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Last updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004 13:10

Two Diggers, One Dream

By Martin Beale 6 October 2004
Trays of spoil removed: 6
Team: Martin Beale, Royston Sellman
Progress: general mouseholing to gauge forward possibilities: pushed maybe 0.5m forward
Digging time: 1h30m
Total time: 6h04m
Time to the Beach: 2h01m
Time out: 2h20m
Prospects: there is about 1m of visible passage ahead with about a foot of airspace

This was our first attempt at a nightdigging trip. Our plan was to speedcave down to Grolsch and to dig for about an hour before speedcaving our way out. This is essentially what we did, although we actually spent about an hour and a half at the dig.

We travelled really light on the way into Grolsch: no bags, no cameras, just two cavers with one dream. We didn't really seem like we were going at an especially fast pace, but we did manage to break the hour barrier in SSP for the first time (54 minutes) and got to Grolsch in just over 2 hours (2h01m: we seemed to slow down a bit in Priory Road).

When we got to Severn Beach, Stone just lay flat down on the floor and looked like he wanted to sleep. Despite appearances, he was keen and suggested I go down and dig first. We kicked and manhandled three trays down there as well as a hoe. Stone was really impressed by the size of the passage we have dug and how spacious things seem to be down there (of course, we have actually done a lot of work to get to this stage, so I'm pretty impressed with what we've done too).

I started by having a go at Grolsch Left Hand. The digging here seemed to be OK and we seemed to be making a bit of progress. It is difficult to see what is ahead as there is little, if any, airspace.

We made a real dog's dinner about getting the three full trays out. I don't know exactly what went on, but we seemed to end up back in Severn Beach with three trays and a massive tangle of ropes. We stashed the spoil in the little remaining space in the spoil heap (after our digging efforts, the heap was totally full: we need to find a new stashing area - there will be one).

We seemed to have time for another three trays, so we went down again (with the intention of making a more professional job of dragging this time). This time, we had a dig at the main Grolsch passage. This was pretty interesting. I dug towards the "old stream" that we had seen last time. After the removal of a few boulders, there was a really interesting sight of an area of maybe 2ft by 1ft of fairly pristine muddy floor. This muddy floor somehow reminds me of some kind of silty lake deposit.

I then had a dig a little left of the stream. This was most interesting as when I removed a biggish boulder (with the aid of the hoe), there was a good view ahead of maybe a foot of airspace. It looked to me like this was almost crawlable. The issue is that the foot of airspace is a little lower than the base of the dig, so we will have to dig down a bit before we can enter this airspace. I certainly think that the airspace has generally been getting bigger with time in Grolsch (though we have the odd constriction due to boulder piles).

One thing that I found very interesting down there was that I could still feel the cold wafts of air and these wafts always seemed to be coming from the left side (even when I thought that I should be digging rightwards, I could feel the wafts on my left side: this seems to rule out wishful thinking as a reason to feel a draft).

We seemed to really mess up dragging the trays out again. Running a shuttle system should work, but we didn't seem to have the right locations for parking trays and swapping ropes sorted out. This has to be a tractable problem. Next time, Stone is going to have a go at digging and I'll drag. Hopefully, fresh thinking on the dragging issue will sort us out.

We left Severn Beach at 11:30pm: half an hour after we had intended. Naturally, it seemed like an eternity before we were out. We exited in 2h20m which wasn't actually that bad. We had a pre-placed stash of lager in the entrance and then walked back under the stars to the comforts of Whitewalls.

We showered and drank more lager before getting to bed at 3am. We were very good about getting up the next morning and were able to leave the hut at 7:15am, allowing us both to get to work in Bristol and Chippenham on time (it has to be said my intellectual capacity was somewhat reduced that day).

Was it all worth it? Yes I think it was. We have found that we can get to The Beach in 2 hours and less than 2 hours looks very feasible. We have seen that the passage ahead looks promising. On a tray per man hour basis, we were digging at a similar rate to the rate that we have always been digging at.

I am hoping that we'll be able to do more of these evening digging trips when we're both feeling up to it.

Martin Beale, Bristol, 10 October 2004

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