Author Topic: Access to Charterhouse Cave  (Read 2671 times)

Offline PeteHall

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Access to Charterhouse Cave
« on: January 12, 2018, 08:50:37 pm »
Various comments on the Twll du Thread relate to access at Charterhouse cave, so I've decided to post this in a new thread to avoid getting too sidetracked!

...I have a similar the people who control the access into the extensions of Charterhouse Cave. In March 2008 we were told that the extension would remain off limits to anyone nut the diggers for a "period of time". AFAIAA access is still difficult.

That's because it is flooded much of the time ATAIAA!

I'm sure Pete will put us right but access to the bottom is allowed if conditions are right, it's the the passing along of projects that's aren't likely to be ever tackled by the aging (no offence meant on age terms it comes to us all) diggers that is the issue in Charterhouse.

Acess Generally:

With the exception of a few blind and fragile passages that are taped off, access to the whole cave is permitted by the Charterhouse Caving Company, subject to following the rules on their webpage. Of note, access is only permitted with an authorised leader (each member club having two leaders and there being two geust leaders).

Some other areas are not recommended for frequent/ routine visits by groups due to their delicate or muddy nature, but are not "off limits" as such.

If you want to visit, it really shouldn't be any problem to organise  :thumbsup: However the online logbook suggests there are shockingly few trips considering what a great cave it is (and Mendips Deepest too!)

The usual setback for a trip to the end is water.

- Portal Pool can be syphoned and while it does refill, there is generally time for a decent trip beyond.

- Diesel Duck is normally just that, a duck. So provided you don't mind getting your ears wet, it's no problem to pass. There is plenty of evidence that it does sump (and a long way too :o ), but those kind of weather conditions are likely to cause other problems before you get that far.

- The real trip killer is a short section of un-named muddy passage, away from all active streamways that seems to flood with the water table and it can take months to drain away again. We have dived this once (with diving gear) to test its viability as a free-dive; with a decent rope on it would present a similar free-dive to Swildons Sump 3. For now though, this is unfortunately not an option.

Access for Digging:
Any dig in the cave must be approved by the Charterhouse Caving Company. An extract from the 2017 AGM minutes sums this up:
Quote
Peter Hall (ChCC leader) has requested permission to dig in various parts of Charterhouse. It was noted that all the sites already have existing permissions for them so the requests were declined. For clarification the list of active permissions is included here as well as in the leaders’ meeting notes:
- Puff Pant Rift – Andrew Atkinson (Peter Hall has permission to work on this with him)
- Roof of the Confluence – Pete Hann
- Stone Roses – Original diggers
- Rhino passage – Original diggers
- Inlet in Hippo Passage – Ali and Andrew
- Passage beyond Skeleton Sump – Duncan Price
- Squiffy Inlet – Ali and Andrew

As maxf suggests, it would be nice if those "original diggers" or others who are no longer actively pursuing these going leads in Mendip's deepest cave would hand on the gauntlet to those who are ready to take up the challenge.  :thumbsup:
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Offline estelle

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2018, 12:07:39 pm »
One thing to bear in mind also with Charterhouse, is that the air can be really quite bad in there with the co2 levels. I don't think it's hard to get access particularly if you want a trip, just ask. I was a guest leader for a number of years and was asked very few times for trips, even into just the 'old cave' which while the entrance series can put some of the larger size off, is quite a nice little trip.
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Offline Greg Jones

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2018, 02:42:38 pm »
Thank-you Pete and Estelle.
I'll wait for some dry weather and then have a go at getting a trip.
If it's as easy as it sounds, then I take back what I said on the other topic.
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Offline PeteHall

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2018, 05:36:53 pm »
I think the leadership system gives people the impression it is hard to get a trip, but in reality it shouldn't be a problem. It just means you have to plan it in advance...

Definitely worth a visit if you haven't been  :thumbsup:
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Online David Rose

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2018, 05:48:28 pm »
How tight is it? I've wanted to go down there for a while. For comparison: I had no trouble in the (enlarged) squeezes in Upper Flood. I can get through the little squeeze into the OFD 3 streamway without too much trouble, or Longwood.

Offline estelle

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2018, 06:10:49 pm »
you would know if you can fit very quickly... the entrance rift and the 'old gate' are the limiting factors and give you a guide whether you will fit the rest of the cave - i think it's often about length of leg rather than width of your body due to the angles you have to get through - certainly when you get into the newer cave, the narrows are harder for long legged people. Due to the nature of the entrance, it's also easy to feel psychologically fat! Ask for an 'old cave' trip first, if you don't fit, you're only just inside the entrance when you know, so you can exit and go and wait in your car or something without impacting on the rest of the group!
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Offline badger

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2018, 06:13:54 pm »
David I did it 17 years ago, 3 stone lighter than I am now and it was defiantly snug.

Offline PeteHall

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2018, 06:53:28 pm »
How tight is it? I've wanted to go down there for a while. For comparison: I had no trouble in the (enlarged) squeezes in Upper Flood. I can get through the little squeeze into the OFD 3 streamway without too much trouble, or Longwood.

Ask Gerbil007  ;)
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Offline ZombieCake

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2018, 08:49:10 pm »
Haven't done the new stuff but was a leader for the old cave for a good few years.  The entrance rift is the most awkward and technical bit of the (old) cave in my opinion and does look horrible on first sight, rest is very nice indeed and a superb relaxing trip.  I'm 6' 1" and so don't count as the usual Mendip emaciated hobbit and haven't found it too much of a problem! But I am flexible. If you resemble anything like Pavarotti or Mr. Creosote from Monty Python in build though don't bother, or at least go first.  You need to find the least narrow bit so don't go too high or low once you've dropped down.  The old gate is on a sort of cross road so you can do a sort of 3 point turn to get through.  Also raise yourself up a bit going throughout the gate as it narrows a bit at the bottom.  Once through there's a fair bit of space but be rather careful what you do or touch from thereon.
On way out don't go vertical too soon to climb out of the rift or you'll get stuck, or rather your helmet will which is tiresome. If you look before you go you can see the sweet spot of where to go initially.
Clubs with HQs on Mendip (MCG, BEC, Wessex, SMCC, MNRC etc.) have leaders so contact them (I'm not a leader any more I'm afraid).
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Offline maxf

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2018, 09:54:42 pm »
you would know if you can fit very quickly... the entrance rift and the 'old gate' are the limiting factors and give you a guide whether you will fit the rest of the cave - i think it's often about length of leg rather than width of your body due to the angles you have to get through - certainly when you get into the newer cave, the narrows are harder for long legged people. Due to the nature of the entrance, it's also easy to feel psychologically fat! Ask for an 'old cave' trip first, if you don't fit, you're only just inside the entrance when you know, so you can exit and go and wait in your car or something without impacting on the rest of the group!

6ft 4 and no issues with leg length in this part of the cave

Offline MJenkinson

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2018, 09:36:37 am »
I organised a trip for some club members last year, now I had about 3 weeks notice and whilst there was some swapping around required to accommodate the leaders preferences for days in both Charterhouse and Reservoir Hole, it wasn't a tricky process. 

Of course a lot harder then just rocking up and going caving, but we can dream.

One thing I would query is if there is some sort of rule about the length of trip for first time visitors.  The two club members were taking on a trip of a couple of hours which is a shame on a Saturday.  I don't think there was any issue about fitness; they comprise team thin and active in the club, so just curious if there are any limits to the trips provided for guests?

Offline Duncan Price

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2018, 12:06:35 pm »

Access for Digging:
Any dig in the cave must be approved by the Charterhouse Caving Company. An extract from the 2017 AGM minutes sums this up:
Quote
Peter Hall (ChCC leader) has requested permission to dig in various parts of Charterhouse. It was noted that all the sites already have existing permissions for them so the requests were declined. For clarification the list of active permissions is included here as well as in the leaders’ meeting notes:
- Puff Pant Rift – Andrew Atkinson (Peter Hall has permission to work on this with him)
- Roof of the Confluence – Pete Hann
- Stone Roses – Original diggers
- Rhino passage – Original diggers
- Inlet in Hippo Passage – Ali and Andrew
- Passage beyond Skeleton Sump – Duncan Price
- Squiffy Inlet – Ali and Andrew

As maxf suggests, it would be nice if those "original diggers" or others who are no longer actively pursuing these going leads in Mendip's deepest cave would hand on the gauntlet to those who are ready to take up the challenge.  :thumbsup:

If anyone is interested in pushing Skeleton Sump 2 then they are most welcome to it!

Offline ah147

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2018, 04:27:41 pm »
Pete, one small point, being the diver who was on that with you.

I really doubt it would be remotely similar to swildons 3 to freedive.

If I remember rightly we laid out 20m of line which was only just enough. Maybe there was 15m of line in the sump itself, which is quite a bit longer than 3.

It's been a while since I freedived 3 but I seem to remember it doesn't go down and up anywhere near as much as that muddy passage does.


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Offline PeteHall

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2018, 07:51:49 pm »
Pete, one small point, being the diver who was on that with you.

I really doubt it would be remotely similar to swildons 3 to freedive.

If I remember rightly we laid out 20m of line which was only just enough. Maybe there was 15m of line in the sump itself, which is quite a bit longer than 3.

It's been a while since I freedived 3 but I seem to remember it doesn't go down and up anywhere near as much as that muddy passage does.


I think you quoted the depth at 3m, Swildon's III is quoted at 2.5m. Measured dry, the Charterhouse sump is 13m where Swildon's III is quoted at 11m. The nature of the passage is pretty similar.

More challenging, definitely, but similar. I think the main problem free-diving would be the bad air!  :)
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Offline Andy Farrant

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2018, 10:44:24 pm »
I'm over 6'4 with very long legs and I don't find the entrance series a problem. The old gate is the tightest bit in the cave, snug but not desperate and quite short. The Narrows is not so tight, but more intimidating as it is longer and slightly uphill on the way back, especially if tired. Long legs means you can't shuffle along very effectively. And bad air can be an issue, although Ali M and JC seemed to be immune to it... Best do the old cave first, then down to Portal Pool. Take your time as it is a cracking trip with lots to see and plenty of interest.

Offline Gerbil007

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2018, 03:01:40 am »
To answer the question about how tight it is, I suffered my one an only full on meltdown on the way out after a length trip with Pete last year. I was hauling around 17st then and had to take a layer off to pass gate squeeze on the way in. I neglected to do this on the way out and got very painfully wedged after attacking it blindly, rather than pointing myself at it with some thought.
It was such a jarring experience that it spurred me into dropping over 2 stone! Not that I'm caving enough to notice the benefits these days; I'm busy with my new found passion for long distance cycling.
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Online alastairgott

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Re: Access to Charterhouse Cave
« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2018, 11:00:23 am »
I did Upper Flood and Charterhouse in the same august bank holiday (long weekend) 6 and a half years ago in 2011.
 I was tired, as my cave fitness was down (I hadn't caved for a whole year before these trips).
But despite this, I think the (enlarged) squeezes are comparible, but then I probably wouldn't remember a lot of the trip if I needed to remember it now. But I'd definitely go back.

Get on it David, it'll be awesome!

How tight is it? I've wanted to go down there for a while. For comparison: I had no trouble in the (enlarged) squeezes in Upper Flood. I can get through the little squeeze into the OFD 3 streamway without too much trouble, or Longwood.