Rowter Hole Update

Mark R

Well-known member
Fabulous, just fabulous. Does it look like the miners had been in here, or is it fresh?
Definitely fresh. No sign at all, just some small water worn galena nodules in the steam bed, suggesting it intersects the vein again somewhere up ahead.


Well-known member
Initially I felt de ja vous with tools not working and other problems then the digging conditions. Reminded me of digging in Test of Faith passage, Guscott lying down in a steam tube. Water flowing though my suit legs and out my collar while trying to drill to remove the restriction. Our find was not like yours though ......what a lovely decorated find well done....and still going.


Well-known member
Yes that's about the right horizon.

There're two beddings marked on this survey, one would be about 60m down and the other about 75m. My guess is your bit is closer to the top one, which Hypothermia Crawl is on?

Rowter Hole.png


I’ve been a bit slack with this write-up. It’s from a few weeks back.

Friday night saw me eating dinner with a seriously sore back. The cycle home that evening had done it no favours, and it was painful just sitting still. This didn’t bode well, but I figured Mark would have sorted his kit for the next day anyway, so it wouldn’t really cause any issues to not mention it and see how I felt the next morning. It was only a leisurely survey trip after all.

Next morning came and my back was still sore, but I hoped a bit of varied exercise might do it good. However, what didn’t do it good was the drive down, and I wasn’t exactly feeling at full strength when we parked up…but then it was just a survey trip.

We had our usual trip in, but this time not getting changed straight away at Churry Hall. We surveyed our way back to the Origin breakthrough choke before re-bolting the traverse on our way back through. Then we got changed into neoprene as usual, but without the prospect of lying in the Insomnia dig I had reduced my kit to just the one wetsuit. Thankfully, although the section through Peak Bleak and Insomnia is pretty grim, it’s also pretty straight, so we could get away with relatively few survey legs.

At Insomnia it was dispiriting to find it had partially filled with gravel in our absence, so more flat-out digging in water was needed to get through. Mark made short work of this, and we made steady progress surveying upstream before the passage gets narrower beyond Unobtanium. We decided at that point that I would survey alone, allowing Mark to go ahead to assess the slabs ahead blocking the way on.

Not long after I’d reached him, Mark announced that we’d be able to get past the slabs and into continuing passage. Exciting! But tempered by the fact we were heading upstream in quite a narrow passage. We headed onwards, with Mark engineering his way past the odd obstacle while I surveyed along behind, the passage constantly appearing to close down before revealing a route onwards. Some of the nice features of the diminutive passage unavoidably fell foul of our movements (“Explorers’ Prerogative” in Quaking got a bit of a mention) and we elected to call the passage Badgers’ Remorse.

With some relief I heard Mark announce he’d reached standing room, and we were soon stood in a welcome cross-rift with enough room for both of us. Unfortunately the way on was another low crawl. Mark headed in for a look while I rested my back at the rift. He immediately announced the way on was blocked, but again with continuing passage beyond. Now cooling off, I took Mark’s offer to swap at the front, prioritising my warmth over my back. After a bit of rock wrestling I had generated enough heat to send Mark back in to continue the wrestle with the huge block that we were inching across the passage to make room to pass. I made a comment that it looked like we’d made enough room, but Mark assumed it was blind optimism so elected to continue unnecessarily wrestling the block whilst lying in the pool of water. He seemed quite surprised when he took another look at the space to find loads of room to pass!

Onwards and upstream we went, before the floor started rising and blocks became visible across the passage ahead. With considerable effort squeezing past some blocks embedded in the floor, Mark forced his way to the end of the passage to announce there was definitely no way past, but that there were gaps between the blocks. I went to have a look, feeling like I was in a claustrophobic’s nightmare as I found myself forced on to my back, squeezed between the floor and the roof, unable to turn my head. Despite the discomfort the tantalising glimpses of black space between the blocks ahead suggested not all hope was lost. That and the cool, steady, draught emanating from them.

On our way out we paused at Unobtanium and Jabba’s Place to take some “proper” photos (i.e. using flashes rather than just a waterproof compact). Look out for one or two of these in the next edition of Descent. Pleasingly we were nowhere near as cold as previously back at Churry Hall (we’d resorted to pouring boiling water in our wellies on the last trip to bring some feeling back to our feet) and after a swift change we were soon back on the surface.

We crunched the numbers to find we’d surveyed 209 m of passage since the Origin breakthrough. And maybe that’s not quite the end…time will tell.


The Rowter survey with the Origin extensions circled.


New member
Thanks Badgers.., it's great to be able to follow original exploration as it unfolds , keep up the good work.

Mark R

Well-known member
... and to now bring us right up to date, we returned yesterday, having only three and a half bags between us- what a treat! The objective was to return to the pointy end and spend the day lowering the gravel floor in the last section of flat out bedding before the final choke we finished at on our last trip. We made good time to the cross rift (the standing room bit mentioned in Mark's report above) and headed into the next section armed with a couple of cheap garden hoes, the short handled variety which make fantastic gravel scrapers.

Mark S started at the front, digging gravel out of the floor and shoving it back towards me with his feet to move to wherever I could find space for it. We were delighted to find that the helmet off flat out, head sideways passage had a 200-300mm deep gravel floor to the stream and so by removing this as we went we turned the borderline impossible into the borderline tolerable. There were several large rocks that came out of the gravel floor, obviously the cause of the gravel backing up in this section. Towards the base of the gravel we found lots of egg sized chunks of near pure Galena. We're not sure what this means really, but we are choosing to see it as a good sign. Despite lying in it all day, we were extremely grateful for the flowing stream aiding our progress. Without that water, this dig really wouldn't have been good.

We stopped for lunch about 1, huddling in the cross rift for Chilli and Ravioli and two big mugs of cuppa soup then headed in for another session. By this point, we were both really tired and toiled away for what felt like an eternity, basically lying in a plank position on on elbow and scraping ahead with one arm up then shuffling back and forth to send the gravel back. It was too small in there for a drag tray, really glad we went to the effort of taking one with us. Eventually I had managed to get most of the floor cleared right up to the choke where the bedrock steps up and makes it a bit small but we now have some space to move around a bit and take a good look at the choke. We paused for another break, both now completely and utterly exhausted and starting to get cold then realised it was only about 3:00! the previous two hours, despite containing a lunch stop had totally sapped us of all energy reserves.

The way on is blocked by a series of very big blocks that have fallen out of the roof, presumably where a pair of joints intersect the bedding. They are fridge/ piano sized rocks and are perched on a ledge, sat on some gravel or mysteriously supported by forces unknown. We did manage to wriggle one block out of the way and get a bit of a look through a hole. We can see another 6-8m beyond into continuing low bedding but we will need to do some daring laying down capping and god knows what kind of shoring (yes, that means taking scaffolding up there) to get through. One for another time.

Feeling cold, we had a bit of time in the bothy bag to warm up and have a last hot drink and some rice pudding and headed out. We stopped on the way to do some discreet and tasteful 'taping' of some of the pretties- if you visit, please do be considerate and don't stop thinking about keeping your head down! it's not possible to pick a route through Unobtainium without stooping beneath the straws and its very easy to cause some damage.

As we exited through Insomnia I commented to Mark how committing it felt lying in the stream and forcing through that tube, even having done it several times already it still feels like a challenge. My advice for the transit both in and out would be to face the true right wall (left as you head in, right as you head out) and always keep your feet downstream. This means going through headfirst on the way in and feet first on the way out, with bottom arm out in front and top arm behind. It helps to have someone behind you on the way in to push your feet against. It will probably be necessary to lie in the water and dig gravel out to beyond arms length before you enter and stay low for a good body length on the upstream side of the tube. I don't think we have mentioned it yet but this trip is a real suit shredder, we're wearing AV suits over wetsuits and have both destroyed a suit doing these last few trips, obviously a quick tourist trip will be kinder than a digging trip, but don't wear your best wetsuit through there without some protection.

We exited the cave after about 10 hours underground, tired but satisfied that we did what we went for. I think we will have a little break from that for a few trips and do a few sessions on the upper Thumb Slapper Choke in Churry Hall and start thinking about Rowter Sump pumping prep for this summer.

Enjoying the comfort of the cross rift

Tools of the trade

Mark S in the luxurious bothy bag brew station
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Well-known member
Riveting read thanks for sharing...fascinating to see where its heading. The galena is also intriguing I wonder what's ahead..