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    2nd July 2022

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Fing Hopeless Pot - diggers rewarded

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
We wanted to tell the story of our latest dig, Fing Hopeless Pot. Much in the way we related our discoveries in May Day Hole earlier in the year. It is an ongoing project so please, please respect our openness and leave it to us for now.

So why Fing Hopeless? Well I am of course being polite unlike our great leader in his description of the Health Secretary back in the summer when the saga began. We also wanted to try a little reverse psychology hoping it would bring about some success. Well it ?fing? well worked. He?s a taster of things to come.....


 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
So..  following success at May Day we?ve looked at several digs this year.  Here are a few links for them

https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=28023.0
https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=27921.0
https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=28001.0

However, these were all underground and as summer and the good weather came we fancied a move to a surface dig.  These are usually really social with a guaranteed turnout.  Larking on the fell with all those wonderful views ? it doesn?t get better than that.  I?d noted a shakehole of interest on our scouting trips which became even more interesting once I?d seen the Google Earth overlays with no known cave underneath it.  There were other well-known pots nearby but this was an area with a lot of cave so anything was possible.  In fact it was only 100m away from one of our other major digs!

Work started in July and has continued ever since with a couple of breaks to return to other favourite haunts.  Initial digging wasn?t very encouraging, no draught and layers of solid mud with just a few voids amongst the cobbles.  Scaffold went in and very soon bedrock appeared underneath it ? a good sign we thought.  The bedrock undercut leaving a few encouraging holes that at first looked like ways on but just ended in solid walls.  The way on was down, through the mud?.

Photos tell this story better that I can.  Credit to Franklin for keeping such a thorough record. 

The very start
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Scaff going in.  Yes, it's level and upright.  Some of us are builders after all  ;)
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Bedrock reached but a solid mud floor as well
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Undercuts revealed but no way on there
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Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
A few points before I continue with this tale.  :) ;)

Firstly, why instalments?  There are a couple of reasons, in small part it?s a matter of my time getting round to it ? much easier if I know I?m only writing a few paragraphs each time.  It also reflects the time taken to progress the dig, metre by metre, month by month.  It certainly wasn?t discovered all in one go!

It?s a good excuse to use more of Franklin?s photographs with each post.  He?s always prepared to go back down with the camera to record each event in full.  We often moan, perhaps we always moan, but it is great to have a full record, a blow by blow, cap by cap, bucket by bucket account.  Chapeaux Old Chap.

Secondly, openness.  I?ve mentioned it before but one or two of the chums were concerned with me posting about an ongoing dig.  Personally I can?t see why anyone would go down there poking about when we have asked people to stay away for now.  I tend to think if you are open with digs and breakthroughs folk are more likely to respect that.  In any case what?s the point in doing it at all if you can?t share the experience .

So please do stay away for now.  I haven?t actually said where it is anyway although some folk will know and others will guess.

So on with the show?
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
Being surface based and still with summer temperatures it was quite a popular and fun dig if a little muddy.  The main participants were, Mick, Geoff, Frank, Duncan, Bones, JJ, Dave, Nick and Bill although others turned up on occasion of course.

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At the sharp end the wall undercut and the area needing to be dug out grew and grew.  We reduced the size with shoring to minimise the effort.  As we deepened a good haul was needed and the scaffold frame was extended to take a pulley.  As usual DB buckets (premium bucket supplier to the stars) were used.  The terraced walling around the hole increased as spoil was efficiently hauled out and dumped.  Remarkably this creates new habitats for all sorts of critters on these remote fells.  Unfortunately, these holes seem irresistible to some of the local frog population as we all know ? poor devils.

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One of many friends keen to get in on the action  ;)
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Anyway, a further step in the undercut disappeared into the distance.  It looked like the roof of a passage.  Boulders were wedged over the top of it but below it dropped away and the walls looked water worn and proper cave like.  It wasn?t long before we could squeeze in and free climb down the 5m drop.  Ahead, a too narrow inlet brought in a dribble of water.  Behind, a wall of jammed boulders hid what was probably the larger potholed entrance beneath the surface shakehole.  At the bottom it was totally choked, but the dribble of water got away somewhere.  It was decided to continue down under the inlet as this was the most protected spot.  The hole down was enlarged and the boulder wall shored up so work could begin.  An intermediate hauler would now be needed to direct the bucket over the offset route.  At first it looked good with a few holes going down, but a lot of mud and unfortunately no draught ? nothing up to now had a draught. 

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Looking back up from the bottom with daylight at the top of the shaft
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The inlet entering at the bottom which we thought would be the best place to dig
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After a metre of downward progress, the way became claggier and the fill more and more solid. It looked like a dead end. This really couldn?t be the best way and the only choice was to try further out from the inlet, more into the heart of the choke.  Only trouble was quite a lot of backfill had already been built up in this spot and it required more shoring, a lot more shoring.  We all sighed. Perhaps we should just give up, or at least have a break.  Luckily, as timing would have it, I went on holiday and I wasn?t the only one?

Where will we find the encouragement to go on?  How much more hauling of buckets will we have to do?  All twists and turns will be revealed post Christmas...

Have a good one everyone
 

adep

Member
What was there in the first place that made you start digging, nothing obvious on the first picture that might make you think there was a lead there
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
adep said:
What was there in the first place that made you start digging, nothing obvious on the first picture that might make you think there was a lead there

It's been an area of interest for a long time.  We'd had other digs in the proximity over the years, some successful and others not so.  This particular shakehole was chosen after looking at the cave overlays on Google Earth.  A very useful tool.  Seeing what is where and where there is nothing is key.  The entrance to Fing Hopeless is only 92m from a well known cave but up to now shows no sign is going anywhere near it.  It's a rich area of cave development and that definitely helps. 

A question I've always wrestled with on where to dig is this.  Should you dig in an area with no known cave or little known cave in the hope of finding a big one?  Or is it better to dig in an area where there are already a lot of known cave in the hope that there is even more?
 

mrodoc

Active member
A good question. We are current digging in an area where there isn't a lot of limestone, the caves have been exposed by quarrying and they are unlikely to be very big. However anything found will triple the number of significant caves in the area (one site might even quadruple it).
 

David Rose

Member
Having seen it recently in real life, I must point out the superb quality of the shoring on display in these photos. Have you ever seen such a neat, trim shaft? These chums have really mastered the art. 
 

Pegasus

Administrator
Staff member
David Rose said:
Having seen it recently in real life, I must point out the superb quality of the shoring on display in these photos. Have you ever seen such a neat, trim shaft? These chums have really mastered the art.

I think that's down to Franklin  :LOL:
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
So, the decision was taken to abandon digging at the base of the inlet and move out further into the choke, more or less directly below the new drop.  This meant reshoring up the wall at the back and moving some of the stacked spoil behind it.  With everyone finding themselves very busy it fell to Frank on a solo trip to install the appropriate planking.  Personally I much admired the pictures of his handiwork from my sun lounger in Greece  8) ;)

Franks solo shoring.  Being more of a poet than a builder - it's the best he's ever done!
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Continuing further down with the old inlet route showing at the base of the photograph
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Very soon the full team was back on hand for serious hauling.  When we had a big team the spoil went straight out to the surface ? Mick commanded it.  If there was only four or less we built up another wall in front of the inlet and this eventually grew to quite a height.

There were some gaps appearing, annoyingly mostly right under the line of the shoring.  The solid wall here haded downwards and we followed it.  One day, Dave opened up a small hole and a good draught blew out of it.  It was probably the best indicator yet of things to come.  Some large limestone blocks started to appear which held back a lot of the clag and smaller debris, as long as they stayed put.  Getting some scaffold in under these blocks to restrain them was key if not tricky.  Whilst one side was resting on the solid wall the other was embedded in the debris some of which needed removing to make it large enough.  This was still the fill from the surface pothole and, even by this stage was at least 20m deep.

First signs of a draughting hole
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The big guys shored in and the way on heading under the scaffolding
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Never the less the big guys held and holes opened up headed back along the wall but away from our nice safe shaft.  We had been in a solid corner but opted to follow the gaps which seemed to lead diagonally down to a passable 3m drop.  With careful digging and shoring Bones eventually got down this, the wall cut under more and there were the tell-tale signs of clean washed cobbles.  But the way on was back under ourselves, towards the corner.  On two of the digging trips the draught did blow and this was obviously the right way to go.  The draught was annoyingly inconsistent with some days not even a flutter.  This seemed directly related to the atmospherics of the day, piling out when high pressure loomed, zilch in the mizzle and cloud.

Heading under away from the corner
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Bones at the 'passable 3m drop'
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Digging back under ourselves was fraught with problems of shoring and hauling out.  Already you needed six or seven to get the bucket to the surface.  We decided to abandon that route and go straight down in the corner through the thicker mud and rock, presuming it would get us to the same place as the source of the draught.  We could also use the space of the original route for backfilling.

Change of plan - digging down in the corner
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It took two or three trips to accomplish this, where hints of a roof appeared at foot level in the corner.  More scaffold was needed and that required a further whip round for funds and a visit to Rolland in Kendal.  Any breakthrough would have to come soon as we were nearing the limits of hauling efficiency?

wl


Meanwhile on the surface winter is closing in.  Geoff and Nick out in the cold - time to get underground
 

Alex

Active member
Sounds like an excellent dig, wish I lived closer to the dales so I can do this regularly.

A question I've always wrestled with on where to dig is this.  Should you dig in an area with no known cave or little known cave in the hope of finding a big one?  Or is it better to dig in an area where there are already a lot of known cave in the hope that there is even more?

I always wonder why no one does the former, all the digs I know of at least take place in area's with known caves, and it's much harder to get excited about those as they are all going to go into a known cave and just be another way in. Why is it no one digs in lesser area's there's so much potential outside the 3 peaks area, I guess it's the same reason as me though that no one lives near by and loads of digging sessions would be unfeasible. I guess you need to scout for that cave that will only need a few digging sessions and hope you get lucky like we did with Cutthroat a number of years ago.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
The entrance to Fing Hopeless is only 92m from a well known cave but up to now shows no sign is going anywhere near it.  It's a rich area of cave development and that definitely helps.

Another good breakthrough yesterday.  It's amazing how this cave fits into such a small blank area.  We're also quite keen on Dowlass Moss where much less is known about feeders to White Scar, Skirith, Jenkins etc but that is for another time.  If I lived over Grassington way I'd definitely be keen on Swarthgill, Benfoot and other great sites in Great Whernside, but caves are where you find them buddy
;)
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
Alex said:
Sounds like an excellent dig, wish I lived closer to the dales so I can do this regularly.

Why is it no one digs in lesser area's there's so much potential outside the 3 peaks area,

"No-one"?

I know you were involved in Cutthroat but a glance at the excellent new Moldywarps journal (MSG14, just out) reveals plenty of folk are active outside of the classic Dales area - and finding a lot of very good stuff.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
We were now following the corner down and the original route was soon backfilled.  Some scaffold was retrieved from it but crucial poles had to be abandoned.  After a few metres depth we were back to hauling up to the surface but luckily we always had the numbers turning up to do that.  Digging was relatively easy as despite a few loose sections, the sides mostly stayed put whilst scaffold was installed and a few large jammed boulders helped support everything above.

Looking up the final section in the 'corner'.
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Looking back out of Autumn Chamber
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After a couple more metres the right hand wall undercut just as we had hoped.  When we could eventually get our heads down far enough to look, a flat roof stretched away in front and round to the right.  Capping the edge and a bit more hauling left the hole just big enough to slide in.  A couple of jammed rocks had to stay in place to avoid a landslide of everything above into the space beyond. The slithering height space was big enough for a couple of folk with care.  There were even a few dirty formations.  Due to the time of year it was named Autumn Chamber.  Nothing about it looked that good, it was the sound which got us excited.  We could hear quite a noisy stream running beneath the rubble on the far side.  With a bit of gardening a hole between blocks gave a glimpse of running water some three metres below.  The stream appeared to be running towards us from a tall narrow rift but it was not obvious what happened to it, however, it gave us hope that we were finally about to be rewarded.

A few formations in Autumn Chamber
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Squalid work on top of the stream rift
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Mud and shoring... but the sound of a stream
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In order to dig down and uncover the rift the loose wall needed to be shored up.  Soon the top of a narrow rift was revealed and a healthy stream flowed towards us below.  The top was enlarged and Mick descended to stand on top of a large block.  It suddenly dropped six inches and he came flying back out.  After a bit more digging Dave had a go but as he bent to squeeze into the upstream rift a rock fell from the roof and put him off.  It was left to another trip to bring in more shoring and make safe.  I had a go at that and once installed, a way downstream could be seen between two jammed blocks.  The downstream passage headed almost back on itself with seemingly just a feather edge corner.  Carefully taking a chunk off one of the boulders and the edge created a big enough hole to slide into the passage.  It was a good two metres plus high but quite narrow.  The stream cascaded down around the corner and was quite boisterous.  This was it, I set off to explore.  After five metres I came to a bend and could not believe my eyes or my luck as I peered around it ? the wall came directly down into a brown, frothy sump.  No way on. 

The cleaner rift uncovered
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A squeeze into the downstream passage
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The streamway - shortest on record?
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I just can't be, but it is a sump
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Everyone came down to take a look but no one could really believe it had sumped this high above base level in an area with many other much deeper caves.  A lot of excess gear got carried down the hill that night and there was serious talk of giving up.  On a later trip we took in a length of pipe and prodded beneath the surface.  Bones put on a wetsuit and tried to get in it and I drilled a series of metre long holes just on the off chance that one would ?go through?.  They didn?t.  What bad luck after all that effort.  There was one last hope though, and that is where we?ll pick up next time?.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
I managed to recover a couple of crappy vids I took on my old phone from the discovery of the sump.

Nick returning up the rift from the sump and a fruitless attempt to 'rod' it in the hope of it all draining away. Both taken on the day of breakthrough.


 

Alex

Active member
good stuff :) I wish I lived nearer to the Dales to get involved in these sort of long term digs.
 
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