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Hanging Chamber - Again

by "Kangy"

The esteemed Alfie Collins could never understand a lack of articles.  He reckoned that if one could be written then that formed the basis for three:

1) "St. Cuthbert’s - A trip into a Supersystem"

2) "St. Cuthbert’s – revisited";

3) "Caves I have known – St. Cuthbert’s".

This may be my second comment on Hanging Chamber.  I cannot remember my first.  It was probably something like, "Coo! Lummy! Gosh!" or maybe we had simply had too much beer - that at least cannot have changed.

Hanging Chamber has changed; at least, it has in the imagination.  When we first violated it with a maypole it seemed vast and mysterious. It was always a damp and chilly trip, time consuming and difficult.  We persevered because it seemed the best hope to extend the Maypole Series.  Always, away up in the darkness beyond our acetylene flames, were the dim promises of high holes to climb into and, seemingly, a huge aven poised so high and so far above that we, with our limited resources, were content just to dream about it.  This is the stuff of Romance!

Jonathan and I were at the Belfry early in the year waiting to take some Boy Scouts or Wessex or something on a tourist trip.  They did not turn up.  With a low profile we hurriedly took the opportunity to join Bassett and Jane.  They intended to recover the gear from the oxbow passage which had been climbed into from Hanging Chamber.  Intriguingly this was that "inaccessible aven" which had haunted my imagination for years.  By all accounts it was an opening which formed a high level loop back into Maypole Series.  Yet another oxbow to tick off from possible extensions to St. Cuthbert’s.   We eagerly seized the chance to see the area again.  I hope to read about it too! (see previous B.B., Ed.)

The huge canyon which is the start to Maypole has retained its impressive character and the same draughty dampness.  From the bottom of Maypole Pitch the dark wall climbs in two large steps to the curved lip of Hanging Chamber about sixty feet above.  Previously we had left a wire hanging off a bolt for use as a pulley. This had been replaced by a wire ladder which we climbed easily to Hanging Chamber.

By the excellent light given by my Nife Cell the wall looked free climbable.  I enjoyed taking my time and looking around.  Everything looked amazingly near.  Graham got on with the job of Prusikking, Jumarring, Clogging, Gibbing, or whatever it is, up the hanging access rope and rapidly climbed the thirty feet to the hole.  This was our mysterious hole, now easily seen in the sum of four powerful electrics. Its position was now seen to be vertically above the landing ledge of Hanging Chamber.  Certainly it was too far to maypole but it is much nearer than we had thought.  Just opposite was the "ledge" where Pete Hiller and Fred Davies had hung off slings managing the bottom of the maypole.  It was scarcely a ledge, more a mud slide and tremendously exposed. Bloody optimists, I thought.

Snug in my furry suit, enjoying the well lit spectacle, I suddenly remembered how it was when Fred Davies and I stood looking for a way on.  Two skinny, shivering blokes in wet, floppy, muddy boiler suits, peering short-sightedly into the gloom cast by fitful acetylene flames.  We could not see the "aven" from the landing of Hanging Chamber and from the next level up it seemed to be far away over the gut-gripping drop into Maypole Pitch.  To get where we had had meant exceeding the current technology of Maypoling. This had been a consequence of failing to free climb to Hanging Chamber.

I had managed to free climb to within 2 few feet of the lip but the crux quite put me off.  It was a long way up un-roped.  It was wet and I kept wondering what the hell I would do if a drip extinguished my light.

We were obliged to find a way to avoid this climb.  We succeeded by maypoling from the ledge opposite but, once in the chamber, we simply could not see any way of using one to get into the "aven", even if we could see it.  We speculated about hydrogen balloons and went home.

S.R.T. is neat and powerful and, with good, warm clothing has opened out a lot more cave.

The moral must be - keep up with progress!