26/03/17 - Back for a flying Sunday trip to have a look at a few bits and bobs. It was just the two of us again for the full trip into FSE, but George and Ed had been lured over for a mini-trip down to the window and back out in time for one of their many prior Sampson social engagements (usually some kind of dinner party or singing competition, or singing dinner party).

The Mine Inspector and his driver came bouncing along the track just as we were kitting up, and after waiting for Ed to stop enviously admiring his uncle's glorious new caving suit, rambled across the fields and bobbed down the entrance shaft. Here we split up and Rob and I continued down to the bottom and through into AI Passage. We made steady progress through Stemple Highway and were soon getting a soaking up Calcite Aven and up into Fingernail Chamber, where we dumped our bags.

One of today’s aims was to have a good ferret around in the Total Perspective Vortex bedding, so we headed on up Vortex II and shedded our SRT kit. Wriggling through to the head of Vortex I, there’s 2 rusty spits at the top of the ramp, but whether these are John Cordingley's original spits, who went down as far as the edge of the ramp, deduced that it connected to Balcombe’s Way and came back up, or someone who's been down there since isn’t clear. So it probably is worth dropping down it at some point just to check if it actually has been fully descended and that there isn’t something lurking part way down.

Carefully crawling round the edge of the shaft finds you in a sizeable tube developed above the bedding which leads to a boulder strewn chamber and on to the head of Balcombe’s Way Aven. The bedding continues on the other side, and it’s here that the crawl which potentially links to Donatella's Aven heads off. It’s reasonably spacious at first, following a fracture in the floor but soon closes up to a flat-out crawl in the thick clay-like mud. It eventually becomes a helmet off job, and just before it looks like it opens up slightly beyond, the mud floor is covered by a layer of calcite and it pinches up just a little too much. If you could get a masonry chisel under the calcite at the start of the restriction it might come up reasonably easily, and there’s 'only' a metre or so that would need shifting. Maybe one for another time.

On the way back, we also spotted a few areas that might be worth another look. Namely a possible crawl off at the far end of Balcombe's Way Aven, and the possible continuation of the roof tube above Western Highway. Both areas really needed a rope and a few bolty bits to look at safely, so we left them for now.

That done, we headed on down to Balcombe's Way, had a quick look at the dig which leads to a small, tight rift/shaft, heading back down to Stemple Highway (which doesn’t look too inspiring) and headed to the RoTV. Rob led out across the traverse, after which I pulled back the rope and left him marooned on the pitch head. Our second aim for the day was to clear all the gunky krabs off RoTV and to leave the pitch and traverse semi-permanently rigged to allow for quicker access up into Balcombe’s Way and save us getting a soaking up Calcite Aven. So Rob headed down, rigging RoTV and removing the choss from the hangers with mole-grips as he went, whilst I had a minor meltdown trying to remember how to tie rethreaded alpines with 30m of muddy, wet rope directly into the traverse anchors. After a considerable amount of faffing on my part, I regrouped with Rob who’d come partway back up the pitch to keep warm, headed down and back through into Titan.

A quick game of “guess which hand the stone is in” decided who was to de-rig Titan (I lost) and after the usual battle, we enjoyed the feeling of making it back out into daylight thanks to the clocks having just changed. A good trip, with a few more places to possibly have a go at before repeating Moose’s scary-looking  traverse above Salmon’s Cavern. (Rob, Mike with a brief cameo from Shiny Suited Sampson Snr & an Envious Ed)