Arun Paul, Ben Honan, Cecilia Kan, Dave Kirkpatrick, David Wilson, Fiona Hartley, Ho Yan Jin, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Astrid Rao, Julien Jean, Laura Temple, Fan
A rogue Google Maps diversion, an accidental pop into a random John Lewis car park and Thames Water parking a sewage truck right in the middle of Shepherds Bush Roundabout meant that it took many many hours to get out of London, only reaching Bullpot Farm at 2:30am. The evening walk was among the best I’ve ever experienced though, as the sun was just beginning to rise from the other side of the valley, creating a beautiful gradient from yellow to orange to red, then a clean band of dark grey clouds, followed by light blue fading into the navy night, perfectly framed between two symmetric silhouetted hills.
First aid training: James, Laura, Fan, Julien, Astrid
Canyoning: Rhys, Cecilia, Ben, Arun, Matti, Ana
After the initial stress of herding non-compliant novices onto the bus to do first aid training was over, I relaxed a little and began preparations to go canyoning for the first time. This was likely to be my last caving trip for a while so I figured what better way to spend it than not caving. The canyon chosen by Rhys and Cecilia was the Ingleton waterfalls walk – a series of cascades and plungepools right beside an extremely overpriced nature trail. The water was about as low as it ever gets, so it wasn’t clear whether there would be much swimming, but we’d just have a look and see – the path is built in the gorge in such a way that we could essentially walk out at any point. Rhys’ reliable informant had said that there would be marshals checking tickets of canyoners, (something something the guards have binoculars and the fine is spicy…), but we decided to wing it and hope we don’t get caught. Starting from the top, after wading over rocks and splashing around for a bit, we reached the first bolts. Rhys expertly rigged what looked like quite a janky contraption with a Fig-8 but assured us it was ‘bomber’. Then he showed us canyoning newbies how to rig a piranha and everyone jumped off the edge. I was quite disconcerted by the fact that you couldn’t lock off, and controlled the speed of descent (something quite critical) by some very small knobbles on the piranha. Nevertheless everything went smoothly and we all got down and pulled the rope down.
The next pitch was substantially larger with much more water – and a much larger crowd of people sitting by the bank of the pool. We all looked extremely cool jumping off the edge and abseiling through the water and found a nice spot in the pool at the bottom to dive into the water a few times. I was beginning to get a little cold, mainly because my club wetsuit didn’t really fit me in most dimensions, so tried to stay out of the water for most of it.
A series of smaller abseils followed, most of which were in theory jumpable but of course it would be extremely dangerous to jump before testing the depth of the water by abseiling first… is what we told Ben after he just yeeted himself off a 6m ledge without knowing whether the water was 10m or 1m deep. Alas, he didn’t break both legs and we descended down a fun cascade of 5-10m jumps, including one where Ana, Arun and I lined up on a fallen tree and jumped in sync.
Once at the bottom of the cascades we walked along the river for some time, not really having any idea where we were going or what we should be expecting, until the river heard our need, and provided a perfectly preserved map of the nature trail. We then realised we were just walking straight to the ticket office, so swiftly turned around back up the trail. At the fun cascades we stashed the bags and just jumped all the cliffs again since we now knew they were safe, walked back to the bags, decided we wanted to do all the jumps again, did them all again, and then decided ok that’s enough and headed back up the track to the car.
Some high quality fish and chips were in order, provided by the one and only Ingleton Chippy. Ben was desperate for some watermelon so wandered off in search of some juicy fruit but came back half an hour later unsuccessful. Returning to the hut, we began cooking dinner, during which I was somehow designated head chef for one of the two meals that Ellie had decided to shop for. I cursed her meal planning (possibly a bit too much) but eventually all the food was cooked, and the first aiders returned from being educated.
A chill evening ensued, where many many Red Rose members walked through the dining room for some reason rather than using the perfectly good other door into the kitchen – they seemed to be having a major party of sorts, but the RRCPC put a lot of effort into separating member and non-member activities and we were happy keeping it that way. Just a shame that they were so noisy. As the evening died down I wanted to go to bed but my nose was completely unusable for some reason, so I went for a quick walk in the hopes that the fresh air would clear it up. Only partially successful, but I did eventually get into bed.
Pool Sink: David Wilson, Fiona Hartley, Ho Yan Jin, Rebecca Diss, Ellie Pizey
In my view the entire benefit of staying at Bull Pot Farm is that one can walk to Easegill and completely avoid driving, a view apparently not shared by Matti as the first aid course was at least a half an hour drive away. The morning thus began more briskly than usual with the first aid attendees fleeing out of the door at half past 8, leaving the rest of us to scarf cereal and ponder whether to cave or to canyon.
Settled weather meant myself, Diss, David, Yan Jin and Ellie settled on Pool Sink for caving, aiming for an unambitious and pleasant outing. We crossed the Saharan fell and dropped a couple of bags of cement outside Wretched Rabbit, which looked like a construction site rather than a cave entrance, with the addition of a dead sheep behind a giant plastic tube. The construction crew was an army of Red Rose diggers hot on our heels, so we ran away up the dry beck before having to talk to them.
I followed the scrape-scrape-shuffle of fellow cavers through Pool’s narrow slot entrance to the first pitch where Diss had begun rigging. After straining for the deviation (can also be rigged as a re-belay; the bolt is quite far away so can be tricky either way for novices), you drop into scalloped streamway. Ellie continued the rigging over a short traverse and through a dry tunnel to the third pitch. David rigged the traverse over the waterfall at the final pitch, although the cave was so dry the waterfall was only a small trickle. It would have been easy to rig off the pull-through bolts, but we have a healthy fear of flooding and are disposed towards backup anchors.
None of us were turned into rashers by the Bacon Slicer and in short order we hit the main streamway, where Diss lay down for a while due to hay fever. A classic upstream sojourn to Easter Grotto followed, only briefly distracted by the streamway looking 'too pretty' and David crawling directly into low water to declare “it can’t be this way” before wallowing in it for fun for a while longer. In Easter Grotto he offered all of us Kendal Mint Cake which was received with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Our bimble out was uneventful. David and I leapfrogged pitches to derig. I offered to take David’s bag of rope and he gallantly told me to test the weight of it. Thanks to his advice, I derigged the final pitch instead of carrying that bag, and I also pushed my tackle bag ahead of me out of the narrow entrance bends, so I didn’t get the bag stuck on everything behind me as both David and Diss had.
Pool is maybe my favourite Easegill entrance despite being one of the furthest away from the hut. We had gotten into the cave a little before midday and were back at the farm by about 5pm. It has enough of everything to keep you entertained and furthermore none of those bits last long enough to be annoying. It’s attractive and if you’re confident of the route-finding and weather you can pull-through instead of exiting the same way. It is a dry weather cave though.
Evening Bull Pot of the Witches: Ana Teck, Astrid Rao, Julien Jean
Diss, DKP, Ellie and I desired liquid entertainment and decided to go for an evening dip at Stainforth Force near Settle, where the river Ribble descends a series of cascades and then a two and half metre waterfall. It's actually a salmon run in autumn, which is unfortunately right at the time when the club takes freshers to South Wales 200 miles away.
Snacks and fuel were obtained at the Ingleton co-op beforehand. We parked at The Knight's Table cafe rather than going right down to the bridge over the river. Only a small number of youths were still present at the riverside when we ambled up, jumping into the water and leaving litter around (a whole towel, why?). The typical complaints about chilly water were made by all before we each took the plunge. Initially we just swam but eventually we emulated the youths and jumped into the pool from the waterfall above. I managed two jumps despite vertigo, screaming to express that fear in a way that I don't think I ever have when caving.
Cooking was in the penultimate stages by the time we returned. Something about David not being allowed to touch the potatoes seemed to cause a delay but soon enough we were all consuming delightful amounts of salty feta couscous and potato salad. I took a walk towards BPOTW and encountered a small child climbing on the gate to get onto the leanto roof. When Diss asked him whether he was allowed to climb onto said roof, he told us, "It's not illegal, you know." Well, true - though his mother had something to say about that when I dobbed him in.
First aid: James, Astrid, Fan, Laura, Julien
Canyoning 1: Rhys, Cecilia, Arun, Ben
Canyoning 2: DKP, Fiona, Diss, Ellie, Ana
Rhys had taken some really cool photos (standard) of Saturday's canyoning team so enthusiasm for doing as they'd done was high. The forecast was for storms at 3pm but when Ana offered to do the canyon a second time I knew we'd beat the weather front. Dave had made the wise decision to sleep at his own house away so we met him in the layby at the head of Kingsdale that links to Ingleton waterfalls trail. The one thing we weren't quite sure about was rope lengths needed so as well as a short traverse line we took a 72m red 9mm to be safe, which turned out to be excessively long.
We hopped into the river Twiss asap and tromped downstream. Flies were pleased by our company. Yan Jin and David met us above the first feature, Thornton Force, and we talked for about as long as we could withstand the interested flies, not so long. A small abseil dropped us at the top of the waterfall and a longer one deposited us in the water. Yan Jin and David took photos and after another short natter with them we again hopped off downstream. This was more fun than the initial section before Thornton Force, which had just been slippery without features. Here there were more pools deep enough to dip into, little clambers and drops, swims and water slides. Then we reached the selling point - the jumps.
For me the scariest jump was the first one. One by one Ana, Diss and Ellie made the 5+ metre jump in front of watching waterfalls trail walkers. I clambered down to the takeoff point and stared at the water for a while before chickening out, watched by waterfalls trail walkers. In the meantime two random guys, waterfalls trail walkers, had appeared behind me and jumped in as soon as I was out of the way. Goaded by this, I went back down to the ledge, asking Dave to count me down. 3, 2, 1, and on go I jumped. You're definitely in the air long enough to think about what you've just done. The water exploded around me and I spent some timeless moment inside green and bubbles, suspended, before eventually kicking for the surface.
The next 3 jumps were easier than that, either because they were smaller or, in the case of one of a similar height, because the takeoff point felt more stable. A couple more abseils brought us to our exit point under a bridge. We walked back up the trail to the cars in no time at all and slipped off to Ingleton for chips before zooming back to the hut to help with the tidying.
Sadness in the Farm: Matti
I awoke feeling very much very ill, and decided to blame the disgusting canyon water that had blasted into my skull during the jumping yesterday based on very little evidence. I had planned to go solo hiking in Scotland the week after, travelling over that night, so really wanted to get better asap, deciding not to do anything that day except lie in bed.
Pretty miserable, and I didn’t really improve during the day so was debating whether my trip was a good idea, decided to fuck it and go hiking anyway, and said farewell to the bus near Manchester, hoping that I wouldn’t perish from sickness somewhere in the middle of the Cairngorms.
It ended up being great trip, Monday night was a high contester most broken I’ve ever felt though.