Friday 26 August 2011

21st August 2011 - A lesson in determination

July's visit to the Cupcake had taken place on a blue sky day with temperatures nudging into the mid twenties leading to accusations of madness from some members of the TNC. Luckily for Tom as another blue sky day dawned and the thermometer this time headed towards 30, he was on a plane to Spain and therefore had a watertight alibi for not caving. Two years ago while enjoying the Mackrill's superb hospitality on the Vercors plateau, Paul had taken us to visit his dig which at the time had reached -23m and was beginning to make its way into the side of a boulder choke. Now it was time to see what progress had been made in the intervening years.

Even though much of the walk to the dig is tree covered, it was still hot. Fortunately my PVC suit was hung up at home as even in shorts and a T-shirt I'd soon worked up a sweat. Arriving at the dig, the plants round the base of the covering tent trembled in a chilling breeze eminating from the entrance. I've often read of cave discoveries being made by the witnessing of twitching vegetation on still days, but this was the first time I'd seen such a strong draught.

Making our way down the initial climb the draught continued blowing up my trouser legs and sleeves. We soon arrived at the previous deep point and were greeted by a beautifully cast concrete lintel, where once there had just been boulders. Beneath the lintel the way on lay open and the passage led around the corner into an open rift, leading both up and down. The pullies above and spoil filled cavities acted as reminders that even though this rift appeared open now, a lot of work had gone into making it so. Our work for the day was to install a number of stempel steps in the lower part of the rift, to allow easier access to the digging "face" and also to see if we could make any further progress. Paul swiftly installed the new steps with an efficiency born of years of experience and it was soon time to try making his dig a little deeper.

Paul demonstrated his technique for capping, highlighting the importance of each step in the preparation process and the need to be methodical. A dull thud then took off a large chunk of rock at the bottom of the rift. Paul systematically prepared a new hole, before it was my go. This time the dull thud was accompanied by the tinkling sound of the firing screwdriver dropping down into the boulders below, a little more practice is required. Having loosened a fair bit of rock it was now time to shift it up the shaft and store it in a large alcove. I was quickly reintroduced to the hauling system that I last remember being employed to take material to the surface, unfortunately all my triathlon training had left me at lithe race weight (I wish) and Paul had to send up half loads to prevent my dangling ineffectually in the air. After a good few bucket loads we'd lowered the dig by nearly a metre with a draught and beckoning blackness that would excite even the most pessimistic of diggers. Huge thanks to Paul once again for the superb hospitality, the capping lesson and another look down his dig.

1 comment:

Guitey said...

Aren't they the pants that we took down the Berger!?