Volume 37 Number 3 Article 4
A little bit on the side (of Wilf Taylor's)
"I've never been surveying." I don't think Robert realised what sweet words these were to my ears. Most of the club knows not to even ask what I'm doing in the hope that I'll ignore them as I try to get this survey thing completed.
"Wilf Taylor's 2 needs doing and it's a nice trip to the Main Drain." "OK!" "Great, hooked another sucker" I thought to myself. I'd been down Wilf Taylor's Passage twice in the hope of finding this passage in the past. The top end was easy, it's on the first corner down from Cross Passage up on a ledge but doesn't go very far before a duck and then two sumps block the way for mortal surveyors.
This time was different, I'd consulted the "Oracles' of Andy (the wise) Hall and Hugh (the omnipotent) St. Lawrence, so I had all the information to get good and lost.
We set out from the bottom of Lancaster Hole with me giving the full tourist trip, "On the left is, on the right leads to," etc. etc. I've had quite a lot of practice at this sort of thing and modestly think I'm quite good at it, even if White Scar Caves Ltd. disagree.
After the first rope climb down to the chamber and pool of Double Decker, (which is 14 m wide H.St.L!), I started searching the shale bed for the elusive way back upstream. The passage was eventually found by squeezing through a bedding above a 10 m drop into a standing up area in a thin rift passage.
Being a virgin surveyor I let Robert take the lead with the tape, having explained where I wanted the stations, standing or sitting but definitely not lying in water. The first obstacle was the climb up slimy mud to a higher level. From here we could see the passage was not going to be of "stomping" dimensions, it was also not going to have long legs as we could see the first bend in the passage, a dog-leg just enough to stop long sighting. Worst of all it was only 1 m high, sideways thrutching and worse still, WET! I hate WET. Robert was none too happy at the prospect either so we were pleased that after thirteen legs, unlucky for some, we reached a point where it appeared that submersion seemed the only way to proceed.
"Well that'll do for me," I pronounced, after Robert had assured me that even he couldn't get through without getting totally soaked. I think he was glad how quickly I concurred with his assessment of the situation. The passage I could just see past him looked to have a lowering roof to a small space above the water, so we headed back out. All the pools had a film of crystal forming on the top so the passage had not flooded for a while but the sump-like feel to it and lack of draught meant that my fag and the steam from us soon filled the passage with fog.
Re-grouping at the bottom of the flake climb I noticed a small passage on the first bend downstream so off we went exploring, hoping to find Jim Newton and Andy Hall's illusive passage to the Main Drain. After several turns in the crawl, a downward slide followed before it proved too tight without digging, so that wasn't it, but where was it? Heading for the Main Drain I looked in the roof all the way and still missed the passage, so they'll have to survey it themselves, you should do that anyway with passage you find!
At the bottom of the Fall Pot choke I was alarmed to find I had to climb up to get established in the choke. That's the last time I'm going through there as it really looks very dangerous and one wrong move could destabilise the whole lot.
When we got back to the farm I had to admit to Robert that surveying isn't always that unpleasant, but for this end of the survey only the nasty bits are left and nobody wants to do those bits.
From the data we had obtained plus the bit we already had for the top of the passage and Hugh's original survey of the same passage, (pity he didn't keep the original data), I should be able to piece the passage together. It does, however, look as if the pools may enlarge after heavy flooding as the wet bit we found appeared before it should have according to Hugh's survey.
Robert might, just might, go surveying again but I doubt if it'll be with me. Little was he to know but worse was to come as he admitted to never having been digging either, to a certain Pete Hall, and finished up in Ireby for an epic wet and cold digging session. So maybe he will come surveying with me again, especially if a trip with Pete is his only other option.
Ray Duffy & Robert Kenning