Author Topic: Hopeless hole - Portland  (Read 14759 times)

Offline John_Smith

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #25 on: November 10, 2019, 07:58:25 am »
Tim lying where the large boulder used to be while trying to support the hanging ceiling. The way on is to the right, just beyond the hanging ceiling.


The way on, buried up to its neck in even more stuff to move but it looks very promising indeed!

Offline Pegasus

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #26 on: November 10, 2019, 11:09:58 pm »


Having got in touch via the forum a couple of months back Ed and I met on Portland for a trip round Blacknor

That was good to read  ;D

The photos look, erm, precarious!

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #27 on: November 11, 2019, 09:43:57 am »
Great progressive dig read with clear images. It's rather a shame that its called " Hopeless Hole " though that might be the incentive to find more. I liked TIT. Many years ago I had NEDFROB though is probably best that we don't go into that. Our team is digging every week and I have actually got to use a bit of scaffolding now neatly disguised behind a stone wall. Peter's conveyor belt has been added and this makes hauling and crawling so much easier. When we ever find anything we will let folks know but it won't be anytime soon.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #28 on: November 11, 2019, 11:42:04 am »
Yes, Tim we should have some light but durable conveyor belt knocking about it you need some.

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #29 on: November 11, 2019, 09:48:25 pm »
Thank Ed for posting the photo's.

The way on is basically behind all the loose stuff on the right in Ed's top photo.  Right at the end of our session on Saturday I pulled out a few bits just beyond that very dodgy boulder and a hole appeared with a view to better things.  I'd always thought the way on might be the other side of that rubble but until then, moving various bits on that RHS showed nothing other than more rubble so we followed the good wall on the left instead.

As for that boulder it didn't look that bad when I crawled under it!  I did put some 'supporting spoil' underneath so it wouldn't go far.  Might look at taking it out next time or just digging though the rubble this side of it.  From what I could see pretty much anywhere through that right hand mess will achieve the same outcome.  No doubt you've all guess by now, the loose stuff is what has dropped down yet another narrow rift crossing our cave!

As for digging, the TIT is working really well in the main passage as far as the Steve's connection (base camp 1).  The section further in is being served very well with the carpet drag trays.  We've got a fairly smooth dry floor so I don't think conveyor belt would add much.  Very kind offer though.  What we really need is more help - any volunteers?  Or just someone to finish the job for us.  All dig pirates welcome on Portland on the condition you tell us what you find!

I reckon one more trip will get us into what ever we've caught a glimpse of last weekend.  As much as we try not to leave spoil everywhere (Richard even noted how tidy I'd been keeping the place), we do have a reasonably large clear area only a few metres back from the dig face.  I like to call it a chamber because 3 of us fit in at once and we don't have many 'chambers'.  We've been using it as base camp 2!  There's always the option to pull spoil back to there and deal with it later.   

Otherwise, I suspect the dig will take a break again whilst we poke around at the potential Steve's to Blacknor dig (see other thread).  We didn't really intend to work on this one last weekend.

As for the name I don't know the history.  Presumably the cave was named 'Hopeless Hole' by past Portland explorers due to the state of the collapse under what is now the Steve's / Hopeless connection.  It certainly didn't look worthwhile to us but we set to anyway.  Our main goal was to establish the connect to Steve's which I don't think had been considered previously.  The SDS drill has been vital to our effort and without it I'm certain we too would have considered the place hopeless.

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #30 on: November 16, 2019, 09:57:19 pm »
Well Hopeless Hole is certainly proving to be hopeless!

As you've probably guessed by my first sentence we've not found the caverns measureless to man (on Portland that refers to anything Richard sized) we'd hoped for.  Myself, Sas and Richard spent a good few hours in Hopeless again today.  After removal of a reasonable amount of spoil I managed to grovel my way along the low, 'open' passage seen on our last trip making around 4 m of progress.  1 m ahead was the flow stone bank we'd gained a glimpse of previously; unfortunately no further passage was found.  In fact it seems the flow stone is completely blocking the way ahead (assuming one exists) leaving us with a dead end.  Another large spoil removal task would be required to open the route to the 'end' allowing sufficient room to work, and that's assuming there is something at the end worth working on.  All very disappointing really considering how promising it had all looked.  We have a solid roof, a good wall and it's heading in the right direction!  Bugger. 

So we called a committee meeting.  The outcome being that we're going to leave Hopeless for the foreseeable future.  Consequently we've had a bit of a tidy up today and Richard plans to return to remove the rest of our junk over the next week or so.  As for the future, we might clear a proper route as far as the stal bank for three reasons...
1. To be certain there's nothing further worth digging.
2. To make a proper end to the cave which has a view of a few pretties.
3. It's all been rather good fun so why not continue even if there's no purpose.
Or we might not bother!

What I did manage to do is take a few photos:

Here's Sas and Richard in our chamber:


Sas looking through the hole on the far side of the above chamber which leads to the end of the cave:


Richard about to round the final corner (to the right beyond the boulders).  This whole section has been cleared during our last 2 trips.


And round the corner he goes:


Once round that corner, a bit of wriggling later this is the view of the end:

The flowstone bank mentioned is central on this picture behind the last few rocks I couldn't be bothered to move when I had my head up level with them.

Well Hopeless has provided us with much amusement over the last 18 months so I dare say we'll be back one day!  In short though our efforts have resulted in the connection to Steve's providing a cracking through trip (which incidentally was completed again today by Nick and Jerome whilst we were digging) and we've doubled the length of the phreatic tunnel.  We've agreed the priority over this side of the island now needs to be the potential Steve's - Blacknor connection.  I've also got a few ideas for new places to bugger around in and of course there's always a return to Showerbath to consider.



Offline thomasr

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #31 on: November 17, 2019, 03:45:29 pm »
Good stuff  dorset and mendip :clap2:  Come on the north

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #32 on: February 01, 2020, 10:33:46 pm »
Well it's almost as if we can't keep away!  Myself and Richard convinced Sas today she should complete the Steve's to Hopeless through trip have successfully avoided it since we made the connection.  What else is there to do after reaching Hopeless than the spend a couple hours digging the end? 

Today's objective was to bring the bloody ceiling down.  One thing we all agreed on after our last disappointing trip was that any further progress would require the removal of the rocks to the right of Richard in the third photo in my previous post.  The photo makes them look reasonable however it was all a bit dodgy on the far side and furthermore to give better access to the end we'd have to remove some of the bits holding it all up. 

In a change to tradition, Richard set to, doing unholy things with the long poking pole, whilst myself and Sas acted as spoil sherpa's.  About an hour later Richard had made the cave shorter as it was no longer possible to pass beneath the beast of a boulder he'd moved.  I then set to with the drill, plug and feathers.  Another hour later and the lot was gone.  Whilst I was breaking boulders Richard took out 5 TIT loads.  Spoil removal was slow today as we'd taken the carpet drag trays home previously.

Richard's convinced we should at least make a proper route down to the previously mentioned flow stone at the end of the cave and see what, if anything, can be done to continue ahead.  Today's effort has gone a long way to achieving that.  There's certain potential for a reasonable find, it's just a question of how much effort is required!

No photo's of today's digging, however here's 3 taken whilst in Steve's:







Back to the 'End of Steve's End.' dig on Friday.

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #33 on: August 24, 2020, 10:10:04 pm »
An update on Hopeless Hole...

Only two trips since Feb due to some annoying virus doing the rounds.  The first was a few weeks ago - very little to report from that one.  It was simply a tidying up / spoil removal session and a rough survey taken (below). 

The second was today and finally an opportunity to attack the flowstone bank at the end of the cave.  To be honest I didn't expect much from this.  It wasn't clear whether we should be digging at the penultimate corner or the end 4 m further on.  Consensus was to try the end (first).  Turns out mud, infill, boulders and flowstone is a very boring combination to dig.  Nether-the-less 4 hours later and about 1 m of forwards progress a drafting hole appeared which was soon enlarged to provide a view beyond the blockage into further 'passage'.  The Passage ahead appears to be about 30cm high with a solid roof.  Approx. 1.5 m wide and we've estimate at least 5 m long.  The 'floor' is a mix of mud and rock with the true floor probably 1 m below.  As with the last piece of passage in Hopeless we'll need to create a trench to crawl in as we progress.  Two keyed in boulders currently block entry into this which need breaking and removing next time.  Hopefully the next few metres at least should be quick progress.  The effort we've put into this place deserves some open passage now! 

A couple of photo's:

Looking ahead from the penultimate corner to Richard working at the flowstone bank. 




We've been able to retain a decent amount of the flowstone bank by keeping to the left.  This is what remains:


Gaynam sporting his latest headgear invention.  Basically a battery powered streetlight. 


The survey we took (which will hopefully be completely out of date after our next session):

Online tim.rose2

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #34 on: August 31, 2020, 09:33:05 pm »
The team returned Saturday and through the flowstone we go.  It took approx. 30 mins, a dose of the drill, plug and feathers and some grunting with the crowbar but the 2 boulders blocking the exit from the flowstone choke succumbed.  A bit of a tidy up and enlargement of the hole through before the 'trenching' began.  With Nick at the lead we'd made around 5m of forward progress before lunch.  Beyond the choke we have a good ceiling and two walls with a passage width of approx. 2m.  Unfortunately we cannot tell the true height of the passage as it's filled nearly to the ceiling leaving a head space of around 20 to 30 cm.  Being 2m wide, half the width was sacrificed to home small spoil from our trench, whilst larger rocks were sent back for removal by the spoil sherpa's.  After lunch a further 3m of forward progress was made but this was very low due to inefficient 'spoil hiding' and hence running out of space.  I'd not tried very hard - knackered from the mornings efforts and desperately hoping it was magically going to get bigger!  At the far end, the passage continues the same for as far as we can see, being around 5 to 10 m.  On the plus side, it's clear where we're going and what we need to do.

We'll need to spend some time improving Saturdays forward progress making it a bit bigger and doing a better job of loosing the spoil but other wise progress should be fairly quick.  The problem of course is spoil removal as we getting a long way from the entrance (approx. 40 m) and very few other options.

What I'm struggling to understand is how the passage, which if empty would be sizeable for Portland, has become filled with rubble. Obviously some event has created the fill but I can't imagine what that would be.  The fill is a mixture of rocks ranging from aggregate to small boulders around 2ft square, a little soil and loads of broken up flowstone / stal.  We've worked our way along roughly 8 m of this and can see it continues ahead so there must be at least a 15m section.  There are no rifts above and other than a good splattering of 2 to 5cm long stals the ceiling is clean and flat.  The broken stal in the fill is far bigger than anything on the ceiling so it's not come from there.  The fill almost looks like the output from the stone crusher which has been pumped in!

For those who know Portland, the passage resembles Comfort Crawl in Blacknor being square shaped, however in the case of Hopeless the gap above the rubble floor is too small to fit through.

And for those who like them some photo's...

Looking through the hole we've made in the flowstone choke to Nick working on the other side:


The new passage on the far side of the choke showing the left hand wall and the ceiling.  The right hand side has been used to home what we've take from the left:


Richard inspecting the limit of Saturdays efforts at the end of the day (he might have commented that it wasn't big enough!):


A sample of the broken up bits of flowstone & stal found amongst the fill we're removing that we've put aside:

Offline Alex

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #35 on: September 01, 2020, 01:58:10 pm »
On that last picture it looks like the stal could have come from the ceiling originally, where that black patch is now?
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #36 on: September 01, 2020, 03:16:35 pm »
The black patch is chert in the ceiling - there's loads throughout the whole cave.  I've caused a bit of confusion by not explaining the 4th photo better.  Those bits of stal came from several metres further into the cave.  The fourth photo was taken where we were sorting spoil and those bits were picked out and placed on a convenient ledge as we thought we'd retain a few.  They would have come from somewhere below the ceiling shown in the 2nd photo.  There's also loads of it.  Every other piece of rock is at least partly flow stone so it's certainly not from the odd bit which has fallen off the current ceiling.  One theory I have is that the current ceiling was not the original ceiling.

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #37 on: December 18, 2021, 10:13:32 pm »
I've just noticed how long it's been since I posted to this thread...
Obviously Covid hasn't helped and we've had other distractions (Persil & Nookey) over the summer but work in Hopeless hasn't completely ceased.  In fact during the last couple of months since ticking off Persil as done there's been a renewed effort.

A couple of critical things have happened...

The dig became increasingly difficult.  We hit a patch where the 'head space' we were following was only a few inches high.  Below this was layered calcite, anything up to 12" thick sat upon a thick layer of mud.  This meant that progress was slow, the calcite had to be painstakingly broken up and a huge amount of material had to be taken out to the entrance.  Being 40+ metres from the entrance a big team is required to achieve much as stacking spaces in the cave are limited.  It turns out even a team of 7 isn't enough (which is our record in terms of people)!!!  We do have a system of using intermediate stacking spaces which works pretty well with 5 but any less and we quickly end up being unable to move. 

The original aim was to find open phreatic beyond the collapse below Steve's Endeavour.  Being 20 m beyond Steve's End. and with the cave looking less likely we were ready to abandon this one.  The final task was to survey what we had to see if that shed any light on things.  The survey didn't help with where the 'open' passage might be, but we did realise we were only 5 m from the end of C&A rift in Ariel Cave which was a bit of a surprise as I'd assume we would be 20+m south of there:



The aim of the dig changed from finding open phreatic to forging a connection to Ariel and therefore connecting both Hopeless and Steve's End. into the larger system. 

This didn't remove the need for a big team and so bugger all happened through the spring of 2021.  As mentioned above, other projects occupied us during the summer and so we've only returned to Hopeless again recently. 

It was big effort over several trips but eventually the calcite was gone (well enough of it).



The end isn't huge but it is big enough:





A fortnight ago we found what we were looking for; 4m beyond the last survey point a large rift appeared in the ceiling.  Unfortunately (and as expected) it was full of debris which kept on falling every time it was poked and by the time we'd finish every orifice to hide spoil was full.

Another session today and monumental effort in spoil removal.  They must have been spurred on by the 2 beautifully made carpet drag trays I treated the team too.  Richard reckons 25 TIT loads left the cave which we're estimating to be well over a tonne.  A good portion of that was from the rift at the end of the cave, now over 50 m from the entrance.  By the time we were finished we were looking up through a hole into an open rift above.  The hole was certainly person sized, but guarded by some pretty hideous rocks that no one fancied poking at the end of the day.  Any attempt to climb through the hole would almost certainly dislodge something, if not the bloody lot, potentially resulting in a trapped caver, so for now the what lies above is unknown.



We're obviously hoping we're into C&A rift and the survey certainly suggests that's likely.  The rift above looks about the right sort of size too.  The question is whether we're about to pop up into the rift within the known cave, just beyond the end where further digging will be required to forge the connection or in fact in a different rift entirely.  If the latter then there's probably some new cave to explore.  In the next couple of weeks we're going to pop into Ariel and head to the end of C&A to see if we can find evidence of our efforts.  If we can we're hoping it'll be easier and safer to sort out from that end.  Otherwise there's another hard session in Hopeless ahead where at least one member of the team will need to bring spare underwear. 

With any luck our next connection to Ariel Cave is imminent which will complete my dream of a Persil to Steve's Endeavour through trip.

To be continued...


Offline mrodoc

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #38 on: December 19, 2021, 08:44:05 am »
Make it big enough for fat old septuagenarians and I will come along :)

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #39 on: December 19, 2021, 09:14:48 am »
We will.  All our digs eventually end up 'Richard sized' and Richard doesn't approve of squeezes!

Offline Andy Sparrow

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #40 on: December 21, 2021, 10:40:27 am »
Fantastic work chaps!  Way back in the 90s when my friend Des Marshall was compiling his 'Selected Caves of Britain and Ireland' I suggested to him that Blacknor/Ariel be included - an idea that was swiftly rejected!  It feels now that a very respectable cave system is being pieced together, which I'm sure will attract cavers from a much wider area.  I'm looking forward to a visit - assuming I fit!
Andy Sparrow



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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #41 on: December 24, 2021, 10:51:46 pm »
Even before the Sandy - Ariel connection was made in the early 90's Ariel was a decent cave and in my opinion more notable than quite a few in the book.  I believe Ariel alone was in the region of 1km.  When Sandy is add to the mix, and adding Persil now that's connected, I'd take a guess the total length must be around 3km.  If and when Hopeless / Steve's joins that'll add another few hundred metres.  In my opinion the Sandy to Ariel (or Persil) through trip is a sporting classic far superior to a lot of trips in that book, it's just unfortunate the connecting rift is tight.  I'd even go as far as saying that if the book was ever re-written the Grove Cliff Caves would be worthy of inclusion too now that the combined cave length is around 600 m.

Bit of an update on Hopeless...

Yesterday me and the two Mike's went into Ariel and to the end of C&A rift.  Unfortunately there was no evidence of our activities at the end of Hopeless.  Mike R headed back out of Ariel and around to Hopeless.  This allowed us to established a weak vocal connection.  Unfortunately the sound was coming through the rift beyond where it's person sized and furthermore appeared to be up & over rather than along so we're assuming horizontally there's a blockage between the two.  Mike K and I did a lot of gardening dislodging a few tonne of loose rock at the end of the C&A rift to make digging safe.  C&A ends by the rift splitting with both branches being too tight.  We are guessing the connection will be 5 to 10 m beyond the current end along the right hand branch.  Once the gardening was done we used up drill batteries beginning the enlarging work along this.  Unfortunately it's going to be a slow job if this is the way to go - we can see the rift continues too tight for approx. 4 m and the walls look pretty solid. 

Meanwhile Mike R did some gardening in the rift at the end of Hopeless bringing down all manner of stuff!  This will now need clearing from the Hopeless end but Mike R reckons the rift will be safely climbable once done.  The rift at the end of Hopeless also appears much wider (i.e. person sized) so it's obviously not too tight the whole way.  By comparing the layers of rock (specifically a thick chert band) we're convince floor level on both sides is the same height so digging straight ahead in both would eventually meet.  What we're hoping is that there's an easier way over the top but until we can climb from Hopeless and properly examine the rift on that side we'll not be able to determine this.  Both myself and Mike K did climb the end of C&A but there wasn't anything obvious and at least some enlargement work would be needed.

I guess what we discovered yesterday is that Hopeless will connect to C&A eventually, it's just a matter of how much time & effort it will take.

Interestingly the left hand rift at the end of C&A has a massive draft emanating from it.  This is on the inland side so probably warrants some investigation too.  Accessing this from Hopeless might prove easier so getting the rift clear and climbed in Hopeless has to be the priority.


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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #42 on: January 03, 2022, 09:08:19 pm »
Another Hopeless update...
Myself, Mike R, Mike K & Gaynam spent today removing more spoil from Hopeless.  12 TIT loads completely out the cave and a lot more moved back toward the entrance and dumped in various locations.  Right at the end of today's session Mike R managed to get into the rift found previously and then blocked himself in.  Once let out I had a look too.  Stop press, it is official, you can stand up at the end of Hopeless Hole!!!  We didn't climb the rift as the way in is small, right in the base of the rift and there's still loads of loose rock.  One wrong foot could easily block the way out and having already done that once at the end of the day we deemed it best not to do so again.  To the left will eventually connect to C&A in Ariel.  It initially looks blocked with infill but should be easy to clear.  Somewhere beyond has to be the narrow rift to C&A which will need enlarging.  Hopefully we can get to a point we can work this from both ends.  Immediately right is blocked with spoil but it could well be open higher up - it's not currently clear how high the rift goes but we can see approx. 5 m at present which is more than person sized.  Amongst the spoil removed today I did find some roach stone which is one of the high bands of Portland stone; the only way that could have got there is fallen from much higher up so I'm optimistic the rift could be a lot higher than we can see from the base.  The rift is a decent size so I'd be surprised if there's not something open to the right if we can find our way through the spoil / wedged blocks.  It'll be nice to find some new cave after all this effort.  The other 'good' news is that the Hopeless phreatic tunnel continues the other side of the rift, more or less immediately turning left.  Initially it's going to need some clearing but beyond looks bigger and littered with rocks rather than calcite / mud as found before the rift so it should be much easier (and therefore quicker) to progress along.  The next session will need to be another mammoth spoil removal but I'm hopeful once into the rift properly we might be able to lose a lot there.  Once again I'm hopeful Hopeless is giving up it's secrets.  But then we've been here before and found nothing.

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #43 on: January 22, 2022, 10:26:29 pm »
Hopeless gets bigger...

Five of us today; Myself, Mike R, Richard, Gaynam and new recruit (to Portland caving / digging) Woody.  The day started by explaining to Woody all the caves are shit, uncomfortable and not worth exploring, but otherwise just as good as Mendip!  Having got the enthusiasm out of the way we headed over to Hopeless, meeting a couple other local cavers on route who were off to have a look at our recent discoveries in Persil.  Great to see other people caving on Portland and more so visiting places we've discovered.

Once in Hopeless I decided to bring down the ceiling in Squatting Hole Chamber which had been looking increasingly dodgy.  Me, Gaynam and Richard then set to clearing the spoil I'd just created and then the heap left from the last trip.  Meanwhile Mike and Woody started shifting more backward from the sharp end.  A couple of hours later Gaynam had to leave as he was on a time limit.  Me and Richard moved ahead to aid moving spoil back to Squatting Hole Chamber recreating the heap we'd just cleared.  As she wasn't present Sas's squatting hole ended up in less than a pristine condition (I'm blaming Richard).  Around 2:30 I was summoned by Mike to have a look at the end with him.  It was finally time to climb the rift!  After a little discussion Mike decided to head up to the left.  After moving a few rocks he announced he could see into the tall rift above and within 10 min Mike was through.  A quick look and we realised we'd best get the others (who by this time were outside yacking to the cavers we'd seen earlier in the day).

So what did we find?  Off to the left the rift went for approx. 10 m and then became too tight.  Mike had a go at this for 20 mins extending it a couple of metres.  Unfortunately the next bit looked like a lot of work.  We're both confident we were looking through to C&A rift in Ariel cave (we'd previously established a vocal connection so it can't be far).  We'll need a team both sides to work out how to attack that one.  My guess is that the distance between the 2 is around 5 m and will take 2 or 3 trips to make the connection.  This does of course mean my previous estimates of how close the two caves were was wrong by at least 10 m! 

To the right it was possible to traverse up and over all the loose stuff we could see from the end of Hopeless Tunnel.  The rift increased in size and height, but unfortunately ended at another blockage after approx. 25 m.  Again any extension here would need a reasonable effort so left for another day.  The other lead is the continuation of the hopeless tunnel which appeared to run along the base of the rift in a massive undercut.  Richard had a look at floor level further along the rift and reckons he found it through a couple of small holes which would be an easier place to dig.

So we've managed to get 5 people standing up simultaneously at the end of Hopeless with plenty of room for more.  We estimate 35 m of new cave.

A few photos.  Faces rather than arses are allowed today as it was a breakthrough.  I like the idea of Faces when we have something to smile about and arses / feet the rest of the time!

Mike emerging from the end of Hopeless tunnel into the rift:


Woody on the initial climb up in the rift.  The way ahead follows the underside of the roof seen in this photo for a few metres and then emerges into the tall rift:


Richard in the new rift:


Mike at the Southern end of the new rift:


There are formations:


And the usual splash of colour:


We did explain to Woody that breakthroughs on your first ever digging trip isn't that common.  Good start to 2022!  Hopefully more to follow.


Offline mikekushy

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Re: Hopeless hole - Portland
« Reply #44 on: January 23, 2022, 04:18:41 pm »
 :bounce:
" Ability is nothing, without opportunity."

 

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