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Rowter Hole Update

Mark R

Well-known member
Worth noting for anyone less familiar with the cave that the stream mentioned at Split Infinitive that disappears in the vicinity of Whirlpool Passage is totally separate from the Rowter stream tested in the above dye trace. In fact, I'm not sure we were aware of its existence at the time!
I always knew it was there ;)
 

Mark R

Well-known member
Good trip last night in the upstream dig, we moved only a few boulders, including one large and exceptionally heavy one but got several new and reassuring pieces of scaffolding in. The continuing dig which runs horizontally into the choke is a good body length now and by reaching forward as far as possible into this (3m from the entrance) it is possible to get a disto shot through the choke for a further 6 and a bit metres. I'm going to tentatively say that we seem to be able to see the back side of the choke now, though during a poke towards the end of the evening a large amount of rock rumbled and collapsed, mostly out of sight ahead but with a large block rolling right into the line of sight. We will be back again this weekend to carry on and with some luck we will be able to get a really good view into any continuation of the 'passage/ rift/ vein/ level/ streamway??!)that there might be beyond the choke.
Rowter was draughting nicely last night but the dig was unusually still though still nice and fresh.

Might it be worth us moving the general West Castleton hydrology and Faucet Rake/ SHS/ WInnats chat to a parallel thread?
 

SamT

Moderator
Good trip last night in the upstream dig, we moved only a few boulders, including one large and exceptionally heavy one but got several new and reassuring pieces of scaffolding in. The continuing dig which runs horizontally into the choke is a good body length now and by reaching forward as far as possible into this (3m from the entrance) it is possible to get a disto shot through the choke for a further 6 and a bit metres. I'm going to tentatively say that we seem to be able to see the back side of the choke now, though during a poke towards the end of the evening a large amount of rock rumbled and collapsed, mostly out of sight ahead but with a large block rolling right into the line of sight. We will be back again this weekend to carry on and with some luck we will be able to get a really good view into any continuation of the 'passage/ rift/ vein/ level/ streamway??!)that there might be beyond the choke.
Rowter was draughting nicely last night but the dig was unusually still though still nice and fresh.

Might it be worth us moving the general West Castleton hydrology and Faucet Rake/ SHS/ WInnats chat to a parallel thread?

(y)(y)
 

Mark R

Well-known member
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It was with this message in mind that we met at the farm on Sunday at 0900. We had about 14 scaffold poles and four tackle bags of tools and gear with us (one whole large Darren drum full of stroganoff and rice!). the journey to the dig face went well, though we had a noticeably larger than normal amount of kit with us so it did take us a while to get it all through.

The first order of the day, after Chris’ orientation was to get some poles in place on the right hand wall of the choke where we left off on Wednesday. The last pole we installed on Wednesday was a beautifully positioned horizontal roof pole installed by Mike. Mark S set about getting the scaffolding in while Chris and I chopped poles, trundled boulders and passed clips. After an hour or so, Mark set to the continuation with a pokey stick. We had left things with a tantalising view through to the back of the choke before some rocks fell and partially blocked the view. Within what felt like just a few seconds, Mark let out a loud guffaw and announced that, remarkably we were pretty much through and he could see large space beyond. Very generously he retreated from the face and allowed me the honour of being first through the choke. We had taken down some scraps of matting to lie on and sit on in the dig and so even the traverse through the choke was relatively pleasant this time. Emerging out the other side it was quickly apparent that we chose exactly the right place to dig, crawling out at floor level. I turned around to inspect the back side of the choke. There was a solid roof which steeply undercut up into a rising choke. Presumably directly up from there for 15m or so was the top of the ‘abyss’ rubble slope in the old Rowter Hole. We all came through and went for a look.

The new passage is on the vein, as you would expect. There is lots of mining activity all around, with stemples and stacks throughout (although a few of these had to be removed to facilitate safe access beyond). The stream we have been following flowed under the rubble floor upon which we stood and ahead was a lower, silty level and an upper couple of bridges spanning the vein. We went through the cavity for about 20m to a short climb up. At this point we found the stream running on a solid natural floor issuing from a very narrow section of rift. The climb was above this to what appeared to be a continuing walking eight passage. Mark S assessed that it was do-able but would be much nicer with a rope on it so we headed back to the breakthrough to fetch harnesses, scaffold the back side of the choke and pass equipment through. We almost didn’t bring a rope with us…

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We had brought one with us in the end, but pretended it was to re- rig Gin shaft so as not to further jinx the dig 😊

We returned to the front and Mark climbed into the continuing passage and rigged a rope. We gardened a bit of loose rock on the way up and found ourselves all standing in a nice bit of mined mineral vein with a small wall of deads on one side.

We carried on over another bridge and under a low arch into a rising passage floored with boulders. The stream was running down under these boulders from above. the slope rose to meet the roof and the passage became crawling height at this point. We were suddenly faced with another choke! This was so familiar- solid left wall, chossy right wall, boulders above and chaos ahead. I felt weirdly conflicted about this- on the one hand I wished it wasn’t there and we could carry on, on the other a little part of me thought “that’s good, the project isn’t over yet!” We returned again to the breakthrough window to gorge on around 2.5kg of Chris’ famous beef stroganoff and rice- it was outstanding, made even more luxurious by the cup of hot coffee brewed on the stove and a nice soft warm mat to sit on. Does digging get much better than this?

After lunch we decided to use the manpower and remaining time of the day to ferry as much scaffolding through the dig and up to the new choke as possible. An hour or so later it was all at basecamp 2, the nice bit of mined passage at the top of the rope climb which had now been turned into a traverse over the lower rubble bridges. I went up to the choke and made a start, the plan at this point was to do an hour or so of work and head out. I got a few poles in place, though not brilliantly but it was enough to give me some confidence to work underneath and something to build off. I used the pokey stick to drop quite a lot of stuff out of the choke. It wasn’t obvious which way to go- straight ahead was chaotic, to the right was partially walled by the old man and partially large natural boulder and above was what seemed to be lightly calcited natural choke material, though it was hard to tell. I moved a particularly large rock with the pokey stick and it rolled end over end, hit the stick on its way down and slapped my thumb down into an adjacent boulder with quite a lot of force. The pain was intense, I was certain I’d just broken my thumb and wanted to be sick. I definitely didn’t want to take my glove off to look! I moped back down the rubble heap to find somewhere to sit down and get my breath back stating that I’d had enough and was ready to leave.

Meanwhile, Mark S went up to take a look at the choke I’d left behind, he also had a play with the pokey stick and while Chris and I were a little way back, we heard a huge rumble as a lot of material shifted. There was a pause and we both shouted to check he was OK. Yeah, fine he shouted back.. and I think we might be able to get through! He relayed that he could see into more space- as big as we’d had so far and with a little work, it could probably be made safe. At this point, my thumb suddenly didn’t hurt so much any more. We ferried some more gear up to the choke again while Mark pulled some rubble out and threaded some poles in. Within about 15 minutes he was through and working from the other side to stabilise. Chris and I followed through into a natural part of the vein. There is a confused Aven above the choke- a tall section of rifty cave with some enormous boulders tumbled down from it. Some very, very big boulders. This was a natural feature and quite an intimidating one. Looking further on, we continued to follow the stream for a little way to a pair of 3m climbs. At the top of the second climb the stream issued from a small tube. Mark headed down to take a look, the tube constricts twice straight away necessitating a flat out crawl in the water to progress. He stopped to turn around at a very low pool of water with a very small constriction at the far end. This would be a wetsuit job to go any further and at this point in the day was feeling a bit too much for us all.

We tried to count the length of the new extension on the way out, roughly counting about 80m in total from flat out tube to the dig but we could be way off either way. The breakthrough is in a fairly decent state, though could always do with a bit more scaffolding. The second choke however needs some proper attention on our return to make a permanent job of it, on our way out we knocked several rocks out of the choke so need to exercise extreme care there and install some more support before passing through again. We will be returning very soon to have a go at stabilising the second choke, gently climbing the aven amongst the fridge sized boulders and pushing the wet tube (in wetsuits). It would be nice if we didn’t have to cap our way into that whilst laying in water, but we shall see.

With my thumb barely throbbing by now we exited the cave in high spirits, grateful that Rowter Hole had given up another of its secrets and taken us around 100-120m west along the vein from the entrance shaft. We will get a survey done at some point soon however the entire section through the heavily scaffolded choke will be completely guessed orientation wise as compasses vary in readings by about 200 degrees. Best guess puts us around 80m deep and our current progress stops at around the area you see an intersecting vein join at the surface, so it’s a good spot to poke around. We will issue more updates as we go.

If anyone has some decent and reliable maps showing the names of veins I’d be grateful, I have seen several different sources with different mineral veins marked in totally different places and called different things. Faucet, Fawcet, Foreside, Shack Hole, Shake Hole, Horse Stones.. and more with some wildly varying locations and orientations. I think the intersecting vein is Shackhole Scrin, Rowter sits on Horestones Rake which turns into Faucet Rake east of the entrance, but I could be totally wrong. Perhaps one for the split pontification thread.

We will issue more updates as we go but, in the meantime may we ask that you do us the courtesy of allowing us to finish fully exploring the new extensions ourselves and installing some additional protective measures in the chokes before you arrange to visit. We will shortly post a link to a video of about half of the new stuff that takes you up to ‘thumb slapper choke’ (working title!) and will endeavour to get some more video or images of the rest of it very soon.
 

pwhole

Well-known member
This is awesome news - well done! I don't have much more in the way of vein maps other than what I've already posted, but I'll have a look. I spect much of Saturday wrestling with monster boulders too, so appreciate the predicament :)
 

Goydenman

Well-known member
Brilliant news well done team and I hope you get into much more soon. Thanks so much for the update..... I will watch this space or should I say your space
 

Mark R

Well-known member
So just to explain, the video titled part 1 takes you from gin shaft to just below the chamber of hanging nightmares and closes woth a look through the choke at the breakthrough. Video part 2 takes you from Sundays breakthrough point to thumb slapper choke. We don't have Video of the rest yet.
 

DCA

Active member
Congratulations on your breakthrough! Sounds like it's a good contender for entry into the 2023 cave exploration prize.....
 

MarkS

Moderator
After the excitement of our last trip, we were as keen to return as ever. We had the low passage heading upstream to look at, as well as potential routes on in the ceiling around the big choke roughly in the region where Faucet Rake and Shackhole Scrin intersect.

Upstream was first on our list. Although the passage didn’t look hugely appealing (see Mark’s description above), what we may have neglected to mention in our last report was the massive draught emanating from it. We got changed into neoprene in the as-yet-unnamed chamber beyond Thumb Slapper choke before clambering up the waterfalls, adding a handline en-route.

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At the top of the climbs with the newly installed handline (photo: Mark R)

Equipped with a crowbar and a scraper type thing, we started excavating the floor, making the previously flat-out sections at the start of the passage (named “Layflat” after the previous trip) marginally less flat out. Mark was ahead at this point and as he reached the limit of my previous exploration he shouted back that it was pretty much exactly as I’d described, i.e. lots of water and not much passage! Shouting was mandatory at this point as we both had neoprene over our ears. Unfortunately we rapidly made the realisation that, unlike the Layflat squeezes before, we had a bedrock floor here so there was no prospect of lowering the water. Inching forward toward the constriction ahead Mark surprised me somewhat by passing back the camera he’d brought with him - I hadn’t realised he’d brought it right to the front with us! Mark reached the lowest part of the roof and seemed unsure if it would be passable. It certainly wasn’t big enough initially, but thankfully the bedrock floor had given way to gravel here, so Mark spent the next 15 minutes or so dredging out the passage that he was largely filling. Meanwhile I did my best to scrape back the dredged material such that the passage Mark was lying in didn’t get completely dammed and fill with water, as well as taking a few pictures of Mark’s wellies.

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Dredging and making progress along the low passage (photos: Mark S)

There were a couple of failed attempts to pass the constriction followed by more digging before Mark eventually ducked through. I couldn’t see much at this point, but it was clear there was another constriction ahead, thankfully this time one that could be enlarged with a crowbar. Getting cold in the draught despite the constant gravel-moving I was doing, I was pleased when Mark finally shouted that I could come through to join him, and even more pleased to hear there was standing room beyond! Removing my helmet I squirmed through the first duck (working title: “Peak Bleak”). Digging that out was a seriously good effort in grim conditions by Mark. The second duck was possibly even less pleasant, with a small flow of water steadily pouring into the middle of the constriction. Lovely!

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Negotiating the newly opened first duck (left; photo: Mark S) and second duck (right; photo: Mark R)

I was soon through to find Mark stooped in almost waist-deep water chuckling at what lay ahead. Calcite almost entirely blocked the passage at this point with the stream and the draught emanating from a tiny hole at water level. Without the draught, this passage would probably have been a write-off after our first trip, but given its strength and our location on the vein with nothing known beyond, we’ll certainly be back for what will undoubtedly be a memorable neoprene-clad digging session.

Back to the chamber and the base of the climbs, we quickly changed into our lovely dry undersuits and put on a brew to warm up, followed by a very pleasant curry. Perhaps having a kettle as our only receptacle to cook in wasn’t the ideal choice, though.

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Brew time (photo: Mark R)

After lunch we prepped for objective 2: the choke that extended up into the ceiling above Thumb Slapper. We had a very cautious initial look at he base of the choke, but it’s an intimidating place and not somewhere to be complacent. We both agreed that the most promising (and least-scary) option looked to be a bolt climb from part way up the choke, hopefully avoiding having to dig in the base of it. Mark opted to belay initially, so I kitted up and set off. Progress was fairly straightforward given the proximity of both walls, and after 6 or so metres I clambered into a small drippy chamber higher up in the choke having not had to use a single etrier. Unfortunately what had looked very promising from below turned out to just be a route straight into the choke above with no prospect of going over it. Mark joined me, spotting shot holes and a calcited pipe that I’d missed whilst climbing. We pulled through back to the base and had another look at the most likely way into the choke. Following the solid right-hand wall seems the best, but it’s going to take a significant amount of digging. Intriguingly we both thought we could hear water in the choke that didn’t sound like the water in the chamber behind us, but who knows whether it was echoes playing tricks on us.

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Inspecting the choke (photo: Mark R)

After another brew we then spent a bit of time taking some pictures of the rest of the extensions (they will be posted below at some point). The photos won’t win any awards, but hopefully give a flavour of the place. Next time will hopefully be an attack on the draughting hole beyond Peak Bleak(?).

Our enthusiasm for digging got the better of us on this trip, so we didn’t manage to add any scaffolding to Thumb Slapper. This will be rectified on an upcoming trip, but if anyone does visit in the meantime please take extreme care here. It is not currently a stable place.
 

Mark R

Well-known member
A few more images, not totally in order but it gives a good sense of the place.
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Mark s returning through The Origin Choke.

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Exit from The Origin Choke, heading in.

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Some nice pick marks in the new extension

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Traverse over holes between piles of stacked deads.

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Old man's wall

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Nice bit of worked vein

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Start of the climb, belay in/ under the 'old mans pipe choke'.

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Clay pipe... can anyone date it? Calcited in place.

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Nice bit of mainly natural looking towards the choke

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And another looking the other way- upstream to the west.

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Lunch with the new digging spoons.

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The near side of Thumb Slapper

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The far side of Thumb Slapper. Requiring some work.

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The end... for now. A very thick blob of calcite flow at a constriction. Mercifully with some room to work.
 

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AR

Well-known member
The fluted bowl on that pipe might give a date, though I'm guessing from the bowl size it'll be later 18th or earlier 19th century. I'll see what I can find online.
 
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