Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Mossdale Sessions 58 - 62

Mossdale Session 58

Wed 4th July 2018

(Simon Beck)

'Felt a touch of nerves the night before this one. There is a presence amongst those huge blocks of the borderlands. As if the territory beyond, aware, awaits'

Late start! But needed the extra time to prepare food for the day and eat something decent beforehand. It's a daily battle at the moment just getting enough calories in. I'm not a big morning eater.

Also felt like I was prolonging the inevitable at times. No matter my comfort levels, I still experience the odd moment of weakness.

Took a 1.2m length of scaffold tube. Not intending to over-do-it. Will take bits, stock up etc, in dribs-n-drabs.

Very hot! Glad not to be stuck flogging it out in PPE right now, as opposed to my present daily attire, of shorts/t-shirt.

Airbourne insect numbers appear to have gone through the roof. Pollen Beetles(?) were a pest at Yarnbury, couldn't stand still, for long, without hundreds making unauthorized contact. Horse Flies are also a major annoyance while getting changed at the moment.

Although initially my plans for the session were ambitious, I realised there were a good few hours or more of preparation still to be done, before I could commence with the next phase.
Today's visit would be for prep, tomorrow would be a rest day, then starting Friday I would try for another four day continuous block.
Only one rest day had been seized since the last four day block. I felt it wise not to over-do-it.
My fatigue was at times making me bad tempered, mainly when things were going shite, which fortunately wasn't often. Punching either rock or scaffold had by that point resulted in pretty sore knuckles.

Completed the walling up (pillar) above Leftfield Deep to support the ceiling block on that end. The cage on that side had to be dismantled to allow completion. Which is where I began to rub my hands with glee! The more scaffold I could recycle the better!
Periodic WD'ing of the clips had been a very wise move, though I'm sure they'd still be fine even if I hadn't. They were well greased before they came underground and it's only a year since they were first brought down here. I hadn't expected to be stripping out the cage, ever, but prudently prepared for it just in case.

Some of the cage on the right side was left in place, mainly as a brace for the A-Frame. I will leave this, and cross that bridge, when more supplies are required. I'd commandeered a respectable pile by that point.

The most awkward and least relished aspect of the Session then followed, shifting everything single handedly through the breakthrough slot to the White Hotel. Although I'd intended on taking it further, the White Hotel was where it remained till next time.

Trip duration: 3 1/2 hours

Mossdale Session 59

Fri 6th July 2018

(Simon Beck)

'Alley Cat'

After a rest day since the previous session and four days of impatience since discovering a possible way on, I was more than ready for this one.
On top of the usual personal gear, was 1x base jack and 4x swivel couplers. It's surprising how much weight, just that on it's own, added to the load, albeit there was also more water on board.
I felt pretty weighed down during the trudge over, yet at the same time, totally in-suppressible.

Providing I didn't injure myself, or pull my back, which at that point seemed a possibility, today would be the first of another four day block. This was my 10th visit to Mossdale within a period of 15 days.

The base jack and clips felt awkward during the carry to the choke, but never enough to justify leaving any for later.

First job to complete was the bastard end of what remained previously. Shifted all the scaffold tubes, a big bag of clips, all the tools, plus other sundries, down the pitch, which was a pillock of a job by myself, then down the cascade to the rift depot.
Most of the tubes were not sleeved with foam for the journey so it was guaranteed noisy.

Organised everything as best I could, then headed to the new frontier, to assess what first.
I was reminded along the way, just by looking around, how careful I need to be here. There will be so much stuff ready in wait for clumsy hands.

The proposed site of operation looked like an absolute minefield. Access was constricted, there was little storage or room to work, and that's aside from having no clue where to begin with the scaffold, without the risk of bringing it all down on top of me.
Something I'd missed last time was a letterbox (floor level) leading through to another chamber, 90 degrees to the right of the proposed route. Excavating the letterbox would take a few sessions and still require the same protection (scaffold).
The ceiling above the working area, for either route, was a jumbled mass of lethal looking boulders. A solution to which was achieved rather unwittingly the following session.

Decided to move back, to the tip of the main boulder alley, just before the constricted arch through to the final chamber, and look for an alternative. A tube, completely filled with mud/boulders and rearing up at around 30degrees, was noticed and proposed as a possibility. This route if passable appeared to go over the top of the wall of boulders, in the next chamber, and bypass the original proposal.
Little time had been lost and a few benefits gained from this change.

Getting the scaffold started presented it's usual problems with only one pair of hands. I've found temporary use of a base jack a great starting point under such restrictions. This time round they were of little help and I struggled.
If there are virgin caverns just beyond where I was working, the C-word broke the ice, and preceded human interference in spectacular fashion.

The ceiling above where I worked was slowly beginning to crumble, around a scary looking, but not death defying, boulder. Wasn't sure if I'd been clumsy with one of the poles but, one minute I was tightening up a clip and the next a small collapse on me. I'd been aware of this but hadn't given it priority. It then became a race against time to get this sorted first.   
I'm trying to avoid wasting time by doing any cuts (scaff poles) and making use of the great variety and bits I have.
Overall I did the best I could with the scaffold that first session, the main aim of which was to offer some protection, so I can start digging out the inclined tube. This area of the choke was giving little away at that point, I had no idea what I could and couldn't trust.

I knew when it was time to pack in for the day so didn't argue.
Tidied gear up then had a steady trip out. Need to tie everything down that could be washed away before the weekend.

There are times when I question my rationale, times when I feel I'm not in control, or totally out of my league.  Those vulnerable times of day can be cruel.  Session 58 brought more than a hint of nerves.  I knew I was on my own indefinitely.  With some scary looking work ahead.  The ante has risen markedly for sure.

What lay ahead would be my longest series of solo working visits to date.  Each successive visit brought with it a strength and resolve I hadn't come close to attaining previously

Trip duration: 4 1/2 hours

Mossdale Session 60

Sat 7th July 2018

(Simon Beck)

'Grandma's getting frisky'

Earlier start than I'd managed for a good few days. Yarnbury for nine, scar for ten. Regardless of how concentrated my life is towards Mossdale, I refuse not to live life while topside. Meaning organisation will always suffer a little. You'd be well off the mark, if you think I go home, have tea, and then go straight to bed. I know I'd be far better off if I did, but stupid enough to continue saying 'not in this life!'.

Finally brought some food to take down with me. A tupperware filled with chocolate bars. How useful I thought, knowing full well non will exist should I really need them, the lot will go the first time I feel hunger.

Had received contact earlier in the week from Matt Jenkinson, who was planning to visit the cave with a friend this weekend. Having not heard anything as I walked over I assumed they'd either cancelled or were coming tomorrow (Sunday). The forecast wasn't as settled as it had been over the previous weeks. Thunder couldn't be ruled out though it still looked doubtful for this region.
Restrictions to the amount of hours spent down there, primarily, is what keeps me ahead of such hazards should they arrive out of the blue.

The commute through the cave passed by in almost typical fashion. Clear swims, lively trout etc..etc..
It's begun to feel very draughty in the entrance series of late. I did wonder whether my excavations have had some bearing on this but dismissed it pretty quickly. There's no doubt I've opened up what appeared to be a relatively well sealed section. I guess anything is possible and I can only speculate at best on these things.

The scaffold side of things made far better sense once I was at the working end. I'd been feeling without thinking, which is likened to groveling about in the dark, quite literally, sometimes. I hadn't been far off what was required to begin with.
Added some further key bits and completed the guard to protect me from the loose above.

Returned to the new depot (Depot Rift) to grab the timbers left (at piston chamber) by my forebears. I'm sure they'd be glad to know their resources are still being put to good use. A large boulder, I was unable to remove under my own steam, made further work in the tube impossible till it was vacated. The timbers would be used as a ramp to slide it down to floor level.
The moment I began to tease the boulder in question towards me, the whole of the chamber next door collapsed in on itself! I'm not sure where the connection lay but I'm still yet to see it. A bank of mud separated the two by more than a metre.
I was glad I hadn't started work in there like I'd originally intended.

Unmoved and unscathed I continued.
Things didn't go quite as smooth as I'd hoped, sliding down the boulder, but I still managed to avoid injury. Ageing slimy timbers for you!

I could now begin work excavating the inclined tube. Mostly boulders, horrendously sticky mud and fatiguing working positions.
This area of the choke is where the water will most definitely back up. Everywhere is mostly clean washed with the obvious eddies banked with mud.
Made good progress with the excavations, but again knew when it was time to call it a day.

Things are not looking as promising as they'd looked on Monday, regarding a quick breakthrough. I could well have been imagining things. Still, there's no ignoring the airiness and sense of space beyond this place.
It could well cost me a further siege before I find a way on.
The 'when' feels like the only question, whereas the 'if' feels almost a given.

More of the puzzle will hopefully be revealed once I enter the tube tomorrow.

Took a few shit pictures and headed out.

Heard the rustling of others approaching as I reached Relief Corner, I knew it could be non other than Matt Jenkinson and Co. Reynard went for a butchers down Ouroborous, while Matt and I made our introductions at the Serpent.
I then accompanied them for most of the exit, visiting Confusion Cavern en-route, a chamber I think they were delighted to have seen. I left them to it just beyond Assembly Hall, eager to reach the surface and remove myself from a squidgy cocoon.
Steaming hot walk back! Nice to have some company for the exit and overland return. Great to meet you both chaps! Too long in the coming Matt!

Trip duration: 4  1/2 hours

The inclined tube, prior to excavation, top centre. The arch through to the collapsed chamber, bottom right.

Depot Rift

Mossdale Session 61

Sun 8th July 2018

(Simon Beck)

'First I took great pleasure in crushing a Horse Fly between two bits of t-shirt, and then whilst passing the Swims I noticed a Beetle seeking refuge on a stone atoll. A well aimed rogue wave later and bye bye Beetle! The realization that if Bad Karma exists, then I'm stuffed today, quickly followed this final sadist act'

A little later getting going than the previous day. Ditched the idea of taking the drill last minute. Felt muggy, lots of scary clouds and the feel of thunder in the air. A shorter visit was decided upon. I hadn't been convinced the work I had for the drill was necessary anyway, turns out I was right.
Took a spare light and batteries with me on this one, just in case.

Definitely felt like the weather could turn as I left the surface. Little appeared likely within my time constraints, but nevertheless I would remain vigilante.

Always a pleasanter trip when not carrying anything.

Had three pairs of gloves with me for the first time today. Trying hard to look after my hands. A pair each for the trip to and fro and one for working.

Very grateful not to have the drill. The job I'd intended turned out to be completely un-necessary. A boulder bridge part way up the tube was sanctioned for removal previously. After removing a load more mud, It was found I could squeeze over the top. The whole picture regarding what the bridge was attached too, or supporting, also concerned me after closer inspection.

No problems ascending the inclined tube on that first attempt. Beyond was a small boulder chamber with an obvious seepage inlet and false boulder/clay floor at a similar level to my horizon atop the tube. To the left of this was some fluted bedrock(?) which lead down to an overhang and some open space and small pot in the floor. This was the area I'd obviously looked in too from the collapsed chamber during Session 57. The collapsed chamber was also within view down to my right, and now a far safer proposition, provided I could clear out the collapse.
Entering the space under the fluted overhang would require some more excavating so left it for next time. If this route offers no way on then the collapsed chamber to the letterbox will be next on the agenda.
Had a further prodding session with the pinch bar, which got the upper chamber false floor creaking some, by which time I was getting pretty cold having lain on this muddy shelf atop the tube for sometime.

Another short but more than worthwhile visit, felt I'd got tonnes done.

Trip duration: 3 hours

Mossdale Session 62

Mon 9th July 2018

(Simon Beck)

'A body of excuses, a mind having non of it!'

Goddamn was I tired this morning! The weather was still good for the day, so no squirming out of it.
At one point rain was threatened, but nothing of significance.

Fourth day in a row as I trudged over at just after 10am. There was little stride left in me, and I kinda just plodded along. Felt like it took an age to finally get there. Nothing to carry again which is always a brucie bonus for morale.

The sky looked threatening once more with things possibly developing later in the day. The program would be kept similar to yesterday.

Felt as fresh as a daisy once underground. One highly invigorating factor was the cold breeze that accompanied my descent.
Considering my fatigue on the surface, I was surprised not to be feel an ounce of wear throughout the entire underground segment.
Still, I was careful and took my time. Didn't want any accidents. Had one clumsy miss step during one of the previous sessions. I forget where, but caught myself just before my leg went down a hole.

Three pairs of gloves again, nice!
Feels good changing to a crisp fresh pair before work commences. Just a pity I knew they'd be shit up within the first five minutes.

Got back on my muddy shelf beyond the tube and continued where I'd left off previously. A little further excavating and then inspecting for hazards and the next step looked feasible. A few interesting contortions later and I managed to put my feet where my head had been and step down in to the small space beyond the shelf. The best way to describe my position was at the confluence of the three features I'd observed from the shelf, the previous session.

The upper boulder chamber was most definitely blind. I wondered how wet this area was under normal conditions. The dry spell was some months in by the time I first entered this area. I can imagine it's very unpleasant come the winter time. If I'm still here when that time comes round I will definitely need a decent oversuit to accompany the wetsuit.

After many failed attempts I eventually aligned myself correctly to complete the downwards squeeze past the overhang to the space beyond. The squeeze had initially looked impossible but was just doable via the fluted section. Which was made difficult by a liberal scattering of black shell like fossils protruding from the rock (don't think they are Gigantus Productus). My best blue wetsuit took a major hit on that maneuver.
Once down through the squeeze, with my arse in my mouth, I then had to maneuver myself from a pointing in the wrong direction foetal position to the same pointing in the opposite direction.
Unfortunately there was no open way on and the only sight that met me was a wall of dripping cobbles and mud. I couldn't get close enough to look down the pot so left it and began the struggle back out.

Out on a limb ceases to register these days, but if that wasn't, then I don't know what would..

Anyway, not the end of the world. Within ten minutes I was working the new route and feeling positive again. Especially after feeling the draught in my face.
I was now heading for the letterbox on the other side of the collapsed chamber.
Cleared out what I could with my hands. The boulders that once made up the ceiling are way beyond my handling abilities. Will split them with the P&F's next time.
A cluster of dodgy looking loose still exists on the right upper wall of this chamber. Before calling it a day I started building a guard rail out of scaffold to support this area.

Trip duration: 3 hours

Next installment: Mossdale Session 63 - 66 https://simonbeck.blogspot.com/2018/07/mossdale-sessions-63-66.html

© 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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