Hallowe'en Rift, Mendip Hills

Excursions [and other notes] involved in the exploration of Hallowe'en Rift; a cave, so far, formed within Triassic Dolomitic Conglomerate.

The exploration of Hallowe'en Rift was started in 1982 by Trevor Hughes with other members of the Bristol Exploration Club, then during the early 1990's Vince Simmonds and other, mostly, local diggers were active at a number of locations within the cave, including the start of the present dig with Graham Johnson in December 1991. The current phase of exploration was commenced in 2009, with the majority of the early work being carried out by Vince Simmonds and Alex Gee, now the regular team includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Matt Tuck, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock, Roz Simmonds, Duncan Price and Mike Moxon. There has been occasional help from others including Mike Willett, John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Bob Smith, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, with regular guest appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasy.

4th August 2018

digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 05, 2018 08:29:32

An unexpected development!

With Jonathon, Duncan, Tav, Brockers and Alex.

The first task of the day was to set-up a drag tray to make the digging in the low bedding a bit easier. That done, I went into the bedding and filled the skip, Jon then hauled the full skip back to the rift chamber and bagged the contents, the bags then sent on their way to be stashed in the entrance. The spoil mostly comprised variable sized lumps and slabs of degraded and fractured calcite flowstone, occasionally some finer sediment. Progress along the low bedding was quite rapid and it wasn’t too long before I was able to gain access to the roomier chamber on the south-side (wrong direction). A quick scan of the chamber, some gardening to make it more comfortable, then, at the base of a marl-filled fissure a small gap was noticed, beyond which a mud-covered floor could be seen. “There has been an unexpected development” I called back to Jon, who followed me through into the chamber, later Duncan joined us. I pulled some rocks from the small gap and soon it was just big enough to wriggle through on my back kicking finer sediment ahead of me. I was gobsmacked by what I saw, a roomy chamber with some very fine formations, at the end, an opening to a continuation, the air was cool. Jon and Duncan followed me through, it was decided that we should get the others and Duncan went back to get them. While we were waiting the access-point was enlarged.

The team was soon assembled in the chamber, there was excitement, Jon led on through the window into the space beyond, taking care to avoid a rather fine, but vulnerable, stalactite. I followed Jon and was surprised to see him standing-up, “got a ladder” he said. He was standing on the edge of a rift c.15-20m deep. Everyone came through and it was an exhilarating experience after all these years. Tav tentatively descended the slope with Alex but they decided a handline was required and came back-up, Brockers went back to the sit-up chamber to get a rope. Meanwhile, I partly descended to the slope and dug my way into an annex chamber, a continuation of the main rift. I returned to find the handline was in place and climbed down to a jammed rock part way down the rift, from the boulder a clear drop to the floor below. It was decided that we should return with bolts and ladders so that a safe descent to the bottom could be made. A traverse across the rift and scan with a torch revealed what looks to be a continuation, but that will be confirmed later in the week. We exited the cave to clear the bags from the entrance, perhaps for the last time.

After the survey had been carried-out a couple of weeks ago, Tav had mentioned that we really needed to go north or go down – well the cave has done both of those. Just goes to show persistence pays off.

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