Sharbutts Rift - Portland


Active member
I'm guessing very few people were aware but the entrance to Sharbutts rift on Portland (which connects to Sandy Hole) has been blocked for the last few years following a small mud slide.  I've spend a couple of hours today digging a badger set resulting in the entrance being usable again.  I'm going to look at putting in a couple of bolts in to give something to connect string from to improve the friendliness off the cave.  It's described in the Portland book as a severe, very committing top entrance to Sandy being virtually impossible to free ascend. 

Portland isn't flushed with cave passage so regaining Sharbutts felt worthwhile (plus I've never been in there!).  I'm sure a few who have been in before may disagree with this.

A couple of photos - the wedged rock next to the metal part of the spade handle in the first imagine is in the top right hand corner of the second:



Pie Muncher

Definitely time well spent. To loose it below future land slips and become no more than a memory would be tragic. Well done. Awaiting details from your first descent.


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There's been another small collapse of mud from above the Sharbutts entrance.  I pulled the worse of the soil out of the way today but really needs a bit of time with a spade again.  The entrance is usable but a little smaller than it was!


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It's taken 3 and a half years but finally myself and Nick got around to sorting out Sharbutts last weekend...

During the last couple of years I did looked at Sharbutts rift from below a couple of times but despite climbing a fair way up (what turned out to be the wrong bit of the rift) never found daylight.  I'd also passed a tight squeeze and decided that wasn't the way (but it was).

Last Sunday I came up with the daft plan of dropping down Sharbutts and exiting Persil via our new connection.  Off we set to pre-rig the pitch in Persil before wandering 450 m South to find the Sharbutts entrance.  Let's just say things didn't quite go to plan!  The first issue was that once again there had been a minor mud slip over the entrance making it rather tight to get in.  A quick scrape with a stone and it was usable.  Having rigged a rope I then descended the greasy rift.  Sensibly Nick was left at the top and instructed to stay there until I'd confirmed the route into Sandy was both open and passable.  The rift was deeper than expected - the 15 m rope was about 3 m too short.  It didn't really matter as I wasn't using it - the rift is the perfect width for just sort of sliding down.  Once at the bottom there was a small hole at floor level to the left (North).  I had a quick look at this, putting some of myself into it and decided it must be somewhere else (it wasn't).  I then looked elsewhere and the only other option was to the right (South) beyond what looked like a recent collapse.  Aided with a bit of rebar found amongst the crap at the bottom of the rift I dug enough of a hole through this to pass.  Beyond, the rift descended further into a lower level containing a choked small phreatic and a 4 x 8 inch hole with a view into something bigger beyond.  Both interesting, but clearly neither had ever been passed.  I returned to the base of the pitch and shouted up to Nick that I couldn't find the way into Sandy.  Bugger.  It was at this point it dawned on me I'd now have to climb 17 m back up the greasy rift described in the old Portland book as 'virtually impossible to free ascend'.  Oh goody.  Fortunately in my bag of tricks was a tibloc, sling and a short length of rope I'd had with me for something else.  A footloop, harness, safety line and jammer arrangement was quickly fashioned.  20 mins later and thoroughly knackered I was back at the entrance.  With Nick at the top of the rift there was no concern of been trapped as there was plenty of ladder between what we put in Persil and that in the boot of my car, but obviously I had to try to climb out before sending Nick to get the bits to rescue me.

So back to the car.  A bit of lunch and litre of water later and we both agreed the best thing to do was to return to Sharbutts so if nothing else Nick could see the bottom.  We collected the ladder from Persil and the one from my boot, a longer rope and the crowbar.  Once back at the entrance the first job was to make it more accessible again and unbury the backup bolt outside the entrance.  With ladders rigged we both descended.  At the bottom we conclusively explored the southern option, making the route through the collapse a bit bigger and decided Sandy wasn't down there!  We're not sure if we'd found new cave - probably not as there was what looked like a digging stick further down than we thought was likely to have arrived amongst the shit which had obviously been thrown through the entrance over the years.  Not a lot of evidence of human passage though.

The only place left to check was the vertical downwards squeeze in the floor I'd determine earlier wasn't it.  Having removed my belt and other clutter in I posted myself.  Once through I quickly realised I was now on the far side of the squeeze I'd looked at from the Sandy side previously which I knew I fitted through.  It's worth noting the described squeeze at the bottom of Sharbutts in the old Portland book is in fact two squeezes approx. 2 m apart.  I'm generally quite good at fitting through things and this was fairly tight so best heed the warning that it's worth checking you fit before descending Sharbutts.  It's not though as tight as Squeezy rift, the connection to Blacknor!

Having found the link we decided to drop into Gold and Silver Passage and exit Sandy Hole so that we could at least say we'd done a through trip albeit a very short one.

Not quite the plan but we had fun and now know the way through.  Furthermore we might well have another place to go poking and prodding!

As always a few pictures...

The entrance after digging it out:

Bottom of the pitch (ladder definitely advised if any chance of having to go back up):

Somewhere down in the southern continuation I dug my way into.  Possibly new cave???

Nick looking down the choked small phreatic down in the bottom of the rift:

If there's anyone reading this who's poked around in the bottom of Sharbutt's previously I'd be interested in hearing from you.