Sunday, 23 February 2020

Mossdale Sessions 79 - 81

Mossdale Session 79

26th June 2019

(Simon Beck)

'Oh I am sorry to disappoint you, bet you were rubbing your little hands together, afraid it's looking like I'll be about for a bit yet'

Been staying with friends in Burnsall for a few days at a time during this period, while I get back on my feet. No van though, which is still parked on the driveway at home, sans tax, insurance and in need of repairs to the coolant system, so I'm dependant on lifts. Am glad I didn't sell it back when things were deemed beyond a point of no return.

Almost made my way to Mossdale a fortnight ago but still on the weak side. The longer approach walk from Burnsall appeared formidable back then.

Long slow plod of a walk in the heat. Especially up the gill from Hebden. Quitting the tobacco five days ago has probably helped, more psychologically than anything. I'd expected to have my arse handed to me fitness wise after those poisonous months of spring.

Arrived at the Scar early afternoon after an unusually long approach compared to the norm.

Journal states an uneventful trip to the project.

The fact it was almost a year since the breakthrough to the White Hotel (Mossdale Session 52 - 25/06/18) occurred to me as I passed the restriction (Rightism). I recall a comment from Adele during this period about it feeling like a lifetime ago.

Investigated the SW bedding off the Airlock for the hundredth time. Nothing new gained. Passing a metre or so of constricted ground to the area beyond will require the removal of an edge here and there. A job for when I next bring the resources...... I'm not convinced a way on exists here and suspect the draught is coming up through the floor from the lower levels?

The Alley Cat Series was then visited for the first time since Nov 2018 (the night I filmed the Swims and managed a paltry amount of surveying, when everything in there appeared freeze dried).
Journal states that the draught was very evident today as well, especially near Little Shop of Horrors. I'm glad I've maintained these journal reports immediately after every session, I would long have forgotten details such as this, especially now seven months down the line.

The hole/slit near Charlie Says appears to have opened a little with flooding. Nothing new noticed at the limit of the series beyond the 'Trench'. I can almost feel the freshness of the air there even as I write. The essence of what was felt still lingers with thought.
The scaffolding I used here can be stripped out over the coming visits to be used elsewhere. I also climbed up to Wharfegate and better inspected the seepage inlet looking for voids amongst the mud/boulder floor, nothing found.
I'm still scratching my head regarding this area. The back wall of the chamber appears to be Bedrock, not just a large loose block, and something that appears to be the Hanging Wall of this fractured earth. I've often wondered what digging the considerable mud/boulder floor of this chamber would reveal?  A few loose sections of scaffold pole and clips were collected up as I returned to the Blue Room. 

Next came the descent of the Blowpipe (2nd pitch), a feature I hadn't even named the last time I passed by here. Tidied up the cache of gear in Featherstone Chamber and moved it all a little higher up and out of any future deluge.

De Fleurs Passage naturally followed. One of the boulders that forms the bridge midway through 'Pas Grave' spun on it's axis as I passed over it. The usual head shaking followed gritted teeth of this section.

Flooding appears to have washed open the hole in the floor of De Fleurs slightly, that I began digging session 77 (24/02/19). With only the pinch bar to hand the dig was prodded and enlarged a little more. Conditions were no less miserable than before, with the same seepage/mud, and that nerve racking sensation that my surroundings were not as stable as they appeared.
After reaching a similar conclusion to session 77, that some form of retaining wall was probably necessary to aid a worthwhile attempt, I turned my attention to the clean washed fragment of passage that runs parallel to the south. Though my journal states better progress was made, the same flake barred the same access in the end. The drill + plugs/feathers will be required at the very least to make further progress here.

Last resort (nothing) was then followed by the terminus of Healey Avenue where something previously missed was discovered. The new discovery was a roof passage, aligned with - heading back along - Healey Av, and floored by Healey's ceiling.  After a few attempts the feature was deemed too tight/awkward to enter. I was giving off so much steam it was hard to see clearly beyond a few metres where it appeared to widen slightly. Having some company/backup for this one would be wise, though it hasn't stopped me of late.
The journal states moving air was felt here as well, though this could be connected to what I've felt emanating from the floor around the Lower Chambers/Last Resort region not far off below.
I suspected at the time, as the survey also suggests, that the feature linked up with the Alley Cat Series or the alcove off the Blue Room above. If the survey is anything to go by then there's around four/five metres between this feature and that above, more than enough ground to hide a possible way on.
Had an urge to trial excavate the floor of the Alley Cat Series ever since I first visited there and became aware of the draught, this new find may well save me bothering.
The fact Healey Avenue ends the way it does always raised suspicion, as if there should've been a continuation heading South East, around a bend - in keeping with that common NW/SE master joint.

Prior to this area of the cave being thrown into disarray, things would've been far simpler passing this way I suspect.

Still no closer to finding a definite point to push next, though I can't complain about the lack of options. I guess a lot boils down to my indecision of late and the hope of finding a way-on that avoided a major resource draining assault. De Fleurs Passage or the outlet in Last Resort seem the best of the bunch, with enough scaffold on site to get things cracking at one of the two. It's time to accept I need a long term plan here, I've wasted enough time now hoping I'd eventually stumble upon a short term one. Chances are if I pick roughly the right spot I doubt I'll have to go far to be through. Call it another hunch but that's how I've felt in there without ever knowing why - a sense of the beyond only metres away - as I've mentioned before.

Headed out checking a further few bits with a relaxed enjoyable return to the surface. Didn't feel as knackered as I'd expected to either. Somebody I'd encountered earlier in the day had commented that I still didn't look very well, in their usual passive aggressive manner. That may be the case pal but lets not forget which of us was heading to Mossdale that day....

Trip duration: 2 hours 30 mins

Post De Fleurs mucky, even after a wash off in the Swims

Mossdale Session 80

Thurs 25th July 2019

(Simon Beck)

'Genius borrows and those with no imagination steal'

Postponed from the previous day. Been in Burnsall since Monday. Still no van - getting it sorted shouldn't be far off. I was almost joined by others, interested in helping out with the project today, though a transport issue at the last minute mean't they had to cancel.

Late start after a tonne of faffing about in the morning. Fortunately got a lift off Gina to Yarnbury, which cut a big chunk off the approach hike. The only downside was a fast approaching thunderstorm.

Had planned to strip the scaffold out of Alley Cat but due to the forecast, giving little room by that point, decided instead to visit Syphon Passage and complete the Straightway Loop.

My journal entry mentions little of the descent, nor the unusual left turn at Cigarette Junction, which I suspect was appreciated at the time. That bleak ominous section, a contrast to the friendly Easy Passage, no doubt taking my mind off shit.

Little is said of Syphon Passage either, though from memory I recall it was accepting a decent flow. Appearances can be deceiving mind...
During a visit with A-Wilson (Mossdale Session 2 - April 2017) when we completed the Borehole Passage/Oomagoolie loop, I'm almost certain we encountered an inlet on the left close to Fungus Chamber, maybe even further on nearer to Rockabottom Chamber. I didn't really think much of it till afterwards, probably when viewing the survey and at a loss as to where it was coming from, but wondered if it was fed by Syphon P. The intention was to return and investigate it further, both the inlet's location and to test the water entering Syphon somehow - dye etc - but these plans along with pushing Syphon Passage proper were shelved when the focus shifted to the terminus of Ouroborous/Black Edge Choke.
Progress at Black Edge Choke in my own opinion has made other sites in Mossdale pretty much redundant for the time being, and this will remain the primary focus, though a simultaneous effort at Syphon Passage will be made from here on out, if only to investigate what was found by those who previously explored here.

I still have Sessions 1&2 to write up, something I may prioritize once I've got these uptodate, but going back to the Oomagoolie loop excursion (session 2) we found Shingle Passage sumped d/s of the junction with Borehole Passage and a partial blockage at the far end of one of the chambers (Fungus/Rockabottom), suggesting that part of the cave hadn't been visited in a while. A pristine caterpillar (white,black) was seen somewhere along the North Easterly branch (terminal) off Carbide Tin Junction, the end of which was visited (mud choke - fresh earthy atmosphere).
For those visiting the cave who don't fancy Kneewrecker or the Marathons but fancy something more sporting than a trip to Rough Chamber et al then the Oomagoolie Loop from Cigarette Junction, via Borehole Passage/Rough Crawl, is highly recommended and deserving of the higher grades.
The remainder of Session 2 was spent collecting up as much telephone wire as possible, into two plastic sacks, from Rough Chamber onwards upstream. A considerable effort was made lowering the dam that day which was followed by an unnerving boom!
That trip was less than three years ago, yet eighty Mossdale visits ago as I write!

Aside from sussing out how I was going to divert water away from Syphon Passage, the remainder of Session 80 was spent completing the Straightway loop, visiting Rough Chamber & Great Aven before making a steady exit. Lots of fresh flood froth noted, assume from the storm Tuesday night. Thought I could hear thunder as I exited the final section of the entrance series.
Enjoyed the hike back to Burnsall even with the debilitating heat. Managed to avoid blisters unlike the previous session's approach.

Trip duration: 1 hour 30 mins

Contemplating something... either 'I'm glad to be back', or 'I'm bloody condemned to this for eternity!'


Mossdale Session 81

Saturday 24th August 2019

(Simon beck, Nicola...)

'Damage done is damage never undone'

Finally got van back on the road around mid August and celebrated with a Dowbergill through trip the following day. The entrance shaft of Providence Pot was found to be awash with water, seeping through the walls from the beck. I almost cancelled the trip after several blind attempts to descend the restriction whilst at the mercy of the deluge, with a few loose boulders felt under foot. Back on the surface a good handful of bracken was collected to plug the holes, which just about did the job. Dowbergill Passage was traversed under very sporting conditions with only the final low bits avoided due to high water. I will admit to a feeling of relief on the other side, but mostly just glad of been responsible only for myself that day. A much needed and thoroughly enjoyable hour plus resonating with the natural elements again.

Dismal weather followed with the first opportunity for Mossdale deemed unignorable. After a few failed efforts to synchronize, as can be the case the moment you begin organising Mossdale trips, Nicola was free to join me on this one. This wasn't Nicola's first visit to the cave, having caved here with John Holloway and others in the past.

Water levels were still raised but all passable. The work lowering the dam really has stood the test of time.

A group from York Caving Club were in the cave that day having visited Boulder Hall & Confusion Cavern, taking some great pictures in the process, and who we met during their exit. I hope our slinking in the shadows waiting in surprise whilst you approached in the Swims was taken in good faith.

Confusion Passage was ripe with the smell of a once cute furry animal snagged right where the passage pinches, giving few options but to hold one's nose, and in the case of the route I've long taken, where Roger was in full view suspended above it, averting one's eyes too. The flood that left it there definitely had a sick sense of humour.

A very cold draught was met beyond Broadway which intensified at the choke (BlackEdge). The lowest confines of the choke - De Fleurs Passage/Last Resort - were inspected to see if the previous monster flood had uncovered anything of note. Little had changed from last and I once again deduced this area would require heavy metal to make any further progress. I also concluded (again), as did Nicola, that an easier way on must surely exist, possibly beneath the abundant false floors on the level above and to the South West - 'Alley Cat/Airlock' region, where much of the draught emanates. I'm fairly sure the draught I've felt in the Alley Cat series does not originate from the explored lower chambers.  

With this been the first accompanied trip since Session 68, before the breakthrough to the Blowpipe and lower chambers, I took the opportunity to attempt a vocal connection between the terminus of Healey Av and Alley Cat Series above. This was quickly achieved, with the added smoke test, via roll-up, which caused initial confusion from Nicola. 'Oh my god why can I smell smoke in here!?' I wish I'd said 'it's not coming from me!' This vocal connection confirms the survey is somewhere close to accurate at least. The newly discovered section of passage atop Healey Avenue was given a little further consideration, but again I failed to gain entry. 

The day ended with a pub meal and a good laugh or two. Been a good while since I had as much fun or laughter as we did that day. 

Trip Duration: 2 1/2 hours ish 

The source of much amusement later in the day. Our 'We're in the process of working it out' picture.

Next installment: Youtube Clips from Sessions 83-84

© Simon Beck, 2020. The copyright for this article and photographs, remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Simon, what’s the score with the different draughts? Are they being revealed by the floods washing away debris in the system and revealing new passages? Can remember we stuck dye in a watercourse when I was with the Orpheus, it made the local paper as we somehow managed to miscalculate the amount, ahem! Your mention of the dead furry thing made me chortle, fond memories of exploring the abandoned lead mines around Cwmystwyth with Boyd Potts and a local bloke who acted as our guide, we discovered a bloated sheep carcass en route and Boyd decided to throw rocks at it as I tried to navigate past it much to his and the local blokes amusement, I’m sure if he had hit it we would have had a very messy onward exploration!