Volume 40 Number 2 Article 1
Two New Entrances to Ease Gill
Party: Ray Duffy, Sam Lieberman, Bill Sherrington, Hugh St.Lawrence
The club seems to be on a bit of a roll finding new entrances to the Ease Gill system. Last year we forced new passage above Hall of the Mountain King in Pip to connect with Peterson Pot. Now we've done it again, linking two 'orphan' caves to the main system in one evening!
OK, these entrances aren't exactly new - Swindon Hole and Corner Sink are well known but isolated fragments of cave which must be part of the Ease Gill network. But, up until now, the actual connections have eluded everyone. Frank Addis surveyed to the end of Swindon Hole back in the 70s and assumed a close connection to Upper Trident, and only a few years ago Jim Newton and Terry Regan dug in a rift above Splash Inlet but were thwarted, floods constantly undoing their hard work and refilling the rift with boulders.
Tuesday night, 15th April 2003. Enter the usual Tuesday Trident Team save for Bill Sherrington replacing Andy Whitney who'd gone climbing (you should have been there, Andy!!) The intention was to do some surveying near Cowyed Country in Upper Trident and have a dig near the bottom of Splash Inlet, but while weighing up the dig we found we'd lost Ray who turned up after half an hour's ferreting (I use the term loosely given Ray's nominal girth) above the rope climb. Sam and I had surveyed this passage a few months back, but in the wet conditions we'd been unable to reach Jim's mythical rift, although we had seen water crashing down in the bedding to the left. Today, bone dry, seemed like an ideal opportunity to try and locate it.
Ray and Sam opted to survey a few legs around Splash Inlet, so Bill and I headed for the scene of Ray's ferreting. Ten more minutes digging and we could squeeze into a 'chamberette' beneath a strongly draughting rift, the bedding extending all around us at floor level jammed full of cobbles. To be honest the rift looked way too narrow, 4-6 inches wide maybe, not very promising really. But by standing up in the rift (difficult because of an odd bridge across the chamberette) a squint along it suggested it just might possibly widen a bit at floor level. A few key boulders were levered out of the rift and then straightforward digging for an hour confirmed this suspicion. Spurred on by the sight of navigable passage, cobbles flew behind the digger and were neatly parked in the bedding by Bill.
Battery off and I was going for it, easily through into a widening with the boulder strewn rift rising ahead. This had a couple of awkward bits but nothing major, and then I was walking in 2-3ft wide, 15ft high passage, short lived unfortunately as it immediately choked with mega-cobbles (the 3ft diameter variety with which Trident aficionados will be familiar). However, looking up the rift an obvious passage could be seen at the top and some mildly awkward chimneying for 15ft soon reached it, open passage in a shale band. To one side a blind hollow, to the other a low pool and the third exit a short bedding crawl over blood red calcite to emerge in handsome walking passage!
I shouted back for Bill but was out of earshot, so I decided to press on and see what lay ahead. A small alcove chamber to the left was passed to reach a junction with two lower cobble crawls. I picked the bigger one with the draught and a small trickle of water and proceeded hands and knees up what was disconcertingly starting to feel like familiar territory. Another junction was soon reached and, leaving the obvious passage ahead, instinct made me dive right into a low gravelly area, under an arch and up into a clean washed tube. "Bugger!" I muttered to myself as I tore my suit on a flake, but turning to face the offending flake saw rather that I'd snagged a yellow survey tag! I was in Swindon Hole.
Returning to the breakthrough rift I found Bill still grappling with boulders in an effort to get in. These were easily removed from my side and the good (?) news passed back to Sam who went to get Ray who was back at Splash Inlet preparing to exit via County. The breakthrough 'squeeze' had been demolished in the meantime and Ray was soon passing me and heading out with Bill (not without a few wrong turnings!) while Sam and I decided to survey out while conditions were favourable. (Anyone who has seen Splash Inlet on a wet day can imagine what unfavourable is like!) We emerged to a warm, full moon night after an excellent trip, and celebrated at the Farm with some tinnies which someone had carelessly left lying around!
So, there it is. Maybe some 300m added to the Ease Gill survey length and two new entrances, Swindon Hole and Corner Sink. We haven't actually confirmed the Corner Sink connection, but current wisdom and survey data says Swindon and Corner are joined, so we'll claim the two entrances for now!
The new route requires no tackle whatsoever, though Swindon Hole's low crawls and the obvious floodability of the whole place will hardly make it a trade route. And more than likely the rift will choke up again when the rains return. In dry weather, however, it's a novel and direct route straight in to the top of Whiteline Chamber.
Hugh St. Lawrence