Author Topic: Rowter Hole- The Origin Dig  (Read 767 times)

Offline Mark R

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Rowter Hole- The Origin Dig
« on: January 08, 2019, 10:47:07 pm »
Following the breakthrough at Bad Badger Choke several years ago BBPC focussed their efforts on pushing leads deep within the new Rowter extensions. All the while though it was at the back of our mind that Badger Rift had a stream flowing in the bottom of it from out of a rubble filled passage. This stream joins the water from Hypothermia in Bad Badger Choke and flows down the Two Left Wellies pitches and into Rowter Hole Sump. Interestingly Gin shaft, the boarded dig that got us access into Badger Rift kept us informed that we were on the right track all the way down by the presence of stemple sockets in the walls. These sockets were still appearing at the point we broke through into the rift but we never saw them again.
Roll forward a few years and the Eldon Hole dig that we put quite a bit of energy into had stalled when we passed through a horizon of human remains! Four humans identified so far, dated to around 2100-2200 years old. The Badgers needed something else to direct their natural urge to burrow towards and so we found ourselves back down Rowter Hole. We have been plugging away at several leads deep in the cave, one in particular at the Party Sausage is still being visited on the weekends we find ourselves full of energy and wanting to take scaffolding through the Ice Cream Trail  but we wanted something we could work on in an evening tip too. For this, we have turned our attention to the upstream continuation of Badger Rift.
The stream passage is reasonably sized, having been completely filled with rubble it’s difficult to give a height but certainly a few metres high and perhaps a metre wide on average. We have now had perhaps 8 trips in there and are between 10 and 15 m further on than when we began. The digging has been rather fraught. When we set off we had a solid floor and two solid walls, all we had to worry about was the jammed rubble ceiling above our heads, this was ‘sorted’ by the liberal application of scaffolding, pulling as much rubble out from the dig face as we dared then drilling stainless pins into the walls and installing scaffolding as far forward as we sensibly could and repeating.
The stream passage ascended steadily for a few metres before reaching a constriction, still wide enough to pass through fairly comfortably but it requires you to crawl with your face near the floor into a steeply ascending section of passage with a suspended rubble roof and a rubble right hand wall. Could this be the left hand wall of a sort of rubble filled chamber with the stream running down against the wall? Is it a stream passage the Old Man mined one wall out of and replaced with rubble? At this point we hadn’t seen any sign of the old man, despite passing under some stemple sockets at the base of Gin shaft, just a few metres away. We know the Old Man got to within mere feet of the stream, it seems absurd he wouldn’t have explored the streamway. We also know he didn’t get past Bad Badger Choke downstream- the copious presence of Galena and absence of pick marks, stemple sockets or any other human interference tells us that. It seemed likely that the Old man found the streamway and went upstream (west) along the vein.
Subsequent trips enabled us to develop various techniques for removing the rubble blocking the way and stabilising the voids with scaffolding. This sort of digging does employ the ‘poke and retreat’ method more often than not and there have been several, thankfully minor, injuries over the last few weeks. We are burning through scaffolding at an alarming rate but really once you find yourself inside a void within a deep rubble pile made by collapsing boulders out of the ceiling until the remaining boulders become sort of self- supporting, no amount of scaffolding is too much.
There are a few notable features to the passage we are forcing our way up, one is that the rubble we are removing contains an unbelievably high concentration of Galena. We pulled out one almost pure lump about the size of a house brick that we brought to the surface to weigh- it came in at about 8Kg.
The second is that just through the constriction there is a right hand wall of rubble that is either the neatest random pile of rocks you have ever seen or the remains of a hand placed ‘wall’ of some sort. Placed to maintain a passage width of around 1m at that point. Unfortunately this section of ‘wall’ didn’t last long and we were back into the random jumble of boulders after only a couple of metres.
On Friday 4th two of us had an afternoon and evening trip to set us up for the weekend. We then had two full days with teams of 5 and 6 people in which we spent a huge amount of time dragging the accumulated spoil of the last few trips back downstream as far as we could into Badger Rift. The digging up at the front had reached a particularly steep section of stream passage floor at a sharp left/ right turn. It seemed that no matter how much poking and removal of rubble we did at the front, there was always more to follow… usually accompanied by a rumble and several large thuds as material just kept coming from above. It took us the whole weekend but eventually the material stopped coming and we were able to contort ourselves into the double bend with just about enough comfort to get some scaffolding in. As we added scaffolding our confidence (or complacency?) grew to the point where we could, whilst lying in the stream on our backs look up through the scaffolding and rubble roof into a dark void. On Sunday afternoon just before we all left we managed to pluck up enough courage to pull enough rocks out of the roof to create a hole big enough to stand up into. With legs in the stream and waist passing through our attempt at a roof we got our torso’s into the void. The space is around 1.5mx2.5mx unknown height. The solid wall curves off above us for a few metres but the news is not great. The void is almost certainly simply the source of all the weekend’s rubble collapse! It’s a void within a rubble pile and we’re in it. Fortunately the stream continues at low level into the rubble and that is where we will continue to dig. It’s important that we return as soon as possible and do whatever we can to stabilise the void for two reasons. Firstly if there is a major collapse in there it will cause severe damage to the scaffolding structure we already have in place and secondly, it will provide us with some much needed stacking space right at the dig face. By building a scaffolding cage within the void and boarding it out we would not only provide some relative, if rather false comfort for ourselves but also give us somewhere to place spoil which will have the added benefit of further stabilising the void.
It is still possible that the void may be climbable and there is a really good draught at the dig face but current feeling is that the way on is in the stream. Just ahead the floor of the stream levels out for a metre or two and the left wall curves left slightly and provides a modicum of shelter in that it might curve over our heads very slightly. Of course, before we can verify that we have several tonnes of spoil to remove and a scaffolding tunnel to construct within the rubble.
The first time we realised this was a project we wanted to properly pursue was on 24th Nvember which happened to be on the anniversary of the first publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species. It is this delightful nugget of historical scientific trivia, the mystery stream, the seemingly endless supply of muddy rocks from above and the bum clenching terror of prolonged adrenaline fuelled boulder dodging that led us to name this dig ‘The Origin of Faeces’.. for publication purposes, let’s just abbreviate it to ‘The Origin’ dig for now though.
As long as the Origin refuses to give up its secrets, the Badgers will continue to dig… more updates to follow.

Offline pwhole

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Re: Rowter Hole- The Origin Dig
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2019, 12:43:35 am »
Great news, and well done for resuming this after the Eldon hiatus. Look forward to hearing about progress.

Offline Rob

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Re: Rowter Hole- The Origin Dig
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2019, 09:07:10 am »
At 100m below the surface and heading west into no-mans land, it's a good place to be looking, especially if it's draughting.

Keep it up  :thumbsup:
The end is where we start....

Offline MarkS

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Re: Rowter Hole- The Origin Dig
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2019, 10:43:23 am »
... it's a good place to be looking, ...

It didn't feel like it at times over the weekend! :o

It's worth adding that after one of the pokes in the roof the end of an old tool resembling a garden hoe fell down with the boulders, so we are back in miner territory. There were also traces of some old timbers in the void we finished at.

Offline Pegasus

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Re: Rowter Hole- The Origin Dig
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2019, 12:02:59 pm »
... it's a good place to be looking, ...

It didn't feel like it at times over the weekend! :o

 There were also traces of some old timbers in the void we finished at.

I read that as 'old timers' and thought, 'oh no, not more bones'....

Offline Big Bad Botch

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Re: Rowter Hole- The Origin Dig
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2019, 12:50:10 pm »
Very cool. Saw your twin Berlingos parked up at Rowter Farm on Saturday. Last time I went in Rowter (over summer) I had a look in one of the further digs, which MW tells me was probably Party Sausage. Ended up descending a small sharp climb to a sump, before realising I might not be able to make it back up!

Offline JonP

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Re: Rowter Hole- The Origin Dig
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2019, 02:43:25 pm »
Nice one!

It reminds me of The Emporium in Lathkill Head Cave. It was actually named “Claude Balls Tiger Taming Emporium” but shortened to “The Emporium” for ease of use I guess.

Offline Goydenman

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Re: Rowter Hole- The Origin Dig
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2019, 09:25:30 am »
Great to hear of your digging exploits.......still real potential down there. Hope it goes well. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.