Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Mossdale Session 72

Mossdale Session 72

Sat 29th Sept 2018

(Simon Beck)

'Every session holds a silver lining'

Another long festering wait to return! 3 weeks +. Due to consistently poor weather, but nothing biblical overall. When the weather finally came good I'd other responsibilities, so had to wait till the weekend.

Visited Screwfix before hand to buy myself promised Laser Measurer. I worked with someone at Eshton the previous year, who knew someone, who believed Screwfix was a dating service.

Very windy wild walk to Mossdale! Arrived at half eleven, underground for noon. Physically/mentally felt good from the beginning, which still surprises me, after weeks of non caving. Wetsuit felt bloody tight and annoyed the shit outta me throughout the whole visit.

Lots of fresh deposits at Blackpool Sands. The Blackpool Bar (mostly cobbles & sand) continues to gain in size after every flood. I've a feeling I've briefly mentioned this earlier, but the creation of this feature is probably due to flood waters entering at the top end of Assembly Hall(NW), which then flows across the floor and down the slope - collecting debris in it's wake - to the connection point with Blackpool Sands. Where the debris is deposited in the eddy formed between that and another inlet, which comes direct to Blackpool Sands from the direction of the new entrance series. I have a picture of Blackpool Sands which I took in 2005/6 which shows no indication of this feature. Next session I will take a picture, from the same place, and share the two here.
All previous signs of passage were completely erased as I made my way towards the canals. Definitely the first visitor to pass this way since I was here last.
The first canal before Razor Rocks was again in very grim form, heavily laced with scum and froth. A good solid flow pounded it's way via Razor Rocks. The rest of Swims were murky and deep but far friendlier in appearance than the start.

Checked 1st high water marker at the Speak Easy, which held some water, but only a little. I'm certain this slope is an inlet during floods, and the source of the water markers result. This was confirmed when I checked the lowest marker at the Serpent (similar height), which showed no positive results. I will be moving the 1st marker to another location once something suitable is found. A high ledge spotted at the downstream end of Confusion Passage is one possibility.
When visits to Mossdale are as frequent as my own, signs of where the water has been are usually pretty obvious. The use of high water markers along a section I stand most chance of sitting out a flood are mainly just a way to confirm my suspicions. The results so far have been fairly remarkable considering the cave and reputation for terminal flooding. Obviously the results downstream of Rough Chamber would be very different, but irrelevant to my cause or of concern.

There were no doubts the passage's of Ouroborous had received a large flow as well. Fresh sand & silt, moorland foliage and mud stained walls were the obvious signs. Especially where the water had backed up before the choke. Piston Chamber it appeared had received non of this though. The rock barrier formed at the beginning of the choke, just prior to PS, acts like a dam, holds the water back, and directs the flow elsewhere (down to the right, probably towards the chamber beyond the 1st pitch (2.5m)). A bag full of scaffold tube protection foam, positioned at the U/S end of Piston Chamber 2 would have floated away, or at least moved if the above wasn't true.

Grabbed some tools from Depot Rift, then headed for the Notch, to begin work.

Rough drawing at base of article with reference to landmarks and work area's

Got to work straight away, excavating the Notch, but quickly realised I'd made a mistake. The area I'd viewed beyond the notch was in fact part of the Rift, set at a slightly different angle, but not a section I'd fully explored. Inspect twice, predict once! This was confirmed when I approached from the other side, via the Rift, and got within a few metres of the Notch. The floor in this section of the rift appears false, so one possibility is to dig the floor. The picture I took during session 71, looking beyond the notch, is a good example of the possible false floor there. It's via one of these features that I feel I stand the best chance, if nothing else jumps out at me.

Today's visit is only the fourth time I've visited this section - the area beyond the 2nd pitch - and really I've barely scratched the surface, so feel there's still every possibility of finding an easy way on yet.

After the disappointment of my findings, beyond the notch, I gave myself a slap and headed to the chamber at the lowest point - first entered Session 71 - for a poke at the route onwards. Working conditions were far from pleasant down there, especially without the foam matting I could have provided for this job, from Depot Rift above. I managed a good 20 minutes of excavation work, removing small boulders and horribly cold mud, but drew few conclusions whether this section was really worth the investment. 'Last Resort' seems an apt name for the chamber and it's prospects..
Once a return had been made of the slot, I noticed there was a slight draught coming through the floor of the chamber next door. A little digging revealed a hole and a cavity below the false floor there. It was at that point I knew there was still so much to learn about this new section. Digging randomly here and there could well waste time better spent giving the whole thing a really good once over. The survey it was decided would now take priority until all the new sections, and many of those above - first entered months ago! - were mapped.   

Once back in Featherstone Chamber I got to work surveying but after ten minutes I'd really had enough. I was cold, wet and suffering a pounding headache. Part of me was relieved again, that I can have a breather and hopefully complete the loose ends (survey) long overdue for completion.

Unpleasant trip out, felt rough as a dog! Temperature of the Swims was still warm but visually they were hideous!
Chilly, windy and wild topside. I did consider coming back the following day once home but that would have been foolish. Pat on the back deserved, was grim and intimidating in there.

Trip duration: 3 hours 20 mins

Next installment: Mossdale Session 73

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


  1. Hello Simon, fascinating reading your blog and your endeavours in Mossdale, not been underground for over 40 years myself, my geography teacher was the legendary Boyd Potts. My first caving trip was exploring an old leadmine near Monyash in Derbyshire shortly followed by Jackpot[P8], the wet sporting cave just hit something that I couldn’t wait to experience again, remember, this was the very early ‘70’s boilersuits, Tuff boots and carbide lamps were the weapons of choice! My first vertical pitch resulted in burns to my hands and wrists off the naked flame of the carbide lamp!
    I soon became a junior member of the Orpheus caving club and with the help of Boyd and Jenny letting me ride in the back of their old series one Landrover started exploring caves and potholes all over the country, OFD on a two day, overnight stay sticks in the memory, Bull Pot of Witches, Little Neath River Cave, Lancaster Pot, Alum Pot, Giants Hole, Stump Cross and dozens of others i’ve forgotten the names of, I soon moved on to the new fangled ‘wetsuits’ and electric miners lamps, gear carried in old army ammo boxes, being a slim teenager the ‘old boys’ encouraged me to press squeezes as I could contort into spaces they couldn’t and like yourself I soon lost interest in just sporting caving and subscribed to the early cave diving newsletters as I realised that I was driven by pushing the boundaries.
    I trained with a local sub-aqua club to gain the basic skills so I could pursue my dream of being a cave diver but due to my age [14-15?] I was bitterly disappointed when I was told that I was too young to dive. With hindsight I guess that sitting on the bottom of the local swimming pool sharing a mouthpiece with another diver or open water diving in a deep quarry was never going to prepare me for the danger of diving in the confines of a cave. Sorry to ramble on but after half a bottle of red wine I guess what I’m trying to say is ‘keep on keeping on’ chase those dreams and I hope you break on through and find that elusive connection between the systems, you are driven Simon and bollocks to the critics and naysayers, be safe, respect due.......

  2. I feel honoured that you took the time! Thank you. After beating myself up sport caving all those years, searching for something I was never going to find. It's with a great sense of relief I finally got this chance, to be doing something that actually makes some sense, and feels mean't to be. I've made my bed now, hell or highwater!