The end of Steve's Endeavour


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The end of Steve's Endeavour is a rather interesting place.  I think I've mentioned it on the hopeless thread before, that we've noticed the the cave terminates at Y junction.  I don't think previous explorers noticed this and its not all that surprising given that at a low level the left hand rift is little more than a crack a couple of inches wide and at a high level the right hand rift is hidden behind some really dodgy boulders.  Consequently it's not at all surprising that most would just assume its a single rift.  Furthermore, since forging the Hopeless - Steve's through trip last October we've given ourselves much easier access to this part of the cave and hence opportunity to look at it in detail.

The left hand rift provides the high level window out to the cliff found by the original explorers, contains our connection to Hopeless and also the recently noticed low level route out to the cliff.  The right hand rift simply pinches out becoming too tight after a few metres however appears to turn inland.

A few months ago myself and Richard had a good look at the right hand rift and decided we should spend a day or two enlarging the end of the rift to see what happens at the point it turns.  Since then I've studied the Blacknor survey and fannied around on google earth and come to the conclusion this rift is almost certainly heading to Blacknor.  The Northern Steve's entrance is 74 m from Blacknor's Queens Entrance as the crow flies.  Not far inside Queens Entrance there is a rift (Next to Go) which according to the survey heads south for approx. 50 m.  Annoyingly this is the only rift in Blacknor I've not been in so I have no idea what is at its end.  What I do know is there is no evidence of it emerging on the cliff.  I'm therefore hoping 'Next to Go' and our right hand rift in Steve's meet.  The distance between the two cannot be more than about 20 m (and hopefully a little less!).  The goal of course is to create an interesting through trip and provide an all weather, more sensible entrance to Blacknor.

Today myself and Richard had nothing better to do so we decided to take the bag of toys and start work enlarging the rift.  We only managed around 2 m of progress however another similar session will get us to a good view of what's going on and we should be able to make a judgement to whether this will be a long term project, a futile waste of time or perhaps another easy breakthrough.

A couple of pictures...

Richard in the enlarged rift:

The bag of toys & back along Steve's Endeavour rift:

Unlikely we'll get a chance to return to this one for a while but I'll update this thread when we do.


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Myself and Richard spent another few hours beating the sh*t out of the end of Steve's today.  Good progress.  I'd guess about 3 m more of rift enlarged.  The rift has taken a slight turn of maybe 20 to 30 degrees inland.  We've widened to and around the corner.  At the corner I cleared a boulder and declared a chamber had been found.  Richard disagreed with my ideas of what constitutes a chamber.  Beyond the corner another metre or so of progress was made along the rift. 

Richards description of our work was very accurate - I made a pilot hole whilst he followed enlarging the rift further to 'Richard sized'.  At one point I did ask 'I take it you're planning to walk through that squeeze?' the reply 'no I'm going to drive the Landy through it'.

The rift continues too tight, however is a little wider than where we started.  We're having to take around 3 to 4 inches off the left hand wall as we go to make it big enough.  Approx 3 m ahead the rift is filled with debris / boulders as high as we can see.  It looks like there's plenty of gaps through to blackness beyond so we're hoping it's just a bit of hanging death which will drop with a poking stick rather than a full on choke to deal with.  Another trip should get us to the base of this.  For the time being we're still optimistic about this dig and plan to continue.

On the downside, some bellend had taken a dump just inside the entrance to Hopeless Hole.  I'd hazard a guess some anti-social climber as they are the only others to use the cliff paths.  Richard relocated the offending article so all clean in there now. 



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Happened to be in Blacknor Hole today so took a look at the end of Next to Go Rift (thanks Ed for humouring me on this detour of the planned trip).  The climb down into the rift from Queens tunnel is approx. 6 m.  Once at the bottom the rift can be followed South quite some distance until it becomes too narrow.  On the whole the rift is a good size only narrowing at the end.  As well as the lack of width there's also some choss in the rift and looks very similar to our dig in Steve's.  Nothing has changed my mind today that there's a strong likelihood of a connection.

The climb back out of the rift is rather strenuous though due to a lack of foot or hand holds but is just about free climbable.  Should we make a connection, this route is never going to be an easy backdoor into Blacknor.


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Myself and Richard had another very promising session in Steve's Endeavour today.  Since my last post we did have one further very frustrating trip where we didn't seem to make much progress as the cave walls suddenly seemed to be made of granite (hence no post on here)!  Today, however, rather than attacking the walls, we decided to dismantle the ledges which we'd previously decided would be the 'floor', creating a person sized gap lower in the rift.  This proved much easier with the rock at this lower level (approx. 3 ft down) breaking up much easier despite there being more of it to remove.  Around 4 to 5m of progress today which included bringing down the debris blocking the rift mentioned previously.  The long poking pole worked a treat.  A little more enlarging required (probably a couple of hours work) after which the rift looks as though it might be increasing in size a little.

Spoil removal is fairly straight forward.  The rift is actually around 8 to 10 ft deeper though only a few inches wide below where we're enlarging it.  Most of our spoil is simply being reduced to the correct size to fall down the hole - very therapeutic! 


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Myself and Richard have been back to Steve's again today.  Not as much progress as last week however another body length or so has been enlarged.  The section of rift visible at the end of the previous trip which looked to be a bit larger turned out to be only 1 m long however it is person sized.  Unfortunately 'person sized' is not 'hammer wielding person sized' so it'll need enlarging a bit anyway.  Beyond that we now have a view of another section of too tight rift at least 3 m long followed by what looks like another batch of rubble hanging in the rift.

Unfortunately today we found the end of the easy to break up ledges with only solid walls to work on ahead.  These 'solid' walls are a mixture of chert and fairly soft rock which is like cheese.  The issue being that neither the chert (too hard) or the cheese (too soft) succumb to a hammer and chisel or plug and feathers.  Achieving much with this proved very slow and awkward, so we're expecting the next few metres to be a royal pain in the arse.

Now for some photo's...

On route to the dig from Hopeless Hole, it's necessary to drop down a 10 m rift.  Usually we drop the bags of tools down on a rope and then follow.  Now, I love the random things that happen in life.  10ft above the floor the crowbar had come out of the tackle sack and decided to rest here (10 points to anyone who can spot the grain of sand it's hanging from).  The walls are clean limestone - so it's not mud sticking it on.


In my second post on this thread I mentioned a corner we dug our way around.  Well this is what it looks like now:


This is Richard having a look at the end before we started today:


And this is Richard looking at the end 4 hours later:


And finally something that doesn't involve a photo of Richard's arse:




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Three weeks in a row - we must be keen.  Not bad for a couple of cavers who wholeheartedly agree that not only do we hate digging but also caving in general. 

As predicted, today was hard graft with only 1 m of progress.  I did arrive with a 'new oversized bolster' (NOB for short) produced on Wednesday evening by modifying an old stake I had in the garage.  The intention was to give Steve's End. a thorough pounding with my NOB. Unfortunately, my NOB proved difficult to control one handed, with it tending to slide off the wall of Steve's End. rather than achieve anything desirable.  The excessive length simply made it too heavy.  The concept had been that a long bolster should allow sideways on chiselling and hence reduce the width needed to work.  Epic failure!  So back to the tried and tested method of swearing at the rift walls every time I got my shoulders stuck.

Looks like at least another couple of slow progress trips needed now.  Likely to be a few weeks before we've a chance to return though.  Blacknor can't be far away!

I did try to take some photo's today however Richard had disappeared before I got a chance to take any of his arse.  Those I did take of the end of the dig came out blurred so none today I'm afraid.



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Since my last post Richard and I have done another 3 Friday sessions at the end of Steve's Endeavour.  All hard work and very little forwards progress.  Perhaps a couple of metres between the trips.  We hit an area which we're describing as 'chert & cheese'.  A mixture of chert (obviously) in a very soft, almost clay like band of limestone.  It's bloody awful stuff.  Doesn't break up, can't drill it and even swearing profusely at it seems to have little effect.  Good news is that as of Friday, I believe we are through this (for now) and have found a wider section of rift.  Unfortunately the 'wider' section is debris filled but this should be easier the deal with.  A good session on Friday with the long poking pole and subsequent clearing resulted in a place to stand up in beyond the chert and cheese.  The next mission is to break up and remove a huge loose flake of rock I'm estimating to be 5ft high and long but only 6 inch wide sat right in the middle of the rift.  Can't really tell what's beyond that at the moment as there's only a few inches either side and it's surrounded in smaller stuff.  Plenty of gaps which you can see through to 'blackness beyond' but there's nothing to suggest this is the person size rift in Blacknor we're looking for yet.  The flake appears to be made of the band of rock we've previously found breaks up really easily, however there's no way to get a hammer to it side on so this will not be as straight forward as we would have liked. 

Apologies for the poor quality photo (not a lot of room at the end) however this is the flake we need to destroy next.  You can see where I've already attacked the front of it a little!

And here's one looking along some of our widened section of rift towards the end.

Nothing for the fans of the Richard's arse shots today I'm afraid.  Incidentally, anyone wishing to self-isolate down a hole is welcome to spend a couple of weeks doing our digging for us!  Clearly nothing compared to the efforts are mendip friends go to, however by Portland standards this is proving quite an endeavour (sorry couldn't resist the pun).  It'll certainly be worth having an all weather, all sized 'back door' into Blacknor once we're done.  Please don't read that as 'easy' though!



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Well today marked the return to Steve's Endeavour for myself and Richard.  Unfortunately it seems nobody had taken up our offer of self isolating down there and do our digging for us, so all we found was a rusty bunch of tools and the end of the cave exactly as we remembered.

Good few hours work done.  The big flake mentioned in my last post has gone.  Load of rocks removed and we've started widening the rift beyond.  First glances ahead suggest the rift is choked with debris a couple metres further on.  Oh goody!  Bit of long poking pole fun to come me thinks.

A couple of weeks back myself and Mike had a poke around at the end of the rift in Blacknor we assume we are working toward.  Made about 1 m of progress in under an hour (this wasn't the main aim of the trip - we were looking for a potential other end of Persil but I couldn't help looking at this one too).  We could see ahead for a few metres in too tight rift but couldn't see anything I recognised as being in Steve's.  Seems we have some distance still to go yet.  Testing for a vocal connection is what we really need but never seem to get the right people together to do so.

And specially for Mr OR some more of my crap photo's...

Standing where the flake used to be looking back toward Richard and advanced dig base 1:

And looking the other way into the 'too tight' rift ahead.  The big shelf on the right hand side need to go next.

Ed W

Good work Tim.  I am just a little concerned that if you connect Persil and Steve's Endevour into the rifts in Blacknor that there will be nothing left to hold a rather large lump of Portland on and it will drop into the sea below.


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The rifts are already there stretching the entire height of the limestone.  They're blocked top and bottom to varying levels with infill (creating a roof and floor) and the width varies between 3ft and 4 inches (at the moment).  As far as I can see the entire 'lump' from Steve's Endeavour entrance, to just north of Ariel entrance is already a detached 'block'.  Most of this was open, person sized cave when discovered many years ago with just a short section that ended up a bit too narrow (it's typically 4-6 inches wide) between Steve's and Blacknor - this is what we're enlarging to 'Richard sized'.  We're working at a height between two distinct chert bands visible on the cliff outside.  I should add this is still a proposal as we've not proven Steve's and Next to Go are indeed the same rift, however its very hard to conclude otherwise and we're not the first to think this either.  The climbers outside love it when I explain this and suggest they don't fall off too hard on that stretch of cliff. 

Persil / Grand Canyon is a separate rift system a little further inland and doesn't appear to find the cliff at either end.  There are other large rift which have been found (and lost) by quarrying inland which don't appear to be linked to coastal retreat so the juries out on that one.

Myself and Richard often joke (ok, we're a bit deranged) about the next hammer blow resulting in the whole bloody lot ending up in the sea.  Inevitably that's what will happen due to the well documented coast erosion / cliff retreat known on the island, just hopefully not in my lifetime.

This bit of Portland got caught on camera as it went (and before any one asks no this is not a form dig!!!!!):

And this patch a while ago took out a section of the cliff path:



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I expect the lack of stability in the cliffs is due to the underlying clays:


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The sidmouth adit is going to cause similar problems when the cliff line erodes back to it as there are 200m of total lying parallell with the cliffs (unstable red marl).


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Over the last couple of months myself and Richard have been back into Steve's three times.  Probably another 3 m progress since my last post on here.  Unfortunately things today have become unclear.  We've just about got to a point where the rift appears to be choked for as high as we can see.  There's a massive flake, which might even be a splitting point in the rift with a load of smaller debris around it.  Either side of the flake is only 2 to 3 inches wide and I'm unable to see anything beyond.  At present I've not got a great view upwards but I'd guess this flake is 3 to 5 m high.  God knows what we're going to do about it.  Over isn't really an option, I'm not convinced we can go under (but that needs looking at again once the next few bits are out) and through will depend upon what's holding it up.  There is of course the possibility that the rift splits and narrows and hence might well be end of dig.  We've both agreed we desperately need to test for a vocal connection from Blacknor to determine what to do next (if anything).  There is of course the possibility we're very nearly there as the end on the Blacknor side also narrows and chokes.
I guess time will tell.
Showerbath tomorrow (assuming it's not to windy to get down the cliff paths).