Return to Broadside
1 December 2009 by Martin
We made a surprise return visit to Broadside on 21 November 2009. I hadn’t been caving for a long time (almost a year) and it seemed like a perfect day to go caving: it was chucking it down, cold and windy. Alan was up for it and so was John. We agreed to meet at Whitewalls on the Saturday and take things from there.
The plan was to go for a short trip, so we didn’t take much food (a couple of choccy bars) and water. We should have been underground for only about 6 hours.
The walk to Aggy was as cold and windy as usual. There was the traditional muddy puddle at the entrance and the cave looked a little on the dark side to me. It was pretty spooky being inside. It seemed like a bit of an alien environment to me. I was really careful on the way in as I wasn’t used to some of the drops and didn’t know what to expect traction-wise from my wellies. The initial choke seemed to go like a breeze which was really novel to me and before I knew it, we were sitting in the Main Passage.
Main Passage was as great as ever. It’s a brilliant stomping passage. It was over all too soon and we were faced with the prospect of Southern Stream Passage. SSP started off well, but I was getting tired towards the end. I seemed to have lost some of my cave fitness. Alan and John were very good and waited for me. I have no idea how long SSP took us, but it seemed like a while!
Priory Road was great as ever. It feels like a big old remote passage (which I guess it is!). John found a crowbar half way along which he decided to repatriate. This got as far as a nasty low crawling section which we then set about enlarging (hopefully this might stop people thrashing over the tapes onto the pristine mud at the side). This little involuntary digging session got us focussed on reaching Broadside.
The Iles Inlet extensions were impressive and seemed to be holding up well. The Courtesan and the formations in Corkscrew Chamber were as impressive as ever. I wondered how the team had managed to dig out of the end of Corkscrew (it looks really unlikely). My cave awareness left me getting into Brewers Chamber. I went head first (I don’t think I’ve done this before in retrospect) and got pretty nastily stuck (one of those situations where you wish you had knees that bent both ways). I udged forwards inch by inch and lived to tell the tale and eventually pop into Broadside.
We sat in the junction in Broadside for a minute remembering old times and then set off up into Avalanche Aven. We’d been hoping for a spontaneous collapse, but this hadn’t happened. We felt that maybe some pebbles had fallen out of the roof, but we couldn’t be sure. We had a good look at it and decided that a bit of scaffolding and ting would be required. John and Alan were pretty convinced that there was an upwards draught here. It would be a dream if we could make progress up here as this would get us to exactly the right level for OyDC.
The next objective was to have a look at Broadside South. It became obvious that this was going to end up being a digging session as John started levering boulders with crow bars. I got the tray and rope from the main section of Broadside and settled into a role as the chief (and sole!) dragger. This worked remarkably well. The dig at the front was cramped, so the spoil wasn’t exactly flying out. I could get focussed on manhandling the tray all the way out to Broadside while John and Alan dug at the front. It seemed that just getting into a methodical, pace was the thing to do. And so it was that we got 10 trays out of Broadside South (in maybe 90 minutes of digging). It was really good to know that with the right frame of mind, we could make progress with three people.
The front of the dig has some reasonably sized slabby boulders in it. The roof looks to rise beyond this (Alan had a good go at poking the crowbar ahead). This could just be an undulation in the roof, but hopefully we are at the low point and things will get bigger. Who knows? There’s one way to find out.
It seems that there are several things we need to do in the Broadside area:– find a solution to making upward progress in Avalanche Aven – take a methodical approach to the south dig – survey the south dig relative to AvAv South. Things will potentially get bigger if we can move the dig under the AvAv joint / weakness
We ate our chocolate bars in Broadside and then set off on the long trip out. When we got to SSP, one thing was evident: it had been raining a lot. Southern Stream was really flowing. I was feeling pretty cave-spanked by this stage and it was a tiring effort to make progress against the flow. The low wet crawls were lower, wetter and colder than usual: but these are the things that caving is all about aren’t they? We collapsed in a heap at Second Inlet and shared John’s last fun-sized Snickers between us: mannah from heaven. Getting out of SSP was nice. It was great to be walking along Main Passage at last. I had to take a very careful approach out of the entrance series as I was feeling really tired by this stage – and ready to see the outside world again.
At the log book, by the gate, we had a watch which showed that we’d been in for 9 hours? How did we do those 13.25 hour trips? Hopefully those days will return.
We had the usual cold walk back to Whitewalls followed by the pleasure of cold beer and a nice warm radiator to warm my back on. We talked about caving. It was like the good old days!
I think we need to get back down there. We need to sort out some definite dates for action. January and February should be good for me getting involved with Aggy again. Any good suggestions for AvAv are welcome….