Author Topic: Makita Drill - The Ups and Downs of Digging  (Read 1187 times)

Offline Goydenman

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Makita Drill - The Ups and Downs of Digging
« on: May 03, 2016, 10:28:21 pm »
The Ups and Downs of Digging in Nidderdale
Ralf Guscott and I met on our regular digging Thursday night. Just the two of us and I was getting over a cold. Time for a chat as we got changed. What can we dig with just the two of us…hmmm. Bypass to sump 6 needs more people and getting wet to the neck not a good idea when trying to get rid of a cold. Re-opening Shackleton choke is an option, two people is ok but still requires getting wet through. Guscott pot choke good for two, won’t get wet but needs a sledgehammer and we have not got one. Hmmm
‘How about removing the two mud sumps in Clay passage so that a digging team can have easier and all year long access to go beyond Telegraph aven?’ I say to Ralf. Thinking as I suggest this of my dream ticket that the sump in Crater chamber beyond Telegraph aven is lying there open waiting for us to explore a long eastern flank of passage stretching all the way down valley towards New Goyden pot. Ralf agrees and we get changed and select some digging gear.
Telegraph aven is towards the end of a passage that uncharacteristically heads away from the rest of the Goyden system. Each year people ask ‘Is the way open yet?’ referring to the two mud sumps that prevent access. Most years these dry up over the summer but some years they don’t. I first explored the passage in the early 1990’s and found the original rusting 6m high scaling pole in place. I was young eager and desperately wanted to see what was beyond so climbed it. As I went up the pole it bent alarmingly and some of the steps (horizontal spikes) broke off but I made it and fixed a rope for Paul Baxter to come up second. Beyond was Crater chamber with a 4m climb down to on the left a small horrible flat out grovel to insignificant sump fed by a very small trickle of water falling from a huge passage up and to the right. We climbed up to it and found gear left by Julian Griffiths and others when they tried to dig the large choke beyond searching for the eastern passage. I returned in 1999 and using the rope and ladder left in place once again visited Crater chamber to find a 6m climb. I assumed at the time my memory was not good and that I was now not as a good a climber as I struggled to get down and back up. In 2015 I went back again and now there was an exposed 9m drop into the chamber. The floor of mud and boulders had disappeared leaving a solid limestone floor. The horrid low grovel to the ‘insignificant’ sump was now a stooping passage to a clear open sump. This sump over the years has been swallowing mud and rocks. Could it be the sought after passage going down the eastern flank of the system. An abandoned route that ought to be there going down the whole length of the valley. Excited we organised a diving trip and carried John Carter’s gear in with him. Nick Bairstow went down the pitch while John and I got the last of the gear together. Nick shouted up ‘Leave the gear the sump’s gone!’ We hurried down and sure enough the passage was open all be it with much mud. It was pushed for 25m with a just a couple of places requiring digging to remove mud banks to allow access and then a view of 10m that would require more digging in a couple of places. We were tired and wanted the rest of the team to be part of the breakthrough so exited the cave. In between that trip and the next planned digging session the rain came and flooding like we’d never seen for years and the sump returned. We named the passage Carter passage after John’s help and play on the word Crater.
So here we were today just the two of us Ralf and I and most people thought that sump will still be full and there was doubt that it would disappear again this summer. But I had that digger’s optimism that keeps all diggers going, after all I even got the nickname once of the ‘Eternal Optimist’ which became the name for the linking passage of Manchester Hole and Goyden pot. If we could get rid of the two mud sumps in Clay passage that would in my mind seem like progress towards pushing that dried out sump I felt was there. Armed with a good size spade, devices to get rid of boulders we were about to set off when Ralf says ‘Shall I take my SRT gear?’ I think we will be doing well to get rid of the mud sumps never mind go beyond but say yes as I’m encouraged by his faith and eagerness.
We enter Goyden pot noticing the recently large block that has fallen from the roof following dramatic floods last year. As we enter Main chamber always impressive we look for further falls following a large collapse some time back. Things look ok but what a stink. It does not take long to see it comes from a rotting sheep high on a ledge. Clamber down the huge boulders to the stream passage 5m wide and 20 m high down the cascades and walk admiring the impressive gallery. Even after so many trip here it still enthrals me.  A brief stooping section then close to sump 1 we turn left into Labyrith passage. With the gear we stumble and fumble our way along stopping several times for a quick rest. It is amazing how if you have not caved for a while you can get out of practice and the rhythmic movement in tune with the terrain turns into a drunken stupor and before you ask we had not yet had a drink. Before long it was ‘Five Ways’ we now knew there was just a short crawl to the 10ft climb and then easy walking to the dig.
At the first mud sump we dropped the gear and immediately set about digging. Taking turns with the spade we levered up sticky water logged mud from the gulley on the left of the large mudbank. The other person scrapped it off the spade and threw it onto the top of the mudbank. It was hard going and we both avoided looking along the passage. I say that because there was no real drop in the gulley for a long way. This meant we were going to have to dig for quite a length to get the water to flow away and things were slow going. We did not rest and stuck at it eventually reaching a point where not far behind us you could see the gulley dipping slightly downhill. No one said anything but we each knew what the other thought and we could see the end in sight. At this point the digging conditions changed (why does this always happen in digging when the end is in sight) the mud floor now became compacted pebbles. Getting these out made digging the mud look easy and now we were tackling it when tired. Quickly we adapted and changed the way we dug using the point of the spade to get under and lever out the pebbles and large rocks. The good news it made for deep holes that we were encouraged as we saw the water moving forward. We reached a point where we had had enough and went back to check the mud sump. It was almost completely drained. We moved on tired but satisfied and I said ‘Leave the SRT gear here no point taking it through, let’s go tackle the second mud sump’. We knew it would be easier as the gulley on this one was shorter in length and we had gear to demolish the boulders that were a key blockage. But in my mind we would be doing well to get this finished before we had to leave.
Ralf shouted ‘ The mud sump has gone!’ sure enough there was no water and no signs of water and the elbow of the passage was open all be it muddy. . Unsure of the reason for this we were nether-the-less elated. Ralf went back for the SRT gear and sliding through the open muddy grovel we got to the eyehole. Lying on your back with both arms stretched out ahead we wriggled through. Interesting feature as either side is a 5m high wide open passage. A few metres after the eyehole is a vertical slot with awkward climb to get over it and then Telegraph aven. The old scaling pole still there rising up to the open passage above. Hanging down from that passage the 6m rope. Ralf got his gear on slowly and then went up the rope. By now I was struggling waiting and wished I’d brought my SRT gear. Naughty I know but decided I did not want to faff around swapping gear but instead chose to climb the pole just a short way up with an Italian hitch on my waist belt and karabiner and then throw the end of the rope to Ralf for assisted line. There was even fewer steps on the pole but I was determined and got up quickly. We made our way quickly to Crater chamber only stopping to show Ralf a lead vein I found on my last trip. At Crater chamber I abseiled down first. Ralf called to ask ‘Is the sump there or not?’. After that hurrying here I found myself very slowly making my way around the corner so wanting it to be open but fearing my dream would be dashed. There was two digging buckets, interesting they were at left at the top of pitch full of rope and stones. They were still full of rope and stones and alongside them one inch thick discs of lead as big as a saucer plate. They had been washed down what has been happening here when it floods? Lifting my head slowly I shone my light into the passage, it was empty and even less mud than when we last saw it open.
‘It’s open Ralf come on’
We crawled along the muddy passage excited and I wondered if we’d get further than last time. The sideway wriggle encountered on the last visit had gone and now was an easy crawl. Was this going to be easier going all the way then? Would we explore more passage? But then there was a restriction at the same point we had to dig last time. This time Ralf dug through and peered along the open 10m of passage seen before still with the same constrictions that would need digging. We both decided that today we had achieved more than we bargained for and that progress would require a team using buckets and ropes but that quick progress could be made once a place of spoil storage could be sorted. We also realised that for a Thursday night dig we need quick access to the dig so the pitches would need temporary fixed ladders and lifeline with pulleys.
Really pleased with the trip we made our way out. Even though we were really tired we stumbled less moving in sync with the cave. The cave had been kind to us and we flowed with it stopping only to wash our gear at the cascades. A quick change and to the pub. The barman says ‘You looked pleased with yourselves’ I say ‘yes nearly had a breakthrough ……we are just a few meters from your beer cellar’. The people in the pub laughed and we sit down to enjoy their company and our memory of a superb trip. Excited at the prospects ahead as summer is not even here yet.

(Goydenman)

Offline bograt

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Re: Makita Drill - The Ups and Downs of Digging
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2016, 10:41:50 pm »
Ye gods Goydenman, you really crave this drill ---
Aim low, achieve your goals, avoid disappointment

Offline Goydenman

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Re: Makita Drill - The Ups and Downs of Digging
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2016, 10:49:27 pm »
Ye gods Goydenman, you really crave this drill ---

That's because my Bosch is about dead :-(   done well though bought quite a few years ago and hard use

Offline bograt

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Re: Makita Drill - The Ups and Downs of Digging
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2016, 10:56:32 pm »
 :lol: :lol: :lol:  Hope you get it--  :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
Aim low, achieve your goals, avoid disappointment

Offline PeteHall

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Re: Makita Drill - The Ups and Downs of Digging
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2016, 10:29:54 pm »
Excellent write up and an exciting prospect  ;D
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Offline JasonC

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Re: Makita Drill - The Ups and Downs of Digging
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2016, 10:36:54 pm »
Thanks for the write-up Goydeman - now I know why Ralf sent the call out for tomorrow  :thumbsup: