Cambridge Underground 1981 pp 28-29


Julian Griffiths

The deterioration that sets in with old age became only too obvious when work started on the sump index early in 1981. Memory was at fault this time and though Julian had been down Hell Hole only two years previously, he couldn't remember a thing about the sumps down there. Summoning one of the other old fogies in the club, ie. Rob, the pair descended the pot to rekindle the failing memory banks. As suspected, the water from the downstream sump reappears a short distance on, before finally sinking down an impenetrable slot. Having ascertained this, Julian's thoughts immediately turned to beer. Unfortunately, Rob muttered something about wanting to have a good look around the place, so Julian was dispatched up an exceedingly muddy passage straight on from the pitch while Rob poked up a crawl on the right hand side of the passage, just past the start of the sump. Returning from the inevitable choke, Julian found Rob perched above an exceedingly small and muddy pool making encouraging noises about draughts. Here he made his first mistake by accepting Rob's invitation to "go and have a look at it". There was indeed a howling draught whipping through the narrow slot above the cesspit, and a tentative waggle with a welly revealed that the pasage opened up after about a metre. At this stage, he was ready to return the duck to its rightful owner with the profound comment that it probably goes, but the rightful owner would have nothing of it, and suggested a more determined look. Using his body as an improvised shovel, the overweight accountant gardened a body-sized tube through the mud and slime. Continued mutterings to the effect that he wasn't the accredited water expert fell on deaf ears, and a couple of minutes later a very muddy accountant found himself in a low crawl on the far side of an exceedingly tight and unpleasant duck. Exploration fever rose a touch above zero degrees Kelvin as the explorer crawled off up the passage, hotly followed by the other member of the team. Passing an aven on the right, a junction was met after 15m. Julian ploughed straight on while Rob pondered a narrow rift off to the right. Straight on soon divided and closed down. Meanwhile Rob had been amusing himself by pulling a couple of boulders out of the rift. By squeezing up the rift a very tight roof tube could be entered. Bemused as to how it could have happened, the chubby accountant once more found himself at the head of the party, pushing on through the diminutive tube. Ten stones of flab were soon bundled up in the rift beyond, and after it had pulled itself together, a crawl was followed for a further 15m to a slot in the floor and an estimated 10m pitch.

Talking to Lugger of the NCC in the pub that night revealed that someone had, in fact, pushed past the duck in a period of drought (this was obvious from the markings in the crawl before the rift), but we had heard no mention of a pitch. Surmising that past the tight roof tube was new ground, the dynamic duo returned the next day with some oddments of ladder. Optimistically, 15m of ladder was fed down the pitch. The slot soon widened to give a good hang close to one wall. 6m down a stream entered, and 9m further down, predictably, the ladder ended. Unfortunately, the shaft didn't, so the explorer scurried back up the pitch to fetch the last length of ladder. At the bottom of the pitch 30m of large phreatic passage rose to a choke while the water sank in an immature vadose passage. Feeling a little vulnerable at the bottom of a freehanging 18m pitch without a lifeline, this was not pushed for any distance, and the pair started out. On the way out they had a look at an inlet on the far side of the head of the pitch. This quickly ended at a large aven that needed aid to climb. The aven after the duck was also investigated. This is a 6m climb to a narrow squeeze through to a further aven. The second aven was not entered though, due to the tightness of the squeeze. No return has yet been made to tie up the few loose ends and survey the extensions.

The presumed resurgence for Hell Hole is in Trollers Gill about 500 metres away. Opposite Nape Well are three risings. The one in the stream bed is clearly only fed by sinks further up the beck, as it doesn't flow in dry weather though water is still sinking in caves on top. The water from Hell Hole probably emerges at one or both of the other two risings which are only about 50 metres apart. On one of the trips down the pot, a quantity of fluorescein was put in the stream that flows down the first pitch. This had not appeared at the rising after six hours, in spite of heavy rain which had dramatically increased the flow at the resurgences. The present end of the cave is hardly any nearer Trollers Gill than the entrance, and it seems likely that most of the rest of the distance is sumped. One interesting thing is that the cave has to cross a very prominent mineral vein (which is still being mined), on its route to the resurgences.

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