Connecting Home Close with Wigmore Swallet – A personal account.
With Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Sam Batstone, Claire Cohen, Pete Hellier, et. al.
Went back to clear the debris from the rock engineering work carried out on 20th September (see previous entry for that date) to find that it had worked rather well. Cleared away the loose debris much of which fell through the slot into the space below. Eventually was left with a massive loose flake that was teetering above the way forward, it took a while to persuade the flake to move and it crashed down into the space beyond. A c.3m climb down into a small chamber with a boulder floor and stream flowing over a cascade, hence “Roaring Waters”.
Survey of the crawl along to the dig (Roaring Waters) by Nick Hawkes, et. al.
Upstream the stream has been explored, continuing as hands and knees crawling before becoming too low. Downstream the way on was constricted by a lowering roof to almost stream level but there appeared to be more space beyond where Nick said he could see “something blue”. Surprisingly the stream was flowing along vertical bedding comprising a large slab of limestone between marl and conglomerate.
A return was made to enlarge the constriction and on the subsequent trip after clearing the debris this had created the “something blue” was seen to be a diver’s reel that had been left at the furthest extent reached of an inlet explored from Young Bloods passage in Wigmore Swallet. Rather frustratingly the reel could not be reached yet and the further use of chemical persuasion was required. During this phase of exploration surveying work was being carried out by the rest of the team.
On the next trip set about clearing the debris from the bang, then a gravel bank was encountered and removed, the dive reel was reached and the connection into Wigmore was made. The rest of the team were busy surveying the upstream passage and when they returned we made the first trip from HCH into Wigmore and Young Bloods passage, the first non-diver’s to see it and it was good! Progress was somewhat thwarted by rotten ladders and some dodgy hangers, there was some re-rigging required and that would have to be a job for another day.
The following trip was to carry out more surveying work and some gardening work to make the connection a little more comfortable. The connection passage is wet and low in places with a couple of squeezes thrown in, there is some easier passage as well.
The team returned to Young Bloods armed with drill and hangers, ladders and ropes ready to attempt the climb up into the Generation Game and the link to Vindication Streamway.
The climb up into Generation Game was not pleasant. I climbed onto a large slab of rock wedged diagonally across the passage, held up by not very much. Everything was coated in thick mud and it was all rather committing. I attached a ladder to a jammer and pushed it up as far as I could reach and using the ladder I completed the climb, I was mighty relieved to make it. I then re-hung the ladder on one of the better but still dodgy hangers for Paul to climb up and we then set about installing new stainless steel hangers and a new rope. We were then joined by the rest of the team and we all went through the Generation Game to the climb down into Vindication Streamway. While Paul and I put in some more hangers Nick went back to retrieve the ladder from the climb up from Young Bloods so that we could access the stream below. Vindication is a fine streamway of sizeable proportions and plenty of water and cascades including a deep section where a swim is possible if you feel so inclined. The trip ended at this point when another ladder was required to make the climb down Slime Rift. This section of stream passage is one of the finest on Mendip.
The following week we returned to complete the rigging, adding more hangers and stainless maillions, cutting away the old ropes and generally tidying up. While Paul and I were doing this Nick, Pete, Claire and Sam went ahead to tackle Slime Rift.
When we arrived at Slime Rift there was some confusion as Sam had seen Nick and Pete rig the ladder from a boulder only to find the ladder was no longer there. I climbed down the wet c.5m rift to enter a bigger rift where I could see the ladder had been hung down to re-enter the stream passage below, apparently Nick and Pete had returned to retrieve the ladder from it’s initial position. Paul joined me and new hangers were soon in place and we descended to the stream below. It was easier to use the ladder as a handline halfway down the rift and avoid the water. We met Nick and Pete on their way back from the end saying that more kit was needed as there were some slippery mud covered climbs ahead. Paul and I went to have a first tentative look at the boulder choke but didn’t really scrutinise it too much at this stage. That will be the next phase in this adventure – watch this space!
The connection from Home Close to Wigmore Swallet presented in Descent (No.274) as reported by Tony Audsley.