still dripping wet in places. We had proof this was more likely seepage than flood waters.

Attempted to get better organised before starting work. This definitely helped avoid my usual frustrations and post session bruises.

All that remained from my previous quota of capping was a large flake. This was pretty much all that barred access to the cavity I'd dubbed the Leftfield. I'd expected this to be a stubborn job which it was fortunately not. Once most of the bigger pieces were removed I swapped places with Adele so she could have a look and attempt a little photography. With her I-Phone.

A slight change and increase in the air flow was noted by the end of this session. It's hardly a Dragons breath, but from where I'm standing the choke appears to be very badly choked with stream bed flood debris in every orifice. The more I open this section the greater it appears to have gotten. I'm not holding my breath but hope I'm presented enough opportunities along this route to avoid returning to the start.

Spent some time head first probing and loosening the floor of the cavity. Two fair sized boulders were partially extracted and prepared for processing next Session.

After nearly three hours at the choke it was time to call it a day. Adele was suffering from cold feet and I was pretty spent myself. The water logged nature of every visit here, adds to the fatigue no matter how short the session.

Although it's been playing on my mind prior, and wearing me down, I decided during the exit to find an alternative for the drill box. Not all the time, but when I'm spending only an hour or two at the choke it becomes hard to justify the extra weight and travel time. Will try manufacture something for next time.

We needed no reminder of conditions during our return. Broadway could be heard some way off as we headed up Easy Passage. Even though there'd been no change in water levels, the altered perspective and act of fighting against the fearsome current, lent it the appearance it had.

We discovered during a pause in Boulder Hall, that the whole chamber was vibrating! It's literally been shook to pieces! I've been joking to Adele about setting up camp in Confusion Cavern and experiencing a really big flood event in the future. It's something I may well do. It would certainly be a first.

Confusion Cavern as been recommended in the past by several cavers as a safe haven should people ever get caught out. In my own opinion I wouldn't recommend this as an option unless you are actually there at the time. The fact that one of the most dynamically flood prone sections of the cave, a passage filled with breakdown blocks, where water will begin to back up very quickly, must be navigated and the main stream crossed at a very low point before entry to the cavern can be made, rules this out. I do admit it's one of the most flood proof sections of the entire cave, but shouldn't be recommended in an emergency. If you are in the vicinity, Gypsum Aven is the best bet, though it is a tricky climb at both points of entry.
Great Aven is another I wouldn't necessarily run for either, it's a dripping wet draughty space. I would much sooner choose some of the high points in the Serpent. It is my intention over the next few years to test whether water reaches any of these high spots, under less than biblical conditions, that would flood just about anything anyway. There are other places but they are presently the source of exploratory interest.

The spiders appeared defiant during our exit. I suggested to Adele we build a garden of Venus Fly Traps to give em a run for their money, in the hope they emigrate.

The warmer climate made this the first enjoyable kit change in about six months.

Trip Duration: 5 hrs

The two boulders that blocked access to the Leftfield. Picture taken before I'd begun capping.

The Leftfield with chunks of the flake (2nd) still to be removed.

Next Installment: Mossdale Sessions 35 - 36

© Simon Beck, 2018. The copyright for this article and photographs remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.   

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