Rowter Hole Update


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Here's a grab from GoogleEarth with various overlays. This is the 2007 set, which shows the veins and hillocks best, though sadly not that hi-res. The 2017 is much better but it was done at lunchtime on a cloudless day, so most mining features are invisible. But as can be seen, the line of Shack Hole Scrin is not that far away. Also visible in the empty space between them is another vein, unnamed and unknown, though someone clearly had a pop at it! The Rowter Hole dye trace done by the Badgers a few years ago went to Russet Well before Main Rising, which is far closer, in plan at least, which suggests some sort of conduit either along Shack Hole Scrin and/or Faucet Rake.

One other thing that also intrigues me is that the Assault Course vertical pitches sit directly beneath backfilled shafts, and yet the miners apparently didn't connect to the natural. So where did they go? There's clearly a branch vein off Faucet Rake at that point. Also the very large blockages in natural passages at the west end of the top of Pilkington's Series are not far away. Second photo is of the hillocks above the Assault Course pitches, with the top of Rowter Hole in the background.


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Curious to see "JH Founder Shaft" and "James Halls over engine shaft" marked as quite separate features... Have I been mistaken in assuming these were the same shaft in the past, or is there some mismatch?


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That's my location pin for the Founder Shaft - this is over the wall on the eastern half of the New Rake enclosure and was the first shaft to be sunk, as far as we know. The current main shaft is four meers west from the Founder Shaft (I think - maybe five)), which tallies with the old accounts - JH was eight meers in total, but there seems be to workings further west still. We pushed at least two meers west from the main shaft several years ago. They also drove three meers eastwards from the founder to connect to Eyre's Grove, the boundary of which I think is where the cobbled slope is underground, just before the top of Bitch Pitch. We dropped the founder shaft a few years ago but we definitely weren't the first to do that! There was a lot of angle iron rammed into the gravel floor, about 15m down, but it's bloody tight until you get to that point.

The Speedwell owners were astute enough to buy Eyre's Grove, only one meer in length, around the time of the canal completion. Of course they'd found by then that all of Leviathan is contained within that one meer ;)

It's briefly written up in TSG 19 when we did a roundup of all the New Rake shafts we could (or couldn't) get into. It would drop you into the cartgate roughly around the old choke 6. Also a more extensive account of the digs/explorations in JH West is in there - we got to within 6m of the surface before going back down to cartgate level again, which was blocked by a collapse. Recently reduced to ?20 - a bargain for a late present!

Sorry for the off-topic promotion ;)



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A couple of shots of the Founder Shaft:


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pwhole said:
Recently reduced to ?20 - a bargain for a late present!

Sorry for the off-topic promotion ;)
Not sure the discount has made it through to the checkout, or P+P is a lot!  ;)


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Builders bum and a jumpsuit from Dennis jump sadly no longer in service. Though looks like it was too warm for it that day!

Hark back with that photo Phil! Must be 8 years ago now?

Mark and mark popped in to say hello to tony Seddon last weekend, hearing it first hand straight after they?re been in was fantastic! (Rob on a separate note I?ve got a long scaff bar (y) )


A belated trip report from 18th July this year. Just myself and Mark R.

It was 6 months or so since our last visit because quite a lot had happened, including an expedition, the arrival of children, and a global pandemic. The last of these meant we couldn?t even stop by Peveril stores for our usual breakfast due to their later opening. It also meant the Rowter farm campsite was as busy as we?d ever seen it.

Somehow we only had 3 bags between the two of us, and one of them was a light one. What a luxury, although our relative lack of caving in the preceding months probably more than offset this! We were pleased to see little water on our way down the first load of pitches and were optimistic that To Boldly Go may be a little less hostile this time. Despite the length of time since our last trip, once we got going it felt like it may as well have been the weekend before.

We were somewhat relieved to see that there were no noticeable changes in the shoring and walling at Fasten Your Seatbelts but hugely disappointed to see that there was as much water as before pouring down To Boldly Go. There was nothing for it but to don our jackets and just get on with it. Mark went down first, commenting that it seemed tighter than before. I followed with 2 bags, which decided to neatly wedge across the exit and jammed me in the narrow section with all the water. Nice.

Thankfully there was a little less water pouring down the shaft below, but it was still enough for us to be pretty damp by the time we arrived at the bottom. We were both fairly amused to find the base of the shaft looking much smaller than we had remembered, meaning the tarp we?d brought to provide some shelter from the spray proved to be large enough to comfortably cover the whole base of the shaft. We screwed it to the wall and acclimatised to the sound of the day with a welcome brew.

We then started shifting rocks, which was initially fairly easy going due to the large amounts of stacking/walling space. The undercut was looking good prospects-wise, but it meant that it wasn?t long before we were soon having to dig under a stream of water pouring off the wall. Mark dug first, and when he?d suffered enough it was my turn. Digging was more pleasant than our initial attempts under a foil blanket on our last trip, but could hardly be described as enjoyable. As I reached my limit, I could convince myself that there was a little bit of space below, but not enough to entice me to continue so we swapped again. Five minutes later Mark was making more optimistic sounds about the space and a couple more minutes saw us peering down a loose, person-sized slot into an enlargement below, which we reckoned was just about stable enough for a descent. Feet-first was our only option here so we decided to set up a belay. I had enjoyed the ?pleasure? of first descents of To Boldly Go and the Split Infinitive, so this time it was Mark?s turn.

The tube quickly broke out into a 3 m climb down to an enlargement below with a low crawl the only possible way on, rapidly getting too low to progress. Time for some food. Feeling reinvigorated after a warm lunch and another brew, we went back in to start shifting some rocks around. There was fairly limited stacking space, but it seems that necessity is also the mother of efficient stacking.

Unfortunately removing loose fill only got us so far, and some widening was necessary. It didn?t look like it would take much, but the confined space and the fractured but well-wedged nature of the walls made it a real faff. We decided to call it a day at about 6 o?clock and surfaced a couple of hours later after a smooth trip out. Unfortunately we hadn?t got any photos because the new bits were quite a bit wetter than we had hoped?but it was probably good training to have carried the camera all the way there and back.

It was great to be back.


It had been another lengthy delay after our last trip doing some enlargement at the bottom, but Mark R and I were finally returning. The trip through Rowter never disappoints, and we were pleased to see the fixed ropes were mainly in pretty good condition with the exception of the big loop leading up to Hourglass Aven, which had a big nick at the top. It was hard to see how that could have occurred, but thankfully it’s been (just about) tied out.

We started doing a proper survey at the Party Sausage (the previous one having used a highly problematic disto that kept dumping loads of data to the phone). Reaching To Boldly Go, we donned our cheap cags and set off down, both having forgotten what a horrible little section of passage this is. To our surprise we’d left the pitch rigged on our last visit. Surveying our way down was pretty horrid, made worse by the loose rock, and things weren’t too much better at the bottom. Despite the tent we’d made being in surprisingly good condition, it was still almost impossible to escape the water.


Rowter elevation facing north with the "new" bits circled.

We elected to survey up the parallel aven first, which was the first time Mark R had been up it. Given its relative tranquillity and lack of name, we opted to call it Haven Aven. It looks like it might widen beyond where it narrows at the top, and was taking a draught. It may be that it rejoins the main shaft, but you never know...

We returned to survey down to the crawl at the bottom, which is the lowest point in this part of the cave. It was so long since we'd visited that there was some dispute over how we'd left it. Thankfully my version (that we'd had a go at capping but not got very far) wasn't the last trip whereas Mark's version (that we'd had a go enlarging it with something a bit more substantial) was right, and it looked almost passable.

I had a bash with a hammer before attempting to pass through what was now a feasible-looking squeeze, although not heading towards anything too enticing. Unfortunately it was just sloping downhill enough that it felt a bit to committing to be pushing down it. Mark then did a bit more capping while I attempted to stem the slow but steady collapse of the rubble slope leading down to the crawl, pleased to be wearing both our jackets.

Not long later I headed in for another look, now able to get near the end of the crawl to some loose blocks. I wobbled some around and was pleased to hear them falling down below. A bit more poking later and I could see down a ~1m drop with an enticing slot into darkness! Certainly unexpected. The issue now was the blocks ahead, which I was failing to dislodge. A reverse, a repeat of the crawl feet-first followed by kicking the boulders gave a satisfying thud, before I reversed and once again went through head-first. We'd certainly got more than I'd been expecting, although expectations had been virtually nil. A short drop down led to a slot through which I could see a widening rift dropping down 3 or 4 m further. The entrance looked touch and go though.

Mark sounded keen to follow so I attempted the squeeze down. It was certainly tight, but just about manageable, and I found myself in a reasonably sizeable rift. Mark appeared at the top and I took a look for a way on, ducking down fully under the falling water ahead of me to look at the pool at the base. This initially looked like a miserable sump, but on closer inspection it wasn't possible to see the end, so it may just be a miserable (and probably too-tight) crawl. We were past our turnaround time, though, so that would be a treat for another day. It wasn't the most significant breakthrough we've had in Rowter, but a real bonus on what was nominally a surveying trip.


Rowter elevation facing approx. west with the "new" bits circled.

I set off first, having agreed to get well clear of the loose area before Mark followed, but half way up Split Infinitive I heard a thud and felt my hauling cord go slack. Sh!t. There was a huge crash below as my bag plummeted to the floor. At least it wasn't the bag with the drill and disto in... Thankfully it had missed Mark and the only harm done was him having to prussik with both bags. In this instance it didn't seem to be total negligence that had resulted in the failure - the cord above and below the break looked OK, and it had failed in one of the knots without much in the way of apparent wear.

With that excitement over, we had a smooth trip out along the Ice Cream Trail. We had a bit of a snack by the sump before the last section out. After the day's surprise mini-breakthrough (and the bag drop incident), little did we suspect that the most memorable part of the trip was still to come.

In what might have been a Rowter first, Mark and I were still in balaclavas. I was certainly the wettest I'd been on a Rowter trip (with the exception of our sump-pump experiments). I went up the entrance first, and reached the lid roughly as Mark was reaching the rebelay. Bracing myself for the cold of the wind I could hear above, I pushed the lid open above, or at least I tried to. It was totally solid. "Mark!", I called down, "I'm not joking...the lid is jammed shut...". Some expletives followed from us both as I did my best to force the lid upwards.

I made myself reasonably safe at the top and called Mark up to see if I was just being particularly stupid or weak. He pointed out that there was no harm in yelling on the off-chance a farmer was about or could hear, so the next few minutes were interjected by fruitless cries for help while I continued trying to do something with the grill above. Mark couldn't budge it either, and a lot of options rapidly came to mind and were discussed. We could go and get a crowbar we knew was by the sump and hope to bend the grill enough to reach the latch...but that was 100 m down and back up. We could head down and wait for call-out, but that wasn’t at all appealing, particularly given neither of us was very warm. Another option was capping: we had all the kit in our bags, and a few well placed caps in the side of the shaft lid ought to either dislodge the catch or give us access to it. This was the most appealing option at the time, but in hindsight the prospect of capping at head-height whilst hanging 70 m off the floor doesn't seem too nice. We figured a sensible start might be to belt the lid with the lump hammer, perhaps with the hope that we might be able to break a weld or few. For a bit of security and comfort we attached the bags to the bar, rigged a second rope so we could have a bit of space, and dug out the hammer. Don't drop it!

Still pondering all the possible options, Mark started with some exploratory smacks of the grill. Watching him, I was not optimistic. The grill seemed completely solid and it looked virtually impossible to get a decent angle. But no sooner had I processed that thought, the lid popped open, much to our relief. We quickly surfaced, caring little at that point for the freezing wind, just delighted not to be either trapped waiting for DCRO to undo the lid, or to be nervously capping the shaft cap from underneath. The only thing that saved us resorting to more drastic measures was that the lid was only held in place by the corner of the latch. Somebody made a very good/fortuitous decision only latching it half way!

A very enjoyable and eventful day, although one that we were very pleased wasn't extended further.


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I set off first, having agreed to get well clear of the loose area before Mark followed, but half way up Split Infinitive I heard a thud and felt my hauling cord go slack. Sh!t. There was a huge crash below as my bag plummeted to the floor. At least it wasn't the bag with the drill and disto in... Thankfully it had missed Mark and the only harm done was him having to prussik with both bags. In this instance it didn't seem to be total negligence that had resulted in the failure - the cord above and below the break looked OK, and it had failed in one of the knots without much in the way of apparent wear.

(I've made myself a bag tether out of 5mm dyneema - tied into a loop and then knots tied along the length in the style of the inimitable Mr Seddon - because while it's probably £10 of dyneema I was fed up of replacing my £3 of 6mm cord because it had worn through at the knots every time they get cored)



(I've made myself a bag tether out of 5mm dyneema - tied into a loop and then knots tied along the length in the style of the inimitable Mr Seddon - because while it's probably £10 of dyneema I was fed up of replacing my £3 of 6mm cord because it had worn through at the knots every time they get cored)
This was one of the in-situ cords on a Petzl classic. It looked essentially fine before and after (other than being in two parts!).

Mark R

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Since the last trip, I had thought about Rowter hole pretty much every day and as I did so became more and more excited by some of the leads we had left behind. It was therefore with great excitement that I met Mark S at Rowter farm with a car full of gear and a wrap up of bacon sandwiches- we were too early for the Castleton shops.

We got changed amongst the crowd of bedraggled looking D of E students being told by their supervisor that sleeping bags and tents shouldn’t be hung off the back of a rucksack by the stuff sack draw cord, to be left swinging against the back of their legs. We set off with our own unwieldy loads a few minutes later and were underground in good time. Despite having a lot of gear, we only ended up transiting the ice cream trail with three tackle bags and two scaffold poles between us, which wasn’t too bad and we arrived at the top of Fasten Your Sealtbelts (next to White Noise, in the Party Sausage). Having had a very cold trip last time we were there we had come better prepared and both had dug out and patched our old Meander PVC suits. We donned them over the top of our AV cordura suits before heading down. The Badgers Urinal was in full flow and To Boldly Go was not very nice. It was really, really wet. The Split Infinitive pitches beyond were sporting to say the least and I was grateful to have the deviation bolt still in place from the original exploration to take us at least a little way out of the water. I was also grateful to have a plastic sheet to cower under at the bottom whilst I waited for Mark to join me. It was probably the wettest we had experienced it.. which was very wet indeed!

The dig in the floor of the Split was taking a huge amount of water, more than we had ever seen flow down there which was an encouraging sight, or would have been had we not needed the lump hammer, chisel and crowbar from down there. Mark S very kindly offered to pop down and fetch them which I was all too happy to let him do. We did a little hammering of the window between the Split and Haven Aven and popped through into the dry space. Mark climbed up first, it’s about a 12m free climb vertically up from the window to the ledge we stopped at previously and we hauled the bags before I joined Mark and perched on a small ledge just below him. We stuck in a couple of concrete screws and rigged an 8mm rope to keep us ‘safe’.

Our first target for the day was the narrow slot with a continuation visible beyond. With a bit of thrutching up into the rift we could get to a position where it was possible to drill some cap holes above head height into the walls of the opening. Mark S took the first shift, drilling and capping uphill above his head. It went OK apart from the terrifying shower of rock that periodically fell onto me 2m below him. The ledge I was stood on was big enough for two feet, but not much else and so the hail of Limestone was not very welcome, but a necessary inconvenience and far better than either a hail of limestone from 12m above, or than having to go and sit under the plastic sheet in the falling water next door. It also became apparent quite quickly that it was a two-person job, if only to hold and pass things back and forth- there was nowhere to put anything down- a common theme for most of the day. Eventually it was my turn to have a go and I duly repaid Mark S with my own limestone hailstones, I think I managed to create quite a storm of it actually and fairly soon we were at a point where I thought I could give the squeeze a go. I thrutched myself up into the opening, which was still quite tight and awkward but once I had my shoulders through I felt OK to keep pushing and was soon stood in a 1mx 0.75mx 2.5m chamber with another slot above. This second slot was passed without any enlargement into a further chimney section which I climbed for a few metres to a blind roof with a 2” rift entering form one side! I guessed 10m, Mark S guessed 6m but let’s say we added 8m onto the cave. It’s a shame really because the way that was draughting you would have thought there would be more there. Never mind, we were disappointed but not honestly surprised by that result.

We headed back down, de- rigged our kit and assembled at the window. We were perched on a long scaffold pole we brought own from the Party Sausage wedged across the aven and with bags hung beneath us managed to just about clear enough space on a small ledge to boil the kettle. I can still not over emphasise the psychological and physical benefit of having a hot brew on a trip like this and feeling buoyed by the 3 in 1 and a trio of cinnamon bagels with cheese we were ready to descended into the bottom of Haven Aven (Hell pit??) to make a start on clearing the rubble that we had partially filled it up with. Before we did however Mark S had an urgent need to pop next door and avail himself of the facilities- a bucket of water and fast flowing stream. While he was gone I cut some scaffolding and created a little stacking space for the next event.

It is a strange little section with an awkward double bend letter box to drop into a small descending passage that falls perhaps 3 or 4m to a rubble blockage. We had been there before but neither of us remembered it very well so we set about clearing rubble to get us back to the point we were at when we last dug there. After a short while we reached a sort of natural floor level and were able to take an awkward look at the continuation- not very exciting, a too tight and narrow rifty bedding which extended a couple of metres then kind of disappeared around a corner. Barely any draught too. We called it a day there and packed up. The plan was, if time allowed to go to the end of the snapper tube we found on our last trip and rig up a water diversion made from some plastic sheeting, lay flat hose and a 50mm tank connector to allow a good look at the low, wet continuation without being pummelled by the water but it was obviously far too wet today and at this point we were ready to leave.

The ascent went OK, I don’t think either of us was hit by falling rock this time so conditions are improving there. The thrutch back up through To Boldly Go was horrible, as usual but thank God we still had those PVC suits on. Back at the relative calm of the Party Sausage we brewed up again and sorted gear out a little. We hung up our suits and left them there, so if you do find yourself in that part of the cave don’t be alarmed when you enter the Party Sausage to find two yellow figures waiting for you. Equally, please don’t mess with them and do leave them there for us 😊. Despite having had two over suits on all day we were both soaked to the skin again and just about warm enough so we didn’t really stop on the way out, other than to go and take a look at the upstream Origin of Faeces dig near the base of Gin shaft. That’s still really exciting, even if it is heading upstream so I’m going to be re-initiating some weekday digging sessions there soon.

Another interesting diversion of the trip which it has only just occurred to me to mention is the Two Left Wellies Water. The dam at the top of TLW is still working well and gurgling and sucking through the 1 ½” pipe unbelievably hard! (yes I know what you’re thinking and no, I really wouldn’t advise it…). We fixed a leaky pipe in the Ice Cream Trail on our way through and when we left nearly all the water was still being nicely diverted into the Frozen Falls rift and disappearing, never to be seen again (another mystery). This leaves us in a really good place to work on the sump pumping again when the weather dries out. I think we will find a weekend, possibly three days, bring back the generator and power cables, buy a new pump and properly go for it with a surface support team, well stocked underground basecamp and plenty of cups of tea.

We exited the entrance shaft without any dramas this time, (on the off chance SUSS were out for a tourist trip again we had removed the latch before heading underground) and found ourselves tucking into an amazing burger in the Peak Hotel a short time later. I think it was about 11 hours of pretty hard work and I didn’t feel up to much on Sunday other than eating all day but what a great trip! A few more metres surveyed and oodles of enthusiasm re- kindled. Right, I’m off to bed now to dream about underground streams.. my new scaffold spanner should turn up tomorrow too ! 😊


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Mark R and I had a quick trip down last week, taking a few scaff poles and a fresh bag of clips.

It was impressive to see that the dig had been extended in nominal volume by a body length (if that mixture of measures makes any sense) since my last trip a few weeks/months? back, it was opened out enough that I was actually at the dig face when I thought I was entering it.

Mark took the lead on prodding at the face and with some careful clip and tube placements, he extended the "Panic Scaff" upwards by exactly 44 inches (cut to measure, yours truly). This does mean that upwards progress is now hampered by said scaffold pole, but such are the long-term strategic necessities of digging upwards through a pile of boulders under the fickle whims of gravity and the holding power of interstitial slop.

I then hopped in to get some terrible photos which don't get the scale across...nor the significant (relative to the dig) void above the choss pile that can be seen through a small aperture around 2-3m away with much torch/head movement (picture meerkats in muddy overalls). A few quick snaps of the more spacious staging area just before the dig on the way out and we were off to the pub.

We've seen evidence of an old rotting timber, and what looks like a band of clay approximately at the height you would expect it to be placed by towd man on top of boards making up a false floor above the streamway, so with the sight of some space above, things are exciting indeed. Even if this major natural walking passage open space is only a brief interlude within the all-consuming boulder choke, at the very least it grants the dig some much needed stacking space.

Not to get ahead of ourselves though, this next bit of progress could be very slow and a little underwhelming. It's a marathon, not a sprint.


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Mark R

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Mike and I want back again last night (with more scaffolding- obviously). The first job was to remove two large blocks in the upward choke which eventually entailed pulling them down onto my shoulder and half lowering, half sliding them through the choke. This done, the gap through to the space was significantly opened and with much apprehension I managed to get my shoulders through to survey the scene. There was an opposite heavily calcited wall visible over about 1/3rd of the space and the wall we followed up was still intact and trending with a slight overhang, the remainder however was almost entirely hanging boulders, some of which were supported by a steep slope of wet mud and muddy rocks. The void measures around 2m high, 1-2m wide and 5m long. I think there is a 'safe' place at the east end of the void which is underneath a vast chocked block between the two solid walls, from here it might be possible to start stabilising the muddy boulder slope that both supports the roof and continually slumps back into the wormy entrance we created for access.
After sitting very still and just looking around for quite a long time, Mike passed through several scaffold poles and clips, I had a go at finding somewhere to place them temporarily that might provide some degree of comfort but to no avail. We are going to have to enter the void fully and pin into the walls to start creating something resembling a reasonable support structure. The concern being that if the muddy slope that ultimately supports the very large boulders in the roof starts to move, not only will it risk a massive collapse, but the way home would be lost. We don't fancy being stranded inside a very inaccessible boulder choke.
It's a strange place- elements of natural passage seen in the calcite flow wall and the stream running beneath us and also of the old man seen in chunks of rotting board within the mud. It is chaotic to say the least and not at all obvious how the space was formed, nor what the right course of action is going forward. We have a working plan to utilise screw out scaffold feet to create baby acro props to aid with the initial stabilisation, similar to how we approached Bad Badger Choke. Extreme care will be required.
We were given a sign that it was time to leave when, sitting waist up in the void, a sudden unseen shifting of the muddy slope deposited a large volume of rock onto my torso and hips, temporarily creating an enormous sense of panic which took a few minutes to recover from once the rock was lifted off and I had shuffled back through the hole. We shall leave it to settle a little before going back , hopefully next week and if the space is still open, make a start at very carefully gaining a more permanent entry into the void.

EDIT- on the plus side, there is a fantastic draught!