16 March 2013

South Bedford again

Last week we visited South Bedford. Three days later I got an email from Rick, who had led that trip, that he thought he had found another entrance. Were Lionel and I interested in exploring it? He mentioned it was squalid and wet. Of course it would be. And of course we were interested! We would have a small exploratory trip, parallel with the normal Tuesday club trip.

We gathered at the usual place. And five minutes before the assigned time, we were complete! That's the good thing about small scale trips. No faffing and loitering! But there was confusion; Rick announced he had brought his wetsuit. A wetsuit? Would it be THAT wet? He should have said! Rick trips are always wet and squalid, but normally they're wading trips, not swimming. Well, we'll had to just see how we would fare in our normal kit.

Rick lead us to a crumbly shaft, and tied his rope to a tree. Soon he was going down. And with him, quite some rocks. This shaft was the loosest I had ever seen! The most solid object on the way down was a collapsed tree. But he made it safely to the water level. When he had scouted the area days before, he had seen that some level went off from the shaft, and some of it was above water level. Maybe we could get in!

Or maybe not. From below, Rick reported that there was not enough airspace in the level. There also did not seem anything to stand on in the shaft. And mind you; in order to get to it, you had to wear rope-climbing kit. That weighs you down! It isn't necessarily wise to come off a rope straight into deep water. Especially not if there are things you can snag on. So he decided against it and came back up, sending another batch of loose rocks down.

I wasn't convinced yet. I took the rope as soon as it was free. What a nasty place to go down! And even though Rick was in his wetsuit, and I wasn't, I decided to go down further. I tried the timbering we had seen from the top of the shaft; it was floating on the water! That's no good. I felt with my foot: nothing below the water to stand on. Then I just dangled horizontally, just above water level (I felt like Tom Cruise!), so I could look into the level. The good news was: there was more air space than you could see from a distance. The bad news was: the ceiling looked very, very dodgy, and there was a collapse, only a few metres in. So it REALLY was a no go.

The level: not looking too inviting

 Looking in

 If you look closely you can see the collapse in the back

Did we then go home? No, of course not! This time we had ropes and kit with us, so we had another look at the other shaft we had seen the week before. Maybe we could cross it! We jammed a log in the tunnel to fix our ropes on. Lionel had a look at whether he could clear a path along the side of the shaft, but that didn't work. And we didn't dare drop the shaft, just anchored on that one log. So we left it there. We should come back, and either come in from the top, or come in with another log, or a drill. Would that happen before I'll move? We'll see!

 Nice icicles in the entrance

Lionel attaches a rope to our improvised anchor

 And starts to clean out the shaft. To no avail, unfortunately!

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