• Hello From Descent

    The publication date for issue 289 is the 10th of December, meaning subscribers should receive their copies during the week leading up to that date. It is also available from caving suppliers such as Inglesport and Starless River, or from our new website

    New Descent board here:

Fing Hopeless Pot - diggers rewarded

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
From the Apostles the tall rift passage carried on turning left and right over fallen blocks and muddy sediment.  Formations abounded, mostly higher up but also dangling from undercuts where the stream zig zigged from left to right too. There was an intricate flow across the floor where I had turned around to fetch my camera.  This was at a point where the tall rift ended on a corner and a lower wider passage continued over sticky mud and more fallen blocks.  Ahead I could hear the sounds of excitement from Geoff, Mick and Duncan.  A slither and almost a squeeze over a block revealed the reason.  A grotto appeared to the right, full of long white straws and pristine flows.  I immediately thought of the China Shop in Boreham, somewhere I had only seen in photographs, but knew instantly that this was another very special place. 

The stream flowed in a shallow trench in the floor and keeping to that kept away from most of the formations but a human sized hole had to be made to progress.  No one to this date has been in the grotto to see what happens at the rear ? we hope nobody ever does.

Frank and Nick caught up and I said to Frank, ?what do you make of this then??.  Normally very talkative, Frank replied that he was speechless and so Speechless Grotto it became.

Straws, flows and white stal continued a few tens of metres before the passage widened out into a junction or chamber.  To the right was quite a size but soon ended in a formidable upwards choke.  To the left the stream could be followed among boulders and a solid lefthand wall for a few metres.  Above and behind a cloud of metre long straws a higher route ended at a wedding cake formation.  Several inlet streams entered from above but there was no way on ? for now.

Here are a few shots taken with my phone on the day of the breakthrough

wl


wl


The end chamber (Ironmongers Choke)

wl


Taped soon after discovery

wl
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
I've got a couple of videos off my phone now. The first shows a different angle on the Speechless Grotto. This was the day of discovery and shows the care taken to avoid the straws. The second video shows the end choke/chamber. Now called Ironmongers it is the site of our current dig.



There are more discoveries to come as we start looking about in the roof of the Streamway of Merit....
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
The dreaded Covid has disrupted our story but now we are back on track - talking about it anyway  ;) if not yet back underground  :cautious:

The Streamway of Merit, as it turned out, had an abundance of merit but more merit was to come.  At several points along its route there were indications of something up in the roof.  The most attractive of these spots was on a 90-degree corner, just before the Speechless Grotto where the 10m high rift suddenly reduced to a crawl.  Duncan and Richard took on the climb up here using bolts.  Some of it was quite narrow before it widened just below the roof.  A mud floor over jammed boulders gave a safe spot for a further short climb right up to the roof tube.  Here, a false calcite floor jutted out and a somersault manoeuvre gained a flat out crawl.  After a bodylength a mud bank needed a short dig through but beyond the crawl continued unobstructed to a low pool. 

On the other side of the pool the roof lifted to a junction.  To the right, past some crazy splatter formations, the passage expanded quickly into a huge chamber.  The righthand wall was a sea of metre long white straws hanging from an undercut roof.  A small stream flowed along beneath them to eventually sink amongst muddy boulders.  To the left the roof rose much higher and the entire side of the chamber was made up with a huge calcite flow stone which appear to emanate from a tiny passage above.

wl


wl


Entering Eggshell Chamber
wl


Everyone walked in the muddy stream to keep off the calcite but it soon ended at a wall of boulders and a complete choke.  At this edge the calcite was thinly layered over mud and crunched like walking on eggshells.  This gave rise to the name, ?Eggshell Chamber?.  The later survey confirmed what we suspected, that the end choke lay directly above the choke in the Merit streamway below.  Both looked like they would take considerable effort to get past.  Digging had already started in the lower choke as the location of the end actually headed away from known caves rather than towards them and the end was still some 50m above the base level in the area.

However, there was the left hand route at the junction to explore?..

A blurry Eggshell caught on my phone.  Must get one of those proper photographers with a big camera to do it justice
wl


wl


Photo credits to Frank, Nick and me
 

David Rose

Active member
Yesterday Rostam Namaghi and I had the pleasure of a trip down this cave. I was last there in December and the progress, thanks to the evident sheer hard work, is quite astonishing. A visit to the end and the beautiful upper levels provides quite a workout, too: lots of awkward, strenuous bits between the fine underground highlights.

Well done chums. Great work, great cave. And of course there will be more!
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
At the junction the left hand route didn?t go so far before becoming too tight.  It was a phreatic tube which gradually reduced in size as a flowstone rose close to the roof.  Beyond it turned sandy and got immediately bigger.  It would go with very little effort.

I?d been digging the main choke with Bones that day and we?d missed out on the discovery of Eggshell, only arriving as the others were about to leave.  They offered us the lead.  Taking a few pendants off the roof and hammering the floor soon got us through to a hands and knees crawl.  After a short distance, a side passage led down past a solitary white column to emerge in a different, hidden spot in the roof of the Streamway of Merit.  Continuing on the crawl soon emerged into a bigger, walking height passage at a junction.  To the right another flowstone rose up to completely block the passage.  To the left was a stunner.  Walking at first past long straws and thin white columns, the passage gradually lowered to a crawl, then flat out, before flowstone again sealed the passage.  The formations were prolific at this end.  Blades and straws with helictites growing out from their sides and all with a blue hue to their whiteness. 

A small occasional stream emerged from the choke and flowed down the passage.  This together with the surveyed elevation gave us an indication where this section fitted in the localised jigsaw of passageways.  ?Levelling Up? seemed an appropriate name.  As pretty as the passage was it seemed unlikely to be possible to extend it further and that, together with conservation measures should help keep this section in good condition for anyone who visits these high levels in the future.

Here are a few photos taken on my phone on only the second trip.

wl


wl


wl


wl


wl


A few video clips to follow.....
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
Just a reminder that we are still working this cave on a very regular basis. We are requesting other cavers stay away for the time being unless invited on a working trip. We are trying to safeguard our equipment and avoid any congestion delaying our work. There is more to reveal too but in the meantime here are a few video clips of 'Leveling Up'....



 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
There was one further possibility in the roof of the Streamway of Merit and Richard started on a bolt route here.  A dribble of water fell from above leaving a calcited ?aven?.  At the top of this a further pitch led up the side of a calcite flow.  A thrutch up a forty five degree slope followed to a kennel sized ?door?.  The gatekeeper, a long thin straw still (unbelievably) guards the entrance to the Lady of the Lake.  I?ll let Frank?s photos do the talking?

wl


wl


wl


wl


Next time we'll take a look at the main choke - quite a formidable obstacle
 

grahams

Active member
An amazing find. I hope the cave will be given an appropriate name. Dropping the infantile 'Fing' would help a lot.
 

PeteHall

Moderator
grahams said:
An amazing find. I hope the cave will be given an appropriate name. Dropping the infantile 'Fing' would help a lot.
Like plenty of cave names, it reflects the events of the time. I, for one, would not advocate renaming it.

Badlad said:
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.
 

Rob

Well-known member
grahams said:
...I hope the cave will be given an appropriate name. Dropping the infantile 'Fing' would help a lot.
Whilst there is an historical significance to the achievements of cave explorers and therefore a responsibility to act "responsible" with certain aspects of what we do, there is also a pressing necessity (more so now than ever) to have fun with what we do, to help motivate the the whole team and to encourage future cave explorers to take up the mantle. If looking 'infantile' suggests to some people there may have been fun involved, then i'm all for it!  (y)
 

David Rose

Active member
The name has real meaning beyond the political rows in the news at the time of the cave's discovery. When the chums started digging this shakehole, anyone might have concluded it looked F***ing Hopeless. They got a long way down and (as the story narrated by Badlad makes clear) the first bit of passage they found sumped. F***ing Hopeless indeed. Other obstacles that they have cleared didn't initially seem too promising, either. 

And yet... this cave is by any standards now a significant addition to the area, and an excellent trip.

In Underground Adventure, their book about caving in the Dales, published in 1952, Arthur Gemmell and J.O. Myers observed that caving has ?the same lure of the unknown which has inspired men to cross the widest deserts and to climb the highest mountains?. Regrettably, they added, ?to attack the Himalaya or penetrate the Amazon is a privilege allotted to few?. Nevertheless, it was ?a remarkable fact that barely fifty miles from the great centres of population of the North lie vast underground galleries and halls which no human being has seen?.

The story of F***ing Hopeless Pot demonstrates that even now, there still are. 
 

Loki

Active member
There?s no shortage of humorous cave names about so few more won?t go amiss. Knackertrapper, bum burner breach, tit pot, thunderthighs, beelzibubs hairy ring piece, legalise pot, casserole pot, to name a few.
Perhaps I?ll call my next find Bum Hole just to wind people up 😜
 

Loki

Active member
Anal Fissure then. I do feel like this may have gone a little off topic, sorry LFP?s.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
With most of the other leads coming to a conclusion the large choke at the end of the Streamway of Merit came fully into focus. The choke headed both in an interesting direction and of a depth several tens of metres above the base sump level in the area.

Where the streamway sinks in the choke, what appears to be a larger dry passage heads to the right and chokes at a solid run in from above. Poking at this with a long bar suggests progress would be very difficult in this direction. Straight ahead from the sink a run in is also solid but with a small stream dribbling in which we are sure runs in from Eggshell Chamber above. This was ‘tested’ once when people had been in the chamber above and the stream consequently ran muddy below. To the left the main stream turns sharply and sinks in breakdown. You can crawl in after it for six or seven metres before it becomes totally choked. On the same line above this, a calcited route continues past a curtain of long straws to end at a few holes amongst semi calcited blocks. This is where digging commenced.

A couple of capping trips gained access to a small space, mostly in boulders, but with a solid left hand wall. Another void could be seen below a large jammed block and further capping gained access to that. The stream could now be heard and glimpsed among blocks and there was a larger void further out in the choke to the right. Ahead and above was a sort of ‘loft apartment’ with no prospect of being dug but would come in handy for stacking spoil.

Making serious progress now required scaffolding so a trip was arranged to bring in a batch of eight foot poles. There was some concern over hauling poles through the delicate areas but we overcame this by passing the poles carefully hand to hand. We had a great turnout of eleven people and passed the poles in a chain, from one to another, stacked them up, then everyone moved forward and repeated the process. It took only two and a half hours from beginning to end.

P2062238 (2).JPG


Mick and Dave had nearly got into the void on the right with just one upright slab blocking the way. They reported back nervously. It was Bones and my turn next. We capped the slab and cautiously squeezed past ‘hanging death’ into the void. We each took a quick tour around and left as soon as possible. It wasn’t going to be the way forward. What it did teach us though was the right direction to go as from in there we could hear the stream tumbling down something ahead. We felt the only way was to stick with the solid left wall but the fill was solid there with no real encouragement. There was a mixture of fairly sticky mud and calcited blocks so it was at least stable.

After a couple of trips digging and scaffolding down we broke through to another void. This had the semblance of one solid side and some big slabs of rock supporting the rest. Importantly we were back in the stream, which cascaded down a rugged slope before flattening out and flowing away under a couple of big boulders. Ahead, another void could be glimpsed and everything, on the left at least, was looking more solid. However, to be on the safe side more scaffold was required.

We had just about used up the scaffold poles getting this far and another run needed to be organised to bring more in. With me and Mick away the ‘stand in’ quantity surveyor over ordered and by the time we returned to the fray some fifteen poles and associated fittings had been transported to the end by a group of willing volunteers.

P2062256 (2).JPG


P2062267 (2).JPG


The area was duly consolidated and the next void gained. From here the stream ran into a very low bedding for at least several metres. Capping trips commenced again and the ‘loft apartment’ came in very handy for stacking the spoil. Progress was slow with the caps so some bigger guns were deployed and a couple of body lengths of forward progress made. Ahead the roof lowered even more and the stream seemed to sink in choked gravel. To the left was a low arched roof above a bank of gravel which seemed to be the best way on but this was far from certain as the view was very limited. More fireworks opened this up a bit but digging was quite miserable lay in the stream. We tried lying on planks, we tried getting the stream to sink to one side, but the weather was wet at this time so it never really helped. In fact, we were there one trip and the water was steadily rising. Suddenly, with me and Mick at the end, we found ourselves lying in brown fast flowing flood water. We thought we’d better call it a day and headed out of the choke to find water squirting out of every crack. It was an impressive journey out and undoubtedly the cleanest we’ve ever emerged from the cave!

Once the gravel bank was removed we could see through a letter box into a stream channel and passage in solid rock. This was very welcome news. Some more capping got us into a crouching position in the stream channel. There was a too tight, lower wet route and a dry route above a false floor. The false floor was formed by a white flowstone formation running out from the right. It created a small slot through which you could see for several metres where the left hand wall curved out of sight. Getting through it would certainly gain ground but would it be the end of the choke? We certainly hoped so. It was a matter of chiselling the calcite and capping the solid rock wall. It took a couple of trips to make big enough for everyone as per the ‘wheelchair friendly’ specification, but we were in – to something. So what about a name for this major choke at the end of the Streamway of Merit? As I climbed out through the choke one day, past the excess of scaffold, clamps and tools, Mick said to me, “it’s like a bloody Ironmongers in here”. That was it Ironmongers Choke it became. Here are a couple of videos in the lowest part of the choke,



More mysteries to unravel in the next episode. Coming as soon as I have time to write it up.
 
Last edited:

Rob

Well-known member
Thanks for the report, and good to see we're not the only ones pushing in pretty vulgar conditions at the moment. Hopefully you'll also connect to a Master Cave soon! (y):beer:
 
Top