Thursday, 12 July 2018

Mossdale Sessions 46 - 49

Mossdale Session 46

Sun 27th May 2018

(Simon Beck)

'The scent of another fictitious realm'

A good early start compared to my visit two days ago. Arrived at the Scar 9am, underground for twenty past.

Slight rise in water levels, marker set last session was an inch under water. Swims were murky again.

Just surveying stuff with me so quick journey to choke. Had some loose ends to tie up with what I'd done so far. I was also planning to have a good head scratch, while it was all laid out in front of me, regarding my present course, or change of, through the choke etc..

I've invested a lot of time in to Leftfield Deep, but it doesn't look to be getting any easier, looser in fact, meaning more resources and more destruction to tunnel a way through. I said in the beginning, if I didn't find some solid ground to follow, the edge of a big block etc, then I would shift back to the original idea, ahead through the choked rift. Regardless of the logistical challenges the choked rift is going to present to begin with, it's slowly becoming the only sane option, where making progress away from this purgatory position, I've been in for the last 9 months or something, is concerned.
Following a draught is not always the right course of action, especially when logic dictates otherwise, as I was to find out very soon.

The block I capped last time in the cross rift (this area requires crossing to access the choked rift beyond) what I've now dubbed the Alternate Route, will be replaced by it's even bigger neighbour if I continue. Consideration was given to supporting the block in question with some scaffold so it remains in place. Will give this some more thought before next session.

Another note worthy mention was the smell which accompanied the draught while I was inspecting the bottom of Leftfield Deep. A hint of refuge tip, of rotting domestic waste. Straight away I thought of the smell in the Sacred Way/Agora in Langcliffe Pot. It was almost identical. Aside from the smell of damp gloves and fabric from some of the stuff in the work area there is nothing in my locality that could produce that smell. I know that section of Langcliffe is a long way from me, at least a kilometre and significantly deeper, but I do remember how far reaching that smell was the last few times I was down there in the far reaches.
The big flood of Nov/Dec 2015 washed away most of the rubbish from the camps set up in the 90s.
Our visits of 2016 confirmed that some of it had washed all the way to the Agora. The smell in that section was revolting at the time. Who's to say some hasn't gone further down stream. I dismissed the idea at the time, but there is no other place I could think it was coming from. The fact both caves have been proven to link further down the line suggests it's more than plausible at the very least. How far can a smell travel with the wind/draught? I'm no expert so wouldn't have a clue. I never did experience that smell again over the sessions that followed.

A frustrating end to the session! Hate not having direction!

Adele is with me tomorrow so I can give the Boulder Chamber above a thorough examination and better inspect the limits of Leftfield Deep.

Casual exit, nothing of note, aside from the fact Gerald is still very much alive.

Windy day but very warm topside.

Trip Duration; 3 Hours

Mossdale Session 47

Mon 28th May 2018

(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Positively alternate o'clock'

Yarnbury for 9:30am. Windy, cloudy but still reasonably warm. Got changed in the big shakehole just west of the ridge and scar to escape the wind. I imagined that many of Mossdale previous visitors had used this spot as a furtive changing room.

Picked up what remained of the scaffold bits in the entrance series, short pole and a small bag of clips. Adele wasn't feeling so good so it was all left in Boulder Hall for next time. Had more important stuff to do that day so priority was put on that instead, with the now shorter trip duration. Left Adele to have a break at the Serpent while I shot ahead. Had a few surveying stuff to finish, which had originally been exacerbated by just how badly, I hadn't realised, scaffold effects a compass, even when a decent distance away. I have also dropped the grade and detail I was hoping for, I was trying to capture too much, but in the grand scheme of things this is neither my forte nor of importance to me anyway. If it goes big I'm not going to have the patience to be so anal about it. With my autonomy remaining indefinite and my priority on furthering progress, grade 3 is about all I can be arsed with. I've wasted a lot of time so far teaching myself the practice through what theory and little previous experience I had. I have to accept that in doing this alone some things are going to have to fall by the wayside. The cartographic side of all this is actually the least important factor anyway, the determination to be here in the first place, to maintain my presence, and the words I write to articulate the experience are what count most in all this. I've seen my fair share of surveys over the years, but few the story behind the cave and exploration.

Once Adele had joined me I headed up the cross rift to take my first proper look at the chamber above. I hadn't ventured up there due to some dangerous looking loose, some of which I've been slowly chipping away over the sessions and some was removed once I was up there properly.
As I'd suspected, from when I peered-in early-on in the project, the chamber was blind. Lots of mud, some hanging flakes in the ceiling and an alcove at a slightly higher level at the western end. Worm casts were also noted. Decided to call it 'Early Starter'.

I then visited the bottom of Leftfield Deep for one final inspection. Under the flake false floor at the base of Leftfield, I noted two Sandstone boulders and what I think was a section of misfit sandstone bedrock. Roughly 2 metres below where I started and about the same distance below the Sandstone floor further back.
Wrote it off after that session for sure. Something told me I would be really wasting time if I continued with LD.
The 'Positively Alternate Route' it is. At least I've come to a decision!

Trip Duration: 2.5 hours

Mossdale Session 48

Mon 4th June 2018

(Simon Beck)

'How to Give Everybody A Good Kick Up The Arse'

Another unexpected visit. The weather began to slowly turn nasty after Session 37, and I hadn't expected to be getting down until later in the week.

Thursday the 31st May I'd soloed Dowbergill for the first time in over a year. I really had needed to get out that day, so made an exception to my only doing Mossdale rule.

Two hours after this photo was taken in the valley bottom I was through Dowbergill Passage via Providence Pot and reunited with R-Gibson on the other side, at the entrance to Dow Cave. A steady but unexpectedly quick through trip.
That managed to tied me over for a few more days while conditions got even more threatening. We managed to escape the brunt of it but other areas of the country didn't.

I could have maybe pushed it during the weekend, but the weather seemed incredibly volatile. With all the action I've been getting, why stick my neck out for one trip. I was starting from scratch again really so knew I would need a good series of trips to really get going again.

The forecast for today had looked stable the previous day, but on monday morning, Adele informed me a huge thunderstorm had swept over the North East, during the night. Coming pretty close to my area of operation.
Looked at all the rain gauges that flank the Mossdale region, most showed little or no rainfall. I have realised some of these stations are not always reliable. The Kilnsey station wasn't collecting any rain samples at the time. Sent them an email a few days later, which sorted things pretty quickly.
Anyway, the forecast was good but still a little unsettled.

Walk to Mossdale was pretty grim. Low cloud, humid, heavy dew in the air and underfoot. Although I felt uneasy about the trip, cancelling was in no way considered, unless conditions at the Scar, waterlevels etc, were indicative of last night's storm. Which they were not.

Moved with ease with having little to carry, a rare situation of late. Swims were murky, or as murky as ever.
Water levels were 3 to 4 inch above my previous Beach Head marker. This time I set two decent ones, I also left a crude marker at the limit of the Broadway waters in RH Passage.

Steamy and eerie throughout, there was a lot of condensation in the air. The water takes some time but it's really risen in temperature since my last visit. Would be worth placing a thermometer in the Swim, especially to chart the temperature range between summer/winter.

Picked up the bag of scaffold bits as I passed by from Boulder Hall.

Made myself comfortable once at the working end, then cracked on with the scaffold. My previous attempt, to add frugal support, to the hanging boulders in the cross rift was so close to today's intention that I didn't have to remove any of it. Additions to what I'd already done were awkward but I made very efficient progress. Ended up with a slightly hanging A-Frame, which tied everything together, and then propped it against opposite wall with a base jack. This scaffold would be necessary so I could work safely below, enlarging entry to the choked rift, and not worry. Was very pleased with what I'd achieved in a little over an hour and a half.

The work to come looks tricky, and the capping/removal of large blocks considerable. Not much choice!

Made a speedy return to the surface.

I'd had contact off other cavers planning to visit today, but so far no sign of them.

Trip duration; 2.5 hours

Mossdale Session 49

Wed 6th June 2018

(Simon Beck)

'Leftfield Deep is Dead!'

Cloudy, threatening sky, but the forecast was good. Felt there was chance of light rain but nothing that would adversely effect.

Underground for half past noon. Steady trip to choke, had drill, load felt light though.

Water levels down again, 4" down from Monday's BH marker.

I'm getting far too used to this cave. There is still some separation between the fiction of this place and the reality, though it's faded an incredible amount from what it was.

Rushed to get started on arrival, which was my downfall to begin with.
I'd decided to leave the two big blocks completely alone, marked 1&2 (picture below) and instead excavate a large enough cavity in the right wall to allow me to access the choked rift. This was actually one of the poorest decisions I've made up to press. The two blocks in question were holding up so much stuff that the labour involved, I deemed, would outweigh the alternative. Fortunately, getting my only capping tip stuck early on allowed me to see that the former was a better option.
Some very risky tactics were then employed to get the tip and unfired charge dealt with. I promised myself I would never do, what I did to achieve this, ever again!

So that felt like the end of the session! Gave things a little thought and realised capping the right wall would be a total pig of a job. Not to mention my unhappiness in the first place about employing such tactics. Not on that scale, which I'd vowed I wouldn't do.
Nothing that we do is really ethical anyway, though I like to think I go about it in a minimalistic fashion, where as others just take the piss to make life easy.
Nothing about this project has been easy.
But, even as I write this, having completed Session 63 yesterday, I don't feel there is anything I've done that couldn't have been achieved in the past, before more reliable cordless tools and modern tactics, aside from the ability to do it alone, with so little help etc.

After a head scratch I decided I would completely support what block #2 was holding up and remove this completely. Reducing this block to manageable pieces seemed a huge job, but I had little choice.
I could then shave a little off #1 and hopefully have easier access beyond.

Didn't have enough scaffold to complete the first stage of this plan, so completely stripped the scaffold from Leftfield Deep, aside from one basejack, which I knew was holding a few things in place.

Scaffold was added to the A-frame I'd build last session to support some of what Block #2 appeared to be the footing for. Until this block is removed completely, nothing of permanence can be installed.

Final job was to make more room in the working area for next time. Removed some scaffold from the cage, mainly safety rails, which were hindering comfort. Removed what further boulders I could manage from the cross rift and launched them down Leftfield Deep.

At least the session was a success of sorts after the disastrous start.

Leftfield Deep is now dead for sure. At least I've got somewhere to easily stack my waste from the Cross/Choked Rifts.

Casual exit, apart from my racing mind. Made a decision to complelely fill Leftfield Deep, wall it up and remove the cage. The added stability of not having too much open space within the choke will ease my mind as well. Things moving have been noted.

Trip duration: 4 hours

Next Installment: Mossdale Session 50 - 51

© 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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