Rowter Hole Extensions - Phil Wolstenholme

Saturday, 28 March, 2015

Present: Alastair Gott, Glyn Roberts, Miles Thornton, Phil Wolstenholme

A possible workday at Longcliffe had to be cancelled today due to the atrocious weather, and Glyn had said he and Miles were going to have a look at the new Rowter extensions, so Alastair and I decided to go along too - turned out I was the only one who'd been to this section before (once), and Miles and Alastair had never been to Rowter at all, so it was going to be an interesting one. The weather was the usual Rowter Farm fare of wind and horizontal drizzle, but not as freezing as last weekend, and we got to the shaft at a very lazy time, but it's the weekend and no-one fancied an early start. Dropping down the shaft was easy enough, and Alastair and Miles had a quick look around before we all descended Gin Shaft into the extensions.

It's amazing how a previous visit can sort out the psychological niggles for difficult tight stuff, and once you know you can do it, it's a lot easier to commit - especially in Foster's Faith, which is tight, sharp and definitely downwards! Even Bad Badger Choke wasn't so bad, though it's an unnerving place to be in, nevertheless. Once that was sorted, it was the joy of the pitches - all clean-washed and watery, with no mud in sight, and plenty of rebelays - great stuff. I hadn't got into the Ice Cream Trail on the previous visit due to time pressures and a lot of people above us to get out, so was determined to make a go of it this time - we all got our harnesses off except Alastair and dived into the tight rifty entrance. Alastair then got stuck, albeit temporarily. The passage involves a lot of sliding up and down, diagonally (and sometimes horizontally) in a varying-width slot, or occasionally a series of eyeholes - it's like a mini-version of Stemple Highway, a solution cavity on a mineral vein with very sharp scalloping in places, and lots of flowstone and calcite crystals.

When we got to the section with the electron ladder hanging mid-rift, Alastair decided not to go any further, and so we were down to three. The passage immediately got larger and involved more climbing, and was proving to be far more fun than I'd been expecting - more interesting than frightening. Eventually we got to the final vertical squeeze that drops down into the Wizard's Sleeve, and at this point Miles declared he didn't want to risk it, even with Glyn already through. We swapped places so I could have a look and a try, and it seemed pretty damn tight to me too - more for getting back out, as I know I could have got through this way. It's a bit like the Eyehole on the way to Moss Chamber, or maybe the Iron Maiden in Perryfoot - crawling upslope through a tight slot headfirst to somehow land on your hands in a cartwheel position below. There is a handline in place, and Glyn even demonstrated than he could get out again to try and reassure me, but I didn't fancy it this trip, and it was now getting on a bit, with a fairly long trip out, so we'll aim to finish that one next time. The echo beyond this point was very enticing, but I don't fancy getting stuck, and generally prefer to do these things in stages!

Ironically the trip back out was quite quick, taking no more than an hour from the far end of the Ice Cream Trail. We picked up Alastair at Decisions Decisions, who was having a look at the dig in the phreatic tube alcove and got cracking up the pitches, looking very nice with lots of headlights to illuminate all the sparkly wet rock - just like being in Yorkshire but without the massive drive up - lovely!