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Last updated: Monday, 13 December, 2004 22:55

Grolsch Passage keeps on going

By Mathias Willerup  20 November 2004
Cavers: Martin, Mathias, Tom
Time: 8h34m
Digging time: 3-4h
Trays removed: 22
Progress: 2m
Prospects: dig is quite muddy (on the surface) and still going for it
Length of Grolsch: 27m
Natural height of Grolsch: 9 inches

I had come over to Bristol for the weekend with the excellent Easyjet connection from Copenhagen. Wife and newborn kid deposited at friends in Bristol, I was ready for caving when Martin picked me up at 6am Saturday morning. We picked Tom up in Newport and we picked up the key for White Walls at Arthur Millet's place and was ready for caving at about 8am. Perfect execution.

The walk to Aggy was quite different from the trip earlier this year. It was snowing, and we were above the clouds in the lower valley, which was excellent. Reminded me of the mad wintertrips in the Vercors a couple of years ago.

I think we got into the cave around 9am and went at a fairly sturdy pace stopping only at 2nd inlet for some water. I was absolutely fine and actually quite enjoying the mile long Southern Streamway but I was quite knackered and overheating (had way to much clothes on) in Priory Road. The final squeezes felt harder than they should be, but we made it - in 2 hours exactly - to Severn Beach: a new record time. I was quite pleased.

We had a bite to eat, and Martin briefed us about todays operation, and we placed Tom at the digface, me in the middle and Martin at the superburly back - doing three peoples work! I was really pleased to be down Grolsch after such a long time and I was really really impressed about the state of the dig - roomy, comfortable and well, really pleasant. I remember the last trip I'd been on the air hadn't been that good and being at the digface felt a bit dangerous and not pleasant at all - this time it was the best place to be!

Tom was digging at a fine pace and after a few adjustments to the chain we had a good steady pace going - thanks to Martin who must have been crawlrunning up and down half of the dig while the middle position that I was in was really quite pleasant.

After about an hour we changed positions and I went to the digface. Tom explained me the tray system which was really well layed out. Get all the spoiled into the alcove on the right, pull in the tray, coil the rope on the left boulder, fill the tray in spaceous surroundings, yell back at Tom and continue at the work ahead. Brilliant. It was now clear to me, what Martin ment by John and Arthur being digging professionals - this place was like a tidy building site. The air of professionalism soon disappeared as I started digging: at first I banged the crowbar onto the rocks ahead, hoping to splinter them into pieces, only to have a chip of stone and mud going straight into my eyes. Doh. Took me a few minutes to try and get the vision cleared cursing at myself for being so careless and stupid (it's next to impossible to whipe your eyes in a muddy dig of course). I was soon back at digging and whereas Tom had been digging to make the space roomier (very admirable), I really really wanted to see as far in to the airspace ahead as I could. So I pulled boulders upon boulders out of the muddy floor ahead and nudged myself in, armed with the crowbar. I was really getting into it all and seriously enjoying it. I was really hoping that I would poke my head into some bigger airspace, a chamber - or a real dream would be poking out on top a chamber like Valentines Chamber, on top of a huge mountain of boulders where the boulder you just pushed ahead of you, tumbles down into the void below, perhaps landing in a bottomless lake where eventually a boat will take you to Dweebland (cut!). As I was bending my shoulder and body into position to get my head just that bit further, and as my left hand slowly pulled away the boulder that was obscuring the view ahead, ... another boulder and mud dissapointingly appeared ahead. Oh well. Back out, and pull the boulders with me. The dream still lives on. We will break into something. It's just a matter of time.

The spoilheap crew (Martin) got me back to reality as Tom relayed the message that we had time for 4 more trays (we had social obligations on the surface). I stacked as many of the boulders I could in that excellent right hand alcove (I guess these boulders should be dragged out) and filled a couple of trays before heading back letting Tom and Martin in, to have a look at the damage. They measured the total dig (27 meters) from the drop, took some photos, and joined me at the spoilheap.

Martin adds: There is a layer (possibly an inch thick) of quite wet and gloopy mud on top of the passage ahead. This layer seems to be getting slightly deeper and wetter as we dig forwards. There were some little craters in the mud that we thought might be drip holes, but we couldn't see where the drip would have come from in Grolsch's roof. The other possible explanation is that these little craters were caused by still water draining through the mud into the sandier layers below. The air seemed quite good in Grolsch this time with possibly a slight inward draught (the draught in the cave was generally inwards).

After a snack and a drink we headed out. I think that priory road is easier on the way out as the crawls go slightly (and sometime wildly) downhill, but SSP really got on my t*ts this time, and it felt like ages. Once SSP is done with it all seems to be a stroll out. Once we got out we were greated by Tom's parents who was here to pick him up right outside the cave entrance! (or were they checking that he is actually a caver and not just sitting down the pub?). Good effort from his folks walking all the way just to join us going back in freezing cold. We were all quite pleased as Martin fumbled with the key to Whitewalls, and enjoyed the prepared hot coffee and bisquits brought by the Foords. Unfortunately we didn't have that much time for White Walls socialising and we were soon on our way back to Bristol for an evening in the Pub celebrating Sean's 40th birthday.

Mathias Willerup, Copenhagen, 23 November 2004

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