Paul James, Rich Nurse, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy
After a late flurry of e-mails from members pulling out due to various reason the trip ended up with just the four of us, which was probably the not a bad thing as anymore would have meant a lot of waiting around for ropes to be rigged etc. We met as normal at 7:30pm in the Mendip Outdoor Pursuits car park on a wet and disgusting night.
After the usual SRT phaff we divided up kit and headed up the road to the foot path. Pausing after just a few minutes for Seán to run back to the cars to get Will a spare head torch and helmet after it appeared his was still suffering from his trip in Swildons the previous week.
After 10 minutes or so along the path, the entrance, a trench under a rocky outcrop with a scaffold bar was found. Rigging commenced with a rope going round a tree, then the scaffold bar then down and the first ladder going straight from the bar. Descending down a rift, not unlike St. Cuthberts, but sloping a bit and much more muddy we ended up on a little ledge / balcony where we could go either right or left. We chose the right route as we could see some grotty in-situ rope on the other route and someone recalled reading something about some lose rock on the left route.
Rich set out down a 45-degree slope rigging the right route. Although we had the topo we had not read the description and topos make route finding look very simple. Rich missed the first bolt so I, coming down as number two had to rig it with Rich below me, not something I’ve done before. We also missed “the window”, which is a small sideways crawl halfway down the pitch, but eventually found our way down to the Mangle Block, which still has the mangle on, creating a new route in the process.
Carrying on past the Mangle Block we came off the rope and ended up in Mud Bank Chamber, a chamber with a massive muddy bank! After sliding along the bank we got into some very narrow climbs/scrambles in the hunt for Aldermaston Chamber with the elusive blue pool, but time was now against us and we didn’t have any more rope.
We started making our way back with, I think Will in the lead and Rich derigging. Making our way back to the ledge without too much problem. We then started making our way, one at a time up the rift that was really hard work, even with the ladder. The big bag of rope was hauled out no problem and then once Rich reached the top we struggled to get the two ladders out as they kept getting tangled and caught.
Eventually we were all out, sweaty and very muddy, even Will’s SRT kit had a bit of mud on it. We coiled rope and ladders and started making our way back. As we started along the path, with impeccable timing (for the second week in a row) Lawrence appeared to escort us back to the car park.
Lawrence and Will checked out Sandford Levi on the way back and we all made it to a now completely deserted carpark, sadly too late to make the pub.
Not the most memorable SRT trip of all time but definitely one of the dirtiest. Most of Thursday was spent washing rope, ladders etc.
Next year I intend to run another trip down there pre-rigging both routes so we can do the Grand Mangle Hole Round Trip without all the waiting around.
— Seán Tidey 8/11/2022