Depth through Thought

supplement - "Length through Luck"


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Luck of the Draw?

It was an inauspicious start. Arriving at the Lamb and Fox to discover a note from Steve, saying that he'd reached a terminal-looking choke at the end of Out of the Blue, thus wiping out our last good lead. That's the luck of the draw, I suppose.

Plans were quickly rearranged: Charles, Nobby and I would go and look at Into the Black; the others would check out Grotto Passage and Dogleg Complex. In the event, after an hour Nobby and Olly hadn't arrived, and we could wait no longer.

Charles and I made rapid progress, taking slightly over two hours to reach MS&D. We finished the taping, and soon reached Hall of the One.

In Hall of the One, Charles spotted a fault running across the roof to an alcove high on the left wall. It looked blind, but Charles decided to climb up and check; I had less faith, and descended into Into the Black. No sooner had I reached the bottom, why a call came from above: "Big Passage!". I hastily returned.

Charles had found a three metre wide passage leading off at roof level. We followed our noses for 60m, past several large side passages, before reaching what seemed to be the main route, heading both north and south. Time to start surveying southwards.

The floors were covered with delicate mud formations and crystals. We tiptoed through, trying to minimize the damage. We passed many fine formations, and patches of snow, almost as if somebody had carried in the Snowball, and hurled it to the ground. After 200m, there seemed to be a choke, but it proved to be open. After 400m, the way seemed to be blocked by formations, but again we could get through, doing our best to avoid any damage. In places the walls and floor were covered with white, as if somebody had thrown a bucket of whitewash. After 600m, a chamber with three passages going off: two turned out to be potential digs, but the third continued. And continued.

After 950m, the passage suddenly changed character: cutting right, and lowering. Were we going to be robbed of the magic kilometre? It didn't look good. It looked even less good on the next leg, where Charles crawled on yielding the crowbar. It turned out not to be necessary, and the passage continued. A passage to the left opened out ... and immediately closed down. A few metres further ahead, another chamber opened out ... but again closed down. We'd now reached the kilometre mark, but we knew we couldn't leave it in this state: we either needed to finish it off, or leave it properly going. Round the next corner, a chamber; and yes--walking passage again.

We stopped surveying, and pushed on another 50m, to make sure it was going. It was, and the draught had picked up again. We stopped, looking down a straight section of passage. Ahead, there seemed to be a junction, but we decided to leave that for the next team.

We returned along the new passage, and surveyed the connection back into Hall of the One, before a leisurely trip out.

The passage seems to head roughly SSE for slightly over a kilometre; perhaps equally interesting is the passage heading in the opposite direction where we first started surveying: could it carry on over the top of Into the Black?
Gavin Lowe

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