15/10/17 - We met Sam at Yonderman's and after breakfast headed over to Bradwell Moor where we were just in time to intercept Matt, who was driving the wrong way down the track and appeared to be doing a runner in his Hovis van. After turning him around, we parked up and started getting sorted and awaited Eddy's perfectly timed arrival - slowly heading towards us through the mist, accompanied by the Sicario soundtrack which was blaring full volume from Rob's van. (For future reference, this makes perfect pre-Titan music and we should probably invest in a waterproof soundsystem and have it playing on a loop at the rebelay just to really shit everyone up).

Rob and I set off down from the window first and got a headstart through the choke. We were heading straight up RotV again whilst the others were doing the round trip up Calcite Aven and would hopefully meet us somewhere along the TPV bedding. RotV was great with no bags to carry and we quickly collected the gear we'd left yesterday and made our way up the 3 short pitches to the head of Vortex III. We swung a right here and crawled through the thick clay and stopped in the roof tube between Balccombe's Way Aven and Vortex I. 

It wasn’t clear if Vortex I had ever been fully descended. John Cordingley went down to the bottom of the initial ramp back in his exploratory days via Far Sump, deduced it connected to Balcombe’s way and understandably decided to use their hard-fought time exploring elsewhere. His 2 rusty spits at the top of the ramp are still there, but we decided to rig further along, as it looked like it might be possible to get a straight hang right the way down and hopefully use as few bolts as possible.

It was rather precarious leaning out over the shaft trying to get some decent anchors in and behind the angry growl of the drill we made out the chatter of Team Sampson merrily making their way up Vortex II. Now back together, I started down the pitch and unfortunately landed at the bottom of the ramp. Oh well, so much for that clean free-hang. Just up to the left, looking down the remainder of the pitch, you can see where JC had begun star-drilling a rebelay before thinking better of it. There’s a hole about 5mm deep, still surrounded by dust and it looks like it could’ve been done yesterday. Sorting out a rebelay, I continued on down -  pretty convinced we wouldn’t have enough rope but fortunately landed with a metre or so to spare back on the floor of Balcombe’s Way (if Balcombe’s Way actually does have a ‘floor’ as it very much seems to be boulders suspended above a big drop for most of its length). 

I didn’t really have a good look around on the way down, leaving that to the others, and Rob spotted a hole at the west end of the shaft which will require a bit of swinging over to check out. The chances are it’ll just connect to BW again, but it’ll be worth having a look. After Rob, Sam came down and celebrated a historic Sam-first of being the first ever Sam to descend the shaft - ever.  Ed and Matt soon followed, and we dividied up the kit and headed off down RotV. We left the rope insitu, as we’ll be back to check out the hole, and having since realised that rigging Vortex 1 has made the crawl in TPV heading towards Donatella’s far easier/quicker to get to, we might as well have a proper crack at that whilst we’re at it.

A quick detour to Salmon’s Cavern to peer up the aven in the roof and then we made our steady way out. Ed and Sam stopped to have a chat and a small picnic part way through the choke, so Rob and Matt headed out first and I waited for the two old ladies to finish their hampers so I could de-rig. It all went pretty smoothly, apart from Ed’s swearing finger cramping up when putting his harness back on it. It clamped rock solid against his palm and after a couple of minutes of massaging, the only thing to do was to prise it back open – only for it to then clamp shut again. A bit more massaging and a bit of brute force, it stayed open the 2nd time and he warily started on up the rope – understandably concerned that if it happened partway up the pitch, he’d be in a bit of trouble. Luckily, his body behaved itself and after Sam engaged the brute power of the Barrel and single-handedly hauled 195m of rope out the entrance shaft, we made it out around 5.

Another good trip and a few more things to go back for. (Rob, Ed, Sam, Matt, Mike)