Updated 30th May, 26th September 2018; 18th May 2019; 19th September 2021
The entrance shaft has been covered by the farmer with concrete posts which should not be removed. (photos here) A route under the lintels on the north side has been opened up and "gated" and a large boulder perched in the shaft removed (April 2019). The entrance protection can be removed and replaced with a bolt spanner. The entrance field often has a feeding cattle herd, including a bull.
|T A C K L E R E Q U I R E D|
|Ant, Man, Bee||50m rope and 7 hangers|
|The Lift Shaft: Going Down!||95m rope and 5 hangers (traverse backed up to stal pillar in alcove).|
|The Service Elevator||65m rope, 5 hangers, 1 long sling and 1 short sling.|
|Entry to Haberdashery Dept||
|Haberdashery Pitch||15m rope, 4 hangers and 1 sling.|
|Entry to His & Hers||1 sling and 4 hangers|
A bolt, about 3m north of the entrance in some exposed limestone, can be used as a belay along with a sling on a concrete beam. The entrance pitch, Ant, Man, Bee, is broken into 3 distinct sections of 12m, 6m and 12m, with big ledges in between. A 50m rope will suffice for the whole pitch. The first section is broken by a rebelay a couple of metres down. Once at the first ledge, a bolt partway down the next section in the opposite wall provides a second rebelay. At the second ledge, there is a bolt above a small hole leading down to the final section of the pitch. A further bolt a couple of metres below provides a free hang down to the bottom of the entrance pitch.
Leading away from the bottom of the pitch is Snowball Passage, an almost dry streamway leading to the head of a short 5m pitch. To the right of the pitch is a small passage that eventually becomes too narrow. Just back from the pitch, on the left, is another passage that also becomes too small. Water appears at the top of the 5m pitch, which drops into a wider chamber below. An easy wriggle out of the back of this leads to a short 3m pitch down into a blind pot.
Back at the top of the 5m pitch, a traverse over the top is the main continuation. Up on the right here are some fine snowball-like formations. Continuing the traverse around to the left leads to a short crawl into a stal alcove, followed by a feet-first drop onto a traverse: The Neighbourhood of Infinity. The traverse is at the top of a high rift and the water from the bottom of Snowball Passage can be seen flowing 10m below. At the end of the traverse is an impressive black void and the head of an 80m free-hanging pitch: The Lift Shaft: Going Down! This pitch is rigged from a Y-hang high on the left wall and a 95m rope will suffice for both the traverse and the pitch.
A horizontal passage can be seen across the top of the shaft and this was entered at Easter 2019.
The 4-bolt traverse to the horizontal passage is an awkward rig, with loose ledges liable to fall down the 80m pitch. The passage is false floored and after about 5m there is a p25. This drops onto a solid rock wall between two shafts. A horizontal passage that goes off from here is 10m long to an aven. The drop is estimated to be 80m (4 second drop) but remains undescended and this Service Shaft extension is not surveyed. The drop may join back to Lift Shaft but seems to be deeper. A passage seen across the top of the new shaft has not been entered. Sketch from the logbook of this area. The 2018 survey has not been amended.
Further exploration was carried out here on 14/8/2021. (Sketch from the logbook.) At the limit of exploration, the upper passage splits into two, the left hand one appearing too tight and another bolt gives access to the right hand passage. The route ahead chokes but the larger passage, 4m above, is an aven chamber with a sloping moon milk floor. (The passage above requires bolts and appeared too small. A re-descent of the "Col" pitch enabled a proper look at a "big walking passage" (seen 2 years ago) that now appeared to be "nothing more than an alcove". The"other shaft" has yet to be descended. "Despite it being 99% going to drop into the same place as the other shaft (Lift Shaft: Going Down! ), there may be ways off." [Alex Ritchie]
The section above has not been surveyed.
The Lift Shaft: Going Down! descends in fine style, and bells out impressively about 10m down, where the Snowball Passage water enters. Abseiling past this point reveals that Snowball Passage is completely suspended in the corner of a much bigger development: the floor and one side of the incoming passage consist of layers of bedrock no thicker than half-a-metre! Below the Snowball Passage ledge are several unentered passages and features. These will require some acrobatic manoeuvres to gain entry.
At around 40m down is a very large development level, The Haberdashery Dept., which can be seen to extend in two different directions in 5m wide passages. The Haberdashery Dept. (survey batch 18-03) can be entered by swinging in and lassoing one of several stals. Two bolts in the ceiling can be used to abseil back out into the main shaft where a further two bolts 43m below the Lift Shaft pitch head can be used as an a further rebelay. Subsequent cavers enter The Haberdashery Dept. by abseiling down to the y-hang at -43m, then passing the re-belay upwards to prussik up to the bolts in the ceiling of The Haberdashery Dept. Some thought needs to be given to de-rigging this, because simply reversing the rigging process may be 'exciting'! The safest way will probably be to rig a pull-thru from hangers in the ceiling bolts.
Once safely in The Haberdashery Dept., the right-hand branch is unentered and will require a traverse rigging to gain access to what is suspected to be a further pitch down to His & Hers (see below). However, the higher Haberdashery level may continue in its own right. The main Haberdashery level continues as a 10m traverse in a wide passage to the head of a 5m pitch down into a large aven chamber, estimated to be about 50m high. A climb up the opposite wall from the pitch has been pushed, but did not go very far. The main continuation is a crawl under the right wall from the bottom of the pitch head. This leads into a very wide, stooping-height bedding: Soft Furnishings. Various possible ways on close down here, but a passage taking the draught was dug through into a flat-out continuation - The Smithsonian Institute Blues (aka The Big Dig) - to where ten minutes work with a trowel should be enough to break through. This passage is draughting strongly.
Back in the main shaft, 20m further down is another big development level, His & Hers. (Batch 18-02, stations 18-02.2.1 and 18-02.2.2 are at the entry point, but the series has yet to be fully surveyed.) This can be entered in a similar fashion to The Haberdashery Dept., but much more easily. Once again there is a bolt and a natural belay in the passage which can be used to put in a re-belay lower down in the main shaft. His & Hers drops down to a rift passage with a further, undescended, pitch below. A traverse along the top of the rift to the right requires some protection to proceed. An original explorer got part way along this and thinks that it probably does not continue at the end. Left at the top of the pitch leads to a climb down to a passage that reaches the bottom of an unclimbed pitch up into a "house-sized" passage 10m above. This may be the bottom of the right hand branch of The Haberdashery Dept., but this is far from certain.
Once more back at the Lift Shaft, the main 80m descent ends at a large chamber, I'm Free! Several possible pitches exit this chamber, all suspected to join up. The main continuation is to the right, opposite the rope, and descends a 50m pitch– The Service Elevator – broken by a large ledge 15m down. This is rigged from a natural belay with a deviation a few metres down, followed by a 35m free hang from a Y-hang in the opposite wall to the ledge. Ten metres down from the ledge is a large, unentered passage. The Service Elevator can be rigged with one 65m rope. At the bottom of The Service Elevator is some impressive flowstone and a small passage leading to a much larger chamber: Ladies' Wear. The water exits via an unpushed, flat-out crawl in the floor. Ladies' Wear is the base of a high aven. A passage – possibly the unentered one seen from The Service Elevator– is visible above. At the back of the chamber, a degenerating crawl leads to an uninviting, draughtless dig.
(Tackle list and passage descriptions for batches 18-01, 18-02 and 18-03: James Carlisle)
A trip in August 2019, photographed the main pitch but didn't push any leads.
References: anon., 2018b (Easter logbook); anon., 2018c (summer logbook); anon., 2019b (Easter logbook)
Entrance pictures : March 2018 : SouthVega-east panorama dated 180212 (requires PanGazer app)
entrance blocked with concrete posts, August 2018
Opening up and securing the entrance, April 2019 : August 2019 : summer 2021
Underground pictures : March 2018 : April 2019 : The Lift Shaft: Going down! and others, August 2019 : summer 2021
Video : Entrance, March 2018 (YouTube) : Base of p80 up to ledge (YouTube)
Detailed survey : Easter 2018 : slightly amended after summer 2021 : sketch from August 2021
Line Survey :
On area survey :
Survex file : April 2018 : South Vega System surveys (after Easter 2018)