Maypole Inlet - Alan Brentnall

Saturday, 2 August, 2014

As part of the forthcoming “Clean Up Peak” weekend, Ann had a suggestion from Wayne that all the old digging gear should be removed from Maypole Inlet, and, last Wednesday, while on a working trip in Peak Cavern to restock and relocate the emergency dump at Watershed Aven, Ann suggested that we might have a look up Maypole Inlet the following Saturday. So, on Saturday morning, bright and early, I arrived at the Chapel weighed down with a mountain of gear, some destined for the Watershed Aven (now Treasury Chamber) dump, but also a Boschhammer drill and Ralph Johnson’s collection of bolting paraphernalia – just in case I didn’t like the look of what the rope was attached to when I got into Maypole Inlet. I also had a supply of “magic” blue rope for Martyn to use on the White River traverses, and we borrowed a 20m length of this to use as a “butty line” … or even a temporary replacement for the access rope if I didn’t like the look of that either!

There was only Luna staying at the Chapel when I arrived, and she was already sorting gear out for a Maskhill descent, but we needed to wait a while for a couple of guys from the Smoke who had come up to do a trip into Peak. It turned out that one of these chaps was none other than Felix – who had once been a “casualty” for an exercise put together by Wayne way back when hardly any of DCRO could spell NCC, let alone know where the shafts were. Small world! After a brew and a brief chat, we took the pair with us and set off into Peak, laden down with drills, batteries, ropes, bolts etc etc. Ann and I went upstream from Surprise View while Felix and his friend, Ian, paid Buxton Water Sump a visit. Now I remember visiting Maypole Inlet in the days when there was a ladder leading up to it, but nowadays the access is purely by rope. Turning our headlamps onto long beam, we tried from various angles to determine what the rope was attached to – but we didn’t succeed to any great extent, and so, hoping that the original bolter (we decided it would have been Lee Langdon) hadn’t used alloy krabs, I clipped my jammers to the rope and gingerly set off towards the re-belay bolt some 15m above me.

As I got closer, it was reassuring to see a spit-hanger sporting a rusty (but serviceable) maillon rapide. The rope attachment didn’t show any sign of rub, and the only odd thing about the set-up was the lack of re-belay loop in the rope. Looking up at the main Y-hang, the reason became obvious; the re-belay bolt was a single anchor placed in a protruding knob of rock on the lip of the pitch head, so the rope gave a clean hang down to the floor of the main passage, but the distance from the re-belay to the main anchors was less than two metres, which meant that, should the single bolt re-belay fail, or the protruding knob break off, the lack of slack in the system meant that there wouldn’t be a dangerous force suddenly applied to the top anchor or to the short length of rope just below it.

Soon we were both up at the pitch head, and, after noting the amount of general rubbish, including (would you believe) a wheel barrow (!!), we set off into the dig to see what was there, and to bring out anything else that needed to go. It’s a fine passage – much bigger than I remember, and the air was quite fresh too (much better than Picnic Dig!). Pretty soon, we had collected a fine pile of “stuff” at the head of the pitch: old kibbles, various digging and cooking implements, water pipes, road markers, water bottles, pegs, entrenching tools, a self destructing warning sign and, of course, the wheel barrow. While our two guests (who had passed the dig while we were ascending) were up at Far Sump, I decided to place all the lightweight articles at the bottom of the pitch using the same gravitational tactics I had learnt from Christine Wilson when we emptied the rock and "tailings" from the secondary dam in Leviathan. As soon as I’d done this, and while Ann was preparing to descend, said guests returned, and kindly offered to Sherpa a considerable amount of “stuff” back to the Chapel. Ann was so touched by this generous assistance that she even agreed to waive their Peak Key-holders fees!

Once Ann had abseiled back down to the stream way, I lowered the remaining heavier items, including the wheel barrow, on the butty line. Then, while I de-rigged the butty line and tried to replace the main maillons on the access rope, Ann made a neat pile of the various items for removal next weekend. Unfortunately I failed to undo the rusted maillons. I need to go back with two spanners to do a proper job. But, ultimately, the bolts will need to be replaced with stainless bolts, preferably glue-ins, and, if the bolt type is one which needs a maillon for rope attachment, the maillons will also need to be stainless too. This isn’t urgent work, as the spits and hangers look to be OK for now, but I believe that it needs to be done within the next year or so. This refers to the two spits on the main Y-hang, and the re-belay spit; there are other bolts, further back, which back-up the Y-hang, support a traverse-line and a short lifeline (for edge work) which are not spits, and which probably date back to the old ladder way days, and which aren’t quite as critical as the main bolts, but certainly need to be replaced when the work is done.

Lastly I’d just like to say that, while we removed all the diggers rusty old equipment, we decided to leave in place the conveyor belting which carpets the dig all the way through to the digging face. This was partly because such removal would need quite a big team, but also because the dig may be re-opened in the future, and this carpeting doesn’t seem to be too degraded – it may once again be useful!