Depth through thought

OUCC News 5th June 2013

Volume 23, Number 5

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

Upper Flood 6th April 2013

Thomas Leung

Trip with Ben Cooper (MCG), Bill Chadwick (MCG), Peter Bennett (MCG).

First time I heard of the name "Upper Flood" was at Mendip CHECC 2012, I was very keen and wanted a trip to Neverland. The week before the trip, I decided to find a leader by sending an email to the secretary of MCG via their web page, and request a trip. I was lucky - I got a reply the following day saying that somebody could give me a trip. The leader was Ben Cooper, the person who surveyed 3.7 out of 4 km of the cave (I know this after I looked at the survey again after the trip) by going "flooding" once a month during every MCG member meeting. Knowing that I needed transportation, the MCG secretary was very helpful to sort the transportation for me, eventually being picked up by Ben on Friday night and stayed till Saturday.

Although with a bit of research, I noticed that the cave is wetter than I would expected just at the moment when three of the others were getting change in the changing room wearing all sorts of wet suits, thermal fleeces, etc., and I only had a flurry. In fact, the cave never gets flooded except the one around 1960s, before the dig of this cave started. I was lucky as it hadn't rained during the past 6 weeks and the water level was extremely low - the pool near the entrance was almost empty. Around 11:30, we started our trip. The first section (Upper Flood Passage) was engineered by miners, and mostly involves crawling until the Midnight Chamber. The next section was more crawling in a stream to avoid the straw formation above your head. We were going fast, given that the rest of the team has been caving and digging in Upper Flood for the last 10 years (12 times a year) and know where to put their feet in every section of the cave. We soon reached the "Lavatory Trap" which got its name by its shape - imagine a bidet big enough for you to step in and squeeze through the other side, partially filled with water. If you are small, with some luck, you won't get fully soaked.

After passed the Red Room with red flowstones and Golden Chamber with its impressive crystal shelf, the next challenge was the boulder choke. This has been recently "slightly engineered" - I was told it took a minimum of an hour to get through the 13 squeezes before engineering. Generally speaking, it was not tight, but the squeezes were awkward shapes. They are definitely designed for short cavers, and you need to do the squeeze precisely head first or feet first. Once the squeezes were passed, the rest was just walking with occasional boulder climbing in a nice stream way with formations. We eventually got to the Royal Icing Junction where the passage branched East, West and South.

While Ben and Peter were discussing what tools to bring in for the dig, Bill showed me the Hidden Passage with rows of stalactites hanging on one side of the wall. Four of us then moved on to the West part. It has two different levels - the Neverland (upper) and the West Passage (lower). We met another tourist group, Richard (MCG) +1, and they were planning to go into the first part of Neverland to see the "Pork Pie". I joined the group while others working in a dig called "Neverland 2". Two weeks before this trip, a tube called "Neverland 1" was engineered to connect the "West passage" and "Neverland", to avoid the crawl along superb formations at the first part of Neverland. We climbed the tube and emerged in the middle section of Neverland where the passage divided - Pork Pie passage on the left and the last section of Neverland via the curtain climb on the right. "Neverland 2" was engineered to avoid this curtain climb, as it is a 3m curtain along a 2 m stalagmite. After all of us took off our muddy oversuits and Richard cleaned some formations and the 3m curtain, we headed to the Pork Pie passage. The Pork Pie passage was extremely well decorated with flowstone, stalactites and stalagmites. The highlight of this passage is four stalagmites, each more than 2 metres high, standing next to each other on one side of the wall and the impressive, but also strange, pork pie formations (at least six of them) in a pool. We spent around 20 minutes to admire the formations.

After looking at the Pork Pies, Richard's group decided to head out.

While Ben was still working at "Neverland 2", I joined Peter and Bill and went to the second section of Neverland, as they need to check the ladder. It was a rare opportunity, as it involved climbing and walking on white formations. Fewer than 15 people have been to this part of the cave. The trip from the curtain climb to the Far chamber (the end of Neverland) involved a traverse on white flowstone, walking in a pool full of hexagonal crystals balls, crawling on mud formations, a duck, a 7 metre ladder climb, etc. We eventually got to Far Chamber - a 20 metre high aven. The way out of Neverland was chilly as my furry was soaking wet. We met Ben again in the West passage - he was hitting the calcite floor with a hammer for an hour and only successfully removed half of it. We made our way out of the cave in 2 hours. This trip was definitely more than I would expected, as it involved so much crawling and squeezes. However, it's well worth it for its formations.