Alex Seaton, Arun Paul, Ben Honan, Jack Halliday, Jennifer R, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Rita Borg, Tanguy Racine
This weekend was a trip like no other. Instead of 15 ICCC cavers heading to the NPC for a weekend of caving and mild debauchery, ~17 clubs from across the UK came together for a weekend of hard drinking (and maybe some caving/training). For anyone that doesn’t know, CHECC (Council for Higher Education Caving Clubs) “is a national organisation set up to support and encourage caving amongst university students”. They basically organise weekends of training (amongst other things) throughout the year where all the clubs come together to learn new skills and get very drunk. They also have lots of competitions which gain clubs points throughout the weekend and the club with the most wins a bunch of caving stuff. I’d say this weekend was basically a festival for university caving clubs and it was pretty good fun. - Diss #TripleSec
First thing’s first – cake baking! After I had a very rushed morning finishing a lab report to an appalling standard, Jennifer (aka best fresher) made the trek from Woodward to Fulham and we made a cake for the baking competition. Ambitiously, we had decided to make it look like a caving helmet and so had some red food dye to add to the icing. Our first problem hit when the cake was about half the height we had hoped – the tin was too wide. No matter, a slightly pancake-esque helmet would do just fine. I quickly looked like a scene from a bloody horror movie when I started adding food dye to the icing. Half a bottle of dye, a lot of icing sugar inhalation and a couple of hours later and it was done. You’ll have to check out the photos to see how amazing it looked. There were comments like “It’s like a piece of chewing gum” and “is that mud on the top?” so you can tell it was of high calibre. A slightly awkward bus journey with an oversized cake tub to South Kensington and we were in the back of the van in good time.
The journey was long, but the tunes were good, and we made it to our home for the weekend (a poo-filled field occasionally scattered with snow) by ~12:30. We got the tents up in the cold and quickly added several layers of clothing before grabbing our alcohol and making our way to the vague warmth of the rave room and non-rave room that I don’t have a name for. A drinking game I assume is called Simmy Simmy was introduced to us by Arun and this lead to much table banging, shouting and alcohol consumption. Another game that I can only describe as “voop voop” was started by yellow T-Shirt guy (later to be called Patrick from an unknown caving club) and we were left with a very drunk Arun. Water was consumed, and he seemed ok. I can’t say I remember many specifics about the night, but we drank and chatted and there was some wrestling and attempts at table traverse. In bed by about 5 without feeling too ill.
The logistics of the CHECC weekend demanded that we find a cave to explore before dropping off the CHECC contigent at Dalesbridge in the small hours of Saturday morning: the plan was to agree on a suitable cave or caves in the minibus. Given the dire weather reports, and the extensive amount of rainfall in the week leading up to the weekend, as well as the expectations of the ACHECCers to do a reasonable trip ( I was certainly keen to push for a harder trip), we ended up formulating these plans. King Pot for Alex, Jack and I, and Vesper Pot for the rest of the cavers not tied up in a training session of some sort.
I was lucky enough to get the only bed allocated to ICCC! I tried to not be too obviously keen on not being outside in the probable rain or snow in my terrible festival tent… but I was deeply grateful for a warm, dry place to sleep. We even had a shower!
Once we arrived we unpacked and went to the main bit of CHECC, where there was a full on disco/rave and a lot of very drunk cavers in fancy dress. We’d arrived quite sober so we stood around awkwardly in a corner until someone intelligent came up with the idea of drinking games… We quickly made friends, learnt new games (Dave lost all of them) and I don’t really remember a whole lot of the night apart from being the last one to go to bed at like 5am after telling some poor SUSS member all about Linguistics for hours!
Vesper Pot: Arun Paul, Ben Honan, Jennifer R, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers
King Pot: Alex Seaton, Jack Halliday, Tanguy Racine
Awake at the usually fine but now ungodly hour of 9.30am to realise that Arun is in Peter’s sleeping bag with him. Neither of them are sure how this happened but it appears that Arun came in very late and, expecting his sleeping bag to be where Peter was lying, dived in and slept without a second thought. Not a bad idea really - it was bloody cold. We queued for a saddening amount of time for a cooked breakfast including hash browns which made me sort of want to vomit (not because it wasn’t at least vaguely tasty; I blame the alcohol) but this passed quickly, and I was ready to get on with the day.
Several of us were disorganised and hadn’t booked a spot on any of the training sessions so we were doomed to a day of caving instead. After talking Tanguy down from dragging us all to King Pot which is in Not for The Faint Hearted (stressing to him that this was Jennifer’s first ever SRT trip…), we headed to East Kingsdale. Five of us (Rhys, Ben, Arun, Jennifer, and I) were Vespers-bound whilst the remaining three lunatics (Tanguy, Alex and Mr Jack – the aCHECCxuals) went to King. The walk is horrible thanks to a stupidly steep hill but it’s not too long and it actually made me want to get in the cave. I’d been to Vespers before as one of my first few SRT trips during Winter Tour, so was keen to see what it was like from vaguely more experienced eyes. I also had a pantin with me for the first time so was pretty psyched for the ascent. Rhys was our designated rigger and the rest of us followed behind.
The entrance to the cave is a small hole that you insert yourself into and then there is a pretty awful, albeit short, section of tight passage with some crawling. It then opens out in a streamway where you can move to hands and knees. This eventually widens, and you can walk for a bit before it gets tight and climbing up and traversing seems to be the best move.
The first pitch is an interesting one, you end up in a rift above the pitch with no traverse line and so have to wedge yourself before rigging your descender onto the first section of rope. This actually looks like a traverse line because it goes around the corner and you don’t see how vertical the rope gets. It’s possible that this is the place I did a descent as a traverse on my first trip (it’s not too big a drop so it was fine) but I’m not sure. There’s quickly a rebelay and you’re out of the scary bits. I was in front of Jennifer so stayed behind after each pitch to make sure she was okay and knew the way on. Arun was behind (A Jennifer sandwich) and could help with all the technical bits. Nothing too terrifying happened on the way down and we had decided not to do the final pitch (because effort) so headed out, Arun and a flash first. Jennifer followed with another flash and posed on the pitch for Rhys to take some photos. It was getting pretty cold, so I was eager to get on the rope.
Pantins are great apart from when they get caught on tackle sack cords at the top of tight pitch heads and you get stuck in a precarious position for far too long, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Some more cave happened, and I was back in the lovely tight passage. I ended up lying on my back in a pool of water but whatever, I was getting warm anyway. This was an especially irritating section as I was just completely the wrong height to fit through standing, and going low didn’t work because there was a tight bend and I hadn’t really thought to try climbing higher. Instead I got steadily more annoyed at myself until Rhys arrived and provided moral support (I was very irritable at this point, sorry Rhys), after which I was through in a matter of minutes. I carried on, eventually meeting Jennifer and Arun sitting in the low passage we had agreed to wait at near the entrance. We waited for maybe ten rather cold uncomfortable minutes before Rhys appeared, along with the knowledge that Ben had dropped the rope down a pitch so was having to re-rig to fetch it. We moved onto tackle sacks to stay warm and huddled until Ben was done before heading out. The tight bits were strangely easier on the way back. As was the walk to the minibus in terms of tiring-ness, but much colder and more painful. I was slightly worried as we approached the road because I could see no minibus lights, suggesting the King group weren’t out yet. We had planned to meet back at 6pm (we were slightly late) because Tanguy was meant to be giving a talk at CHECC, so them not being back wasn’t great news. We changed and continued to worry but eventually saw three lights in the distance. Tanguy missed his talk but everyone was fine.
We made it back to CHECC as dinner was being served. The queue was horrific, so we decided to just sit and drink until it died down – this wasn’t until after 9, grumble grumble. Polystyrene trays filled with jacket potato and chilli was on the menu. What it didn’t have in taste they at least tried to make up for in quantity.
After the piles of food were at best partially consumed, we were ready for the real fun to begin – Caving games! First off was human traverse which Rhys and Arun did pretty darn quickly. We then moved to the squeeze machine – from ICCC Rita was out first, closely followed by Jennifer and I. Arun, with his non-existent hips and generally small build was there until the very end, coming in (I think) third place. Arun and I were also doing the pot and sling game at the same time. We were distracted by squeezing so missed the first two rounds but easily completed round 3 without too much stress. We were mistaken for Nottingham cavers as we were both misleadingly wearing Nottingham T-Shirts but I took mine off to reveal our true colours (a bright orange ICCC T-Shirt). I think we made it to round five before being beaten purely by size, we were seriously stable and weren’t falling any time soon but that sling would not budge. That put us in joint second place which I am happy with. I also found out that the ‘get up and hug’ rule is an ICCC thing and so we didn’t have to do that here but we did anyway because we have mad skills.
Meanwhile in Jennifer-land, almost an entire bottle of sloe gin was being consumed.
Next, a beer pong tournament. It was Peter and Jay vs (I think) SUSS and we definitely lost but not without dignity. Lots of alcohol had been consumed by now and we moved on to the Perry. The next memorable event was Jennifer looking a bit worse for wear. We sat down in the non-rave room and DKP provided water, Peter a plastic tub and I a shoulder to pass out on. There was some vomit, the details of which I know all too well. Who’d have thought it would be so warm? Thankfully I know this from being the tub holder, and not from being thrown up on. Peter, the wise man that he is, emptied it down the sink which remained full of chilli and terrible things the rest of the night. He appeared with a new tub (where were they coming from?!) and we encouraged a relocation to the tent. A slow staggered walk supported by Dave and I and we were in, left to attempt to undo the laces of Jennifer’s shoes. Apparently Dave doesn’t understand how this works and so just fully unthreaded most of them. Ah well, that was sober Jennifer’s problem. She somehow took her contact lenses out (at first dropping one) and then passed out on me. I stayed in the tent for a bit so I could line my stomach with crisps and hummus before rolling her into the recovery position and heading back to the party.
Things got decidedly CHECCy and we were all topless in the rave room dancing to terrible music and the occasional Scooter song that we had to harass the DJ several times for. Lots of people got on other people’s shoulders for a higher level of raving and I ended up on Peter’s for a brief time – I was pretty scared and made lots of high pitched squeaks and held on to his hair for dear life before begging to be let down. Much Perry was consumed straight from the tap – it’s far to easy to drink. Since we started on the alcohol about 5 hours earlier than the previous night, sleep called at around 4am.
The following morning, after a short sleep, the three of us staying at the NPC cottage had a quick breakfast before packing the ropes for King pot, and soon after, leaving with the minibus to pick up the CHECCers, whose last message dated from 5am. I had no idea who would be up and willing to cave, but as we rocked up at Dalesbridge, we were greeted by mostly awake and keen people. The length of the queue to breakfast precluded any immediate start for Kingsdale, but it did provide us with some time to pack up the Vesper ropes on the car park.
Finally ready to leave for the caves, we bid adieu to Peter, Rita, Jay et al., who were about to jump in DKP’s car. Arun, Rhys, Diss, Jennifer and Ben took their seats in the minibus and off we went, in the glorious sunshine. I was glad to see that snow still covered the heights and that the change would be pleasant. Anything to ease a mind before attempting King Pot. The dale was crowded however, with countless cars parked where we would have been; all seemed to go to West Kingsdale however, as we didn’t see anyone take the road to Braida Garth.
When the time came to stride across the valley, the weather turned for the worse and a light curtain of snow mingled with drizzle fell across our faces. This was gone by the time we’d reached the top of the steep climb, and we had slanting shafts of sunlight illuminating our way to the non-descript shakehole that is the entrance of King Pot. I was glad to find it almost at once, especially since I’d only been in the cave once before, to learn rigging. The first broken free-climb down a narrow fissure gives away the nature of the cave almost at once. With all parts of the body pressed against the black rock, I slid gracefully and landed in the next chamber.
The first bits of rigging went quick - a roped climb with a spacious floor level squeeze, and then the perfect pitch, a beautiful Y-hang dropping clean onto a boulder pile. There ended the niceties. I dived in the boulder crawl at the base of the pitch, and following the NFTFH description, found the awkward, high level rift traverse. I went too low and climbed back out at the far end, cursing my tackle sack and slightly out-of-breath. I advised Jack, who was following me at this point to stay high in the keyhole shaped passage and thrutch his way along. Red faced from the effort, he came out of the rift and sat next to me. I decided to rebalance the bags then, taking the middle ropes tacklesack, giving Jack the camera, and Alex, who by then had also joined us, the final ropes.
We went across the pre-rigged traverse, and a little unsuspecting of what awaited beyond, I just went in the blasted crawl, with a tackle sack in front of me. While this was just about manageable for the first section, I soon found myself unable to progress. I backed out to a larger alcove, unclipped the bag, and went over it and through the cosy fit. That done, I came back for the bag and waited at the far end, where the sounds of Jack struggling with the back reached me. I saw him unclip his helmet along the tightest section, but back out again. Taking the bag out, I gave some directions to pass the constrictions, which he managed to do helmet on.
We regrouped at the far end. Jack said that the squeezes were coming to a point where he was physically uncomfortable going through. I replied drawing out a plan for the day, adapted to our current progress, insisting that the tightest squeeze I remembered was the one we had just passed. We had some water, and I set about rigging the next pitch, which begins with a constriction. Before I disappeared off in the abyss, Jack again told us that he might have trouble going through this. I assured him it was going to be fine and went down. A few minutes later, he was down too and although he’d needed a bit of advice approaching the rebelay from the right position, I thought things were rather looking up.
We refreshed ourselves in the damp crawl that followed, dragging our tacklesacks through merrily, and popped out in a spacious aven, where again we had a bit of water. This was the start of the T-shaped passage, and I simply declared that we should check that the tackle sacks and SRT bags are securely closed and attached to avoid dropping them in the rift. I led the way in, loosely followed by Jack, who once in a while paused to ask for advice on passing a specific bit. I waited at certain key points - there is one place where a rock is wedged in the middle of the rift, and provides a welcome resting place, just before the final two doglegs and exit. Well, the final two doglegs are about as inconvenient as you can get: very little room to turn around and present oneself in the right orientation. The exit is even more so: a widening rift, some tatty rope for support, and a constriction where it is necessary to stay very high in the rift to go through, this requires a significant amount of core strength.
When Jack, again red faced and sweating came out of the rift to sit beside me at the start of the Queensway, he seriously asked whether the next bit of passage was worth the effort of the T-shaped. I assured him that it was, and looking at my watch, realised this was our last bit of exploration for the day anyway. Having carried the camera through the T-shape, I resolved to use it at some point (well-decorated passage cropped up in that paragraph of our description). However, since we were not bottoming King that day, I told Alex to leave the rope tackle sack midway through the rift. As it happens, he’d carried it almost all the way through.
Onwards, onto some pleasant passage, with a bit of a stream and some short stals on the ceiling, until we found Lego Inlet, the Telephone Aven (where does it go?), and finally a short blockage that was close to lovely bit with deeper streamway. There were nice rock benches on the side, where we had chocolate and water and a photo session. Suitably rested, and now pressed for time, we turned around, and ambled back to the T-shape, hopping over the boulders. I got confused at Lego Inlet, and thinking we’d gone the wrong way, almost led everyone up the inlet. Alex and Jack were quick to point out my mistake, and we carried on. Jack then went up a boulder slope that wasn’t the way on, so I got one back over.
We reached the T-shape again. Alex went ahead and picked up the bag, carrying it all the way through to the other side. He would become quite a bit of an expert at this. Jack then attempted the entry climb several times, but simply couldn’t support his bodyweight on the left arm and leg. Several time, he ended up upright in the final section of the rift, cowstails clipped to the loop of rope. Every time he had to climb back out and try again taxed him a bit more. After 40 mins of this, I went in myself, handing Alex another bag to carry through, and saw for myself what position would be easiest to go through the early obstacle.
The truth is, there is no ‘easy’ option, and being quite fit, I sometimes find it hard to appreciate what is just doable by most people. Keen to make some progress, little as it was, because everything would become objectively easier after this obstacle, I went first in the rift, clipped in and found a place at low level, from which I would be able to provide support for Jack as he went ahead. Alex was just in front. This worked, and getting a little bit further towards our exit massively lifted my mood. Alex turned around with Jack in tow, to pass the two doglegs, while I climbed out again to grab the remaining tackle. By the time I arrived back at the first dogleg however I heard more sounds of struggle.
I was getting serious flashbacks to the first time I went in King Pot. Jack had slipped a little way down the rift as he was trying to face the opposite way between the doglegs. A nodule wedged the small of his back, and he had little in the way of footholds. He stayed in that position a long time, shuffling sideways a little bit. Jack rescued himself admirably. He knew what he could and could not do, and asked for our advice, rebutting our help if he felt it would worsen his position. He swore, but then asked about things other than caving and stayed composed throughout. Finally, he found he could lift himself up into the high level of the rift, where he became unwedged. Alex gave him back his helmet, and he did a 180° turn to face the next dogleg. This was, by a matter of minutes, very, very close to calling a rescue.
We regrouped at the far end of the rift, into the high aven chamber. We had a chat about what had just happened and decided to make a steady way out. We ticked off the obstacles one by one, but Alex or Jack will know more about that, since I took the derigging duties, and mainly spent the time mulling over these events. At the blasted crawl, I struggled with two tacklesacks, but nothing came of it, and eventually, we emerged on the dark, desolate fell. This was the first time Jack came out of a cave after Sunset. I was going to miss my Slovenia talk at CHECC, but at the forefront of my thoughts was the fact that we had had a close escape from King, once again.
I want to go back, to go further into King Pot, but the cave is objectively tough, unforgiving, reluctant to yield its secrets. Maybe this is what grips the imagination of the more experienced cavers out there.
We had a chat back at the NPC, until the early hours of Sunday, trying to get to the bottom of what happened. For one thing, I take pride in taking people in new, hard to get to places. I believe their achievements reflect on my leadership, but it certainly tells a whole lot more about me, as an enabler, rather than the actual achievers. Maybe it is better that newer members achieve other things with minimal help in easier caves, and can call it their own, and that calls for more humility as a leader. This is certain: the close escape made me ask serious questions about my caving/leadership style and will be having (hopefully) positive influences on how I cave henceforth.
I awoke to an amazing, desperately needed hot breakfast – scrambled eggs, posh veggie sausages, hash browns, baked beans… incredible. Strangely enough not a lot of people were up yet so I got a good bit of breakfast in before Cave Rescue Training.
Pretty much everyone from ICCC went caving instead (at a caving conference?! Absurd) so it was just Dave and me who headed to the training location, where we were joined by some people from other clubs. Both of us were, er, “under the weather” so I was a bit worried– but thankfully it turned out it took place in the Cave Rescue Organisation’s HQ, which was warm, dry, and even had coffee and biscuits going! My day was already going great.
We got some brief information about the CRO and its other branches, including information about the only transnational cave rescue organisation in the world! Then we got a bit of a closer look – we were split into teams and they showed us their rescue vehicles, the equipment they use, and walked us through step-by-step what happens and how long it takes when they get called out. Short version: it takes ages, don’t call them unless you really need to.
A lot of the things they taught us were about “self-rescue” – so for example we did a simulation of various situations that might happen to us or our teams in caving, such as what to do and what not to do when accidents happen, and how to help someone who has more minor injuries. They also walked us through what rigging they use for getting immobile people out of caves using a dummy – although unfortunately they didn’t let us have a go at the actual rigging, we just got to pull a lot ????
We also got to play on their comms systems as well, and they showed us the various systems they use for communication in caves. It was a really interesting day and everyone there was super friendly and knowledgeable!
Then back to CHECC where everyone says I abandoned them, which is totally unfair – what actually happened was that I utilised my evening to improve inter-collegiate caving club relations! To that end, I tasted various delicious caving cakes and debated their merits, shared sparkling wine during a talk about bats (perhaps a bit too much, sorry everyone else in the bat talk…), played caving games from which I still have bruises, over two weeks later, and sang ridiculous caving songs in glorious solidarity!
Alum Pot: Alex Seaton, Jack Halliday, Jennifer R, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Rita Borg, Tanguy Racine
We had a nice wakeup call from Jennifer (Wretch Wretch Spew) at roughly the time we should have been getting up. Shockingly she didn’t seem anywhere near as hungover as she should’ve been after that. I was the first to get fully up, having no hangover whatsoever, but the rest eventually followed, excluding Peter who remained dead to the world for quite some time. Another morning of chilled eating and chat before the AGM which really dragged on. It was good fun but we had planned to go caving at 12pm so we had to leave before the end. Arun, Rhys and Ben stayed behind whilst the rest of us joined a fully PVC’d Tanguy in Alum, which he and Alex had already rigged. We were pretty late in the cave – I think later than 2pm. Peter went down the terrifying outdoor root, rigged from a tree, whilst Tanguy lead the rest of us through the indoor route. I was happy to find that the annoying free climb had been rigged with a hand line which would make it much easier to ascend on the way out. Tanguy went ahead once we reached the first pitch and I helped the novices with the pitch head which was slightly awkward. The Y hang was pretty far from the ledge you could stand on so you ended up with two options 1) hang on cowstails in the Y hang to rig your descender, then pull up using arm strength to remove short or 2) rig descender low down on the rope whilst standing on the ledge and have cowstails clipped into the traverse line, then just test whilst standing. In hindsight I suppose we could have used method 1 and wrapped the rope around our feet to stand and remove the cowstails but oh well. Jay and Tanguy opted for method one whilst Rita, Jennifer and I went with method 2. This did mean you ended up with a vaguely scary swing when you lowered yourself onto your descender but they managed it well. Once we got to the great outdoors there was some confusion about what we should be doing but it was eventually decided that there wasn’t time for us to descend any further so we needed to head out. Some disappointed mumbles from many of us were interrupted by the unexpected appearance of Rhys, who had realised that he desperately wanted to be in a cave so got a lift there with Dave.
We started the ascent, Jennifer first, followed by me and the others. We weren’t 100% sure of the route back so waited for Rhys to double check. We decided to try out the other exit which quickly brought us to a pool of unknown depth. Rhys traversed around the edge, which did look a little slippy. Jennifer, having some aversions to water due to lack of swimming practice, was a bit dubious and didn’t want to cross without knowing how deep it was (in case she fell in). I, being the awesome human that I am, went in the middle of the pool to find out. It was probably knee height where I was and perhaps a bit deeper where there weren’t so many rocks. This seemed satisfactory and Jennifer and the rest of us crossed without any casualties. Pretty soon after, we reached another pool which was much deeper and involved a climb on the other side that meant turning back if we found more water later would be very difficult without falling in. We decided that me going back out the other way with Jennifer was the best course of action. This was actually really nice as I had my first practice at being a proper leader and we didn’t get lost. We met up with the others on the surface and headed back to the minibus for a nice muddy change.
A quick stop at the NPC to drop of the aCHECCers and all the kit so it could be repacked, and we went back to CHECC to sort out our tents and pick up Arun and Ben. Thankfully they had packed everything away and we were quickly on the way back to London via the NPC for a quick snack and minibus filling. There was a long game of contact before an hour or so napping and we were back at around 12.30am.
Overall CHECC is good fun - lots of games and drinking plus the T-Shirts which are awesome. Not sure how much better it is than the regular trips we have had this term but i'll definitely be going back, if only to try and get rid of Imperial's apparent reputation for being antisocial.
PS. Take toilet roll to CHECC because it runs out far too quickly
PPS. Pour sick down toilets, not sinks <3
Now onto lighter things. I drove back to Dalesbridge to check out on our ICCC representatives, who, in the grand scheme of things, did not let the club down. We had teams and individuals putting their body at risk to defend our colours. Pot and Sling, Squeeze Machine: we were there in the thick of it all. Our team made it to the quarter finals of the Beer Pong competition, before bowing the Southampton Juggernaut. The floor was slick underfoot, even the carpets were damp, and more than half of a sloe-gin bottle had been consumed (by a single person) before I left again, for the quiet NPC bunkroom. Before saying goodbye however, I tentatively approached those who would cave on the morrow, and we adopted Alum as our destination of choice.
In the morning, Jack Alex and I packed ropes for Alum, and quickly got under way to have the cave rigged before midday, so that I could drive back to pick the CHECC contingent at Dalesbridge. The first part went to plan, and early enough I left Alex and Jack to rig their merry way down the Dolly Tubs route. I got out and nipped down SE route, tying in the traverse to the greasy slab bridge.
Out again before 12;00pm, I jumped into the van, still clad in my oversuit and headed off to the CHECC venue. This is where the plan came apart. The AGM was still a long way off being concluded as the CHECC grand prize winners hadn’t even been announced. I stayed quiet as long as I could, allured by the promise of showing my documentary to the audience. But fourth placed, alcoholic Southampton stole the show on this one. No longer containing my annoyance, I grabbed as many ICCC as would come to Alum; the tents were still up apparently - and I was reaching boiling point.
Back out, the formidable blue sky had given in to grey, sad drizzle, but we had mission to find Alex and Jack again. An hour later than I would have liked, we strode off across the fell towards the clump of trees that fringe the open shaft of Alum. I convinced Peter to try out my spectacular SE descent, while the rest of us, Diss, Jay, Rita and Jennifer got to the Churns entrance.
Pressed for time as we were, we only got down the first pre-rigged pitch before turning around. Alex derigged SE route, while I took up the ropes from the Dolly Tubs. Jack, who was going out just in front told me of the economical rigging choices made on the trip, but assured me he still enjoyed the day out. I encouraged the group to explore the high level passages in long Churn to make up for the shorter trip. This had the unintended consequence that I found myself alone at the top of the first pitch, and in the absence of lights on the fell, started worrying that somehow the entire group was still inside Upper Long Churn. Somewhere.
After a quick scan up and down the cave, it appeared everyone had left so I went back to the bus, where indeed, everyone was getting changed. We had also gained Rhys, whom Dave had dropped off not long ago and this made the next bit of the plan come together easily.
We went first at Ingleton to refuel, then dropped the caving kits at the NPC, emptying the van completely. Rhys drove back to Dalesbridge to pick up Arun and Ben. In the meantime, Alex, Jack and I enjoyed the remains of a chicken curry and sorted out the hut. Quickly afterwards, the group came back, loaded the van and had a cup of tea. We left at 6pm, but still had to drop off extra rubbish at Ingleton on the way, which made for a 0.30am arrival in London. Not too bad, but I won’t be doing one of those trips in a hurry!
The next day we went caving – well, we went into a cave at least- Alum Pot – which looked beautiful and really cool through my sleep-deprived and hungover blur. Awesome weekend!!!