Sludge Pit - Wed 1 Feb 2023

Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, James Howarth, Jenna Mackay, Keith Milward, Kieran Hucknal, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Rachel Sparrow, Rich Nurse, Seán Tidey, Tim Gouge, Will Puddy

The club is or has been engaged in three connection projects in Sludge Pit. These are:

1. Connection of Shales series and Tributary Passage - completed.
2. Enlarging The Link, which connects the east and west halves of the upper series - ongoing.
3. Connecting the aven in the streamway to the old club dig in the upper series - ongoing.

We started gathering at the Wessex CC from 7pm and half an hour later the advance guard of Andy, Rich, Sean, Tim and James headed off. Our group mission was to climb the aven half way down the streamway, or more precisely to watch and hold a rope for Rich while he climbed the aven. Rich did a great job getting to the top, his progress assisted by finding three previously placed bolts in just the right places. He then got busy installing three bolts and rigging an SRT rope (left in situ). While this was happening Sean and I were having a very social time at the bottom as first Keith arrived, and then Lawrence, Cookie, Rachel, Kieran and Jemma passed by (twice). Tim and James, buzzing with their usual energy, were sent down to find the sump, and then dispatched to find the Western side of 'The Link'.

Eventually Rich had the rope anchored and I prusiked up. It really is a nice pitch! It's going to be great if we can establish a link to the top so it becomes a standard route in the cave. The pitch ends at a flowstone ledge where a route leads up between boulders. Rich followed this and immediately found the choked tube which we think corresponds with our old dig. Sean free-climbed on a lifeline. He said it was a really good climb up, but probably not so easy going down.

While we were busy at the aven, Will and PJ were digging at the Eastern side of The Link. They made great progress lowering the floor and pulling out some boulders while Tim and James worked on the other side. Eventually Tim managed to pass The Link becoming, to the best of my knowledge, only the second person to do so.

A mass exit from the cave followed and the usual suspects headed for the Hunters for a debrief.

In Summary -
The Link is yielding slowly but a few more visits will be required before it's Sparrow sized.
The aven/dig connection looks extremely hopeful.

Future trips -
The next scheduled trip is Wednesday 15th Feb. We need three SRT proficient diggers up the aven and at least one at the bottom. It would be really good to get a team in the old dig and attack from both directions - this would require at least another three persons.

I'm going to do some additional trips to The Link, starting this Sunday at 7.30pm. There will probably be a follow-up trip during the day on Tuesday.

And Finally -
We had a mishap at the pitch last night resulting in two slightly damaged diggers. There's a couple of ways to avoid a repeat of this - if we are using a single minimal length rope the last person down should be abseiling. We need to be in the habit of bringing either a harness/descender or a sling/karabiner. Alternatively we can take a longer rope which can be used to lifeline from the bottom. Descent of the pitch should be either by ladder with lifeline or by abseil. Please bear in mind that the greatest single cause of death and injury in British caving is falling unlifelined from a pitch of less than 10 metres.

— Andy 2/02/2023

Last modified: 16 Apr 2023 18:52