Exploring the downstream sumps in Wigmore Swallet (2)

1993 effectively saw the end of major diving efforts in Wigmore Swallet for a long time. (There had been one visit in 1999).   However, in 2007, new enthusiasms were awakened and new hands took up the tale. As in part one, the following account is extracted from the Somerset Sump Index and I am grateful to Duncan Price for his help with this.

Recent work, leading to the discovery of Young Bloods' Inlet.

18 August 2007    Diver: C A S Jewell.

First dive in the cave after two trips removing vintage diving gear and getting CJ's equipment in place. During these earlier trips F Crozier, B Blagden and R Beer were helpful. With cylinders already in place CJ and RB quickly reached the dive base. CJ dived through to Wigmore 4 to inspect the state of the line and assess general sump conditions. The state of the sumps was found to be good with visibility much better than expected.
CDG NL166:19 (2008)

9 September 2007    Divers: C A S Jewell, S L Gardiner.

The purpose of the trip was for CJ to pass the Rubic Sump (Sump 5) and become familiar with it, then continue to the start of sump 7. For SG it served as a familiarisation trip. SG dived to the beginning of sump 5 to support CJ through the Rubic Sump.
CDG NL166:19 (2008)

15 September 2007    Diver: C A S Jewell

CJ dived down stream passing through Sump 7, noticing an airbell at the beginning of the sump and continued to Vindication stream way. A bolt was placed at the head of Slime Rift to assist with ladder rigging in this location. The end was then reached and inspected for future potential, which looked better than CJ was expecting. The visibility down stream was excellent - ahead of the silt cloud - and after several hours beyond the sumps, good visibility was met toward the upstream end of Sump 7. From here out the vis was excellent.
CDG NL166:20 (2008)

7 October 2007    Diver: C A S Jewell

CJ wanted to dive to the previously noticed airbell at the beginning of Sump 7 and persuaded RLS and BL to sherpa kit and then wait for his return - assuring them he wouldn't be much more than an hour.

CJ dropped down the pot at the beginning of Sump 7 and after passing the arch rose up the silt bank to where the airbell had been seen previously. Here a silt screw was used to belay the main line so that the diver could line from here up to the surface. The silt cloud quickly overtook the diver whilst this was being set up. However as the line was laid out he escaped into clear water and reached the surface. A sizeable inlet was discovered here with a small stream entering the sump pool from the inlet. The line was tied off securely and kit deposited away from the water. The inlet was followed for approximately 100 m in a sizeable passage with a high ceiling in some places. At this point the stream was seen to issue from a small crawl and so the main dry continuation was followed for another 20 m to the foot of a climb which can probably be done with minimal equipment. Following the stream in the crawl yielded another 30 m of passage which terminated with a squeeze over gravel which can be dug. CJ returned to the supporting cavers after 1hr 25 min and they carried out all cylinders and equipment. The total new passage was estimated to be 150 m.
CDG NL166:20 (2008)

14 October 2007    Divers: C A S Jewell, S L Gardiner

Both divers carried a small tackle sack of equipment for the exploration beyond the sumps. SG dived first to take advantage of the good visibility and both divers reached the new extensions with ease.

Firstly, CJ and SG checked out a lead near the sump pool and found a sizable high level chamber with several possible ways on in the roof. These will need aid climbing to be reached. Next the rest of the extension was explored until the previously found climb was reached. After free climbing a short distance and using brighter lights CJ decided that the climb was in fact higher that previously thought and that the top section would require proper aiding equipment and a drill as it appears to be completely vertical with few holds. Therefore this has been left for the future.

Next CJ and SG continued exploration of the streamway crawl. SG dug first for about 15 minutes and made several attempts to fit through the squeeze over gravel without success. CJ continued to remove even more gravel and eventually passed the constriction, although without his helmet which resulted in knocking his head against the wall! SG followed with CJ's helmet and the divers explored approximately 50m of low wet crawl before digging was again required. This was left for the future as the survey was deemed more important. Surveying took approximately 1.5 hours and resulted in a 135 m long stretch of cave from the sump pool to the climb at the end of the passage, trending SE - rather than towards the current end of Wigmore. Parts of this passage are up to 15 m high in places and it is frequently 3-4 m wide - a vast difference to the rest of Wigmore. The crawl was not surveyed due to time constraints but this is estimated to be at least 70 m so the total passage ought to be more than 200 m.
CDG NL166:20 (2008)

15 December 2007   Divers: C A S Jewell, S Cornhill

The cave was wetter than expected - it seemed that the rain the previous weekend still hadn't run off - although the sumps were still reasonably clear and the visibility cleared faster with the higher flow.

As there were still two sets of cylinders at dive base, SC and CJ were able to head in carrying their own bags - two lots of regulators plus a bag with the drill (in a dry bag with a waterproof zip) and aid climbing equipment.

One of SC's cylinders blew an O-ring, so SC chose to go out and get a spare from the car whilst CJ loaded most of SC's gear into his bag and set off, reaching Young Bloods' Inlet just before 2 pm. CJ bolted a knotted handline to avoid squeezing through some dubious boulders and then stated to get kitted up, rack up the thru-bolts and inspect the aven. SC then arrived and belayed CJ for climbing. 20 m of progress was made and the aven was still going.
CDG NL167:5 (2008)

6 January 2008    Divers: C A S Jewell, J J Maneely

JM dived first but the weather conditions meant that he had no visibility anyway. Once in Young Bloods' some additional climbing gear was unloaded and the drill was checked. The crawl was examined, easily passing the previous constriction dug out by SG & CJ and on to the previous limit. Here the roof was very close to the water, making digging extremely difficult. CJ dug as much on his front as possible before trying to get through on his back, pushing gravel out of the way as he went.

5 m of progress was made to a sump pool which did not look promising with CJ lying in the water feeling the pool with his feet until he got cold. Surveying was extremely awkward in the wet crawl and completed as far as the point where CJ & SG had dug through.
CDG NL167:5 (2008)

2 February 2008    Divers: C A S Jewell, H Greaves, J J Maneely.

The objective was to continue climbing the aven. After a further 6 m of vertical climbing CJ reached the top and a flat roof. The only lead was an impossibly tight rift heading off south-east. CJ abseiled down so that JM could head up to check the height with a tape measure: 26 m in total. After cleaning the muddy gear the divers removed some of the kit, leaving the rest for some shorter climbs closer to the sump pool.
CDG NL167:6 (2008)

23 February 2008   Divers: C A S Jewell, J J Maneely, S L Gardiner.

Radiolocation exercise with Brian Prewer. On the way downstream CJ decided to make a few notes about the general trend and bearing of the passage and sump depths. The latter proved impossible after two divers passed ahead but above water CJ managed to record the general trend to be E, with occasional section heading SE or NE for short distances. Unfortunately these detailed notes did not survive the trip so most of this is from memory.

SG had entered the water first, taking the radiolocation kit. This survived the trip without flooding and when JM and CJ arrived he was already set up transmitting. CJ climbed back up the ropes in the aven to rig them as a pull-through so we could use them elsewhere, whilst leaving a thin string in their place in case anyone wanted to pull ropes back up in the future.

The radiolocation exercise was pretty efficient and we were quickly able to head off for the second objective: the undived sump. CJ carried kit up from the sump pool and wearing one bottle with the other in SG's bag we set off. CJ seemed to have underestimated the awkwardness of the crawl as we hadn't gone very far when it became apparent that it would be necessary to push his cylinder ahead through awkward passage. Here, protecting the valve and keeping it pressurised became very difficult, so we decided to retreat and come back better prepared for the awkward carry.

Back in the main passage, several hours were spent aid climbing in a sizable muddy chamber somewhere above the sump pool. This area looks interesting as there are several options here.

The surface radiolocation party consisted of Brian Prewer, Phil Hendy, John Riley and Charlotte Riley. Three large depressions lie near the surface marker so there may be a surface dig starting here in the future.
CDG NL167:6 (2008)

10 May 2008    Divers: C A S Jewell, D M Price

CJ and DMP dived to Wigmore 10 where DMP climbed up above the sump pool. CJ followed, and together they found a short section of passage. After a short distance the divers could hear a streamway and soon after were met a pitch and a rope hanging down. CJ instantly recognised this as part of an aven he'd been climbing in Young Bloods' Inlet. This means we have bypassed Sumps 7, 8 and 9. The new find was called the Generation Game as DP started cave diving before CJ was born.

The divers then headed to the end of the cave to inspect the terminal choke before returning to Young Bloods' Inlet and finishing the climb into The Generation Game in preparation for next time.
CDG NL 168:22 (2008)

7 June 2008    Divers: S L Gardiner, C A S Jewell, J J Maneely, D M Price.

All four divers headed to Young Bloods' inlet. Here a ladder was rigged in place of the rope up to The Generation Game and another ladder was dropped down the other side into Wigmore 10. This means no SRT kits are needed here. The team then headed to the end where a 'snapper' was used on a boulder blocking the way on. This appears to have been effective and DMP was able to progress past the blockage up to a body length. However the smoke produced made it impossible to see what was next. SG then took lots of photos of Vindication streamwav and the sumps leading to it including the 'Rubic sump' (Sump 5).
CDG NL 169:23 (2008)

26 July 2008    Diver: J J Maneely.

Progressed to Wigmore 10 with a weighted rocket tube (containing a Bosch hammer drill) via Young Bloods Inlet and over The Generation Game to downstream Sump 9.

The results of the last trip were investigated further this time and JM found a 5-6m high void within the choke, the upper parts being jammed solid with very large boulders. At lower level a boulder was dug and finally released from mud after about an hour. Progress now headed downwards to stream level with a short section of visible passage below. A too-tight route downwards was blocked by a pinch between boulders. This was opened up with the use of the drill and a snapper. On retuning the gap was now big enough to get down through but probably required a rope to get back up. With no rope available a bolt was placed in preparation for the next trip and the long exit started. 2 x 3ltr cylinders (DP's) were rescued from sump 1 on exiting. They had been washed there a few weeks previously in high water.
CDG NL 169:16 (2008)

22 August 2008    Divers: J J Maneely, D M Price.

To the dig at the downstream end of Wigmore 10. The rift found by JM on 26 July was rigged with a handline and descended to where it was blocked by a rock about 4 m down. By lying upside down in the dig JM was able to rotate this by 90 degrees and then place a bolt in it so it could be extracted. JM managed to get down to waist level in the continuing passage before it got too tight. There seems to be an enlargement below which the stream could be heard. Exiting the rift proved very difficult as expected, particularly for the second man once the walls were muddied. DP lost his weightbelt in the battle to escape Sump 5.
CDG NL 169:16 (2008)

30 August 2008    Divers: C A S Jewell, J J Maneely.

In the terminal choke JM placed his newly constructed metal foot holds into the bottom of the awkward pit and then began work on the dig by placing a 'snapper'. Unfortunately this didn't fire so CJ had to go and investigate. During this process it became evident that a bit of digging around the obstruction would remove the blockage and half an hour of cramped digging later - passing spoil by hand to JM - opened up the way on. CJ slid down the small hole into a tiny chamber where spoil from the dig had blocked the way and so he retreated to let JM have a play. After some furious digging a hole in the floor was opened up down which the sound of the stream could be heard enticingly. However one large finger of rock still blocked the way and it was left for CJ to see what could be done. Just before he was about to admit defeat the block shifted and CJ slid down between the boulders with an excited JM literally right behind.

The divers found themselves still amongst the boulders but down at stream level in an open section of the choke. The next target for digging was soon identified and JM drilled a shot hole, placed a snapper and we retreated to the safety of the far side of the choke. This time the snapper worked but the thick white smoke prevented us returning to see the results.
CDG NL 169:16 (2008)

18 October 2008    Divers: C A S Jewell and D M Price.

CASJ and DMP made a fast trip down to dive base and steady progress to the end of the cave. Here the previous blasting results were examined and the rubble cleared. After some discussions this direction (following the water) was abandoned in favour of going straight ahead. After a couple of hours digging another snapper was placed and the team retreated. The drill was left in a dry bag in Young Bloods' Inlet. DMP's weightbelt was recovered from Sump 5 and the pair made a leisurely exit.
CDG NL 171:16 (2009)

15 November 2008    Divers: D R Garman, C A S Jewell & D M Price.

The sump pool in Young Bloods Inlet was covered in 6" of foam and the stream smelt of slurry from spraying in the fields above. A bolt was installed and handline placed on the slippery mud slope up to Aven 2. Once at the end, the obstructing block had been broken up and was removed to allow view of a body-sized gap into the ongoing passage. This was still too tight to pass safely so two holes were drilled in the surrounding rock and snappers placed in these. A portion of Tony Jarratt's ashes were scattered in the final section of streamway and seen off with a bang.
CDG NL 171:16 (2009)

The Cotham Caving Group has been digging in Attborough Swallet and have encountered large passage before the cave closes down. The Attborough water has been proved to flow to upstream Wigmore but it is hoped there may be a fossil section of cave which veers away to hopefully enter Wigmore downstream of the present limit beyond Sump 9.

Part One

Created: Sat Mar 12 11:14:09 2011