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Mayday Hole - New SRT trip in the Dales

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
A recent extension has turned this ?collectors only? pothole into a great little all-weather SRT trip.  I?m hoping to write up the story of exploration blog style as time allows so here is the first instalment.

Mayday Hole is located on Dowlass Moss, Ingleborough.  Its small streams are thought to drain to Skirwith.  It was first explored in 1971 by the Craven Pothole club and ended after three short pitches.  The third pitch head was said to be so restricted that only one super slim member (Howard Beck) managed to get down it.  If there was a way on at the bottom it was described as either too small or choked.  It is likely that other cavers had been and looked at it over the years and maybe even passed the pitch head too but at some stage the entrance had become blocked by a boulder slumping out of the side of the shakehole.

During a long assault down Long Kin West in 2018 our travelling support groupies spent some time looking at shakeholes in the area and came across Mayday Hole.  Peering behind the blockage at first glance I think they thought it to be a new hole.  However, research soon identified it correctly and the entrance was later opened up.  Roo descended the first two pitches and reported it had potential although the third pitch needed serious work before any normal sized caver could descend. 

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Opening up Mayday again in 2018.  More recent work was often in much colder conditions

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It wasn?t until late last year that a few of us returned to see the cave for ourselves.  The entrance starts with an awkward little move onto the first pitch of 4m.  Here, Razor Traverse is entered on good ledges to access the more spacious and delightful second pitch of 14m.  A deviation is needed to pull the rope away from a ledge near the bottom.  Around the corner a 2m climb leads to the top of the Ripper, as the third pitch was named by the CPC.  It would need some serious capping but we decided to give that a go and have a proper look at the bottom. 

At this stage it was mostly, Mick, Geoff, Frank, JJ and myself turning up for digging duty.  We bolted up the cave ready for regular traffic and started capping away at the pitch head.  As this was mostly a solo exercise I was installed in capping position while the others investigated the numerous other possibilities on Dowless Moss such as Bridge pot, Loose Pot, Boggarts, Five ways etc, etc. 

The small stream which collects on the bog above the entrance and can get quite boisterous in wet weather although never enough to be any danger, but it tended to splash onto the drill at times.  I had the brilliant idea of digging a short trench on the surface to direct the water into the next shakehole.  With this done I returned to the front only to find the water now crashing out of a small hole in the wall above and landing directly on the capping position.  I had to abandon the job for the day but we were soon back to finish the job.  It took some 70 holes and hundreds of caps to reach the first widening of the pitch head and make the ?wheelchair access? size requirement some in the team demand.  Me and Frank were the first to descend though it was still a little awkward.  It was quite bizarre that when we returned to the others we both reported prospects at the bottom very differently?..

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The short P1

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Razor Traverse

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Taste of things to come P2

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Capping conditions at the top of the Ripper.

Photo credits go to Frank Pearson.  I?ll try to write the next instalment in a few days.

 

Alex

Well-known member
Would love to know what the rigging topo is, I heard this place mentioned on CNCC, I can't wait for the rest of the write up!
 

CNCC

Active member
Another excellent discovery on Dowlass Moss. Congratulations team!

Alex; This has been approved by the CNCC for IC anchor installation, and one of our installers will be starting work hopefully fairly soon. A topo will then be published once work is complete.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
I've written up the next installment just need to sort through some photos.  Hopefully tonight.

The cave is still rigged but the ropes are a little tatty.  A number of folk have been down and we don't have any problem with that apart from the ropes getting worse.  They are being left to help the resin anchor installers and when they turn up (soon I think) it would be best if they had the place to themselves.  So, we don't mind folk visiting but if they could wait until after the resin anchors are installed that would be best.

Cheers
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
wl


It felt good, despite the artic chill, to be back on the slopes of Ingleborough.  We?d all spent many months probing the caves and potholes of Newby Moss.  Geoff had famously first stepped off the ladder at the bottom of Long Kin West in the same year that Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder onto the moon.  I?d had a small involvement with the 1990?s Red Rose discoveries of Trapdoor Pot and Boggarts Roaring Holes.  Mick and JJ had looked down Mayday as far back as the 80?s.  Even so, the Dark Lord still considered Dowlass his territory and we were fearful of feeling the close flutter of velvet which would herald his appearance. 

We knew that no cave on Dowlass would be horizontal for long and anticipated finding another pitch quite soon, or so we thought?

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The capped out top of the Nipper and just below where it widens out.

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At the bottom the way on was a cobble choked bedding only a few inches high.  There seemed to be an encouraging draught blowing out too.  Where me and Frank differed was in the general size of the area at the foot of the pitch.  I thought it quite spacious and a good indication that development would soon increase.  Frank was more pessimistic suggesting it was quite cramped and there was little stacking space.  Mick and Geoff went down for a look and a dig.  Mick created a nice pond but thought that if the cobbles were removed the water would drain away and it might be big enough.  The best way was probably to cap the roof and dig out the floor at the same time and so started a lengthy assault on our stocks of caps (of which we had thousands).

Mick's pool and the start of capping operations
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At first the rock fell away in large chunks either side of a prominent joint in the roof, but as this disappeared it soon got harder.  The cobbled floor bottomed out to solid rock and so a good half metre of the roof had to be removed to make it workable.  In my experience this means making it wide enough to get both shoulders in and tall enough to be able to keep your head up and see what you are doing.  Progress was slow but after about 5m an inlet appeared on bend and from there a trench started to cut down in the floor.

Capping the solid roof into an arched passage took a lot of perseverance.
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A drag tray was employed to remove the spoil and this was stacked in tiers at the base of the pitch and at the back of the working area.  As we progressed these two spaces became full and we would have had to abandon the dig had it not been for a lucky break.  On an early trip I had noticed an unreported rift passage in the roof at the opposite side to the pitch head and above digging operations.  I managed to traverse into it to find the rift was in fact a window which dropped immediately down a parallel shaft which pinched in to a choke at the bottom.  Stacking space!  Mick soon had a rope rigged up to it and a scaffold pole braced across the rift for a pulley.  So the sequence became, clearing the spoil from the dig face by a tray which was then hauled up to the rift and tipped down the parallel shaft.  This meant that for much of the trip someone had a lonely vigil up in the ?crow?s nest?.

Reflecting back on the dig now the lure of the unknown must be strong.  Just the thought of making new discoveries drove us to turn up twice a week, week after week.  This was no sunny summer dig on Leck Fell where the Skylarks tweeted and the views of the Lune Valley a joy to behold.  This was a cold, sometimes snowy time, hard graft all day, lonely vigils, icy water and home in the dark.  Drinking an ice cold beer wrapped in a duvet was the only occasional reward. 

At the front progress was slow, perhaps half a metre made each trip.  However, the rift was getting deeper and that made capping easier.  At the time we were using four batteries which would do fifty to sixty holes between them.  Anything between four and seven caps down each and we were using over three hundred per trip.  Just as well we buy caps by the ten thousand, and have just doubled this in the latest purchase!


Finally a rift started to develop and progress was quicker beyond
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The rift developed into a series of ?mini meanders? which led us on as you could never quite see around the next corner.  Capping became easier with much larger chunks peeling off the walls and we were sure something vertical would appear just around the next corner. 

As I said the stream was never a danger but it was bloody cold.  There were many wet days where the capper had to sit in the stream.  Normally the stream trickled down the Nipper but on wet days it bounced down our rubble walls onto the working area.  Worse still there was a small inlet in the roof above and we stretched out a sheet of polythene to keep the water off our heads.  The noise on this sounded like anything from a gentle trot to a stampede of wild horses.

The view from the crows nest on a wet day.  You can make out the polythene sheet below and the hauling ropes.
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To make life at the sharp end bearable I visited a nearby pot and retrieved a 3m length of thick conveyor belt.  This was placed on the floor in the crawl and by propping up the end on a couple of rocks the stream could be channelled beneath it and keep the diggers dry (ish).  After 18 trips we got the first glance down a pitch ahead.  It was a memorably wet day.  I capped away at the front but by now all the debris was falling down the pitch which sounded about 10m deep.  Geoff perched himself on the other end of the conveyor belt but poor Mick had to sit on a mere pile of sharp rocks to wait until the pitch head was big enough.  The normal working area at the bottom of the Nipper was just too spray lashed.  Frank had turned up late but only made it as far as the top of the Nipper, shouting down something unintelligible about the conditions he then went home rather than wait about in the freezing cold. 


Finally, I placed a few bolts and declared the pitch open and gave way to Mick for the first descent.  He?d certainly earnt it.  I went back for my SRT kit just dying to know what we had found??.

Photo credits to Frank.  I hope it all makes sense.  More to follow but probably won't have time until next week.
 
Excellent. Descended Mayday Hole (all three pitches on one unrebelayed bit of black SAS Iranian Embassy style Marlow) in about 1987 during a series of prospecting trips and failed to make any progress - rather like everywhere else on Dowlass Moss where there didn?t seem to be any easy pickings of the ?roll a few rocks around? style that was de rigour back then - just narrow slots that needed ?bang? or capping which we didn?t have access to at the time. We had a tentative go at Bridge Pot back then with a crowbar and a rope - has it gone anywhere or is it just likely to drop into your extensions in Mayday?
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
You're now the third person that I heard of who managed to get down the Nipper.  Respect. More people have been to the moon.  :)

Mayday has a very small catchment and footprint.  Bridge Pot would likely be a separate cave altogether.  It was looked at by Mick and Geoff but we favoured Mayday.  They also looked down Orche Pot in the same double shakehole which they thought had some prospects.
 

Rob

Well-known member
Nice reports so far, and a brilliant determined effort to mine that much with only caps! I'm hoping the next report shows how worthwhile it's been  :clap:
 

Goydenman

Active member
The report is riveting.....cant wait to hear what's down the pot at the end. Hope it a good rewards for all that hard work
Photos amazing
Thanks
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
It was a very wet day, the wettest we?d known it down this cave. Mick descended down the pitch keeping out of the merry little waterfall. He looked about 10m down and was swinging around on a ledge. He shouted up for something which after a while we interpreted as wanting a sling from the drag tray. This was sent down and before long Mick must have rigged a rebelay as I got the all clear to come on down.

It was an easy take off and lovely descent to a ledge with the pile of capping debris at 9m. Below three further steps of around 3m each continued down. However a direct descent was both wet looking and too narrow in places. Further out Mick had used the sling to rig a rebelay through a thread and had gone down through one narrowing to another. Here he turned back and handed the lead over to me for a look. I slid through the hole and contemplated the next one. Below it was much wider and there was a flat floor. That was all the encouragement I needed to squeeze through.

Top section of 17m Doughnut Pitch
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Rebelay and narrowing half way down
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The opening in the wall at the bottom of the pitch leading to the bedding
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Near the bottom in the opposite wall was a choked rift ? a good sign of things getting bigger. I landed on a flat, clean washed floor with the water sinking in tiny joints. Under the left hand wall was a good sized opening and peering in I could see along a shale band bedding covered in stal. An inlet entered from beneath the choked rift and brought in another small stream. The stal would have to go to make progress but things were definitely looking good. I headed out to catch up the others on the bleak, rain swept hillside with the good news.

The bedding before exploration
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Soon we were back, just a few days later of course. The new pitch was christened the ?Doughnut? and was 17m deep. Rather unimaginatively we named it after our cave snack of choice purchased from the Co-op bakery. We placed a couple of bolts to position the rebelay for a better hang and capped the large flake which had created the second narrow bit lower down. We had not wanted to tempt fate by bringing more rope so with the rerigging we were left with only a tat end to spare for further exploration. Soon the three of us were all down and it didn?t take long before we heard the tinkle, tinkle of little stal ? a necessity in the name of exploration I?m afraid and Mick reported that he was looking over another pitch. We had wanted to save the next pitch for Frank but he wasn?t here and was that really feasible anyway?


This left us with batteries full of power, all the capping gear and the day ahead of us. I swapped with Mick at the end. The bedding was flat out and muddy. To get on a rope at the end would be some manoeuvre and far from wheelchair friendly. There was a narrow trench in the floor but it was unusable so we decided to spend the day capping the shoulders off it all the way to the pitch. This would allow easier access on and off the rope and as a bonus remove a lot of the mud. So we spent the day doing just that until the batteries were all but spent save the power to place a few bolts.

A domed pocket in the roof made good placement for the hang and we were soon all down ?Frank?s Pitch? which was a very pleasant 10m deep with a lovely water worn flute down one side.

It was quite spacious ? room for all at the bottom. The way led under another aven and down a 2m step to a narrowing again. It was exciting and there was more than just a sense of more to come??

Looking up at the fluting on Frank's Pitch (from the bottom)
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All decent photos taken by Frank - video and crappy phone shots by me ;)
 
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Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
A couple more shots of Frank's pitch (by Frank) looking down and up

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One of JJ at the bottom of Frank's pitch (he loves to be talked about you know ;) ;) )

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........and a video teaser for the next installment

 
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Goydenman

Active member
good work and great find...this is like watch one of those Netflix series wanting to binge on it all but having to wait to the next instalment killing me ha
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
Yep, I wanted to try out a 'bite sized chunks' approach and see how it went down with everybody.  Mostly because I'm quite busy at the moment but also because I wanted to show a lot of Frank's photos (he takes such a lot) and also to make use of some of my short video clips.  I'll aim for another installment mid week.
 

Goydenman

Active member
Badlad said:
Yep, I wanted to try out a 'bite sized chunks' approach and see how it went down with everybody.  Mostly because I'm quite busy at the moment but also because I wanted to show a lot of Frank's photos (he takes such a lot) and also to make use of some of my short video clips.  I'll aim for another installment mid week.
Frank's photos are very good
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
Part 4 - sorry for the delay

The next challenge was a narrowing of the rift again. This was on a corner where the rift turned ninety degrees to the left. On that corner, the small trickle of a stream sunk in cracks in the floor and the dry route forward could be seen to drop down several steps and out of sight. It looked very good and the echo suggested bigness.

Capping around a ninety-degree corner can be a bit of a bigger job than you first think. To get the drill bit in and then the firing rods needs room and you have to start further back than you think. However, it was very satisfying as the large chunks came away as the corner enlarged. There was about a metre or so of narrow rift to an enlargement and obvious drop. It was just at this point that the faithful Bosch drill decided to run slow and then stop and we had to abandon all hope or getting through that day.


The follow up trip was only a few days later with a revived drill. Short work was made of the rift and falling rocks bounced down a long way. Soon it was time to place a few bolts and drop through into the enlargement. Further placements for the main hang were few and the capping gear had to be recalled to take off a flake or two to make best use of the hang that was available. Luckily I was first on the rope again and dropped down 5m to another ledge. A Y-hang here looked good for some way and I soon set off down further, with the rest of the team, Mick, Geoff, Frank and JJ, not far behind. In just another 5m I popped into a much larger rift with routes off at both ends. A deviation bolt was placed which gave the perfect hang down the next section. I passed a ledge with a large calcite flow entering from above and out of sight.

Mick just above the deviation
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Video clip from deviation to the end of the rope. Filmed from the big ledge


Now, never wishing to tempt fate we had only brought a 40m rope and this ran out before the bottom. Luckily it was on a small ledge where the continuing pitch dropped into a steep gully. I anchored off here and the others came down. Both me and Mick managed to freeclimb the 10m to the bouldery bottom and fdurhter on I climbed a further 10m slope of dodgy boulders to the very bottom. There was an inlet aven trickling in from above but otherwise it looked like the end ? or a dig at least. Frank took some shots and we headed out well chuffed with the days work.

The final gully with Mick freeclimbing on the day of discovery

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So what to call the pitch and why ? there?s always a story. During our break, before the breakthrough onto the pitch head, Frank told us his news. He had been sworn to secrecy but couldn?t contain himself. He learnt he was to become a grandfather for the first time. Well it was big news and a big drop, as it turned out, so we called it ?Baby? pitch. So with the previous pitch it was Frank?s Baby all the way to the bottom.

The excitement was not over....
 
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Rob

Well-known member
Wow, it's big, with that brilliant echo! Great work.

Us Derbyshire lot can only dream of caves that clean!

Great ending too :)

Badlad said:
The excitement was not over....
 
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