Monday, 30 April 2012

The Grind Circle

28th April

A couple of months ago Emma and Tom, plumbing new depths of squalour, discovered over 100m of new passage in a slightly obscure part of Link Pot known as 'The Grind'. The new stuff connected with Easy Street, below the Serendipity pitches. Thus a new round trip was born: down Serendipity and back out through the Grind. Kathryn and I joined them to help with the surveying and to complete the first ever 'Grind Circle', no doubt destined to become a modern classic for the perverse caver.

The first part of the trip was familiar ground for me, as we made our way down Link Pot, through various easy crawls and down Serendipity to the start of Easy Street; I'd been there only a couple of months previously. After pleasant walking for a few bends down the streamway, Emma and Tom located the point where their new passage connected, several metres up the wall, completely out of view from the stream. It was easy to see how nobody had ever seen this passage, and makes you wonder how many other open passages exist so close to the beaten track.

The obscure climb led into a crawling sized passage. We followed this past a couple of short side passages (one of which we surveyed) until it degenerated into unremitting awkwardness. This was the section that needed to be surveyed, but it was at this point that Tom found his clinometer was broken and unusable, so surveying was abandonned. The passage was now a narrow sinuous rift a bit over a metre high but narrow enough to necessitate facing sideways, with a little bedding plane section on top that was sometimes big enough to fit through. To get round the tight corners, various back-breaking and femur-snapping contortions were required and careful thought was required as to how high in the rift your body should be, because it wouldn't fit through at all levels. At this point my lamp cable kept snagging on the cave plunging me into darkness at the most inpopportune moments.

Towards the end of this section was a particularly snug double bend. This was the crux which Emma and Tom had originally struggled through to make their discovery (very gutsy!). I couldn't quite make out what was happening from the back, but after some rearranging of limbs they both seemed to have managed to squeeze through feet first, followed by Kathryn who seemed to fit through with infuriating ease, not even touching the sides! The limiting factor was my height, rather than my (not particularly notable) girth. Somewhat flustered, I took my helmet off and pressed my scalp into the ceiling with my feet sraping along the floor infront. Now my lamp decided to fall off my helmet completely, which didn't help my state of mind. Eventually, by scraping my head along the roof (which probably wouldn't have been necessary if I was a bit more 'elegant' and calm), I seemed to pop through the worst of it and could put my helmet back on.

The worst was certainly over, but now my helmet strap was so muddy that I couldn't clip it shut, so everytime I turned my head my helmet would fall off! Luckily, as well as mud, there were plenty of puddles around. Eventually we joined the Grind, which was initially a flat out crawl through muddy gravel, and therefore very pleasant in comparison with what we'd just done. Slowly the passage increased in size until, for the first time in an hour or two, we could stand up briefly. By now, having not done much caving in the past few months, I was totally knackered and my arms were cramping from all the crawling. So I was quite relieved when we arrived at the Wormway, and soon after at Echo Aven.

We prussiced up the pitch and were soon within tantalising sight of daylight. After popping back to Serendipity to derig, we emerged from Link Pot after 7 hours underground. The Grind Circle is now an established tourist trip!

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