Thanks to Lawrence for the below:
Great work guys, well deserved!
SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF THESE
I'm sure we are all aware of the massive potential of Goughs Cave (huge resurgence, massive catchment, little known cave)
About 35 years ago Far Rift was identified as a possible way on, out of the known cave system. A dig was progressed through a squalid duck, finally reaching a narrow vertical rift that was forced by Tom Chapman to the top some 5m above, where it opened out a bit but had no obvious way on, interestingly a dead bat was found at the top, where did it come from?
Interest wained and the dig was abandoned. Scroll forwards 15 years and Andy Sparrow was a cave leader, leading a group of tourists around the adventure cave circuit he noticed a draught coming out of the dig, on closer inspection the draught was actually causing ripples on the surface of the duck, interesting.
Another 15 years passed, Gough's management changed and Andy managed to get access agreed for Cheddar Caving Club to dig at the site in April 2017. The first phase was to improve access to the top of the rift. The horizontal squeeze, crawl and duck was blasted open to provide an easy hands and knees crawl to the bottom of the vertical rift. This was enlarged but unfortunately in doing so large amounts of mud was released which meant a lot of time was spent shoring up with a bag wall and drystone wall. Lots of man power from the ChCC! Finally the top of the rift was reached and a decision had to be made. Up and left, or up and right. The consensus was up and left. Much blasting (courtesy of Aubrey Newport) resulted in the blind top of the rift. Think again!
Rudimentary smoke testing suggested that the draught may be coming from the right. At this point Aubrey (and his explosive licence) retired from the dig due to a knee injury. Fortunately Andy came to the fore managing to get his license.
Since Andy has gained his explosive license progress has been rapid with multiple trips per week. A horizontal tube near the top of the rift on the right has been followed for 3m until Tuesday this week when a vertical space above was noticed, this was blasted last night without much hope, more to rule it out before continuing horizontally.
Today (Thursday 29th 2018) myself and Andy met at the cave to clear debris from the blast and see what needed to be done next. I was a few minutes late meaning Andy had fallen into conversation with Paul (cheddar cave leader) so he was invited along to see progress.
As expected a few bags of rubble was removed from the bottom of the rift then up to the top to inspect the damage, sadly the upward squeeze into the vertical space was still intact but a couple of minutes with a hammer removed a nobble and I was volunteered to "give it a go" with much pushing from below I managed to get up about 3m, time for a rest and shout back a description of what I could see, "closes down to the left, not much to the right, maybe a hole about 4m above me but looks like another blind top to the rift" I found another foot hold allowing me to push up another half meter. To my surprise I was looking straight into a horizontal alcove on the bedding about 2m round and 20cm high!! Putting my head in between the stalactites I could see around the corner along a passage about 20cm high disappearing into the distance!!!
A hammer was passed up and I started along the right hand side of the 2m wide passage. After about 3m I was half way along and could see over a low mud bank to a void beyond, despite best efforts it was just to narrow and digging heavy clay with a claw hammer just wasn't going to do it.
I retuned to get Pauls helmet with GoPro (video below) pushing to the max I got within 2m of the void, it is about 3 or 4 m across and maybe vertical in nature, I got the impression I was at the top of a pitch? So we are now out of the rift into a very different area, also it is covered in bat shit and draughting well. This is all heading out of the known cave, couldn't be more excited!
What next? Andy is now on holiday for a couple of weeks (damn him!) then a couple of bangs to widen the vertical squeeze then a night digging towards the pitch/chamber, then who knows?
So essentially about 15m of new passage found with a very obvious and potentially open way on, this is what dreams are made of.
Great work guys, well deserved!