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Wednesday 25th November – Rob Eavis, James Wood, Jon Pemberton, Sam Pemberton

I’d been keeping up-to-date about the lads’ progress at the top of Maginns and that they've made it into the Death Series 40 years after its original discovery by Ben Bentham, so I was keen to lever myself onto a trip using my surveying and photographic capabilities.

After a quick look down the big hole that’s opened up on Faucet Rake, we started getting kitted up and counting the bits of gear we’d forgotten. Only important one was the ladder to get down Garlands, so not too bad overall. On-the-stop ingenuity prevailed and we bastardised a plan to get us to the dig with just about enough equipment to complete the evening’s plans.

Me n Jon were ready first so we set off and started surveying up Maginns, starting from one of the many permanent stations now on the mainline. It had been ~8 years since I’d been up here, I think during getting lost on one of my first trips leading SUSS freshers around the round trip, and what a place! Whilst the dimensions at the bottom of the rift are average, the sides really bellow out higher up. At the top the passage splits into two, with a wet grovel to the right and a phreatic crawly passage to the left. We took the crawl toward the dig. Jams and Sam had already overtaken us, and up ahead we could hear some un-reassuring noises of large boulders falling. Once we reached them it was apparent that since the last trip the dig had slumped in again and they were hard at work felting back all the material (mostly slurry mixed with the occasional large boulder). For some reason from where I was sat waiting even quite a small rock sounded huge, so I was quite relieved when they confirmed they had finished opening it up and Jams was about to start the bolt climbing.

Meanwhile me n Jon decided to stay warm by surveying the first side passage back, a short but interesting trench passage ending in a small pot down to boulders. Having seen this passage on the 3d survey since, my guess is that it will lead back into Maginns at a high level somewhere.

When we got back, Jams was at the top and I crawled through to see his work. The dig gains access to the bottom of a reasonable chamber, of which the rubble floor is naturally about 6m above where you enter. Years of water washing through plus the digging activities has slumped one side leaving a cone of teetering rocks about to block the entry at any point. To get up to the top Ben’s old ladder was still in place but certainly no longer useable with every other rung corroded through fully, so Jams had installed another electron ladder next to it. This leads up to the continuation of the chamber, now in the form of a flat, boulder-floored passage, unfortunately only 6m long. I went and explored up a slope to the right which leads to a drippy side rift roofed entirely in large boulders. A cautiously picked climbing route at the southern end got me up through to highest point, but unfortunately it was not at all inspiring, with it starting to feel very “surface” like (although still 30m deep).

Back at the bottom of the rift a narrow passage led off into a small chamber, a section I remember reading from Ben’s reports being “dug” using a paraffin flame. Unfortunately the evidence of this is still there 40 years on, with a thick black soot coating the roof through the narrow section and the entire chamber.

 

All ways pushed and surveyed, I set off back whilst Jams derigged most of the tackle, leaving just one rope down hung off a thread and a stainless bolt. As we descended the slope kept moving around us, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t last the night. Meeting the Pembos it was clear they were both freezing so we made for a quick trip out, getting back to the cars at 12:40am.

It wouldn't be a big job to stabilise the dig to ensure open access remains, however the lack of enticing leads at the top, mixed with the fact that now 40 years after discovery it has finally been surveyed, probably means it's now unlikely to get done. Too much else to be getting on with.....!