Waterfall Swallets

They both drain to SMMC, so they're worth a look....



Rapido trip down Waterfall, Just Rob and I to climb the aven at the end of Great Gunns Rift in Waterfall Hole. Rob fresh of his expedition in Mulu was not ready for the freezing cold night what lay ahead. Temperature at the shakehole was below zero. We quickly kitted up, armed with a drill, SRT and rope which we didn’t need and headed for the Wardwinn’s Crawl. Rob had been down Waterfall once some 15 years ago so was keen for another look with hindsight of SMMC.

Wardwinn’s wasn’t too bad as it had dried out nicely but the wet part was still wet but we managed to keep out of it as much as possible. Down the pitch and I led Rob through the maze of boulders to Waterfall Chamber. He remarked on how efficient I got us down here as with no prior knowledge this would be tricky navigation. From Waterfall Chamber we took the solid rift heading east and started the shuffle up through the rift. No doubt we were the first people to climb this with SRT kits on and what a silly thing it was, it just seemed to snag everywhere. We entered the aven at the top and a second look (and a second pair of eyes) it was obvious that a bolt was not required. I climbed first and Rob quickly followed. We put a handline on just in case via a natural thread.

The chamber at the top was pretty grim, black in colour, approx. 2m squared with no way on and would require some serious shoring to dig. Rob checked out the other direction via a delicate manoeuvre over a flake, again – no way on. Quickly crapping the place out we headed back without delay and made our way to surface. It sure was freezing when we surfaced and it took me a good few hours to warm back up. Post beers next to the fire in the Bull’s head was appropriate.

Another one bites the dust.

Just Luke and I on this fine warm evening. It was Luke’s first time down Waterfall Hole and it’s certainly one to get acquainted with… The entrance crawl was as pleasant as always and luckily it’s still rigged so easy progress down to Hockenhull’s rift.

The mission for this evening was to explore the South/East extensions to Westy’s bit as Jim and I messed it up last time around. Once through the awkward entrance (where Luke remarked on how ‘ard Jim was for getting through it) we headed up and left over a rather unstable boulder ruckle. A weave up and down between blocks got us into the right place and we were now in solid rock for a change. A bit of crawling leads to a sizeable hading cross rift but all leads seem to crap out in boulder chokes. A crawl here at floor level leads to a tight squeeze and a further crawl split into two directions. Left continued along a cross rift to a too tight continuation (draughting outwards) whereas right dropped down a pot to a choke in the floor.

Mission completed we headed down to Waterfall Chamber after a few navigational errors. Barely any water in sight today. We now progressed up the entrance crawl to Great Gunn’s rift. Another interesting lead in this crazy place. It seems from talking to JSB back in the day nobody had been back since it’s original exploration in the 70’s and the diggers left it in haste! The climb at the end involves some delicacy to avoid entombing oneself! Another climb follows this and reaches a large cross rift where a light connection is made back to Waterfall Chamber. A further hading climb in a rift reaches the fluted shaft which I climbed for 6m to a bold step across to an enticing black void in boulders. Here I retraced my steps as Luke was back at the start.

After a quick photo stop we made our way to daylight (yay!) and vowed to return with a bit of rope to access the void proper.

Team: Jon P, Jim T

A couple of weeks ago we’d had a nice early scrat in Waterfall Hole as an extra-bonus Saturday trip. Jon had some ideas about possibilities in light of the reality of SMMC so we were keen to get a new look in the right direction. We’d left that day with a ‘new pitch’ but no kit, so I’d come tooled up tonight with plenty of rope, rigging, drill, capping kit and high hopes. We were just going to drop the pitch and walk into a new bit of the streamway…

No time for prebeers but we may as well have had them as it’d been a long week and I’d turned the faffometer up to 11. Eventually I managed to dress myself and Jon headed to the hole – with the parting words – ‘just wear your SRT kit now, you did last time’… I wasn’t so sure as I’d had to dig my way into the entrance crawl on that occasion, but optimistically did so anyway.

Into the crawl, I was jammed after a couple of mm. Croll in the ground, harness on the roof. Forward, reverse, sideways, movement just wasn’t on the agenda. After what felt like an hour, I managed to free myself, dekit and cursed the cave for having such a crappy entrance. At least let me get warmed up first. Once that trauma was out of the way I observed the last familiar looking thing I would for the evening bar the first pitch – a buried shopping bag – and got myself down the rope ready for a nice clean excursion round the familiar parts of the cave I’d enjoyed on the last jaunt.

But nothing is. Everything here looks different, yet the same, and nothing like it did last time. It’s a confusing place. We’re taking the previous exit route in reverse so I’m glad Jon has an idea of where we are. The first squeeze, that was a pig before, I pass with ease. We pass through the utter filth of Chandra’s series so I’m relatively certain we’re in the same cave at least. So soon, we’re at the squeeze before the pitch – one I’d been unable to get through before, but it looks fine, and I argue with him that it can’t possibly be the same place. He’s already through it though and assures me he’s at the pitch head.

So I pass the kit through, get my legs in and slide through with ease. I’m still not sure we’re in the same place. Jon has the pitch rigged like a pro in no time and is at the bottom poking about. There are no victorious calls, nor any mention of a huge wide open stream passage. I head down and it takes me longer to load my Stop than the descent lasts. Jon’s assessment is that we’re actually in the roof of EPS aven.

So much for optimism but it’s good to have had a look and put it to bed. It’s getting really cold we derig and head out but vow to return for some more poking as there’s loads more to look at.

It’s a gorgeous warm evening on the surface. Caked in muck, but there’s no waterfall to wash off in but at least the beer is cold as I’d included an ice pack in the kit prep. Onwards!

Only Jeff and I tonight so rather than not doing much down IDM we thought we'd not do much down Waterfall Hole instead! Jeff had never been down in his extensive caving career and I'd not been down for years. We had our normal pre-beer and could hear the Waterfall pounding down in the shake-hole, it had rained all day but the clouds had now moved on leaving a crisp, cold, clear night. 

We headed underground around 8pm (late for us), the shake hole was still backed up with water but appeared to be going down rather than coming up. The entrance crawl was pretty grim as was Wardwins Crawl but not a rank as my memory served. We SRT'd down Hockenhulls Rift and got lost straight away. Our main aim was to get to Waterfall chamber and check out Great Gunns Rift then head down to EPS aven. We succeeded in the first aim after some novelty route finding efforts but I couldn't for the life of me find the way down to EPS Aven. Water was still high in the cave which restricted us from entering certain parts/voids. After an hour or so's pottering we decided to head out and vowed to return in slightly dryer conditions for a proper good look. 

Jon in Great Guns Rift near the climb

It's certainly an unusual place and as the late, great John Beck wrote in an old TSG journal, The cave is in a constant state of change and one day some keen (or lucky) explorer will eventually find (or stumble) across the continuation which must lay below.

Jeff in Wardwins Crawl

Report by Jon Pemberton
Cavers: Jon Pemberton, Dave Brown, James Rhodes et al

Having spoken to Mark Noble and John Beck who've dug in their loads in the past I'm still not 100% sure we were in the right place. Pretty damn confusing!

But here it goes!

Waterfall entrance inc. Wardwins crawl is rank! Clive Hockenhull still says it to this day that it was bloody horrible to push through when they found the water backing into the bedding, removed flood debris and first entered the system in 1959. If we moan about the entrance we get called a bunch of puffs from the original diggers who used to do it in boiler suits all the time only to soak up all the water and still get a mega digging session out of it. Unless you want to try bail the water out with your helmet? Whilst it's on your head? Then its helmet off tackle! So you're pushing your helmet through plus a ladder and trenching tool and trying to stay dry at the same time in the mankiest water ever! When disturbed stenches something rotten! We've always said that it's last known remaining capture point of the plague!
If you weren't psyched up for it, it was definitely grim!
Id been to the top of Hockenhull's rift once before at the end of last year eager for a look down only to have been bitched on by Jams & Dervish who shouted that they weren't coming from the other side of Wardwin's crawl.
James Rhodes and I had a trip down one Friday towards the end of March. It was bloody pissing it down. We questioned our stupidity as the bus went past only wearing (a) Rab jacket on the top road out to Foolow. We found our way into Chandra's series which we thought was pretty damn interesting, "Mud chamber" quite large, loads a holes heading off through the boulder floor and obviously sumped to the roof in the lower part. In the corner a clean wash climb led down through a loose boulder slope to another climb to a sizable space between what can surely be more giant boulders. a tight rift lead off to the left and straight on gaps through boulders could be followed to a tight vertical drop from below water could be heard clearly topped with an old rusty anchor. I shouted up to James to come down for a look but he wasn't having any of it safely up in the Mud chamber. I tried down climbing the drop feeling for foot holds but with no vision of below I quickly decided against it and backed out.
Dave Brown and I were down again the following week. Fixed on his memory of co-operation aven and the squeeze through anything approach we had a quick look everywhere, Westy's bit, Chandra's series, Jim's bit and Co-operation aven where Dave got well and truly lost having pushed into a very high place in the choke with four holes in the floor not remembering which way he'd climbed up! Fun times. Whilst in Chandra's series I took him to the clear wash climb and mentioned the drop that needs laddering, we agreed to return shortly.
On Saturday 4th April we laddered the pitch which dropped at an angle of about 60 degrees on sharp rock which finally dropped to a total depth of 8m. This landed you in a horrible rift, each side closed up but not completely. Left dipped down a mud slope to a static pool of water, very hard to get out of. Right the rift closed to a couple of inches wide but through the rift water could be heard flowing immensely!! Still not tested to where its location is in the known cave but almost certain a known part of the system i.e. not below the deepest part at the bottom of EPS aven where the stream from the waterfall sinks into boulders and mud.
The floor of the rift was lined with the thickest stickiest mud piled up at one side at the bottom of the ladder obviously from previous digging attempts. At the line of the mud floor a bedding line stretched across the rift which was closed at all but one point. You could just about make out a stretch of passage through the crawl which emitted an encouraging draught. We made a quick attempt to dig out the mud floor to get a better look to the point where you could lean on your head in a hole in the floor looking upside and up into this short stretch of water worn passage. Freezing from the draught we departed knowing we'd catch James plus guest on the way out, who were meant to come and join us on a sort of, spur of the moment type of thing. All that was said was once in the cave make loud noises! We were going to scare James mate with the likes of "mud men" but were soon encountered by voices thus stopped us in our tracks. Gutted! Could've imagined it now covered in mud shrieking!!! James dropping everything and doing one screaming and running for his life while his mate stood there stumped!


Back again for an evening dig accompanied with Dave's recently purchased trenching tool, mine still in Dynamite series somewhere. We laddered down into Boggies bit and quickly started digging away at the floor stacking under the ladder. We were quickly body length in the passage which was tight and heading uphill. It required digging out in front of you pushing spoil to your side, kicking it down behind you whilst the other chucks it up the bank under the ladder at a synchronised pace so that the digger didn't en-tomb themselves.
We pushed as soon as it was big enough to grasp hold of something. this involved the person in the inclined passage gaining leverage from the accompanied diggers back whilst sat down in the pot freezing there arse off! The passage forked, left was soon too tight with a maze of mud coated solids heading left and upwards. Right continued up to an eyehole that seemed to be heading more towards the right beyond and looked larger (heading towards the sound of the water hopefully.) The only thing that stopped us was a head sized boulder in the floor that required digging out. We left it there that night having managed a 3 hour session the climb out of Boggies bit was taxing. Climbing back out of Boggies bit is the most awkward part, it involves one person up at the anchor ready to de-rig and pull up the ladder on the incline whilst the other hangs on the pitch un-snagging until the bottom of the ladder reaches their hands. If not the ladder gets caught and the sharp rocks with ease. Still it's a right bastard climbing the last 3 metres!
Dave, James and I returned on Thursday 23rd April to remove the rock, show James the dig with the most important reason to retrieve Dave's trenching tool meaning we wouldn’t have to go back down again! We were all not in the mood to drop waterfall hole. On discussion we had all thought about backing down but were all hoping somebody else would've done it first. Nearly had a quick â"Oh No, my lights not working", from Dave but it fixed itself which was a twat! At the top of Boggies bit James was mumbling hell to himself wishing he hadn't come down with us, oh well. Dave started digging kicking down loads mud whilst I threw it up to James. James not being in the mood stopped all communication and slowed his actions only for the mud to be thrown at him sticking to his over suit. Dave chucked the boulder down and thrashed his way forward into what was not described as an aven that you could stand up in. At the far right end an impenetrable inlet was found in the roof with no ways on, terminating the dig! Oh joy! I took a quick look whilst James declined for some reason?
We made our way out with the trenching tool overwhelmed with the newly discovered 5+ metres of grot we had discovered. One place to tick off in there. Our plan was to try gain voice connection with the stream passage through the tight rift but nobody wishes to join us down there. From the survey it appears to lie above Jim's bit, but it's a very complex 3D place.

Or a Dervish has described it, "eerie"

Joomla templates by a4joomla