WHERE THE CAVES ARE - The Caving Regions > Portland

Hopeless hole - Portland

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Perhaps a dangerous assumption, but I enjoy reading other peoples digging efforts & trip reports so I'm hoping writing up my daft projects on Portland is of interest to someone other than me...

Having spend Saturday messing around in Showerbath Cave (see other thread), we spend a couple of hours on Sunday poking around in Hopeless hole.  For those who don't know, this is another short phreatic tube on Portland ending in a choke underneath one of the islands longer caves Steve's Endeavour.  This tunnel being a fair bit bigger than Showerbath.  There are two things to aim for here...
1. Enlarge the rift which almost certainly connects to Steve's End. to create a through trip.
2. Find the continuation of the pheatic tunnel.

Nick & Sam spend a lot of time clearing the tunnel of rocks from other peoples past efforts in this cave (back in the 90's I believe).  There's now a big pile outside.  I spent some time clearing a working space beneath the rift at the end and then poking the ceiling to encourage bits out to enlarge the rift.  Not a huge amount of progress on this trip from my part, but there's a big block ready to come down next time which just didn't want to drop despite being loose.  First assessment, I think creating the Steve's through trip should be quite easy if this block comes out nicely and I don't die from over enthusiastic ceiling poking.  The continuation of the tunnel on the other hand is going to be a massive effort.

If you're wondering I have a short attention span - there's two other places I also intend to poke around at!

A few photos...

The rift which connects to Steve's before we started:

Sam with the pile of evicted rocks:

Nick in the tunnel collecting some dirt out the floor to patch a hole in the climbers path outside (best not ask!)

The bit of ceiling next to the rift which needs to fall out as a starting point to making a man size route through to Steve's:

Perhaps this photo should also be posted...  It's the end of the cave just beyond the rift to Steve's - a very 'stable' looking place!  The phreatic tube is somewhere below this lot.  The void here is the gap created by the ceiling collapse, with the rubble floor being roughly level with the roof of the tunnel.

I think the pictures showing the airy nature of the roof speak for the past digging attempts not making much progress... including my own team's in the '80s.

One thing we did was start to clear the floor to solid, to make the passage nice and roomy, then on the next session we found someone had used the cave as a khasi!

Unimpressed and trying not to gag, I buried the offensiveness outside, then we dragged rocks back in to make the first yard or so uninvitingly low and jagged.

It is an interesting prospect though, and it would be good to see the continuation of the ancient stream-passage beyond the area wrecked by Steve's Endeavour Rift (a mass-movement fissure) having opened across it.

Thanks Nigel.
We've left the deliberately annoying, knee destroying stones in the entrance for the same reason as you returned them, however Portland climbers are far politer and more conscious of the environment these days.  We've even lent a few people who've been climbing in the area our lights & helmets to go and have a look after they showed an interest.  The spoil removed so far was from much further back in the cave to create a good run for a drag tray.
The ceiling of the end of that place it truly terrifying though.  I think a route to Steve's is possible to make a new through trip, but digging the tunnel could lead to a few brown trouser moments.  My opinion is to start back before the current end and follow the right hand wall stacking spoil in the middle of the current termination 'chamber' to hopefully hold the roof up.  With other less pants staining options elsewhere to focus on Hopeless is now low down our list.

Another session in Hopeless Hole today -Me, Nick & Sam.
I'd not bothered to mention on here, but between my last post and this one, there has been at least two other occasions where I've been back to Hopeless to attempt to move the block which needs to come out before a link to Steve's above is established.  Both failed - it's loose, moves up, down and sideways a few inches but will not drop out.  Today we decided to work on objective 2 - the continuation of the tunnel.
The first job was to work out where to focus efforts in the breakdown as the tunnel is 'lost'.  The first point to note is that the 'end' of the cave had previously been dug up into the void created by the rift and hence the floor was roughly level with the ceiling of the tunnel.  Secondly, previous efforts seemed to head off to the left a bit.  We decided to attempt to follow where we expected the right hand wall to be, assuming the tunnel was straight and then dig down.  After an hour or so of shifting rock a potential bit of wall appeared covered in flowstone.  Unfortunately this was under a very dodgy boulder.  A 'wall' was built to add support and I simply headed forward.  After a further hour a magic poke resulted in a fairly significant load of stuff fall out the ceiling.  This turned out to be another rift in the roof.  The rift is big enough to fit in, but is currently blocked with infill 1.5m up.  After clearing enough of the stuff that fell it's now possible to see the ceiling and top of the walls of the continuation of the tunnel.  Unfortunately the tunnel is filled to the ceiling with rocks and we've found it more or less at ceiling level.  It should be fairly straight forward (but time consuming) to empty now we know where we're going and most importantly the ceiling beyond this new rift is stable.  The end of this cave now looks significantly more promising and will receive our attention for the next few trips.  I'd guess about 3m of progress today.

Some Photo's:
The end of the cave - you can see the outline of the arched tunnel.  It's not clear in the photo, but above the rock fill the ceiling can be seen continuing for several metres.

Today's dig & 'support' wall

Nick under our latest death boulder.  This is the same boulder which is the main feature on the right hand side of the 'end' photo in the post above.


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