Rowter Hole Update

Mark R

Well-known member
Just a quick update for the sake of completeness, rather than the reporting of anything significant. Mike Y and I were back last night, moving all the scaffolding we have down there through to the nice chamber without a name. Mike spent a while familiarising himself with the new discovery as it was his first time in there and we put a little bit of scaffolding in Thumb Slapper Choke which has improved things slightly although some head scratching and more steel is definitely needed, the choke gradually unravels itself every time we pass through. We deposited three bags of equipment ready for Saturday's trip to Insomnia- this is the name we have given to the constriction at the end of Layflat which has quite literally been keeping us awake at night since our last visit. It was a strange feeling exiting the entrance shaft without a bag, I honestly cant remember the last time I came out of Rowter without at least a drill. I could really get used to that feeling! All being well we will have another update after Saturday.


Did you manage to get back to the dig and any more progress?
Yes, and not really!

Just the two Marks again on Saturday, which was probably for the best since we are not blessed with much room beyond the ducks (Peak Bleak). Castleton was mega-busy given the cold, clear forecast, but we were down the hole before the cloud burned off, enjoying a rare treat of just one bag each on the way in thanks to the mid-week gear drop described above.

At the still-as-yet-unnamed nice chamber before the climb up to the stream leading to Peak Bleak we changed into our neoprene: 2 wetsuits for me, and a new wetsuit for Mark. We knew what was in store.

Pleasantly warm and pleased the ducks had not silted up in our absence, we arrived at the calcite blockage (Insomnia). Working space was "limited", in that there was probably about 1 square foot of space that was above water level, and we set to the day's task of enlarging the tantalising hole ahead. Despite almost no draught at the base of the entrance shaft (usually the strongest draught in the cave) the draught at Insomnia was still reasonable. We had a long capping shift with very little success in the calcite walls. A working pattern developed where one of us would be waist deep in the pool at the front working whilst the other was perched on the crowbar wedged across the rift behind, supplying/holding tools and materials. Frustrated at the lack of progress we opted for an alternative enlargement approach, giving us the chance to retreat for a brew and some lunch.

Back through the ducks again after lunch, we were disappointed to find that our pre-lunch efforts had been unsuccessful. Two more tries yielded some success, but some futile efforts at entering our enlarged section of passage made it clear we weren't getting through without another trip. Cold, disappointed not to be through, but pleased to be much closer than we started, we retreated back for another brew and to change into some welcome dry kit.

On the way out we briefly added a bit more scaffolding to Thumb Slapper and climbed a rift just before the breakthrough choke that proved to go nowhere. Unfortunately we had 5 bags between us on the exit, offsetting our light weight descent in the morning.

We didn't have a watch with us, so were surprised to find we'd been underground for over 10 hours, of which >6 must have been sat in the Insomnia pool. No wonder we were getting cold with that, and a total of 8 transits of the ducks!

We have plans in place for a return next weekend, which will hopefully see some more progress. We could see larger space beyond the constriction at the end...


Active member
We were in Rowter last Saturday and knotted out the, well through to the core, rub point on the up rope (to a large chamber) past Hypothermia Crawl, marked 'F'. This rope really needs replacing.


Well-known member
lol, the rope, is that all you were bothered about. 6 Years or so ago on a trip with LunaT one of my tripmates went up it and soon came down gingerly.

All “fixed” ropes should be treated with caution.

For clarity here. The rope may be bad, but the connectors ~6years ago were furry and the bolts I didn’t look too closely at. My thoughts were it’s not on a trade route, so it will not be travelled regularly.
The rope could be replaced but the route would not massively be improved as the connectors/bolts may need looking into at the same time.

For one I’d far rather the marks and badger helpers concentrated on the main objective, as it sounds like a corker! And that from a person who nay-say’ed rowter to mark R a few years ago.


Well-known member
Well done two Marks a loooong trip. Frustrating for you that a breakthrough was not possible but for sure you will win. Thank you once again foe the update


Well-known member
That little upward shaft on the survey at top right in the upper chamber is where the miners' staircase is, and may well lead to more stuff - it's still 50m underground there at least. It's just behind the camera in this shot. Despite it not being on the current trade route, I think it should still all be accessible as it's a fantastic chamber, and putting in some new resin anchors and some fresh rope wouldn't be a bad idea really. The traverse over the narrow ledge after getting off the rope is unprotected and could do with some short traverse anchors fitting too.


Mark R

Well-known member
Last weekend Mark S and I returned to Layflat to tackle the calcite blockage- Insomnia. We were super prepared with a lot of gear, including a drill and a hired 10kg battery Hilti SDS Max breaker. We had another ~10 hour trip, much of it lying in the water again. Part way through the day the breaker stopped working, the second drill then also stopped working and whilst we had managed quit a lot of enlargement, we left feeling exhausted and a little down. After the trip my car exhibited a weird reluctance to start up, I had a headlight bulb blow and Mark had spent a frustrating few days on the lead up trying to get his Shetland Mega Pony (or whatever that device is called) working only for us to run out of time to use it. to cap the day off, we had 6 bags to bring out between the two of us... It was a very frustrating weekend.
Roll forward 6 days and we were ready to try again, this time we had slimmed our carry down to four bags, including a new to us second hand 36v Makita SDS Plus breaker/ drill with 4 pairs of batteries and a 5ft long breaker bar I had ground into an enormous cold chisel and hardened in a gas forge.

We met at 9 and were kitted up in Churry Hall (the previously un named nice chamber after Thumb Slapper Choke) by 10:45. We had a couple of very heavy bags to drag through Layflat, and the ducks, plus the bar and a plank- the plank was of limited use to us and later floated off back down Layflat! We set to the constriction with a range of attacks, the breaker was superb.. for all of about 5 minutes, when it suddenly started to smell strongly of hot electrics and emitted smoke.. FFS. We resigned to spend the next X hours hammering the breaker bar into a slot in the roof of the constriction. This required one of us to lie in the water to guide the bar in with the other stooped over the top swinging the hammer at the end of the bar. Twice I missed the end of the bar and the hammer swung through and clipped Mark S' ear defender- he didn't like that. After a while we stopped for lunch, timing this one for a reasonable hour, unlike the previous week when we didn't stop for a break until 1530. We re-fuelled on ravioli, rice pudding and coffee and headed back in for another shift of hammering.

After 45 minutes or so, we had another cautious go with the breaker, restricting use to just a few minutes and it seemed to do OK. We had acquired a inordinately expensive Hilti breaker bit, made presumably from some sort of meteorite metal and it chewed through the calcite. Periodically one of us would have a go in the tube, only to retreat having found it just way too tight. The tube is about 2m long, which means to enlarge the furthest end you have to lie on your side, lower arm out in front, upper arm tucked down by your side and shuffle in. The drill had to be used one handed, at arms length to break floor, walls and roof. If it was dry this would be hard enough, but there is a flowing stream and you lie in about 6" of water whilst working, having to keep the drill off the ground so as not to drown it- the tube is pretty much exactly body sized, snug against back and chest and too low to have shoulders aligned, it is definitely also a helmet off job. Thanks mainly to our persistent hammering of the large bar, there was plenty for the breaker to go at. Because the tube is narrower than a drill is long, its really hard to get any purchase on the walls for drilling or breaking, every attack being at a relatively shallow angle.

Eventually, at about 1430, following an energetic few minutes of arms length breaking I had a go... being the larger of the two of us we knew if I could fit, Mark S would too. It was very tight... but finally, I managed to pop my shoulders through into a continuing narrow rift, one with some height. I squirmed through and immediately turned back around to do some enlargement, I had got through but was feeling a little nervous about getting back now. A short time later Mark followed and we both headed on into the space ahead.

We entered what we have called Jabba's Place, after the big belly of flowstone we could see taunting us through Insomnia, it was beautiful, with some delicate cave pearls greeting us on the way in. There was calcite and stal all over the place, but the best was just ahead, we squirmed under a low section, still following the stream and arrived in an even more beautifully decorated chamber. I had a little moment here, we had three hard trips to Insomnia, which true to its name had kept us up at night. It had been bloody hard work and the trips have taken a lot of planning and no small amount of expense so to finally be through after such a roller-coaster was a brilliant feeling. To be through and faced with a thick curtain of brilliant white delicate straws though was just something else. Straws decorated the ceiling and calcite flowed down the walls, we have called this little chamber Unobtanium. After a few metres a calcite constriction forced us to go up into the roof above the stream. We're following the underside of a bedding plane with the stream incised a foot or two into the floor, the roof got progressively lower as we went up, with plenty of stal on either side of us until we hit a roof collapse. Slabs of rock have peeled off the roof and blocked the way on. We can see past them, though the bedding plane is lowering but we will be back on our next trip with the appropriate tools to remove the slabs and keep on pushing. An interesting point of note is that there is no sign of mineral vein in this bedding plane/ streamway, though there are occasional well rounded nodules of Galina present here and there.

Time was getting on by now and we were both knackered from the digging and hammering so we took a few snaps and headed out, getting down to the pub by about 8. Image quality isn't the best but when we return to survey it (and we will be surveying it on our next trip) we will get some better pics too. We estimated about 50m beyond Insomnia. As I sit here writing this I think I can safely say this is the most achey I have ever felt after a caving trip!


Mark S having a go at some breaker work in Insomnia

The freshly enlarged Insomnia tube immediately after breakthrough- you can just make out the drill on the far side.

Mark S coming through into the new bit- bigger than the tube, but not much bigger.

Some pearls

Jabba's Place

In the roof

I think this is heading back into Jabba's Place from Unobtanium.


With Mark for scale


Mark r in the incised streamway under the bedding plane slab.


Well-known member
Nice report, and great digging.

Photos look a lot like the White River Bedding, looking forward to seeing that data....


Well-known member
Fabulous, just fabulous. Does it look like the miners had been in here, or is it fresh?

Mark R

Well-known member
Nice report, and great digging.

Photos look a lot like the White River Bedding, looking forward to seeing that data....
It what it reminds me of the most too, probably about -60 or 70m depth at a guess..