Monday 9 March 2009

5th March. Mistral Hole to Link Pot.

The ice gleamed blue in the sunshine and high above a Condor wheeled in the warm air high above the South Patagonian Ice Cap. The horses, grazing quietly on some scrubby grass were glad of the rest after the tough going of the last few hours as John had struggled to find a way around the glacier moraine ... or so he wished. Why was he standing at the top of the Mistral he wondered, on a Thursday night of all nights, facing the next few hours of darkness, wetness and tightness when the rest of the world was beckoning and anything was better than this.

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The Mistral/Link connection is the remaining section to be checked leading to the linking of sections to become what was at one time the longest underground trip in England, Pippikin to Top Sink. Mistral entrance leads to a drop down to a left hand bend and continuing rift passage that seems less strenuous after having done it a few weeks back. At the top of a 3.7m climb the way on is to the left over a boulder and into a rift which changes to a flat out crawl under a cross rift to emerge in The HOBBIT, a flat roofed chamber.

At the far side of The HOBBIT a fine walking sized passage passes two ropes, past these a large boulder in the middle of the passage at a right hand bend is met, down a trench in the floor the passage changes to a phreatic tube carrying a stream, eventually a slide over calcite on the right drops to a low passage which degenerates to a wet and muddy crawl. Soon drier passage is met and a tall rift in a wide bedding is followed its around two bends up a slope into the low wide flat-roofed chamber of DUSTY JUNCTION with cairn straight ahead. On entering Dusty Junction the draught which whistles through Mistral can be followed around to the left to enter Trowel Crawl which is the way through to Link Pot.

This route is described as
Trowel Crawl and the Muddy Wallows! Setting off down the passage the roof quickly came down and the water rose up. Crawling through cold water with gloopy mud underneath it and the roof lowering to flat out crawling eventually led into the roof going up. We had done the wallows! After more crawling the passage opened out and we sort of thought that we had done it but caves have a way of tricking you and immediately, after some photos the roof came down again and we were flat out squeezing through a shingly crawl. On the other side taking another photo Tom realised he had left his gloves behind so he had to go back and through again!

In the Wallows

Beyond this a chamber opened up with a scenic tube heading down at an angle. At the bottom of this the roof came right down onto a wet looking squeeze, this really was 'the wallows'. With head to one side, breathing through the side of the mouth and lots of hiffing and blowing the tight bit was passed. The others came through with helmets off that made ot slightly easier. We were very wet and cold by now and we pushed on towards Pybus By-pass. An awkward squeeze, well John and I made ot awkward but going face down Tom made it look a lot easier, and we popped out into Hylton Hall and our SRT gear dropped down the pitch earlier.

It was freezing at the bottom of Link as the cold air was sinking. The rift that you climb out of on SRT gear is narrow and constricted and with cold hands the change over of ropes was really hard as ones hands were so cold they didn't work. Eventually we were all out on the surface , cold, wet and looking forward to the pub or ... was it Patagonia.

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