TRIP REPORTS - what have you been down to? > Digging & Exploration Trips in The UK

P8 to Sump 10

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ah147:
So a few people have asked for a trip report from the end of P8 and they can't wait for the newsletter.

I'm not much of a writer, but here goes:

After a set up trip on Thursday night, everything was set for a trip down to the end Saturday, 7s were beyond sump 3, and all other gear was at the sump pool.

I started to make my way to the cave at about 9am. Came across a car accident I had to help out at which delayed my start til about 3pm.

Sump pool was reached very quickly in 15minutes, a new personal best!

I geared up wearing 3L cylinders, carrying a 200m tackle sack with 40m rope, 10m rope, 150m of 4mm polyprop on reel, 40m of 6mm polyprop on reel, SRT gear, 2L of water, hand bolting gear, save-a-dive kit, several bolts and biners, 3 boost bars, a go pro, a small bag, two lighters and 20 B&H gold.

I started to dive, the sumps 1-3 were amazing! Must have been upwards of 2m of visibility, I didn't need to dig the end of sump 3 to get through. I could have worn the bag on my back had the mood taken me! In over 90 dives at this site, I've never seen conditions so good!

I switched to my 7L cylinders, kindly staged by Rob Thursday night, at this point. It was at this point I realised the go pro was out of battery so I left it there. The passage between 3 and 4 was the hardest I've ever found it, with two 12kg cylinders and a bag that must have weighed upwards of 20kg. I nearly fell into the water going down the ladder!

Sump 4 was quite a long dive but thoroughly enjoyable with about 1.5m vis. Again, I was shocked how good it was, but nothing compared to my shock when I found sump 5 silted to the roof!

This meant Id have to use the bypass, it's essentially a hand lined climb up some well spaced metal plates. It's not an easy climb in the slightest. It was made slightly harder by the hand line being on the wrong end of the bypass!

Normally I'd clip my gear to the handline, climb the handline, haul the gear up, lower the gear down the other side then body abseil down. Now whether through haste, stupidity or laziness, I don't know, but I decided to climb it with all my gear on. I will never do that again. I lowered the bag down the other side but body abseiled down with my cylinders on.

I intended to bolt a handline down budgie pot, but decided Id rather save the rope for further in the cave where information is sketchy. So I climbed down the ladder, and came to my first work part of the trip. So I sat down, had a cigarette and promptly broke my first lighter!

I proceeded to lay line along the passage from budgie pot to the bottom of the cresta run in the dry wearing just my cylinders. The passage here is beautiful clean washed phreatic between 2 and 1.5m diameter and well worth a visit. I continued up the cresta run in just my cylinders, this, again, is perfectly formed, round, clean washed, phreatic passage. Unfortunately it's quite steep uphill, it meanders, and it's about 0.6m diameter. So it was a bit of a ballache.

I left my cylinders and the large reel at the start of sump 7 and went back to fetch my bag. Taking this up was just as bad, even though it was a little smaller without the reel. I geared up and went diving!

Well, sump 7? It's the best dive I've ever done! Crystal clear, big pot in the middle and large passage. It was amazing. You pop up in an airbell and quickly dive through sump 8 which is short but just as beautiful.

After sump 8 you end up in a small chamber too small to remove gear. It was thusly I spent the next 40 minutes squeezing up a 60 degree shifting gravel slope, with my cylinders, mask and fins on, bag in hand, and roof about 10 inches above me! But wow, the view at the top was amazing. I can't describe it. If people are interested I'll try and draw a picture but it was the most interesting and beautiful passage I've ever seen. There's barely any pretties in this cave, just unbelievably formed passage.

I carried on down this beautiful passage and stopped for a cigarette at the start of sump 9, and promptly broke my second lighter! Sump 9 was a great dive on the way in, but I had to outswim rolling silt clouds, in conjunction with the mess of multiple lines I was seeing, I knew the swim out was going to be interesting.

But wow. The passage beyond sump 9 was the best yet. Made all the better in the knowledge I'm either the second or third person to see it, either way, definitely on the third trip that far. The first since 1996.

Massive keyhole shaped passage with a few, tasteful pretties, meandering slowly towards a 10m deep, 2m wide, elliptical, white limestone pot. It was stunning. You step over this pot as the cave takes a hard right, within 10m you're at the head of a 20m pitch. The pitch reminds me of the pitch near the end of giants (geology?)

This was rigged on 20 year old rope that I promptly replaced. But the spits looked fine. I descended with all my gear. This pitch ended on a chert ledge 4m above the final sump on the left, on the right was an interconnecting aven that could be interesting.

Sump 10 had no line in it, I attached my reel and made to dive, I stepped into the water, and got a sudden feeling I shouldn't go diving this sump. So I didn't. I turned round and made back up the pitch. The reels still there, attached.

I can't explain the feeling, or the reasons for it. Maybe it was the remoteness, maybe it was everything Id done and would have to do to get back, maybe it was being alone. But on that day, at that time, something was saying don't dive. If anything says that, I don't dive.

At the top of the pitch I spotted a low, silty, bedding crawl immediately on the right and thought it looked unexplored. So I had a little look. I crawled for approximately 30m before reaching a sump. I'll have to come back to dive this!

So now I'm definitely going home. I take the SRT gear out, my lump hammer, anything I can ditch and cram everything into a 40m warmbac tacklesack. To anyone who's interested, this is a 200m Warmbac bag, three nalgenes, bolting gear, SRT gear, save-a-dive kit (similar to a 500ml nalgene size). But you really have to try. I had another cigarette before I set off. My lighter didn't break. The world was good.

But not for long, I stuck my head back under sump 9 into zero vis. I couldn't even see the light from my scurion. I started following the line home. Suddenly, no more line! It must have snapped on my way in! It was 20+ years old and relatively thin... Decided I better go looking for it.

I found it rather quickly, wrapped in multiple, tight coils round my body. Rendering me almost unable to move. Very slowly, trying not to panic but not completely succeeding, I started to untangle myself whilst trying to keep my orientation and not let go of my search reel and add more loose line to this cluster. I resisted the urge to use my knife and eventually sorted the line out, made a quick repair and exited the sump.

I was nearly hypothermic, having spent upwards of 30minutes barely moving in the very cold water. I wasn't entirely sure I had enough gas to get back out the cave, but the worst was yet to come...

I decided to have a chocolate bar and a cigarette, my final lighter broke! It's a cruel God who denies a man a cigarette after an experience like that and was definitely the low point of my trip! :P

I assessed the situation and the possible outcomes would be, in order of preference:
1. Make it all the way back to dry cave, with very little gas.
2. Make it back to an airspace between sumps with little/no gas
3. Run out of air underwater
4. Die of hypothermia waiting for a rescue at this point.

1. Seemed reasonably likely
2. Seemed more likely
3. Seemed very unlikely
4. Seemed extremely likely if I waited there, as it would have been a good 14 hours at least before a party got to me.

So I decided to dive. And fast. With my new lightened bag, and cold to fight against, it took me 40 minutes from the home side of sump 9 to the start of sump 3. I finally felt safe again. But still very cold. I swapped my nearly empty 7L cylinders back to my still nearly full 3L cylinders and raced through the final three sumps.

At the sump pool I threw everything off, into a large tacklesack and stashed it and started to run out the cave with a super light bag.

I got to pitch two, someone had pulled my rope up to the pitch head! The last thing I needed. I freeclimbed out up the traverse route. This was relatively easy.  But when I got to the start of the first pitch, someone had pulled that up too! Looking out the cave i traversed round the left and made a no feet hand traverse to the lip at the bottom of the pitch and pulled up! This was hard.

But I was home and safe! I ran all the way back to the car.

Got changed and went down to the TSG where I was met by multiple people who treated me to beer and a pot noodle and were greatly supportive.

Which brings my onto my next thing. I've been working on this for over a year. The support I've received has been phenomenal!

Thank you to Rob Middleton, Simon Brooks, Ant Bury, Brian Heddon for diving with me.

Thank you to Rich Smith, Phil Walker, Daren Jarvis, Ashley Richardson, Charlotte Heaton, Simon Wynne, Sean Wynne, Jack Barratt and countless other faces that have passed through to help carry.

Thank you to John Cordingley, Tony Seddon, Christine Grosart, Clive Westlake and several others for putting up with my endless pestering.

Alistair Gott and Matt Jenkinson deserve special mention for keeping my motivation going, but every single caver I've told about the project has helped in that respect and been enthusiastic for me.

Lastly thank you to anyone who has been down P8 whilst my gear and ropes are in there. Until this trip I haven't had a single problem with anything been messed with! Which is quite a feat as I don't hide things.

This has been an ambition of mine since I started caving, and every single person mentioned and many many more have helped me accomplish it.

A return is planned.


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droid:
Good reading that.

Thank you.

You say you're not much of a writer, but I prefer your straightforward, shoot-from-the-hip style to the overwrought spiel that passes for some people's writing.

Fulk:
Well, for 'somebody who's not much of a writer' you had me enthralled. What a trip!

pwhole:
Fantastic report - well done. Though I'm a bit disturbed about your ropes being pulled up. But that can be argued about elsewhere - the main thing is the work done - fantastic effort.

ah147:
I understand the ropes being pulled up, everything I took down the cave went with me apart from a daren drum. It's not strange to see a daren drum at dive base left between trips, and the cave is permanently rigged, people often pull them up out the way of the stream.

I think it was just a simple misunderstanding.


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