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Last updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005 16:13

Sunday trip to Grolsch

By Martin Beale   10 January 2005
Cavers: Martin Beale, Pete Darwood
Time: 9h14m
Digging time: 2h30m
Trays removed: 11
Progress: 0.5m and a bit of mouseholing
Prospects: small boulders ahead require us to dig deeper and drop

I'd had a big trip with John on the Saturday to explore the far reaches of Aggy and was feeling pretty spanked on Sunday morning. The last thing I wanted was for Pete to come knocking on the Whitewalls door to come caving with me, but knock he did. He was keen to go and was interested in another trip to The Bunker secteur. I was sort of keen to go, but it was hard to drag myself away from the creature comforts of Whitewalls and get into a wet caving suit, but this is what I eventually did.

We left Whitewalls at midday and were in Aggy by 12:30pm. There was more than a certain sense of deja vu as I crawled through the gate at the entrance to Ogof Gam and signed the visitors' book.

Pete did really well getting to Severn Beach. There were a few comments about the tedium of Southern Stream Passage which tended to break the zen state, but these can be forgiven on a first trip. Pete spotted things that I never seem to spot these days such as the amazing huge aven right at the start of Priory Road: this all goes to prove that it is always worth having a fresh look at these places.

I thought we were just stopping at Severn Beach for lunch when we got there at about 3:30pm (a three hour trip in: not bad given that this was

Pete's first time in and I had already done quite a lot of caving this weekend). Once we had transitioned from being hot, hungry and sweaty to cold, stuffed and clammy, I asked Pete whether he wanted to go to The Bunker or to have a go at Grolsch. Luckily Pete gave the right answer (he though that having got that far, it would be remiss not to see the splendours of the dig that I talk so much about).

We took all six trays to the digface (which was a bit of a mistake). The first thing I did was to apply the gorilla bar to a large boulder that I had been worried would not come out: it offered very little opposition to the gorilla bar (but proved somewhat tiresome to drag out). I then set about converting the mouseholey type area that we had previously dug into more of a dig by digging the floor down about. I dug out 6 trays by this technique and somehow managed to shuttle them back to Pete (past loads of empty trays). The idea had been to shuttle the trays out by dragging 6 trays to an intermediate point, moving back and then iterating. This technique would work if there were some good wider sections of passage to park the trays on the way up, but the technique was a bit of a pain with the passage in the state it is in (we would need to remove the retro-spoil from the alcove and from the space before the second drop). Still, we learned something and got some spoil out.

On the next go in, Pete had a go at the digface while I dragged. We took fewer trays in this time (4) which seemed to work better and Pete made some steady progress (on his first digging trip). I suggested that he try to make some forward progress to try to see what lay ahead of us. He managed to dig to the boulders ahead of us but we could not see beyond. It seems like there are some small boulders ahead just before a small drop in the roof. I imagine that whatever stream was in Grolsch all those years ago got these boulders caught against the roof lowering. I imagine that we will be able to dig these boulders out (by digging deeper in the passage) and then will find even more improved airspace ahead (this seems to be the general rule). Even dragging 4 trays up Grolsch was a little trying (it is probably best for one person to continually shuttle two trays), but we made it.

We were fairly knackered by the time we got back to Severn Beach. We tried to tidy the new spoil heap up a bit and had something to eat and drink before setting off out again. Going out went really well. I thought we would have been pretty slow due to fatigue (this would be my fourth traversal of Southern Stream Passage in the weekend), but we absolutely shot out in 2h18m. As per usual it was good to be out and we enjoyed the comparative luxury of Whitewalls before the drive back to Bristol (arriving at about midnight).

Altogether this was a good burly weekend. One thing I take away from this is that doing two long trips down to the end of Priory Road in a weekend is feasible (camping would cut down the caving time and increase the digging time, but staying at Whitewalls works too).

Martin Beale, Bristol, January 2005

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