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Further Explorations at The Bunker

Cavers: Martin Beale, Royston Sellman
Cave time: 8h10m
Exploration time: 2h00m

We arrived at Severn Beach after about 2h40m and made use of the in-situ stash of water and food there (the two Daren drums that we dragged in were full of climbing gear and there was no space for food etc.). We were both feeling in good form by this stage and continued to The Bunker in confident mood.

The squeezes into The Bunker were trying as usual, but I somehow feel that I am becoming more akin to them. We stopped at the bellows in The Bunker and unpacked the climbing gear . We had brought in a climbing rope, harnesses, chocks, slings, a hand-drill, spits and my favourite Yosemite peg hammer (which was now looking less pristine then before following a 3 hour beating inside the dragbag).

Stone climbed the aven [1, 2] while I belayed. He climbed carefully up to the thread, but once there shot off back and footing in the direction of the top of P6. The aven seems to close down at the top, but there is a horizontal sanded up tube heading back towards the tubes at the top of P6. This sanded-up tube has not been dug and would apparently yield quite easily if we went there with the right tools. The draught in the aven comes from some small cracks near the thread. These cracks are way too small to get into. The best prospect in the aven seems to be the sanded up tube.

After Stone rapped back down, we retrieved the gear and Stone then headed to the top of P6 to bolt his way into the roof tube directly above P6 (a light test showed that the big roof tube links to the small draughting roof tube).

As Stone was tapping away, I got the incense sticks out to check for draughts. I found a definite draught coming down the aven and I was surprised to find a small but definite draught coming from the north passage in The Bunker itself (though none from the southern passage). This was extremely tantalising and had to be followed. I crawled along with incense stick in hand and I could see the smoke being blown horizontally at me when I stopped to check the draught (if I placed the incense stick behind a rock or my hand, the smoke would go straight up so I am convinced that the horizontal smoke was draught related). Not far into the passage, there seemed to be an especially strong draught coming from behind a medium sized rock in the right wall (which probably won't be there for long).

I was amazed by the number of stals in The Bunker: there are loads of them. They are almost all active (with drops of water on the end) and one of them produces a drip about every 10 seconds. The further reaches of the north side of The Bunker get quite wide and there is decent airspace (maybe 2-3 feet in places). I didn't get to the end of The Bunker, but the whole place seems to extend in a northerly direction in this consistent low sandy passage with stals and a slight draught.

Another interesting observation was the sight of mouldy batpoo (maybe 10 stools) on top of the crawled passage. Clearly there have been bats down here in the recent past (I recollect having seen batpoo in the Friday Thirteenth area of OyDC, so maybe the bats fly through The Bunker to OyDC). John saw batpoo at the drop from Sick Parrot into The Bunker area 2 weeks ago.

Even though Royston was maybe 30m away and 6m higher, I could hear his tapping of the drill and felt like he must be almost through, so I returned to help him. Stone was indeed tapping away, but it was proving a laborious job. After 20 minutes, the hole was half drilled and he let me have a go from there. I applied techniques learnt in the Vercors and laboriously tapped the remaining 2cm or so. This hand drilling takes a long time! By the time we had finished drilling the hole, the drill bit was completely caked with limestone dust and we were unable to finish the job because of this. Rather than try to bodge the bolt placement, we decided to take the drill out of the cave, clean it and then return for the official spit placement.

By this time, it was getting quite late. We had to pack and leave as we were expected on the surface by 6pm (and the time was now 3pm). We left the climbing rope down at The Bunker for future operations and headed out.

We stopped at Severn Beach [1, 2] on the way out to fill up with food and water and to take some photos of Grolsch. The end of the dig looks really promising at the moment. There is a lot of airspace and the air has cleared up since last weekend. There looks like there is some decent space down on the right and some boulders that might require capping directly ahead. The increasing airspace is very encouraging!

We weren't planning on zooming out, but we made very good progress and got a time of 2h20m from Severn beach to the gate (SSP in 1h03m). It was 6pm and we had to make a quick dash to Whitewalls to change for the CSS annual dinner. This all worked faultlessly and we were able to change and drive down to the dinner in Tretower with 15 minutes to spare. Naturally, we talked all night to anyone who would listen about the great prospects at the end of Priory Road (some already knew all about the prospects: they were the original diggers). The dinner was a fine end to a hectic day's caving. Hopefully by the next annual dinner, we'll be able to do a pre-dinner Dweebland trip!

From this trip, I came out with the feeling that The Bunker is a very interesting place. Specifically:

  • the large roof tube at the top of P6 links to the draughting roof tube.
  • the draught in the aven comes from small tubes near the thread. At the top of the aven there is a sanded tube heading back towards the top of the P6 tubes. This sanded tube could be easily dug with a hoe (the spoil would fall down the aven). This sanded tube has not been dug before. The aven was only climbed twice before and I get the impression that a serious attack on The Bunker tubes has never been mounted.
  • there are loads of stals in The north passage of The Bunker. These stals drip. It would be possible to collect water from one of the drips.
  • there was a definite slight outward draught from the north passage in The Bunker. There might be a draught coming from behind a boulder in the right wall.
  • the north passage continues with varying airspace of up to 2-3 feet. It would be very interesting to see what happens at the northern limit of exploration of the north passage in The Bunker.
  • bats fly around in the north passage of The Bunker (and towards Sick Parrot Chamber)

Martin Beale, Bristol 30th January 2005

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