Friday, 25 May 2018

Mossdale Sessions 37 - 41

Mossdale Session 37  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Viva Lance'

Met in the valley bottom just before noon. A very narrow weather window existed that day, rain was due around teatime. The sky was beginning to turn nasty before we'd got going. The plan was to shift all the cached scaffold bits as far as we could.

A wild windy walk up in my under dressed state.

I'd not seen  water levels at the Scar this low since the previous autumn.

A bag of scaffold clips stashed on the surface were collected en-route and left in the entrance series for collection later. The main concern that day was shifting all items at the Assembly Hall cache. Which amounted to quite a load. 2x 5' & 5x 1' steel tubes plus a bag of assorted clips.

Mossdale felt like a wholly different place after months of consistently high water conditions.

The load was awkward and I so nearly took the easy option and dumped it all at the Serpent. I'm glad we pushed on further and deposited it all at Relief Corner, just beyond the tiresome entry sections of Ouroborous. Which with Scaffold is a pig!

Syphon Passage was also visited and equipment dropped for the on going project there.

A leisurely exit was then had with Adele showing off her new Scurion.

Round Chamber was visited for the first time in about ten years during the exit. I may well have been the last one there.

The more I pass through the Boulder Hall, Confusion cavern segment the more intrigued I become relating to what caused all this devastation. The creation of the Swims, by which I mean the wet sections in their entirety, are also possibly a result of this cataclysm. The topography between Blackpool Sands and Confusion Passage suggests to me the water flows up-dip, or across offset beds, in more than a few places here.

We made the surface for 4pm to a far angrier sky and increasingly wild conditions. Just made it back to the cars' before the heaven's opened.

Trip Duration: 2hrs 15mins.

Mossdale Session 38  


(Simon Beck)

'History these days feels akin to breathing'

One of those rare days when there was absolutely zero chance of rain.

Slow walk up from Conistone. Had a sizeable bag of resuppy bits with me, incl the drill. Transporting the latter in bag form instead of box means I can justify bringing it every visit.

Another highly anticipated visit. Underground for 11am.

There were signs of a small flash flood at Blackpool Sands. Footprints from Tuesday's visit were faded and fresh foam hung in places.

Even though I was weighed down, a 5' pole from Relief Corner was still just manageable all the way to the choke. I'd anticipated I'd need it that session, but in the end didn't. The laborious nature of exiting the choke mid session dictates massive emphasis is put on being prepared beforehand.

Spent the first hour sorting problems from the backend of Session 36. Most but not all the plugs/feathers were retrieved. At least a sets worth disappeared down a hole in the choke as a result of capping the boulder in question.
Two further boulders partially loosened from the cavity floor were then split and removed. A brief period of digging revealed a hole, which began to draught increasingly the larger the hole got.
Everything up to press had to be done headfirst, this wasn't too bad initially when the cavity was fairly shallow, but the deeper it got the more grueling it became. I'd reached a point of agony and exhaustion by the end of this one.
Entered cavity properly for the first time, feet first, and peered down the hole. At the time I judged I could see maybe 10' down into the choke. With little room to work but no energy for any further head first excavations, I sat in the cavity digging out the floor by hand and filling up a scaffold bag.
There was a definite noticeable change in atmosphere at this point, something I've got used to this past year.
Noticed another way on heading North East at a slightly lower level.
I knew scaffold would need installing next session, my excavations were possibly undermining a big block. I scratched my head at the time regarding how I would do this, the cavity floor could not be relied upon as a foundation until I hit something solid. The obvious solution of a suspended adjustable leg occurred during exit. I would either rob one from Paul or bring one from home next time.

Swims felt bloody chilly during exit.

Had expected to bump into others on a day like today, visiting the system etc, but there were non.

Exited to an empty fell and spectacular conditions.

With the weather being what it was the usual towel was left at home in favour of air drying.

Very slow plod back down the Conistone track, fortunately I got picked up by a local farmer half way down.

Trip Duration: 5 Hours

Mossdale Session 39  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Any given session'

Met Adele at Consitone 8am. Decided to cut down the adjustable leg I'd brought before we set off.

Tough Hike up! Hot! Hot! Hot!

Underground for 10:30am.

With us also was first aid kit and a fraction of the brew kit. The former only took 12 months to finally getting round to providing. Whether the brew kit is used at this stage is another matter. The tendency at present is to crack on with work, keep warm through motion and get out. Should a break through occur I suspect the brew kit will be invaluable, better to have it there ready than to be ready and not have it.

Adele's Scurion again blew me away. I've never seen the top of the Broadway Avens with such clarity. Though, I could still think of things I'd rather spend that sort of money on than a caving light. Adele's purchase also mean't I could no longer comment on those with apparently more money than sense.
The best opposing example is Ian C, who's managed to keep the same Petzl Duo alive for more than a decade. A lamp that's been brutalized probably more than any other! 
I've two Fenix HP12's on my helmet, which totaled about £150 incl batteries, they give off ample light, have been totally trashed over the past 16 months and yet to cause me any trouble whatsoever.

While I headed to the choke Adele ferried as much scaffold as she could muster from Relief Corner, Ouroborous.

I managed to free up a little of the existing scaffold used. The original adjustable leg + bits I'd used as a starting point anchor for the cage were removed.

Needed to cut a pole so set up a jig using a fixed 90 clip to the cage, solid! Pole cut like butter.

Once down in the cavity the original plan was scrapped in favour of a far better one! Cutting down the adj-leg hadn't been necessary after all, but used the other I'd just retrieved. This was jammed along the axis of the cavity and suspended off the floor, allowing room to work and the floor to be dug, and connected back to the main cage, which in turn also secured a chokestone I'd also been concerned about. The finsihed job was very solid! Good Job!
The other adjustable leg was used as a shitty temporary prop under the North East Block I'd been gradually undermining.

Adele came to assist for the remainder of the session. Using a protein shake drum (I'd original stored tools in) which under these circumstances (lack of room) was a very handy utility, I sat in the cavity digging out the floor, filling the drum and passing it up to Adele.
Some large boulders were loosened which better revealed the NNE Lead. The cavity floor continues ever downwards, a well compacted boulder/debris false floor.

The draught was far less fierce than the previous session but nontheless very evident. Air temperature in the choke was far chillier than Session 38. We were both quickly getting cold.

Another exhausting laboured exit! Couldn't wait to get in the warm sun and eat food!             

Met a few blokes from York on the walk back who'd briefly lost the Dalesway, sound giza's!

Also bumped into one of my old teachers from Upper Wharfedale School, who farms land in Consitone, and who I hadn't seen in a very long time. I'm glad she'd forgotten how much of a little bastard I was!

Trip Duration: 4.5 hours

Mossdale Session 40  


(Simon Beck)

'The C Word features far too heavily of late'

I'd arrived in Conistone early the previous morning but cancelled due to a rapidly changing forecast. The forecast rain began to get earlier and earlier but once I'd returned home retreated back to late evening.

Only 1.5mm fell in the valley bottom that night, so I was back the following morning, packed and ready from the previous. I was at the Scar for around 10am.

Forty sessions in just over 13 months! Felt like a milestone on the walk up. Not bad considering it's still less than a year since I began to gain any sort of momentum. I suspected I'd be at 50 within a month, assuming the weather held.

Had two brand new dry bags to stick the drill in. Had gotten sick of the budget bin liner approach and having to carry the drill bag above the water. I'd constructed a foam pouch for the drill when I decided to jettison the case. This had worked a treat and allowed me to be pretty heavy handed when carrying it. I knew I could improve on the pouch design, make it more compact etc... this I would do in the coming days.

I also had with me the surveying gear, which with hindsight was a fucking bad idea!

Low water. Definitely getting really depleted. Lowest I've seen since last Autumn. It really has been that consistently high since then.

First hour of surveying was a disaster! I was in the wrong mood completely, sore from previous sessions and cold quickly. Is surveying alone a complete twat! Or is it just me been shit? It's not something I'd say I'm well versed at in the first place. Been good at surveying didn't get me where I am, nor will it crack this choke. Hopefully I will improve as I go.

Came close to calling it a day after the crap start, but persevered to at least try and get something done. Getting warm again was the major hurdle which I managed pretty quickly. The zip on the smaller of my wetsuits ceases to stay closed these days which means my chest is generally exposed to the elements. This is great when in transit and overheating but not when sitting about.

Spent some time enlarging entry to the Leftfield (this was the easiest of all the loose ends on offer) which is when I felt, and thought I saw, the footing (block) for the easterly leg of the cage slide downwards slightly. This block forms the inside of the step down into the cavity. Due to a complete lack of evidence, I put it down to my imagination but decided not to venture into the cavity until I'd beefed things up. If this area subsided while I was down in the cavity it wouldn't be fatal but I would be stuck.

Took some pictures and filmed progress so far with phone. About time I buy a new camera, I may well live to regret not collecting more material.

An incredibly leisurely but bastard of a trip out. Had a look at a few things to break up the exit, odds n ends, nothing ambitious. Noticed a loose block just above the 2.5metre climb in the entrance series. This block forms part of the step down to the ledge above the climb. Anyone visiting please beware, it's large enough to do serious damage if it dropped onto someone part way down the climb. I will get round to tying it back or an alternative solution asap.

Trip Duration: 5 Hours

Looking down the cavity

Mossdale Session 41  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Well, sounds like it's just coffee and clay then'

(11mm of rain in valley bottom since previous visit)

Late start. Had to drop car at garage, Adele kindly picked me up, which was some way off her usual route, thanks!

We decided to walk from Yarnbury on the drive up but this was not to be. Filming was being undertaken at the top of Grassington High Street, and as is usually the case the whole world must come to a standstill for them. All routes to Yarnbury were closed, so back to the Conistone approach it was, which under those conditions was hell! We comforted ourselves with the fact it was fate and something positive would come from it.

Grabbed a bunch of scaffold clips from the entrance series in passing.

Again, while I headed for the choke to begin work Adele was left to porter what remained of the scaffold bits scattered along the length of Ouroborous.

First job was to install some support straps, using some basic galvanised band, mainly to offer a little more security for me working in the cavity without wasting more scaffold. The easterly leg of the cage was the main one and was strapped to it's base.
A brace was installed using a few short pieces of pole at the head of the cavity, again just to beef things up while I work below.

Spent remainder of session digging out the cavity floor and passing the waste to Adele.
The 'north eastern horizon' was opened up further allowing for a visual inspection. Could see for about 10' maybe more along a tortuous looking route walled to the left by one big block and punctuated by the odd protruding flake from above. Sticking with the cavity, the security of the scaffold and continuing down still stands as the favourable option.

Trip Duration: 4.5 Hours

Next Installment: Mossdale Session 42-45

© 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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