Yorkshire Winter Tour
Alex Betts, Alex Seaton, Arun Paul, Ben Richards, Dave Kirkpatrick, Dave Wilson, David Wilson, Jack Hare, James Perry, James Wilson, Jay Chen, Jean-Yves Burlet, Jim Evans, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Wesley Gaunt
Yordas: Arun Paul, Rhys Tyers, Wesley Gaunt
A surprisingly entertaining cave is Yordas. Perfect for a quick Sunday, or rigging practice for the those with confident SRT skills. Two simple pitches and one epic traverse, over a roaring streamway (perhaps just the relatively wet weather?) and then the grand chamber of Yordas Cave.
Arun wanted to rig so we picked Yordas. We parked (relatively close) and after changing stomped down the road, debating which wood it was that Yordas was located in. We stopped at the first and investigated. Pushing open a gate laden with warnings about how disputed this land was we made our way uphill. Quickly it became apparent that this was the perfect location for a cave and we stumbled upon Yordas Cave in the left wall of a gully.
Slightly further up we found the stream disappearing into a dark crevice, and some tempting p bolts. There’s was already some rope on these, and voices echoing up. Oh well, Arun would have some guidance for his rigging at least. He set about on the first pitch, a simple traverse to a drop.
The second pitch is much the same, again Arun following the rope of the other party. The final pitch is the worthwhile one. Arun began the long traverse but soon noticed the other party on their way up derigging. He paused to wait for them and I took the opportunity to flash everyone (for photography purposes).
Whilst we waited we tried to get to the alternative entrances but we found the way on would require a flat out crawl in the cobbly streamway. We bailed on that, content to wait in the dry.
With the others gone, Arun was on his own, no rope to follow. Past the end of the traverse the pitch drops down and a swing brings you to a taut traverse with few footholds, before a final drop and deviation to the floor. Arun rigged this mostly independently as communicating over the noise of the water was difficult.
We regrouped at the bottom. Wes zipped down the technical SRT with no problem. Stepping through a window into Yordas Cave chamber is magical. The noise of the water disappears in the space of a single step, leaving your ears ringing with the quiet. At the far end of the chamber we emerged back into daylight, but not for long. We had derigging to do. Or at least Arun did.
Wes and I zipped back up and watched Arun tangle and detangle himself a few times, eventually ending up at the top of the pitch with a bag of rope. The two little pitches were no problem. As we emerged once again onto the surface I noted that it was completely pitch black. It didn’t seem all that long since we’d been at the bottom in bright daylight.
We were first back to the van, though a fell runner went back and forth and managed to relay some messages between us and DKP’s and Diss’s Jingling team who were just behind us, but changing at DKP’s car. We moved the van closer to Bull and Rowten and waited the familiar wait as lights popped up on the hilltop.
Aquamole: Alex Betts, Jack Hare, James Perry, Jay Chen
It was rigging practice for all, and Perry and I were off to Aquamole with Jay and Alex. I'd been down Aquamole once before and thought it was worth it if you did the last pitch. It was cold on the surface and we got a bit chilly as Perry rigged the first few rebelays. I popped down to check up on him, glad of the exercise, but his rigging was fine, so I returned to the surface to wait with the others.
Jay seemed pretty competent (he said he'd been to all the tree trainings, and was able to down prussik so I believed him) so I let him go first with Alex behind and me last. There's nothing too interesting in Aquamole apart from stopping to wonder at how crazy the whole idea of cave diving in and bolt climbing up is. Soon we got to the big final pitch, which was even larger than I'd remembered. Perry went down, trying valiantly to pretend he didn't need PVC, and put in one of the three deviations.
I went last, added the second deviation, missed the third and regretted it on the way back up. As Perry climbed back up, the rest of us went for a cheeky piss in every available aven and sump. It's quite a slog for novices all the way back up, but everyone got there in the end through steady prussiking. I derigged, and we were soon on the surface again, a bit later than we'd intended to be but no longer after the others.
Back home for delicious Diss-itos and some chat with Clive Westlake.
Jingling: Dave Kirkpatrick, Jean-Yves Burlet, Rebecca Diss
"Rigging 101 with Professor DKP"
After a small amount of totally not going the wrong way, we spied the tree that pinpoints the location of Jingling (best cave). It was very cold, so we were keen to get on with it ASAP. I rigged the first bolt before some heads appeared at the bottom of the pitch – another team on their way out. I climbed back out and we ran around in an attempt to keep warm whilst we waited for them to leave. This took way longer than expected and I was very cold.
Finally, in the cave, rigging started off just fine (Lateral Cleft route). The first bit is pretty easy and then you come to the weird traverse which isn’t hard when rigged but is quite psychologically challenging when your lifeline is a descender rigged several metres down from the previous bolt. “It’s fine” they all say. The hardest part is getting up onto the ledge but once that’s done you’re quite well wedged and it’s not scary. I was very slow but managed to rig it all, with Dave’s practical and mental support. My main issues are that I am very afraid of all things which makes me very hesitant and my lack of knot practice which means I take yonks to dress and alter them. Despite having a longer rope than needed, it didn’t quite reach the bottom (maybe half a metre up) but I did so it was fine.
I managed to get Dave to de-rig, stressing how “incredibly slow” I’d be and “didn’t he want to get out and get drinking quickly?”. Sucker. The ascent was really pleasant – I went first, followed by Jean – and we sang many a song. The singing continued on the way down the fell and we were changed and zooming off in DKPs car in no time.
Back at the hut, we baked brownies which DKP bought the ingredients for (best Dave?). The NPC oven is a real piece of work and the brownies took perhaps double the time to be about ¾ cooked. We gave up and ate them in their gooey state, a great idea in hindsight. Gooey brownies are the best brownies.
Notts Pot: Alex Seaton, Arun Paul, Dave Kirkpatrick, David Wilson, Jack Hare, James Perry, James Wilson, Jay Chen, Jean-Yves Burlet, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Wesley Gaunt
|Alex B, Diss
Once again paired with Arun, this time for an assault on Notts 1. We walked up mostly as one group. The fog was thick and we did not have a great track record for locating Notts. We did send our most capable cavers, DKP and Alex, on ahead to do some prerigging. We were unperturbed that they walked in the wrong direction and trusted that they knew where they were going.
This time we were armed with some particularly good tips. They are:
Park at cattle grid Enter field by cattle grid Follow right collapsed dry stone wall a long way up the field Eventually two fence posts are reached with a beam of wood between them At this point strike out at 45 degrees into the field Walk until you reach the large shakehole containing Notts
Another good tip is to bring GPS which I think did help as there is some room for error in the ‘strike out at 45 degrees and walk’ step. It is a fairly long way with few landmarks.
We gathered on the slopes above the entrance pitch, descending one by one. Alex had done a fine job, the ropes were attached to the walls. There was some congestion above the 2nd little pitch but we made the most of it. At least I did, by repeatedly damming and loosing flood pulses of water. I don’t know how motivating these were.
We went our separate ways again. Arun doing the surprisingly dodgy first climb up Adamson’s (why are the bolts so far apart). Up, through the stempled climb. We said goodby to Alex and DKP and Wes who were off to do a high level mud hell thing that Alex was keen on for reasons only understandable to himself.
Arun made quick work of the rigging. We zipped down and quickly landed on the Centrists in the meet up chamber. The Leftists soon made an appearance, rigging out along a traverse I had not know existed, keen I assume to avoid the torrent of water below. We all went to have a look at the scary amount of water thundering down the next pitch but we had agreed to turn back in the morning, as it would certainly be too wet to be enjoyable.
Arun and I went up Left, tailed by Jimmy Dubz who derigged. There was entertaining rigging on the way out including a deviation that seemed to be there more for moral support than anything else. Someone had thought it was really funny to pack all ~125m of rope into a single large bag. It was very funny when Jimmy was derigging, but a lot less funny when I had to carry it out the entrance pitches.
I confirm Rhys' directions from DW are the best. It was a miserable foggy day, but at least the ice had all melted and we could drive right to the cattlegrid. Waiting on the surface is always grim, and I looked in vain for any rocks you could rig another rope from down the entrance shaft, but it really is very rock free around there. There was a slight queue above the second pitch, which was very sociable. We'd carefully sent the riggers first so I was keen to catch up with Davey and see if he'd gone the correct way - 'Left Route' could be confusing for some. In fact, it turned out Alex had gone that way, but was rescued before he got too far.
I found Davey rigging the traverse up into the oxbow for the Twilight route. He rigged it as a beautiful tension traverse, very tight and safe. At the pitch head Jean and I waited for him to descend and call rope free. Instead, he rigged a temporary rebelay and invited me down to have a look. Sadly, my hand drawn rigging guide missed off all the other routes, and there was a plethora of bolts to tempt us. In the end, we spotted a deviation below the broad, curving ledge we were on, and so I poppsed back up the shaft to let Davey keep descending.
What seemed like an age and lot of swinging later, and Davey called rope free. I descended carefully, confused by the deviation which seemed to pull the rope in the opposite way than I thought it should. Davey had swung through a small window above the bottom of the shaft, on the other side from a swollen raging waterfall. So far, so fear inducing. But the bolts looked good and it did sort of match the rigging guide. As he continued I went back up to check there wasn't a better deviation - there wasn't. Back down and I called for Jean, who had now been freezing at the top for some time, to join us, which he swiftly did, enjoying the big swing into the window at the bottom of the shaft.
The next pitch is short, and immediately leads to a single bolt rebelay down a larger shaft. There are many, many parallel shafts, testament to the complex history of Notts. It is a stunning bit of cave in which to dangle from a rope and ponder. Below us the others whooped encouragement, as we were the last group down (though only by ten minutes). The whisky was well appreciate, as were the two soreen, and it took very little time to devise a plan on how to head out.
Perry reckoned Centre was a bit wet from when he rigged it, so we decided on a small group with more confident novices out that way. I was barely able to keep up with Jean and Jay, who formed two-thirds of the J Team. We were at the top before I knew it, though there was definitely more water than usual - the bottoms of the pitches were a bit splashy. Back on the surface we tramped across the heather back to the bus, and as the fog had lifted we could see all the way to the Atlantic.
Dinner was egg fried rice, using the left over sweetcorn and black bean rice from the Diss-itos.
"Nott(s) your cup of tea?"
The trip started with an impressively well-navigated walk to Notts 1. It was a bit drizzly and my holey-crotched PVC over suit left me with a damp bottom, but my spirits remained intact. Our route was Centre with Perry rigging, supervised by the not-much-more-experienced Jimmy, followed by Alex B and me at the back. It went well for the most part, although it was very cold. Alex and I sang to distract from the numb extremities and we were down before we knew it. The most memorable part for me is where I ended up wedged at a rebelay for a slightly painful time waiting for rope free. In hindsight I should have stayed at the top, but I didn’t know how the cave went so it wasn’t a predictable situation. It was made especially uncomfortable by the fact that I could see it would be quite a tricky rebelay, the loop being too low to stand up in, so my mode of action was to wedge myself just above the bolt, putting all my weight on my kneepad-less knees. Being like this for over five minutes was sad but worth it to avoid getting stuck later.
We met with the other teams at the bottom, where I was instructed to stand under a waterfall by Rhys. God knows what for. Sufficiently soaked from the ripped over suit, I made my way out of Adamson’s with Davey de-rigging. There is a nice big pitch that we waited at for some time because it was very hard to hear whether Alex was saying “rope free” or “no” because he says the free part in a different pitch/tone/whatever that is, and so you can often just hear “Rope” which sounds like “no” when so far apart.
I had one job on the way out – wait for Davey at the top of the pitch to take the tackle sack from him and give him my empty one. Naturally, I forgot to do this, and my ascent was rudely interrupted by squeaks from Davey below me. We decided I should go down one rebelay and just drop the tackle sack (clipped into the rope) down. This would’ve worked better if there wasn’t a large flask of squash in the sack, it didn’t hit Davey on the head though so it’s all fine (if you aren’t out to kill him).
My next great decision was made at the bottom of the entrance series. Perry (the last one before me and Davey to exit) had forgotten the tackle sack from the bottom and called down to me to see if he should come back to get it. The answer should definitely have been yes. No matter, I had no trouble derigging whilst Davey carried two (rather large) tackle sacks out. The walk back was made all the more interesting by the rather-weighed-down Davey sinking maybe thigh deep into the bog. I attempted to help him out but lost my balance and just ended up aiding him into a worse position. He sorted himself out and we were back in the bus reasonably quickly.
Long Drop Pot: David Wilson, Jay Chen, Rhys Tyers, Wesley Gaunt
A shorter day today (not that there had been any epics so far). The imperative of the day was to be back in time for Christmas dinner. As such, Diss and Jimmy lead Jean down Death’s head. Diss was their to conquer her demons having bailed on the trip last time.
My plan was to ‘supervise’ Davey rigging Long Drop cave which we had read was a wet weather classic on Leck Fell. I fear this description was some sick joke.
We located the cave by walking to Death’s head then walking diagonally back up, towards the distant farm house. It is in a large fenced off shakehole with many trees. It probably isn’t hard to find by following the obvious dry valley from Rumbling either. The entrance is a delightfully smooth drop into a small chamber, with the first pitch immediately there. Davey wiggle in to rig.
He spent a while on it and made many discouraging noises but he was soon in. I supervised Wes and Jay as they traversed this tricky pitch head. I think they were both a little bit intimidated by it, but it is far from the smallest pitch head (though I can’t recall many this small on Leck Fell, perhaps I go to the wrong caves).
The second pitch follows, after a short crawl, and at the bottom, I landed in a small chamber. The echoey voices of Wes, Jay and Davey emerging from a small hands and knees crawl. I elected to wait until they told me it was clear. Wes gave me the all clear some time later and I arrived to find him still wedged in this crawl. We waited together until Davey rigged far enough down the pitch to allow us to progress.
I was fairly cold and unhappy as my turn to descend came but my mood improved with some movement. Down the fairly uninspiring pitch, we land in the final chamber. There is room enough for perhaps 5 or 6 people to stand. Davey is chomping at the bit to find the way on so we loose him to explore.
He picks downstream first, finding a crawl through deep water, with just enough airspace that you can keep your body and head out of the water. This may be the duck mentioned in the description, or it may not. The passage enlarged slightly to stooping proportions, with obstructions that forces you to crawl.
Not very far at all we found a sump, under a small aven. It was not entirely sumped though. A pencil width air space was blowing an impressive draught into the chamber. This may be the duck, or it may be the sump into Death’s Head but there was certainly no getting past it today.
Back at the rope, Davey inserted himself into the upstream lead which became to grim even for him. Satisfied we began out. I derigged and enjoyed the cave more, as I was able to stay warmer. No one had any serious problems with the pitch heads and we were out in time for dusk.
We wandered over to Death’s Head to find a lonely Jean, who we assumed having killed Diss and Jimmy, was waiting to harvest their souls when they floated out the shaft. We left him to it.
I think I would try very hard to find alternatives before going back in Long Drop. Death’s Head for example is an excellent cave, just next door.
Alex and I went for a walk. It was initially sunny and clear. As we approached the summit the fog came down, which combined with the wind and the deep snow made Ingleborough quite inhospitable. We took a picture of Becky and her dog on the summit and headed down, getting back just before dark to help Perry, Arun and Dave W cook the massive, excellent Christmas dinner.
Death's Head: James Wilson, Jean-Yves Burlet, Rebecca Diss
"This will be the Death(s head) of me?"
Today, Jimmy lead Jean and I into the pit from hell – aka Deaths Head. I had been defeated once before by this cave last winter tour and I was ready for a rematch. The entrance went well, rigged first off of a reassuringly wobbly fence post, followed by a tree before using actual bolts. Jimmy’s rigging was really nice – all of the rebelay loops were the perfect length to stand up in. Despite this, it’s still quite daunting and being able to see the whole time because it’s so open makes it all the more scary. I got past the rebelay I’d turned back at last time without even noticing it – either I am more skilled, the rigging was a better height for me or I had a moment of madness before. Guess we will never know.
Here comes the scarier bit. We traversed around the wall of the shaft (vaguely matching what was in the rigging topo) which was very muddy and loose and must have been terrifying to rig. When I got to the bottom, Jimmy said he’d run out of rope and had to use ropes for the later pitches. Hmm, something was wrong. No matter, we continued with the caving and found some streamway before reaching the final pitch which we couldn’t descend due to lack of rope. There was a fun bit of scaffolding and a climb with rope anchored by a single stal. I should really have de-rigged the whole thing as Jimmy had rigged it all, but I was pretty sketched out and so only derigged the first, muddy bit. In hindsight this was probably unnecessary as the scariest bits were there although I did get to avoid the traverse which I would have struggled with. The ascent was long and terrifying – there was a scary bit of possible rope rub that was probably fine but made me fear for my life with every motion.
This trip was a bit different to how it was described – mainly the looseness of the pitches when in the actual chamber (and the rope lengths). We got back and were informed we had gone the wrong way – apparently this route is for when you’re doing an exchange from a different cave (described as loose and scary). It wasn’t obvious that there were two ways on when in the cave so perhaps an easy mistake to make. Hmm.
Lanc: Alex Betts, Ben Richards, Dave Wilson, Jack Hare, Rhys Tyers
With the entire experienced cohort of the club in rescue training it was left to the old and decrepit to lead a trip. We settled on a Lanc/Cow bimble, with me, Jack, DW, Alex and Ben. It would provide the opportunity for some photography, some SRT practice and an excellent introduction to Yorkshire caving for Ben.
The omens for the trip were poor. It had taken us a long while to get ready. The visibility on the road to Casterton was a few metres at most. On the steep section, we met a car and had to reverse approximately 5 miles down the hill to a bend where they could pass. On one of the long straights a pair of fog lights loomed in the distance. All too soon, a huge tractor loomed right in front of us. It turns out that tractor headlights are very close together, making them look like a far away car in the fog.
We reversed approximately 10 miles before the farmer deigned to use his entirely capable tractor to pull over onto to some grass and let us pass. We found that where we had first met him was a double passing place.
At Bull Pot it was quickly established that Alex had forgotten his entire kit. DW arrived in time to ferry Alex back to the NPC to get it. Jack and I decided then that we would abandon Cow (as it was only Jack and I that wanted to it) and instead rig Lanc with Ben, hoping that DW and Alex would catch up.
We arrived to a deserted Lanc (shocking!) and Jack rigged down. We climbed into the colonnades to do some photography, leaving a bag as a signal to DW and Alex. Ben proved keen and able with the camera and we spent a good while in their before continuing along the main drag toward Stake Pot.
On the way past Fall Pot we clambered down to check the water levels, finding them to be adequate for a return in the streamway. At Stake Pot we finally met with Alex and DW who, having interpreted our bag signal in a very different way, had overtaken us right at the start. They started heading out (aborting on the streamway due to concerns over the levels).
Ben, Jack and I continued to look at the Painter’s Pallete before returning and braving the streamway. Jack and I both reckoned we’d done it in higher water conditions so we gave it a go. The first section is exciting and commiting, with some fast meanders and deep pots but it gets easier as you go. Alas we were very quickly back to Fall Pot.
We found DW and Alex at Lanc and waited our turn to exit.
"Watch out Rhys, there's a car ahead." "Fuck me, he's huge!" as the tractor looms out of the fog, its close set eyes like some mentally deficient gorilla with personal space issues.
"Is all your kit in this rucksack then, Alex?" "What rucksack?"
Solid trip, I love the streamway. It's always worth climbing down in Fall Pot to convince yourself you and everyone else knows the way out of the bolder choke, and to check the water level. Just upstream of the choke is a small sandbank, on the left facing downstream. If there isn't one there, then there's an awful lot of water in the stream and I wouldn't attempt it (and I love streamways).
Today was for rescue practice - a nice rest from actually being in a cave but without actually resting. Tony is a great teacher and I definitely feel a bit more confident with general rigging now. We practiced knots and how to rig a cave so it’s easy to have a rescue if need be. Also featured was how to work pulley jammers and a novel way of using mismatched pulleys and hand jammers as well as Z-rigs. Then on to the SRT tower to put it all into practice.
Stream to Bar: Arun Paul, Jim Evans, Rhys Tyers, David Wilson, Jack Hare, James Wilson
The highlight of the tour. The one everyone had been looking forward to. Gaping Ghill. And gosh what a day for it. Constant relentless drizzle hounded us dampening our spirits and clothes. Still we managed to motivate ourselves to get over to Clapham and change in said drizzle. (Some of the more depraved opted to change in the children's playground, sheltering their naked bodies in play houses and under slides).
We had a plan for a Bar, Stream and err Dihedral exchange. As we passed the waterfall in Clapham I said things like “Ooh, that’s a lot of water” and “I wouldn’t like to be dangling in that” but it had no effect on the determined Perry. The drizzle turned eventually to fog as we climbed upwards. I was glad we had brought the GPS for stream as it turned out to be quite useful for finding our way at all.
We dropped off the Barred and Stream team escorted the Diehards to Dihedral. The fog was thick enough that from the fence you could barely see the stream. But it was clear there was a fair amount of water. We bade Perry and his followers good luck and went to find Stream.
I was pleased to be paired again with Arun, and accompanied by Jim. We arrived at the entrance which, true to its name, had a stream running into it. Arun allowed me to rig so I slithered down the entrance tube into the first drippy chamber, desperately looking for a dry patch. I quickly rigged down and waited in the first big chamber for the others.
The rest of Stream was lovely! I gather it got a bit cold for Jim in his fabric but in PVC Arun and I were fine. The rigging is superb, with the traverses staying high above the stream and the bolts are almost always close enough to reach from the previous. There are two places where it seems like the traverse could be extended a bit but oh well. Jarv’s scrawled warning in the rigging guide about the rope lengths being a bit tight proved true. We took the exact lengths and there wasn’t a meter to spare on any of them (and I rigged quite sparingly).
We dropped the final hang which supposedly has two deviations but I could not find the lower one. I tried some flakes on the opposite wall but the wall seemed to come off alarmingly easily as I scrambled around so I decided to leave it. At the bottom I marched Arun and Jim towards the main chamber, fearing that the other would have been waiting a while for us.
Unusually we arrived to complete darkness. An epic amount of water was flowing, with the two normally separate falls joined into one. We wandered over to the relative calm of the sand bank and switched off our lights, the last inklings of daylight glowing at the top.
As we stood in the darkness the Bar team arrived. Their spotlights looking over from the crawl in were quite beautiful. They wandered over. We discussed the lack of a dangling Perry in the waterfall and whether that was a good or bad thing. Jack and I took turns doing some photos. At some point the Dihedral team turned up sans Perry. Apparently he had dangled in the waterfall for a good while before giving it up as too wet. He had been too cold to come down Bar but the rest of his team were keen to see the main chamber in high water.
When I’d successfully tricked a few people into standing in the waterfall for ‘photos’ we began our journey out. A lot of people out of Bar, and Jack and the Dubz Bruvs out stream. Arun derigged bar and we got out roughly as the Stream team showed up at Bar.
A good trip! Stream highly recommended even in wet weather.
Bar to Stream: Arun Paul, Jim Evans, Rhys Tyers, David Wilson, Jack Hare, James Wilson
I'm pretty certain I straight up told Perry it was a bad idea to do Dihedral several times. I'm glad he didn't die. Now, enough of that, on with my trip:
It was very foggy up on Ingleborough, and if Rhys hadn't known the way so well I'd never have found it. Still, we ended up at Bar and I was grateful our group (me, Ben, Alex and Diss) had no further to go. Diss rigged down competently, but Bar isn't a great place to hang around and I think we all got a bit cold. Still, now I know the proper route to the top of the Bar pitch - under the rock bridge and a traverse on the right, rather than continuing down the rift to an unpleasant tight rebelay.
At the bottom, I rigged the traverse round the South East Aven. The amount of water coming down was stunning - anyone descending that would have been utterly soaked. This was the first firm evidence I got that Perry's plan was in trouble. The others soon joined me, and we got Ben to lead us, as is tradition. He didn't go wrong once, much to my chagrin, but that at least warmed us up as sped through the tunnels. The waterfall was incredibly load, the breathing of a giant with a terrible throat infection sending gusts of misty air through the network of tunnels.
Soon we burst out into the main chamber, greeted by the last few shreds of daylight and a colossal amount of water. I scanned the ceiling, hoping not to see the Dihedral team, but it was only as we walked towards the waterfall that the Stream team turned on their lights and said hello. We were both puzzled where Dihedral had gotten too - we had spent a while rigging Bar and they were supposed to catch up with us if they bailed on their route. I had failed to consider the true alternative - they had tried Dihedral, it had been nasty and they had to retreat. Soon the remnants of that group joined us, and we tried as always to photograph the vast, water lashed chamber.
Rhys directed Ben Richards to stand quite close to the waterfall, with Arun and me as runners to sort out the flash bearers. I stood next to Ben for a few minutes until i was soaked to the skin and then I bailed - he must really love photos to have stood there for so long. Eventually we were done and we split into groups to head out. Rhys conned me into going out Stream with the Dubz Bruvs, which was truly excellent.
We ran through the tunnels at a mad pace as I tried to warm up - it's nice to see the Dubz Bruvs out of breath and disoriented every now and again. The route finding is absolutely not difficult - just follow the polish, I didn't make a single wrong turn, or even stop to look around. As we approached the first pitch I realised how wet it was - the usual drippy avens were full fledged waterfalls, and I kissed my PVC in thanks as I dashed through.
There was no way I was derigging when I had two highly competitive teenagers to bait, so I prussiked up, waiting every few pitches to check they were okay. Stream is fantastically noisy, and gives you a sense of extreme isolation - conversation is impossible unless you're within a few metres. I was impressed again by the rigging, which was really good given how far the bolts were apart. At one point we had to stop Davey untying a bit of rope that made up an insitu deviation.
I took pity on Davey below the final pitch, and took his bag. I immediately regretted this as it is tight and wet, but I struggled out, mantling myself and 100 m of wet rope out the oil barrel entrance and into six inches of standing water on a fog strewn moor. I grabbed the GPS and made some practice walks to check the bearing was right. The fog swept across like a giant beast, revealing and blocking the lights of the towns below. Soon we were ready to go, and aside from Davey getting thigh deep in a bog (he couldn't see cos his glasses had steamed up) we made it back okay - it would've been impossible without a GPS, as even a compass bearing would've been hard to follow in such a featureless plain (leapfrogging techniques excepted...).
We found the others huddled in a shelter in Bar and invited them to walk back with us, which seemed quicker than usual. A solid trip - it's a shame not to add in a new entrance, but given the conditions there weren't many viable options!
Bar to Bar: Alex Betts, Ben Richards, Jay Chen, Rebecca Diss
"The Gaping Gill Extravaganza"
Perry decided that Dihedral was a great idea, so we planned to have teams going down there, Stream and Bar. The weather wasn’t at all wet and the walk was fine. No hand jammers were forgotten and we all felt great about the day.
I was to rig Bar, a route I’d been down (and up) once before. It started off excellently with me forgetting how to tie a bowline on a bight. Things went a bit better from there, seeing as there isn’t actually any rigging for a while. We then found the real route down the main shaft, which apparently has eluded many an ICCC caver on previous trips. There was a traverse around to the pitch head, over a lovely large ledge. This wasn’t technically challenging but my lack of practice was evident, and it took me a long time. Finally at the pitch head, I was quite scared to descend. I had never rigged a pitch this large before and my faith in my own knots is far from absolute. I managed it and then the next wave of fear arrived – what if the rope doesn’t reach the bottom? Doing a change over and coming back up to re-rig was very unappealing. I was tense, descending slowly whilst pulling the rope from the bag to make sure I could see the end before I hit the knot. The floor loomed closer, the tackle bag grew lighter, my heart beat harder. 10m, 5m, 1m…oh I could probably just put my feet on the ground now. Well that was anticlimactic, but a relief.
On to the Gaping Gill main chamber to hopefully find Perry’s group alive. I really enjoy the stooping passage bits but hate the stooping part so just crawl as fast as possible. Tends to be faster than stooping for me, I get very off balance. In the main chamber, we were met with darkness and some may say a little above average water levels. We walked further in and were jumped by some doggers that turned out to be Rhys’ group with their lights off. No sign of Perry’s group. This was concerning because their back up plan was to follow us down bar. Seeing as I was rigging they really should have caught up. Hmm.
A bit of chat before photography attempts were made. Arun, Ben and I were lighting up the waterfall from the side whilst Jack took photos. At some point, lights appeared, and to our relief it was Perry’s group but missing the Perry element. Jimmy’s response to “what happened?” was “I’m only telling the story once” so we went back to where the others huddled, and the story was told. I’ll leave Perry to tell it because I’m sure he knows what happened better than I do, but basically, he was back at the bus and everything was fine as always.
I left pretty quickly with Jim and Alex and a lovely unnecessary tackle sack, courtesy of Davey Dubz.
Notts 2: Arun Paul, Ben Richards, David Wilson, Jack Hare, James Wilson, Jay Chen, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers
A quick bimble into Notts 2 - always a pleasure. We checked out a few of the inlets far upstream, believing (wrongly) that they were the way into Lost Johns'/Boxhead. On the drive back the front left wheel almost fell off the minibus, but Perry's careful driving saw us all the way back to South Ken.