Author Topic: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland  (Read 3906 times)

Online tim.rose2

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Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« on: January 15, 2018, 10:56:58 pm »
Sunday 14th Jan.
Blacknor Hole, Portland - The round trip.

Not many cavers seem to bother with Portland, some don't even know there are caves but having grown up on the isle and started caving there I have an unhealthy fascination with its holes.  Although I've long since left Portland it's still the closest caving region to home and better still there's no gates, keys or politics, just turn up and have fun.

A few weeks back whilst wandering around Portland I noticed some new (ish) bolts above Blacknor Hole.  The previous ones having never been replaced since being chopped off.  For the last 15 years access has only been from below requiring a 6c lead climb to rig an srt rope (i.e. favour from a friendly local climber) as the entrance is approx. 20m up a 30m cliff.  Having discovered the new bolts it was clearly time to have a trip.

So the three of us met at the Portland caving club (aka mothers house) and set off for Blacknor.  Now as you might have gathered by now, at least 50% of the fun of caving on the isle is the 'getting to the entrance' bit.  Blacknor is one of the finest in this respect.  Given that the abseil take off is 'unfriendly' at best and is followed by an entertaining move to get in the entrance (the cliff overhangs a little leaving you a couple of foot outside the hole) it was deemed best if I do the abseil and rig a rope for Sas and Julie to ascend from below.  Sounds daft but SRT'ing up from below is a much nicer option than top down.  I should add this was also to be Julie's first time at SRT. 

Here's me faffing around on top the cliff:


And arriving at the entrance:


Here's julie's first ever SRT pitch, which to be honest is perfectly bolted to give a nice free hanging pitch, easy step off at the top and a brilliant view. 


Finally Sas arrives and we're all in:


The first part of the cave is an annoying crawl to Piccadilly Circus, the first junction in the cave and the point to which we will return at the end of the round trip.  Here we are enjoying the spacious bit having de-kitted:


The round trip consists of two connecting pheatic tunnels intersected by a number of mass movement rifts.  To spice up the trip (and break up the knee torture) it's worth exploring some of these on route.  During this trip our first was to descent the Grand Canyon (approx. 5m ladder pitch) and go gawp at the pretties in the rift.  You'll notice in this and the other photo's below Portland's formations are often orange and despite what some may say they do exist:


Back in Ariel Tunnel the passage improves briefly:


Next is the confluence.  The point at which the two tunnels meet and form the continuation to Sandy Hole, many painful and bruised knees away.  At this point we turned toward the cliff and headed down Queens Tunnel having visited a nicely decorated and hidden rift on route:













Some say Portland is all crawling, well honest, you can walk (occasionally, if you are short enough):


Finally a load of thrutching back along C&A rift brings you back to the confluence:


Then to finish a repeat of the entrance crawl, and the abseil down the cliff.  Other than the obvious in Wales, where else other than Portland can you get such good sea views at the end of a caving trip?









All that was left was to return to the caving club to find a cottage pie on the table and an apple pie in the oven for pudding.  A mother's home really is the best type of caving club!

Well if this has interested you...
1. The caves on Portland are hot (hence the boiler suits rather than caving suits).  The coldest bit will always be getting to the entrance, even in the height of the summer.
2. The caves bite - your knees will be sore and your finest oversuits will have holes.
3. Portland mud smells like cat piss, sticks like shit and never quite disappears.
4. All the caves are brilliant.

If anyone is genuinely keen to cave on Portland there's lots to do and I'd like to spark some interest in the place again.  I know of some places for a thin and keen (aka stupid) person to explore.  I'm told there is good digging potential (not that I do that sort of thing) and there's certainly some work to do to regain access to some existing caves.

Online Oceanrower

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2018, 12:09:29 am »
Been to Portland many, many times for climbing but never actually caved there (unless you count a particularly "interesting" trip into Sandy Hole once. Whoever named that sure had a sense of humour...

Would be keen for more but, even with the "Caves of Portland" book, nothing seems to be quite where is ought to be.

Would be delighted if I could tag along whenever you're next free.


Offline MarkS

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2018, 07:43:53 am »
Any enjoyable read. Thanks.

Also a refreshing change from access discussions!

Online tim.rose2

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2018, 06:07:45 pm »
Quote
Would be delighted if I could tag along whenever you're next free.

Yes of course.  I'll PM you when I have a plan.
Tim

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2018, 01:32:09 am »
Excellent. Thanks.

Offline cbonner

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2018, 08:54:15 am »
Great trip report.

I often frequent Portland climbing, will have to seek out these caves at some point!

Chris.

Offline not_a_climber

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2018, 05:01:02 pm »
Good read! We have been to Portland the last couple of years with my climbing club for a weekend, and this year I learnt there were caves on the island so I'd like to take my kit with me next year and have a look round. Does anyone know of any topos or guide books about the area?

Offline Fulk

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2018, 05:48:04 pm »
Quote
Does anyone know of any topos or guide books about the area?

I just can't think who might reply to that question.  :lol:

Offline John S

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2018, 06:41:31 pm »
 I can   :ang:


Offline Les W

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2018, 11:42:16 pm »
Quote
Does anyone know of any topos or guide books about the area?

I just can't think who might reply to that question.  :lol:

Me, I will reply...
Wessex published the guide book but it is now out of print and a new updated one is (slowly) being prepared but is a long way from publication.
As to topo's, CSCC did have rigging topos for Aerial (Blacknor Hole) but since the bolts were cut off it hasn't been available, however, there are bolts in the entrance that can be used to abseil out after and apparently somebody has placed bolts on the top so it is accessible once again. There is a rebelay just over the lip that is still available to use as well. Rope lengths are quite short but I can't recall what. i'm sure Tim Rose will be able to give you a better idea soon enough.
I'm a very busy person

Offline mikem

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2018, 12:46:19 am »
& partial update to guidebook is available on MCRA website:
http://www.mcra.org.uk/wiki/doku.php?id=articles:start

Mike

Offline John S

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2018, 12:09:02 pm »
Seen some of the draught surveys for the area, but as always the final 10% takes 90% of the time.

Offline Ian Ball

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2018, 04:05:41 pm »
Great trip report!

Online tim.rose2

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2018, 08:26:46 pm »
Rope lengths / bolts...

All depends how you intend to access & exit.  The drop from the top into the cave entrance is approx. 11m.  You will see in the top photo in the trip report there are 3 bolts on the cliff top.  The cave lies on the climbers route 'Drag Racing Underground' (page 63 of the Dorset Rockfax should you have it) and hence there are bolts every couple of metres all the way up.  The climbers lower off is just over the lip so could be used as a rebelay should anyone so desire.  In terms of practicality though, the 'edge' is rounded and sufficiently smooth to either use a rope protector, bit of carpet or indeed not bother.  There are no sharp edges to damage a rope on.  After the first couple of metres you're free hanging as the rounded edge forms a small overhang.

To get into the entrance a 25m rope is sufficient for a pull through from the top if you're intention is to then leave via the sandy hole through trip.  This would also be long enough to exit from Blacknor hole should anything go wrong, but you would sacrifice your rope as it's not long enough to double for a pull through.  If exiting Sandy hole most will want a 10m line for this so take it with you!  Beware this sort of minimalist approach could get you stranded in the entrance should the pull through jam.  There be no cave rescue on Portland so it'll be a long wait (or hope for some climbers to find you as they regularly frequent the path below).   

I personally wouldn't bother trying to srt back up the cliff afterward as the top bit would be 'interesting'.  Although I'm generally a fan of ladders, I'd not consider this a sensible option either.  Feel free to be un-sensible and post some photos though.

Assuming you intend to enter and exit via Blacknor.  The pitch from the entrance to the floor is approx. 18m.  A 45m rope is plenty to double as a pull through for the last man down.  Looking out of the entrance there are 2 bolts for a Y hang up to the left and a single bolt approx. 5ft back into the entrance on the same side for a traverse line.  There are some 'vintage' bits of metal & chains on the other side of the hole - touch these at your peril!  The abseil from the entrance does have a very minor rub point about 1m down, but again this isn't worth bothering about.  I tend to sit in the entrance and just hold the rope off it for the rest of the group.  You only need to move the rope an inch and it's free hanging.  Again nothing sharp.

So my technique - use the 45m rope from the top (which is plenty to reach the base of the cliff) rebelay into the cave.  The rest of the group can either ab down or SRT up depending on preference.  Release rope from cliff top (either last person in releases and comes up from below or first person out runs round and releases before last person exits) and use doubled as a pull through for last person down.

As an aside (for the climbers amongst us), Queens Entrance is on the route Wynona's Big Brown Beaver (Dorset rockfax page 65) and Sandy hole entrance is on the route Babelicious Redhead (p 85).

It seems my description of getting to the entrance is longer than the trip.


Offline mrodoc

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Re: Fun in Blacknor Hole, Portland
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2018, 01:20:48 pm »
A great trip. I was fortunate some years ago to do the through trip to Sandy Hole which must be one of the more interesting through trips in the UK. It could be done the other way but the muddy nature of Sandy Hole would lead to damage to the delicate formations to be seen on the through trip. The system must be very old indeed as it is a vadose system punctuated by tectonic rifts that have created some of the hairy boulder chokes. There area couple of interesting squeezes on the through trip as well. I think my web page at darkanddeep is accessible again and there are photos of it in there.

 

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