'Who'd have ever thought, Latin America's finest would ever find it's way down that shithole'
It's only recently I've put my finger on something I've spent the past decade sporadically pondering the genesis of. That of my post teen ideals, especially the conflict felt towards the future, and how I dealt with it. Mostly by prioritising the present.
I'd always assumed it came from my mid/late teens revolt, with little further consideration.
A conversation with a friend recently on the subject, highlighted the possibility it developed during my formative years with Asthma & Eczema.
Although neither were at the extreme end. Death from the former was an unequivocal fact under the wrong circumstances. Inhalers were used daily, and kept it mostly under control.
Asthma attacks were a regular occurence and I recall many nights struggling to breath, to sleep, and the debilitating effect the condition had on even the most effortless of movement.
I was fortunate to grow out of both throughout my late teens, with parents who saw the benefit of facing it, instead of hiding. And yet I began smoking at 16! Which definitely contributed the need for inhalers until my late 20s when I began the journey to quit. I've gone without more than I did with, but never quit sporadic periods of smoking since.
When your young, vulnerable, dependent, you've little insight to draw from. My coping mechanism was to engross myself in the present.
I've surrounded myself that same present day bubble ever since. Memories of childhood, which the conversation above evoked, were testament to that. I never would have gone back that far.
Swimming really helped. My instructor at Aireville Swimming Pool really pushed me to break through those psychological barriers. Facing duress, breast stroking like hell, whilst struggling to catch air. The seed of determination was sowed back then.
I've been obsessed about one thing or another my whole life. Video Games, Skateboards, Fishing, Mountain Biking, Girls, Climbing, Potholing, Women.
Facing fear became the most compelling aspect. If anything that's what my life's been dedicated toward.
I was never really a potholer. Just someone using that outlet to break personal barriers.
The misconception I chose Mossdale, via some deluded image of myself, conqueror of the feared Mossdale Caverns for example does make me laugh.
Not knowing my own strengths, or how to extract them, mean't using what ever means were available. The use of a social lever for instance - where such an impression could form - was purely a tool to aid getting the job done. My determination in the beginning far outweighed the aptitude I possessed in the facing those goals.
The effort made to condition myself over the course of those years transcends vanity by some distance believe me. Unless you took that journey, you couldn't begin to know.
'Based on who I was beforehand, roughing myself up severely was necessary to disconnect like I did'
No, I chose Mossdale as much as Mossdale chose me. My roots had a lot to do with it but, I was hooked immediately, and made a pledge to the site before the bulk of my sport caving. After which I burnt out, with a handful of years soul searching to find my way again.
The project was a culmination of factors, primarily momentum re-gained at the site circa 2015. When I saw the chance I seized it, knowing I couldn't live the way I was for much longer.
A last ditch attempt to justify all those years living and preparing in the present, with little regard for the future.
A big breakthrough, justification for material beyond that of the blog, a book etc... A far cry from the other opportunities. Still, I did it for myself and what I gained from the experience. It's also a tough call leaving the path long travelled when there's a carrot still dangling.
'The fact remains, you can't predict what will come to pass'
It came so close to never happening though. The overall birth of the project had as much to do with circumstance as anything else.
I never really had a plan, even after choosing Ouroborous, but did have a lot of gathered experience with the site, and above all else the confidence to do it the way I wanted.
Even during the period when, with Adele, ferrying supplies to the original depot, I was only looking ahead as far as the scaffold cage. To make the then limit as safe as possible to work from. Beyond that I didn't have a clue, but there existed a sense it would go, and what I imagined strangely came true to some extent.
Adele's help was absolutely fundamental, especially early on. Her enthusiasm was infectious and it helped to have someone equally driven by my side. There were others but it wouldn't of worked, especially when it was me organising myself around them. Something that just doesn't work regarding operating at Mossdale. Especially with the frequency I wished to visit. And to boot, I was fucked if I was gonna do that. Why dedicate myself to a task but them handicap myself with those who haven't.
I'm intrigued to see how long it takes those who would approach it differently, clocking up the mileage I did, even before the project began, let alone afterwards.
There are guide books, surveys and journals relating to Mossdale, but nothing comes close to the engagement manual I shared, via those fatiguing blog entries. An understanding with Mossdale that beggars belief was formed to do that.
Had I focused on the job I was doing throughout 2017, till early the following year. One definitely leading to further opportunities, I reckon I'd still have found my way here. To where I've been these past months.
Money and me don't mix. Never been able to hold on to it anyway. The boredom getting it is where the dabbling began. Just to get by.
Long hours dancing, house/techno, were also growing on me at the time. The ironic thing is; all those years I'd spent scraping by - caving lots/working little - forbade such lifestyle exotica.
The Sessions were worth the sacrifice considering where I was in life at the time. The progress made and the writing I did were worth the stretch..... Session 69, christ! It was worth that one alone.
Were they worth the sacrifice at home, the break ups, the neglect, over the course of those years? Knowing what I do now. No!
I would never have opened my eyes though.
I'd been was well aware my foundations were crumbling and the future was looking bleak for sometime. A caption I added to a picture taken by Leif Andrews in Bar Pot, Jan/Feb 2017, of me descending the alt big pitch, sums up my concerns at the time.
'The future's bright, "Yes," Mr Beck says, "about as bright as the shaft I'm descending."
Instead of doing the sensible thing, I activated self destruct mode. Literally!
'The future's bright, "Yes," Mr Beck says, "about as bright as the shaft I'm descending."
Instead of doing the sensible thing, I activated self destruct mode. Literally!
The project offered escape from the future, and the ability to continue not giving a shit about it.
The only solution was change years prior. Years it took to find myself in the first place. The element I glimpsed early on and chose to pursue, took time to develop and blossom, into something that came too late because I wanted a regular life as well. Or is it the other way round?
That was my mistake, if any, which ever way round you look at it. It's one or the other when you devote to something with that kind of intensity.
Mossdale Session 77
Sunday 24th February 2019
'Pas de Fleurs'
Still working. Tough Week! Eczema's returned with a vengeance. No doubt a culmination of factors. The informal work arrangement has mean't I'm wearing the same gloves for weeks at a time. The site is cold and bloody damp and it's mostly brick/lime demolition/rebuilding. Great training though. Keeps the fear up - to quote a film.
The other shit is beginning to have a severe and noticeable effect. I may as well have been shot in the face.
Saturday was reserved for Mossdale, with a late night buffet forcing a reschedule. I woke at 2pm on Saturday feeling revolted with myself. Decided instead to go that night with another buffet curtailing anything but a visit the following day. Raided the pharma's to aid getting some sleep which mean't little sense was made of those incessant early morning alarms. I'd even made a sign telling me what to do 'It's Mossdale Time Mofo'er!'
My call-out woke me at 10am wondering whether I was still going.
Having at least packed the previous evening I headed off almost immediately.
Didn't feel too much time pressure by that point - it was gonna be a late one regardless - so visited the team at Howgill en-route. I was surprised to see Adele in attendance, having not seen her for a while. After a brief chat I left wishing she was coming with me.
With sore hands and a bruised soul, the session ahead appeared a dank meaningless chore. At the limit of my creation. With possessiveness the isolated garner.
I was missing a wetsuit sock from the previous visit's changeover, so made my spares up with a few regular socks. Lost feeling in that foot passing the swims. Again very cold.
Felt glad to be back despite my condition. The rewards are always high claiming effort so late in the weekend.
The badger was never seen but severely felt. I knew where I was heading afterwards. Another factor which brings pride my resolve to go ahead with the session. Especially with that head on shoulders.
After descending the 1st pitch to the Airlock (chamber) I again quickly inspected the low bedding leading off to the SW. No improvements were made on previous attempts, but left promising to investigate this properly at a later date, if only to tick it off the list.
Changed socks at the Blue Room, followed by another rummage through the cache. A tidy up was concluded in order, mostly the removal of rust and quietly gathered rubbish.
Adding surveying to the quota was a truly masochistic move, but necessary to obey logic. Something that brought little meaning toward my end to begin with, let alone today.
Although the lead up to the 'East Branch' (aka NE Branch) had been previously surveyed, I decided to start from scratch at the head of the climb down to 'Healey Av', making a better job than I did last time.
My choice of station is the main contender relating to why I've struggled.
Surveying the branch beyond the restriction & climb (later named 'Pas Grave' and terminus beyond 'De Fleurs Passage') was horrendous, with note making a burden with cold muddy hands and seepage awash. Fortunately I wasted little time and just collected the bare minimum of data. Glad it was over I tossed all paraphernalia related well out of sight. There appeared some scope for excavation so only the pinch bar remained.
A mud/boulder choked false floor, appeared to lead down to something, and a draught could be felt at times. The journal states the draught but I can't for the life of me remember this being the case now. The joys of screwing with your chemistry!
After tussling with the floor for a while, it was obvious no navigable way on could be forged with the limited logistics at my disposal. Some scaffold from the level above would be in order.
A few metres back from the tip of the branch, in the south wall, was a squeeze leading to a small clean washed passage that followed the trend. Although there is a difference between the two levels I surmised that the route from 'Last Resort' may lead this way and have something to do with it. The tip of the 'East Branch' and 'Last Resort' are most definitely connected, if not the same blasted mud/boulder fill.
An attempt was made to enlarge the squeeze but non were successful. A flake requires removal, or destruction, and some scaffolding at the very least. Can't help but feel there is another way, option, etc.... As if the answer is staring me right in the face. All I need do is figure the pattern.
With the survey drawn up some months later it was obvious, as it was with the earlier doodles I scrawled. The common joint pattern prevails, only jumbled up by faulting and what not, and possibly a once much taller joint guided feature, than that existing upstream.
The area I worked during this session appears to represent the opposite side of the fracture zone I encountered at the terminus of the 'Alley Cat Series'. The route onwards may well exist somewhere in between, possibly continuing to go vertical. Time will tell, possibly via my own hands, especially now I'm not quite out of the game, as I thought I definitely was this past segment of my life.
Even though I felt ready for off, there remained a need to make the most of the visit, so re-surveyed the 'Notch' leading along 'Healey Av'. Another rushed affair and with hindsight wasted considering I'd lost the data when time came to do the drawing up.
Predicted another rough exit, but once initiated it felt nice. Took time and stopped at Boulder Hall for maybe twenty minutes, to try capture a decent self timer of yours truly amongst the sprawl.
After warming up the Swims were hideously cold! Growled my way throughout.
Dusk was surprisingly claimed, with a quick change and equally hasty hike back. I then pushed my little 1.3 Turbo Diesel to the floor, exiting a mid-way off ramp of the M60 exactly an hour after leaving Yarnbury... Twat!
Trip duration: 4.5 - 5 hours ish
De Fleurs Passage
Although previously referred to as the 'NE Branch' and later 'East Branch', I didn't name the individual features - 'Pas Grave' & 'De Fleurs Passage' - until the drawing up mid to late May. I'd spent the day pondering what became 'De Fleurs Passage' but almost floored myself when the idea struck with how goddamn appropriate the name was.
Tending to the survey and drawing up occurred during one of the darkest periods I've ever experienced. I couldn't stand the thought of leaving the writing with nothing to give depth or readers a reference.
I hadn't the stomach for it, nor the interest, but found it a welcome distraction as the days passed by, with an ever increasing focus re-gained. It took several weeks to complete in the end, compared to my initial idea of a quick drawing, of inferior quality, highlighting the discoveries. As I said in the earlier write-up, it contributed to me escaping the thick fog enshrouding me at the time.
The 'East Branch' was the last piece of exploration work I'd done as my old self, both in and out of caving. Someone I thought was long gone and no doubt probably is. It was also at the very limit of my discovery and furthest I got from base. It was profound to be considering this very thing during a time when I'd truly stopped looking ahead, had zero interest in anything but the reflections of what I'd missed resultant that self indulgent focus. The limit of what was once my life, as well as that very thing itself.
Pas De Fleurs relates to the sub theme of a film I'd watched the previous year, and partially identified with. Mainly the bad guy, good girl, coming together in symbiotic disharmony, with a notably tragic ending. Heat meets Romeo & Juliet if you like. The film got rather poor reviews, but I'm glad I watched it in spite of what I felt was an unjust analysis.
In recent years I've come to appreciate the independent side of the industry most, especially indie world cinema. Of note; the Belgian/Flanders offerings. Savage Films and their movie 'Bullhead' was an incredible piece of work, leading me to delve deeper. 'A Prophet' was another, as well as a tonne of others.
Jean De Florette & Manon Des Sources were two films we covered in English at school and where my interest was no doubt sparked.
Escape through cinema is something I've consistently sort since my mid-teens. In this instance I felt utterly gripped with the uncanny resemblance to events leading my own ruination.
Seeking the usual comfort through the movie was something I couldn't face and I avoided it completely. My own ravaged mind was enough with out memories of the sympathy I'd felt towards the lead characters, back when my own life was hunky dory.
I'm spent and struggling to focus on elements I still wish to include. The above will remain a work in progress.
Mossdale Session 78 and Other Favourites (part three) will possibly be sometime in the coming, though maybe not. I hadn't expected to knock these previous two out as quickly as I did.
There was so much more going on in the background that wasn't covered in the earlier sessions, and for obvious reasons.
Overall the writing I've done has never been far from my life outside of caving, and I'd probably cease bothering if the pursuit was all I wished to cover. I actually find the caving side of the write-ups incredibly tedious.
I've never followed any rules with it, hence my decision to share via a blog, with zero constraints. It's free, there are no adverts, and primarily I do it as much for myself as I do to share.
'Rules are what deprive you of yourself'
© Simon Beck, 2019. The copyright for this article and photographs, remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.