JH Dam Inspection - Phil Wolstenholme

Saturday, 10 September, 2016

Present: Luke Brownbridge, Alastair Gott, Simon Mee, Ann Soulsby, Phil Wolstenholme

This trip had a triple purpose - for Simon to have a good SRT trip, for us to inspect the rock-mesh on the dam ledge in Leviathan, and for me to check out a downward shaft off the cartgate, supposedly still unexplored. Luke had also never done the trip, so there was another good reason to do it all. Moose and Luke C had already rigged it before Kev and Vicky rigged over the top, so there were plenty of ropes to choose from, mostly horrible fat 11mm - great. Descending on the Banana was insanely difficult (which is saying something), and I cannot wait to get this new Gleistein out of the bag and bin this nasty fat stuff for digging only.

We all dropped down, and I showed Simon our cartgate dig on the west side - the water was chuckling away happily with no problems, but I would still like to get the large-bore twinwall pipe in there soon. We now have a spare pickaxe at the chapel, so that could be done relatively easily. Then we all slipped along the cartgate to the 'new' pitch, where we left the drill and bolting gear, and a rope. Once we were all down to the Tea Rooms, Luke and Simon had a look down at the bottom, whilst Al, Ann and me pondered the mysteries of the rock-meshing, which doesn't look especially bad, just needs more over the top. That done, and with the guys returning to re-rig the bottom rope for a future repair-squad to come in from Speedwell, we had a quick look around the Tea Rooms workings, getting sludged-up and peering up a tiny climbing shaft, but without too much inclination to push it wearing a harness. It was nice to have a bit of a wander about around there, as there's lots to see, and some quite complex workings about.

Ann and myself then set off back up, with her on the 'wet' route and me on the 'dry', so I could get into the top shaft before everyone came back and got log-jammed. The access passage is beneath choke 8, where the cartgate splits, and how I chuckled when I got to the pitch-head to find 3 X 10mm stainless bolts above it! So now it was certain - this was Luna's grot-hole, and clearly it must have a bottom, to have held her bottom for 11 hours! Nevertheless, for the purposes of completion, I dropped about 9m down to the floor, which was the usual choke of gravel and huge rocks, with teetering deads above me on one side - slightly draughting, but not enough to warrant another vertical excavation at the moment! The passage above is roofed with deads, and Luke and I could easily hear each other as he clattered along overhead - it's also absolutely clarted with thick yellow mud and water, and rather constricted, so by the time I dragged myself back out, I was plastered, and exhausted. I'd also pranged my lamp-battery out of its moorings on Bitch Pitch, so it kept falling out and hitting me in the face.

Needless to say I was not a happy bunny in the final shaft out, especially with the big fat circus rope and too much metalwork to pull up, but I kept Ann amused beneath me as I cursed my way out. At least it was sunny at the top, but I still developed the usual hypothermia before long. The good news is that I had a chat with Mark and Sarah at the farm about the dye-testing, and they were fine, but asked that we wait until early November for various reasons - fine by me. All in all a very good trip, with lots to learn as always in this utterly fascinating complex