The Upstream Sump by Steve Woods

Fossil for me started with a number of tourist trips followed a few years later with considerable fun via several club projects. The first finding Chris C demonstrating what happens when you attempt to drill out a hole where all the caps haven’t done their business. The next finding Joe demonstrating Fossil’s uncanny ability to ruin kit. The third finding me and Hucky escaping as fast as we could up the entrance pitch having discovered we hadn’t left enough time following widening efforts conducted by our much missed master cave widener Chris S.

Fast forward several years and chatting with Fossil originals Woody, Richard plus Hucky left me with a list of projects they left as unfinished business. Foremost of these was the upstream sump. Hucky and the gang had first entered the main streamway only to have their dreams of Grassington Moor glory brought to a sudden halt by a sump. A considerable amount of trenching allowed them to get beyond and enter a large heavily faulted chamber, the site of several considerable collapses which in turn hold back a second sump. Only one attempted dive had been made with Hucky reaching an impassable choke after 30 feet. Over a brew and some of Barbara’s cake Hucky convinced me droping the sump would be a minor task. One block he explained was all it would take.

A recce with Adele indicated the obstacle had been busy gathering a considerable large army of previously unnoticed friends. Several trips were clearly ahead of us and with Mick and others helping sorting out longer term easier access to the dig site these were to be made a whole lot easier.

At the dig we began trenching backwards from the sump, a task made difficult by the combined efforts of the large number of addition friends of Hucky’s block’s friend submerged in large quantities of the glue like properties of the wet version of Fossil’s famous mud. With an upgraded F1 capping set courtesy of Andy Chapman and the assistance of yet more recruits Hucky’s friend’s friends gradually gave up their resistance and settled into their new home. A discernible trench started to take shape.

Inch by inch the sump began to drop but with it my impatience increased. Weekly trips with alternating help became twice weekly visits for me as I began regular caping solo visits. Most memorable was a promised capping trip to myself and a radio locating trip to Chris C. My body weight in bags significantly increased my familiarity with Fossil’s sequence of obstacles. With these solo trips my appreciation of the stunning features of the cave increased too.

More than a year since I originally took up Hucky’s challenge work still continues. Despite his initial assurances a break through is still quite a way off. Return visits have also led to my list of other prospects becoming more of a focus too.

Many folks have helped and I remain ever grateful when they can take time off to help at this or the new site. Whilst both shared or solo visits have become less frequent they remain no less of a treat. Above or below ground. Day or night time. Trips up to the moor and to Fossil remain something quite special.

Pics  by Steve Woods.