SUNDAY 29TH AUGUST FAT FINGER
Fred Ratbag, Joe Bones and a guest appearance from his dad, Bones.
Despite high jinks the previous evening, with a good sing song courtesy of Fred Ratbag plus two much port and gin, we made it up to the hole for 11.30. Joe and Bones gallantly humped the two scaffold planks, whilst Fred and I managed new digging bucket and a short alloy ladder between us. We got the gear to the Snake Pit, and very soon had the long plank in place making the west side re-shoring now complete. We were lucky that the sumpy final dig was still not under water, and therefore dig able as there’s been no rain to speak of. We managed to pull out a few buckets of silty sand and Joe and Bones dug out a large rock. We ended a couple of feet further down – not a bad effort on the day.
After a Mars Bar and a sandwich break to replace energy for the climb out, we exited to find the Cass at the top. They’d kindly walked up with some juice and choc bars for us, so finishing off a productive and very pleasant trip. Fred brought out some rubbish and the hauling pulley for freeing off. Look forward to the next trip when we’ll hopefully do some overhead shoring replacement if we can get some up.
FAT FINGER SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 4TH
Still fine dry weather so back up the hill, this time with a much larger team. It was grand to be going off digging with Moley Sykes at Fat Finger, as he’d put so much effort into it back in the 90s – also because he’s such a bloody good digger/caver and lots of fun to boot.
Moley and Garth set off a good twenty minutes before Fred and I, mainly due to our high faff factor – actually mainly mine to be fair. Being the exceptionally good team players that they are, all the heavy gear went up with them:- 5m aluminium ladder, for a fixture on the first pitch instead of the electron, and 4 planks to replace some of the rotten ones overhead in Kerplunk where we’re currently digging – many thanks guys.
By the time Fred and I arrived, the ladder was in place and the electron removed ready to go back in the tackle store. The lads were long gone, as silence reigned. We heard a muffled “boom” coming from far below, so we reckoned the guys were already on the job. As it turned out, both Moley and Garth denied causing any such noise, so we guess it had to be another of the “mysterious” falling boulder booms heard more than once previously but not yet seen, and some way below the dig site. Chew on that guys!
We cracked on digging and hauling up the spoil with a 2-1 ratio pulley arrangement which makes it easier – many thanks Fred for stripping down, cleaning and freeing off the original main pulley.
The hauling and ditching team were keeping us all entertained with non stop banter and jovial craic, not to mention some very riske jokes including Scoff’s joke by numbers no. 47 & 58 (you probably know which ones they are) and have a bit to do with welding and a kangaroo – all helped the work to become more fun than a chore. By 3.30 we were tiring a little when one sad bastard mentioned a steam train would be going over Ribble Head Viaduct at five to four, and may get to see it if we called time now. The usual urine removing ensued of course, but four of us left anyway, leaving Jess and Will (who had somehow managed to get the H20 to briefly drain) who gallantly offered to do a few more buckets before leaving – good effort!
The plan for next time, is to dig out the low ratio crane on a tripod, see if it’s still serviceable and get it up the hill and installed over the Snake Pit. It’s make for much easier hauling and can be operated by only two if necessary. We’re also gonna to take up a large thick poly bag to use as a tank at the bottom of the Snake Pit to bale or pump the H20 in to give us chance to dig down and dirty – what can possibly go wrong?
We’ll also need to take up an 8′ long scaff pole, to be clamped across the two uprights at the top of the Snake Pit – more as a safety rail than anything else, as we’re rather exposed to the 20′ drop at the moment.
It was a real fat day out and reet good fun. I’m not a proper train spotter honest!
FAT FINGER TUESDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER
With Fred Ratbag and Garth. Dry weather still helping our adventure at Fat Finger. We dug out the crane from the digging store, plus an 8′ long scaff pole to install as planned. Also took up a bag full of scaff clips and thick gauge 70l poly bags to use as tanks to bail or pump into out of the dig site. We only need to site these 5′ away from the dig which should make lowering the water level quick and easy so as to be able to dive in and dig some crap out before it fills up again and we do it all again. These bags, if needed, can then be easily winched to the top of the pit and disposed of down the north side rift and filled up again if need be. We also turned up the bilge pump, in the digging store, which was still in good order so hopefully it will go up next time with more scaff poles if we can manage it.
I was wondering how we were gonna get the heavy crane (which is mounted on a 5′ scaff bar) up the hill, when Garth immediately said “I’ll carry it – no prob.” He did too! He sure lives up to his nickname. Fred grabbed the 8′ scaff pole, and I managed the mint humbugs and poly bags – you’d think that’ud be a fair handicap but they still had to wait for me!
We steadily got the gear down three pitches to the top of the Snake Pit, and spent a very useful hour getting the winch securely mounted to best advantage at the left hand end of the pit. (see picture). Fred and Garth’s engineering skills, learned at the feet of “bang master” Ged Benn, were mighty useful (as always) for this task, whilst yours truly played a more minor role in support.
With the 8′ safety rail now clamped in place we commenced the excavation, Fred and Garth doing all the craning, whilst I got the easy job of filling the bucket, down in Kerplunk on Somme. After three hours we’d shifted one hell of a lot of spoil. I was getting knackered so we called it a day. Fred and Garth went down to have a look at the result of our efforts, Garth living up to his name once again by wrestling out a rucksack sized boulder from the clinging “sucking” mud. We’d tried to move it earlier using the crane but couldn’t shift it. Good finish to another fun packed fat day.
But the day wasn’t finished! After a shower and some grub at the dump, we called at the Helwith to sample some very nice beer. We talked over the events of the day, made plans for the next trip and enjoyed some great craic plus lots of laughs as the mellowing effects of the alcohol, that we all seem to thrive on, took over. Back at the dump we partied on in the usual BPC style and rounded off with a good singalong to Fred’s expert guitar playing. Brillo!!
Next trip we should be able to crack on digging down after a spell replacing some of the rotten shoring. Fred’s planning to cap the big boulder, and if there’s enough of us we may be able to get a few more scaff poles up – it’s such a drudge carting them up that steep hill I know, but it means we’ll be able to continue down safely (fuck “the matchsticks and twigs”) There’s always a bit of unwelcome graft required in order to enhance the fun of the adventure (oh God that’s another new cliché)
FAT FINGER SUNDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER
There’s still been no rain which is of great benefit to us so far.
I’d somehow managed to knacker my back up getting the scaff poles out of store the day before so was mightily pissed off realising I wouldn’t even get up the hill. Poetic justice I hear you say but no it wasn’t due to the merriment and partying at the dump the previous evening – I could have handled that as the head was fine! The good news, however, was that a very strong team turned out to make the assault on Fat Finger, some even sampling the delights?? of this cracking cave for the first time. The combatants were:- Andy Young Farmer, Kidnapped Jack, Will and Jess, Moley Sykes, Garth and Sam, and Jo Newman and last but by no means least, Fred Ratbag who planned to cap the big boulder. A load of steel was laboriously carried up the hill – a good effort by all and will be an enormous help in the very near future. Andy Young Farmer also had the precious cargo of the new sweety box full of Mars Bars, humbugs etc. to contend with – they keep us going when the going gets tough.
It seemed a long day, away from the cut and thrust of the digging, but was pleased to see everyone back safe at the dump after a hard day on the hill and hopefully lots of fun. T’was great to get all the news, and hear the team had achieved much in the day – even if not all went to plan (it rarely does of course). Drill batteries turned out to be flat so Fred was disappointed not to be able to cap the boulder, but some very useful and timely replacement shoring work was carried out on the north side of the Snake Pit without anyone getting “bouldered”.
Whilst all this was going on, plenty of spoil was craned out and slung down the abandoned rift so making decent progress at the sharp end of things. The dig is still aqueous despite attempts to bucket out the H20 – surely a large polythene tank to bail into at the base of the Snake Pit should remove the necessity to winch water right out. Failing this the electric submersible pump in the digging store will have to be deployed with a 120′ of cable to the genni – that did work well at Klondyke. That’s the adult plan anyway – trouble is I’ve always been wary of adults they can spoil the adventure and make you late for tea (Bilbo Baggins Hobbit)
All in all a really good effort from a very strong team. Next time we’ll maybe try out the bailing and pumping idea into much bigger poly bag tanks to see if we can make progress safely down into the caverns which we know are immediately below where we are digging, as we’ve heard the booming of falling boulders. A fat day for the team is a fat day for me even though I was mightily wishing I was there.
Looking forward to the next trip planned for Diggers’ Dinner day. There’s also a trip planned down Brackers led by Russ which should suit the swingers!