Friday 15 February 2019

14th February 2019 - Alt Aquamole

Our first daylight change of the year

Beginning our descent as the sun sets

The head of the second alternative pitch

Derigging at the head of the first alternative pitch
Dick on the first alternative

Almost back at the surface

Out into the night air

Friday 8 February 2019

8th February 2019 - One arm bandit

Browsing the forums on ukcaving, I spotted that a new route in Aquamole had been recently re equipped with nice shiny bolts.  As the weather was a bit wet for our other plans and it's one of my favourite bits of cave, a bit of investigation was in order.

80m of, as the Starless River website would put it, "nylon highway", brought us to what is described as a "gloomy crawl" in the description.  Not sure whether it says more about the current state of our lives, or the caves we've been going into recently, but we both thought that the fine streamway that followed was actually quite a nice bit of passage.

The second, short, water sprayed pitch brought us into a chamber with a beautiful white calcite feature and also marked the point at which we needed to start following instructions for the "alternative" pitches.

Beardy's description on ukcaving is completely accurate, but the oft quoted "not for the blind obedience of fools" is particularly apt in this case.  From the bottom of the pitch we followed the obvious stooping way on, until after a few metres you enter the chamber from which you can drop down into the streamway to the head of the usual final pitch.  Our instructions said, "a crawl straight ahead", so I headed off down a crawl which sort of was straight ahead, on the left wall of the chamber.  Within a few metres my brand new, shiny red caving suit was coated in the aqueous mud and I was questioning my route finding, this was about as far from the glitz and glamour of a Los Angeles casino as it's possible to be.  Fortunately the ever lower and ever muddier stream/mudway lead to a small terminal chamber in which I was able to turn round, reverse my route and explain to Tony that this wasn't the way on.

Back in the main chamber we went straight on and in the far wall found a slightly squashed circular hole, leading to an obvious squeeze a metre or so ahead, just like in the description!  A clue is definitely in the name and after a few botched attempts to align myself with the hole, I assumed the one armed bandit position and squirmed through.  Tony as is always the case, then glided through with no effort whatsoever!

A hole in the floor lead down to the One-armed Bandit streamway and we headed up it to find the head of the final alternative pitches.  We stared down into the gloom and looked forward to coming back with Dick, who loves Aquamole as it is and so hopefully will enjoy this variation too. It was then back downstream, passing the hole we had entered by until the streamway ends quite dramatically at a short pitch to the ledge on the main pitch of Aquamole aven.

As Tony descended onto the ledge, I began up the last few metres of the main pitch rope sprayed by exceptionally muddy water, the product of my earlier wallowing. A few metres later we were back in the starting chamber after a fascinating little loop.

A bottle of non-alcoholic beer served as a fine thirst quencher and allowed more time to be taken over a fantastic pint of red ipa, lengthening what is actually the most pleasant part of the evening.  The Marton Arms are making a real effort to entice cavers back, with a warm welcome (I'm sure given to everyone not just cavers), caving photos on the wall and a display of caving gear that is probably meant to hark back to some long forgotten era.  Worryingly it looks in better nick than our gear!