Ben Richards, David Wilson, James Wilson, Janet Cotter, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Jan Kożuszek, Astrid Rao, Julien Jean, Laura Temple, Erica Keung, Kevin Sohn, Jergus Strucka, Alex Stacey
A typical uneventful Friday evening occurred. I made it to stores at a sensible time and soon the minibus was packed. A combination of increased experience and Jergus’ determination to reduce faff actually led to relative efficiency. James appeared on his bike and off we creeped through London traffic. Note to self: do not go through Queensbury to bypass the Bradford low emission zone – mistakes were made.
Saturday - Swampsto Exchange + Turbery Pot Pullthrough
Simpsons to Swinsto: James Wilson, Jan Kożuszek, Astrid Rao, Kevin Sohn, Alex Stacey
Swinsto to Simpsons: Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Jergus Strucka
Swinsto to Valley Entrance: Julien Jean
Turbary to Valley Entrance: Ben Richards, David Wilson, Ellie Pizey, Laura Temple, Erica Keung
At the Tuesday pub there was overwhelming support for a Swamsto exchange, but… of course… as soon as the day comes, there’s indecision, there’s ‘hmmm what else is on offer?’, there’s ‘ah exchanges never work…’, there’s ‘hmmm we could just leave via valley entrance…’. Nevertheless, sometime later a simpson’s, swinsto, a cheeky turbery pullthrough exiting through valley entrance, and a king group is decided. Then shortly after redecided as we realise that Simpson’s and King both use titanic amounts of short ropes, so the King group is redistributed evenly amongst the others. Everyone happy, and sometime around midday we were underway.
During the rigging process, it frequently crossed my mind that the topo doesn’t make much sense, and the bolts don’t really sit in optimal locations, so I decided to freestyle quite a lot of the pitches. I also just didn’t see some of the bolts, so got berated later for that, but ultimately we made it down at a good pace. Somewhere after the big pitch, in the rift, we heard voices from above – surely not the Simpson’s team already? No actually, it was the Turbery team, slightly behind schedule due to an unplanned helmet-off, SRT-off squeeze that led to nowhere. No matter, at least they got to enjoy our fantastic company while we descended down the final pitch and a half together. An enjoy it they did – Ana was excessively splashed with water when she was most vulnerable, directly below a giant puddle precariously located at the pitch head. Finally at the bottom, with no sign of the Simpson’s team, we bunker down in the bothy bag while the valley entrance team (now acquiring Julien) gleefully scrambled down the slope into the stream.
45 minutes pass, and we doubts about a successful exchange begin to creep into our minds, and then we hear the fated ‘Ayo!’ from high above: celebration. It took another hour for everyone to get down, cos James had decided that slit pot would be preferable over the big aven (which he later regretted), and his group had some slightly larger than average cavers. A steady stream of swear words trickled down the cavern as Kevin was body-slammed by Alex and Astrid to get his arse through the squeeze, and when he got to the bottom, he exclaimed how fantastic his trip was going.
‘Dude, fuck this cave, fuck that pitch head, fuck everything’. Turns out he had downed titanic volumes of water straight after the steep climb up the hill, chundered spectacularly by the entrance, and then ran out of energy halfway down. Oh well, we learn.
The squeeze was quite challenging, requiring me to suspend myself from my hand jammer only (with cow’s tails in for backup) and slot myself through the tiny gap head-first, feet dangling out over the 30-odd metre pitch. Eventually I made it though, and helped Jergus as he tried to figure it out. Much swearing (from him), much laughing (from me) and a lot of pulling later, he also made it. Then Ana of course launches herself dynamically into the gap and gets through in one smooth movement (ugh).
Ana was derigging the way out, Jergus and me being bag slaves. At the very top someone had to carry two bags for the long crawl, so I offered myself as the victim. I was quite broken at this point, but I managed to get into the mindset of going through the motions and keep pushing, which made seeing those first rays of sunlight and smelling the sweet summer air so much more rewarding.
The walk down was warm, pleasant, and the dying light guided us to the bus where we changed at a leisurely pace, and went for a walk to pass the time while we waited for the other team to emerge. It got a little close for comfort, but sure enough, at 15 minutes to call out their lights appeared over the top of the hill.
Back at the hut the Turbery team had cooked and eaten, and Ellie had been baking a cake for about four hours in preparation for Jergus’ birthday as soon as the clock struck midnight, and a belated celebration of her own birthday two days earlier. The cake was excellent, but I was too broken to really enjoy it tbh. Oh well, I went on a hunt to find the culprit of the stolen sleeping bag and concluded that it was technically Erica who took mine, but it was Kevin who used a club one to sleep in without packing one for himself onto the bus, so he was ultimately to blame. I managed to borrow one from the NPC lost property though, so all fine. An evening of wine/lemonade mixtures and weird conversations about ‘The Mindset’ of exams closed with me chatting to Erica about politics and foreign policy until 4am. I enjoyed getting into an actual sleeping bag this night.
At some point during packing on Tuesday we came up with the idea of a Swinsto-Simpson’s exchange. Davey then added the idea to do a Turbary pull-through to make it the most social trip ever. Having a clear aim, I managed to roll out of bed before breakfast was ready. Many eggy breads later, the teams were decided and redecided, and rope was slowly packed. A somewhat ambitious King attempt was scrapped to make enough ropes available for our West Kingsdale extravaganza. Suitably past midday, we piled into the minibus and zoomed to the glorious sunny fells.
I made the slightly crazy choice to wear a wetsuit, but this paid off later. After a sweaty walk up-hill, we met half the Turbary team chilling in their entrance, and I had some fun watching Matti trying to find Swinsto (there is a bolt labelled Swinsto in the entrance). We met a few slugs in the entrance crawl and had a nice splash in the waterfall at the first pitch. Matti did all the rigging, so I spent most of the time throwing myself into every available puddle and singing caving songs.
A few excellent pitches and crawls later, we heard voices above us: the Turbary team had explored a few inadvisable side passages giving us the chance to overtake them. We left them to their pull-through madness and headed to the next pitch, they caught up with us soon anyways. A water fight ensued between Davey and me, with him in a clear advantage on a balcony a few meters above me. A moment of distraction after helping Julien with some detangling was my doom - glad I was wearing that wetsuit.
One smoked cheese later the Turbary Team + a cold Julien headed for Valley Entrance, while Matti, Jergus, and I began our wait for the Simpson’s Team in Swinsto Great Aven. It turns out that we grabbed one of the smaller bothy bags (red), so it was convenient that only Matti and I huddled in it while Jergus went off exploring various handlines and climbs. We had agreed to wait for 1h, so 50min later we were discussing whistling up the pitch, and seconds later we heard James’ voice. After a few confused looks up Great Aven, we figure out that they were descending Slit Pot instead. Some more confusion followed when certain people insisted on replying to simple questions in whole paragraphs, which is not ideal when shouting up a 30m pitch. While the remainder of the Simpson’s team squeezed themselves through the slit, I exhausted my collection of song lyrics in an attempt to distract myself from the cold. We did manage a pretty decent polyphony of House Of The Rising Sun, aided by some excellent echo.
I had spent a chilly 2h waiting at the bottom by the time I started prussiking, but excellent rope walking conditions and my wetsuit warmed me up in no time. Matti and Jergus gave me a few quizzical looks as I squeezed myself through the slit feet first, but I maintain that it is the superior method. I made the questionable life choice of clipping into some in situ tat while derigging the pitch, which made a terrifying creaking noise and probably added nothing to my safety. My skilful derigging continued as I dropped a krab down the next pitch, just as I had derigged it, and I had to go all the way back down to retrieve it. Things went smoothly from here, with the occasional inelegant whaling up narrow climbs.
At the duck, Jergus did not realise he had already done the actual duck and went for an accidental swim. This looked very fun, so I joined him for an intentional swim. Matti looked on in disgust. My wetsuit was so effective, I was warm as soon as I left the water, so I jumped right back in while the others prussiked up Storm Pot. The five steps are a bit of an inconvenience so close to the exit, especially with a tackle sack like Carice, who has been my mortal enemy since last Slov. Matti did a hero carry of two tackle sacks, so I imagine he did not have a much better time. Some crawling later we emerged into glorious daylight – what a great trip! Such perfect Yorkshire stream caves and a successful exchange on top of that :D
Back at the bus we did our best to fight off the growing number of midges. I realised I have signal in the Valley Entrance lay-by to cancel our call-out, though it did require a little dance to the signal gods. We went for a walk down the valley while waiting, as we were expecting the other exchange team to take a bit longer due to group size. About 15min before their callout we mentally prepared ourselves to walk back up to Swinsto to check on them, but once again James’s timing was perfect, and his light appeared at the top of the fell. An Eh-Oh and quick head count followed to confirm it was them and I cancelled their call-out too. Some sling cutting drama had occurred to slow them down, but other than an un-ideal leader to novice ratio everyone was in fairly good spirits. A beautiful huge strawberry moon appeared over East Kingsdale and we zoomed back to the hut for midnight dinner, plus a delicious birthday cake for Ellie and Jergus.
David was keep to investigate Turbary pot so I signed up for a pull through with him to go investigate. Walking up the west kingsdale hill was lovely in the blue skies and sun, if a little boiling, but we eventually found the entrance and dropped down a couple of lovely pitches. At the bottom of the largest, the obvious way on lead around to the right, through a very scrotty looking squeeze. A few of us tried it, with Laura getting worryingly far down the right, having removed her helmet and SRT kit long, eventually coming to the conclusion that this probably isn't the correct way on. Returning to the bottom of the pitch, we looked around the chamber more closely and found the actual way on was down a sketchy looking hole behind a wall with some scaffolding holding it up, which before we had mistaken for a dig. David had disappeared down here while we were inserting ourselves into the rift and had found the conection to the Swinsto streamway, so upon our return we all headed down there, bumping into the Swinsto team along the way.
After waiting through the heavy traffic, some water was splashed on Ana at one pitch head by Davey, so naturally we soaked him when it was his turn to head down as vengence on Ana's behalf. After making it to the great aven, we adopted Julien and headed onwards to Valley Entrance. A short while later we were back at the car, had a quick look at Keld Head on the way and then headed back to the hut consruction site to cook, eat and be merry.
Out Sleets Beck: David Wilson, Ana Teck, Ellie Pizey, Astrid Rao
We had stayed up quite late the night before, and the usual morning chaos occurred at snail pace. Davey had suggested returning to Out Sleets Beck to investigate some wet squeeziness and to photograph cave trout that he and James had found the week before. The slow start to the day meant that we probably couldn’t reach the bottom, but we drove there as fast as possible, successfully avoiding all unsuspecting cyclists, while Davey was giving me a crash course on UK speed limit restrictions for various vehicles.
Our crack team did a speedy change and an even speedier walk, and Ellie dived head first into the cave in no time to start rigging. After some fun tighter rifts and crawls near the entrance, the impressive Cascade Pot is reached with a fun little traverse in the ceiling and a drop into an ominous swirling pool (you can avoid most of the water near the edges). We crawled to the final pitch, but just as Ellie was descending, we hit our turn-around time and had to abandon the final sections for future adventures. Davey and Astrid went ahead to hunt cave trout in the swirling pool and succeeded in getting a blurry video. I derigged on the way out, nothing exciting occurred, and we were all competent and speedy enough that there was not much waiting at any time. We briefly sat by the little stream near the entrance, basking in the sunlight and the incredible green of the grass. Summer caving is pure luxury.
Back at the NPC, we tidied up and got ready to leave. At this point I remembered that I had noticed one of the minibus tyres being quite low, but we decided it would be fine until Caton. Google said that the Caton petrol station is closed after 6pm, but this is a lie, and it has free air! A broken-down van blocked two of the petrol pumps and James expertly manoeuvred the bus around various cars, resulting in some very complex vehicle ballet. Once again, we were treated to a massive strawberry moon. We dropped Ellie off at Oxford Services and headed for a final stop at the Park Royal Asda for cheaper Diesel, with Matti employing advanced skills at a malfunctioning pump. The second to final challenge of the night was squeezing the minibus between two other Peugeots, which involved folding in all of our and their mirrors and Matti climbing out the back. The final challenge was discovered when Ben and I tried to get the bus home, finding that our normal route wasn’t running, presumably related to said bus being towed. So we went for a little hike, two buses and another little hike, before getting to cave house at 1.30am. It is a miracle that Ben made it to his new job at 9am on Monday.
NOCAVE: Matti Mitropoulos
Another NOCAVE day for me, as I had much work to do on my FYP before the deadline the week after. Much tea was drunken, many words were written, and a bit of cleaning was done. I chatted to Janet for a bit before we left, and we left in good time.
Yordas: Ben Richards, James Wilson, Janet Cotter, Jan Kożuszek, Julien Jean, Laura Temple, Erica Keung
A chill trip to Yordas complete with picnic provided by Janet. With the beautiful weather it was hard not to have a great time!