Monday 17th November – Sam Townsend, Rob Eavis
During the course of the Giants Resurvey Project I've been enjoying the easiness compared to some of the longer pushing trips under both the Eldon and Badger names. However in a rush to get Giants done Crusader has definitely taken a back foot, so it was with keen determination I started planning the hardest section to survey project; the leg from Poached Egg Passage in Giants to Pilgrims Way in Oxlow, AKA The Chamber of Horrors.
My last trip through COH was 8 years ago (http://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=2692.0) and did not go at all to plan. I managed to stupidly panic on the way through, bang my head, get disorientated, lose the air space, and worst of all then refuse to back through! A very embarrassing performance in front of peers. Sam also had not been through for a while (+10 years?) but that trip went swimmingly (!), at least for him. His downside this time was his lack of suitable attire, with a difficult choice between a too thin wetsuit or a neofleece…
All bags packed so on with the trip, meeting early (6pm) to allow us to hopefully survey through to Pilgrims Way, all being well. Moving through the cave fast in just a wetsuit is such a pleasant experience, the freedom to move with the extra 360° protection helping me to almost keep up with Sam. As accuracy is testament to the whole project I diligently calibrate the disto, whilst convincing Sam it’s worth weeing now, rather than in the sumps.
Things going to plan, we come up with a rough strategy and division of labour, and I head into the connection crawl feet first carrying the PDA. Sam follows, firing the Disto forward to my selected stations. After only a few legs my feet get wet, indicating the need to gear up. Wetsuit hood and small head light replace helmet. A few legs further and it’s clear I’m at the first of the three ducks. We get a final station near the lip of the duck and electronic gear gets packed away into the daren drum. I then clip the end of a fibron tape onto my belt and turn the waterproof camera on. After a long time to prep, this time I wanted to try to capture what it’s like in there.
Looking back, we knew it was going to be sumped. It had rained significantly prior to this trip, but most of all there was no draught at all even though it was pretty cold on the surface (~5°C). The first duck was wetter than I remembered and I didn’t do a very clean job of it, but thankfully got through OK. The second was tricky, with potentially plenty of airspace but a weird bend meaning it’s hard to reach it. I had to change my body position quite a bit to remain at the surface through this section. Finally I reached the third duck, and it was plain to see it was in fact a sump. There was the initial indication of a crack of airspace, but maybe only 5mm height in total, and it didn’t look like it went in for far. The unfortunately thing is that neither of us knew how far it was. Could we freedive it? I seemed to remember it was 1.5m or so, which I didn’t fancy entirely underwater in these conditions. PLus, once through, how could we communicate the surveying if we couldn't hear each other? We agreed discretion was the better part of valour (at least for wimps) and so took a quick tape measurement to the furthest point and I headed back out.
After the Poisoned Chalice survey trip in October also ending ahead of schedule, I again got a real sense of disappointment. You put energy into the time and planning of the these trips with a specific goal in mind, then to realise that no matter how much you achieved you need to do that all again to complete the work. On the plus side we had the freedom to have a little poke around this section of Giants on the way out, we made the pub with 2 hours to spare, and I’ll get to enjoy the adventure of the Chamber of Horrors again very soon....