Chasing the Draught
24 January 2006 by Tom Foord
I wasn’t planning on?coming on this trip… Then the evening before I heard tales of a breakthrough?into passage the size of Priory Road. I changed my mind… I wasn’t going to miss this!
Martin, Alan and I met at Whitewalls at 3pm. John was also around and showed us his pictures from Saturday to whet our appetites before we set off on our way to the extensions.
We progressed straight through to the previous limit at the tiny Brewer’s Chamber (beyond Corkscrew Chamber). Things had clearly changed here thanks to the weekend team’s efforts. The squeeze into Brewers was now a lot larger and could now be passed headfirst (although this was a slightly committing move!) Beyond Brewer’s the narrow rift?(the weekend’s breakthrough point) had been significantly enlarged since the last time I saw it, but it was still a very tough uphill squeeze. The drag tray we were transporting really had to be forced through with some difficulty.
Even though John had informed us of the size of the passage beyond, it was still a real shock to emerge from such a tiny rift straight into the side of?a 10m wide void stretching off in each direction!
Martin and I started taping using a roll we had picked up in Corkscrew Chamber, but unfortunately this ran out by the time we had taped a route from the breakthrough squeeze out into the centre of the passage! Meanwhile Alan spent a few minutes enlarging the squeeze with a lump hammer,?making it?far more Arthur-friendly!
Next we went to look at the south choke. The first few metres of collapse could be passed easily as had been described by John, but then digging was required. Fortunately the blocks were smallish and set among dry loose mud fill, and only a few needed to be shifted aside to open up a route. I could see there was more space in a floor trench along the left-hand wall,?so I headed that way. The trench made it possible to crawl forward for a couple of metres, but then ended. I was convinced I could feel cool air drifting past?my face. Over to the right was a low descending airspace into which I managed to crawl by digging out some loose mud. Alan also accessed this space by moving some blocks?a little way back, but the view ahead seemed pretty uninspiring. In addition as soon as we got out of the floor trench we noticed that we could no longer feel the cool draught.
Back in the trench, at the far end the solid left wall took a turn to the left, but could not be followed due to what appeared to be a choke of small rocks and mud which may have slumped in from ahead.?This small ascending choke?was probably only a couple of feet wide, with more solid fill to the right of it. Examining the choke I could instantly feel the cool draught on my face again, as though it were actually emerging from the fill (there was no visible airspace here). We sent Martin in with some joss sticks, and sure enough the smoke blew horizontally out from the choke. I got the impression that the magnitude of the draught here is probably the same as that which we have been following from Corkscrew through the Brewer’s digs, and therefore the south choke is the main source of the draught in this area. But digging this choke would have to wait as we had other objectives today.
We headed to the north end of the large passage… You could say that ‘large’?is something of a misnomer, as although it is 10m wide, in?some sections?you have to crawl flat out over incredibly sticky mud. The formations were worth it though, particularly the pure white calcite rivers, one of which contains a crystal clear gour pool. It is easy to become disorientated in such a low wide space, and at one point we ended up well off route in a grotto over to the left and had to backtrack to locate the correct way on.
We had a look at the north choke, a large part of which is obstructed by one of the calcite rivers. To the right is a low airspace continuing for a few metres, but my first impression was?that this may just be heading across the main passage directly toward the right hand wall. There was a dripping stal visible beyond. There was no noticeable draught.?This will be diggable if we trench the last?low wet section for a few metres up to the dig face to make conditions more comfortable.
Just prior to the choke was the tiny aven spotted by Pete on Saturday’s trip. This was floored by a mound of dry sand which made it impossible to access the aven in order to get a view up it. I dug out some of the sand and managed to get my head in, but unfortunately the aven could be seen to narrow and divide into impossibly tight tubes just above. Alan also spotted a second aven further back along the passage, but again this appeared to be too tight.
We started the long job of surveying back out to Brewer’s Chamber. This was a particularly nasty job due to the wet sticky?flat-out sections.
Once we were through the worst bits Martin went back to the south choke and spent some time?trenching a more direct route?to the dig face.?This should?make spoil removal more straightforward allowing us to attack the dig?with more vigour next weekend.
Once Alan and I had completed the survey we regrouped for some food?then headed fairly rapidly out of the cave due to work commitments the following morning.