4 trips is was...
It is official, you can now access Ariel Cave from Hopeless Hole.
On Friday 21st April (following two other trips since I last posted on here) we managed to get 4 of us together for what we hoped would be the last bash. Mike R and I went in via Ariel whilst Mike K & Sas attacked as usual from Hopeless. Despite between us having 3 drills, 14 batteries, 16 sets of plug and feathers and 6 hours underground what remained to be enlarge at the start of the day proved too much for success on that trip alone. We did however have the first handshake between the caves, and more importantly could pass tools through the gap so they could go out the easy way (thanks Mike & Sas for carrying most the kit out!). We also left knowing that we'd be through on the next visit.
The following week (30/04) Mike K, Sas and I all entered via Hopeless. With fresh batteries and bodies we managed to get Mike through within an hour. Another 4 hours working from both sides, we'd made the connection a very generous size. We had decided to keep going until all batteries were spent. As it's all enlarged, our intention was to make this a 'friendly' way in. On the C&A side there's still a lump we might yet remove for further comfort. Once we'd given up drilling, to mark the occasion, we did a quick trip through to Queen's Entrance to peer out to daylight and claim the first 'through trip' before returning via Hopeless as we'd not taken any abseil kit and we're too knackered to exit via Persil or Sandy.
The first proper through trip (and photo trip) was yesterday. Again the same team, Mike K, Sas & I entered via Hopeless, through the new connection into C&A Rift, down to The Confluence, back along Ariel Tunnel to Grand Canyon and then out via Persil which we'd previously joined in Aug 21. We did make a detour from the confluence the other way along Ariel tunnel as far as Brownsea Island as Sas had never been there, and me and Mike K wanted to 'look at something'. The Hopeless to Persil through trip direct is about 2 hours caving. Brownsea and back adds about 1 hr 15 to the trip. Alternatively the though trip can be extended by starting at Steve's South entrance completing the Steve's to Hopeless through trip (approx. 1 hr 30) and then continuing on into Ariel, then Persil.
The ultimate through trip now is of course Steve's South to Sandy, which I'd take a guess at being 4 to 4.5 hours hard caving. No doubt we'll try this out in the coming weeks! The beauty is that for those competent at dealing with Portland caves, no kit is required to get from Steve's to Sandy.
There's still a bit of tidying up that we intend to do:
1. Remove most of the dray trays and other stuff we have in Hopeless. We have reasons to retain some stuff but will clear up what we don't need.
2. We'll probably take off the annoying lump from the connection.
3. Improve the access into the rift at the end of the Hopeless tunnel as this could do with a bit more work.
We're going to poke around elsewhere for a bit, but the mystery of where the Hopeless phreatic goes is still to be solved and no doubt will receive some attention in the future. We also think the right hand end of A Hope in Hell Rift warrants a more sustained effort as it drafts really well and it's one of several indicators that suggest another big rift somewhere in that area yet to be found.
As usual some pictures (breakthroughs mean faces rather than arses):
Sas exiting the end of the Hopeless tunnel (Jan 2022 breakthough into A Hope in Hell Rift).
A Hope in Hell Rift
The exit from the dug connection on the C&A Rift side
C&A Rift, Ariel Cave.
Enjoy if you choose to visit! I'll try to put together a sketch of the cave showing how it all now links.