Yorkshire Winter Tour


Andy Jurd, Ben Richards, Cecilia Kan, Dave Wilson, David Wilson, Fiona Hartley, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Úna Barker, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Leo Antwis, Chris Hayes, Kitt Thomas, Astrid Rao, Erica Keung, Kevin Sohn, Jergus Strucka, Salwa Ahmad, Ashley Wong, Ksai Lee, Ioana Balabasciuc, Herman Wong, Janak Subberwal


I rushed over after work (an obvious error) to find the minibus still being packed gone 6pm. So much for the ever-ambitious plans to leave early. Miraculously the union had actually repaired the minibus rear window after canoe club had rammed a boat through it last weekend, which coincidentally I had stumbled across in a layby in deepest Snowdonia while visiting family, spotting a wild Laura by the road with the other boat enthusiasts. There were some plans to take another vehicle called Ragnarok or something, which had made Leo very excited, but never mind. Kevin checked the coolant only to find it was very low. After topping it up, he was alarmed to find it all at his feet as it poured straight through the engine onto the floor. Some rushed off to find union while I stayed with Chris and Jergus to see if we could locate the leak. Chris climbed under the bus as a parking warden walked past, seemingly taking pity on us as he shook his head and walked away despite us being clearly parked on the double yellow lines outside union, as is traditional.

A mechanical engineer in his natural environment.

Chris and Jergus traced the leak back to a suspiciously rusty pipe, to find that the jubilee clip had rusted through, and so Jergus rushed back to Magpie to get another. Chris and Jergus then spent about half an hour installing it since it was in the middle of the engine behind a million other things, but finally, they managed and no further drips could be seen. Emergency darens were filled with water along with the jerry can and a bottle of coolant. It was 7:30 pm and time to set off. We weren't going to let this end us the way of the late fear Panda (rest in peace).

A quick stop at a random Asda (which contained a Mc Donalds ????) near High Wycombe and the coolant had only dropped a couple of cm, which we'll claim as a tremendous success. Another check one hour later and the coolant level hadn't dropped at all! Writing this just after setting off, we are in high spirits and Leo is screaming along with various songs from the front of the bus. All is well, time to sleep.


Endless packing

So, I waltzed into the store, and Chris hits me with, ‘Do you remember how to assemble the SRT kit. Here you go. Assemble as many as possible’. Last time I did SRT training was 3 weeks ago. Was I dumb to not remember which equipment makes up an SRT kit? Excited but also drained because a mere 48 hours ago, I was in Belgium, and now I'm on this new escapade. Because why not, right? But I had a feeling I would have a great time. I managed to accomplish everything on my checklist. It was only a matter of leaving at 5.30 and making it to NPC. And that's where we had our first hiccup. After having packed the roof and van we soon realised the van had some problem which was beyond my understanding and hence that 5.30 mark turned into 7.30pm. Credit goes to Chris and the boys for fixing the mystery issue while I remained clueless. Once we set off I had a quick look at who was driving and low and behold, Matti Mitropoulos. Need I say more? Nap plans? Crushed. We reached at around 2am and I was not going to make the same mistake again. I rushed upstairs to find a bed and ended up sleeping like a baby.


The bus was truly fucked. Who thought it’d be a good idea to rent out a bus which cools the tarmac more than the engine? Luckily Jergus has access to resources like jubilee clips, and Chris is keen enough to try his hand at fixing things, so we didn’t make much use of the union’s service (literally walk around in the building annoying people till we find someone who we can bully into listening to our complaints). We figured out why the union still rents us the minibuses even though they clearly want us to die – its cos we service them, free of charge.



Shuttleworth: Matti Mitropoulos, Astrid Rao, Salwa Ahmad, Ioana Balabasciuc

So, the day kicked off with a cottage full of fresh faces, and at first I felt extremely overwhelmed. But guess what? Everyone was so lovely. We soon got allocated our groups and caves and I was selected to go to Shuttleworth. ‘Its a really chill and pretty cave’ was what I was told.. . Joining me on this escapade were Ionna, Matti, and Astrid. But hold onto your hats because the real adventure is just getting started.

My zipper, that sly troublemaker, decided to stage a rebellion and not zip up right as soon as we parked. What's the solution? Embrace the cold. Genius, right? I decide to keep my secret, put on my PVC and SRT gear, snap some pics with the girls, and off we go to the entrance. Whilst Matti was on a wild goose chase for the entrance, me and Astrid decided to spice things up by reenacting Mufasa's death from the Lion King. And that ended very well. Astrid was on the verge of a cliff when she soon realised she was slipping and could not get a foothold. That environment quickly escalated from faffing around to internally panicking and knowing that I was absolutely useless because I wouldn't even be able to pull her up with my non-existent muscles. But guess what? Astrid, being the creative genius she is, found her way out of the cliffhanger! Enough of the theatrics- Matti had finally found the entrance and it was time to go down.

The route details are a bit hazy, but my emotional rollercoaster? Crystal clear, like it happened yesterday. Essentially the reason why we took forever was because of me…. The pitch was never ending. How could I trust a mere metal descender and a rope? Sure, I knew how to descend but mentally my brain was overthinking- what if the rope breaks, what if i don’t put my descender on properly, what if I am too heavy and the bolt comes out from the rock. In my illustrious life, I've never trusted anyone or anything, and now I'm expected to cozy up to a mere metal descender and a rope I know nothing about. I was this close to turning back, but the stubborn side of me kicked in—no surrender, my friend. What's very unique about caving is that despite it being a physical activity I most definitely struggle with the psychological side of it far more. I knew Matti was waiting and I knew Astrid and Ionna behind me were probably wondering why I wasn't budging and trust me when I say that was the SOLE reason I just let go of the rope and started to descend…. I was scared out of my wits. This is most definitely a sport for the carefree souls and not for neurotic overthinkers like me. As soon as I got to Matti I had to make sure. ‘So how often do you inspect the ropes, have the ICCC ropes ever snapped, how often are the chest jammers, descenders inspected. His answer seemed to give a 1% relief but I just realised that this activity requires ALOT of trust in the SRT and if I wanted to continue caving there would be no other way but to trust the SRT and become comfortable with it…. So I persevered. As soon as I was at the bottom I looked up and knew that getting up the pitch would definitely be a story I will forever remember. SRT training in the tree could not have prepared me for what was about to come but first let's get to the pretty place. After a break we decided to get to our picturesque destination. After going down that long pitch, walking in wet mud which was about 30cm deep we reached our destination and well it was definitely not what I was expecting. We took some pics and it was time to head back.

Shuttleworth gang.

Whilst walking back I could already sense the fear settling in. I knew I was going to be here for a VERY long time but there was nothing I could do… I had to convince my brain to not worry. Not easy, especially when Matti went first and ascended with his god gifted long legs in a matter of seconds and here I was at the bottom trying to ascend with my vertically challenged legs. I probs did it in like 30 min but I couldn't care less anymore. I just needed to get out and that was when my next challenge appeared- the rebelay. Two points of contact, they say. Simple, right? Wrong. Trusting my cow's tail, bolts, and the person who rigged the ropes became a psychological thriller. Trust issues? Oh, you bet. I knew a panic attack was not far and so I started praying like a madman. I questioned my life choices—why did I sign up to this madness? Eventually, Matti had to come back down to help me out… In the end, I was not physically drained as much as I am mentally exhausted. At the top, I was so over caving that, with Matti's assistance, I was out and straight into the body bag. It's a mystery how a man I've only seen devour loaves of bread had the strength to help me out. Anyway my physical exhaustion soon became apparent when walking back to the van. I quickly took the SRT kit off as quickly as I could with significant assistance from Ashley and we got cracking. But hold on, the safety saga is far from over. Limited visibility during the drive, and to top it off, Matti decides to channel his inner race driver on country roads. Cue the close collision, leaving even Chris in shock!

After getting back, some lovely food and a very interesting conversation with a man named Andy followed! A man full of wisdom who believes the University of Nottingham trumps Imperial College London, white range rovers are the chariots of trophy wives and black range rovers are driven by drug dealers.


Matti volunteers to lead the trip.

Hushed murmurs spread across the table as the news spread from mouth to mouth – the enigmatic mission that had been discussed behind closed doors for months was finally to be put into action. A short time later Matt Ewles, communications officer of the government organisation known to most only as the Council of Northern Caving Clubs arose, and silence immediately fell. He announced:

‘This task is of great importance. Our stakeholders have made demands, and we have to fulfil them to ensure our continued existence. As you know, the CNCC keeps the caves of Yorkshire and Derbyshire in check, preventing them from growing and destabilising the ground. However, as of the energy crisis, this process has become too expensive, and must be made more efficient. As such, a new technology is to be investigated, utilising a rare chemical extracted from one of the most developed caves in the north – Shuttleworth Pot. To explain, Leo Antwis, Chief Geologist of the CNCC will explain.’

Matt sat. Leo stood.

‘Thank you. The caves in these regions are by no means inactive. Water draining into the cave collects on surfaces or become suspended throughout the medium in droplets. Occasionally, gravitational anomalies cause these droplets to collect at certain hotspots throughout the cave system. At these hotspots, so-called stalactites form, taking the shape of long thin straws of delicate minerals, hanging from the ceiling. Shuttleworth pot is known to house a notably large collection of such straws. It is also a perfect example of anomalous behaviour displayed by the cave systems. Although it is connected to the Easegill system via a submerged tunnel, it is located much closer to the Leck Fell system than should be possible. It represents a particularly developed attempt of the Easegill Caverns to connect with the Leck Fell Master Cave. It evaded our notice for many years by flooding the passages connecting it with Easegill, and only in the last decades have we forced our entry via a dry entrance from the surface. These features mean it is the perfect location to begin our advanced research into how we can stop these extensions from developing out of our control.

Leo explains the geological situation.

We suspect that the caves have developed a new chemical that allows them to dissolve rock with astonishing speed, expanding their network of tunnels beyond what we can handle. This chemical, currently unnamed, should be found in high concentrations in the straws of Shuttleworth Pot, so we must extract some to perform some analysis on it.’

Leo sat. Matt stood.

‘Thank you. Therefore, a team must be formed to extract this sample today. The cave is difficult to find, and mother nature will try to stop you. Expect gale force winds, heavy sleet, and poor visibility. The sump near the base of the cave is said to rise faster than cavers can climb out of its grip, flooding the cave at a moment’s notice. We don't know what other dangers the cave will try to create to stop you. Who is willing to head this team?’

I stood. Said nothing.

‘Thank you. Who will second Matti’s efforts?’

Astrid stood. Said nothing.

‘Excellent, thank you. You shall also take two new recruits. They are inexperienced but motivated and capable. They are to learn what such an expedition involves, to one day step in your shoes. Salwa and Ioana, please get your kit ready, the team leaves in 10 minutes.’

The union minibus had seen better days.

I must say I was slightly disappointed at the state of the transport that had been organised for us. One door was barely attached, none of the doors locked, there were dents on every side, and I heard reports of a catastrophic leak that had delayed departure on previous days by hours. Nevertheless, we reached the allocated spot on Leck Fell in good time, and began to change into our equipment. High-tech fleeces would keep us warm, and extra lighting was prepared in case the trip lasted longer than expected. On top of this, the usual descending and ascending equipment was required, to abseil into the artificial entrance. It had previously been suggested that we dive into the cave via the infamous Witches Cave within the Easegill branch, but this had been vetoed by Leo – as the name suggests, the flooded connection passage had been known to exhibit supernatural behaviour, taking revenge on cavers that dared try to pass through it. For such an important mission, the hole that had been dug from the surface and stabilised with advanced PVC technology would be more appropriate.

The entrance was finally located.

Once equipped with necessary gear and survival instincts, we said our teary farewells to the support team, and began the long walk down the fell. As predicted, the wind rose, swirling icy droplets into our frozen faces, and a thick mist descended to disorient our navigation. Undeterred, the team put welly before welly, through the faint path trampled into the grass by previous descenders. The footsteps, all in one direction, were stamped gently into the soft mud, each set telling an unspoken story of previous misfortunes. I began to identify each print, following the final trails of those boots as they, just as mine did then, marched their owners with determination to the cave entrance. I realised I had lost focus seconds too late and had fallen behind the group. A shadowy figure disappeared into the fog only metres ahead of me, and I scrambled desperately after them, feeling foolish for already making such a simple mistake. I managed to catch up before anyone had noticed my absence, stumbling through marshy patches and falling into minor depressions in the rugged landscape. I heard Astrid’s voice from the front of the group, even though her outline was broken and fuzzy: ‘We’re here!’ I could barely hear her over the howling wind. A small manhole protruded from the ground, covered loosely by a steel lid, leading down into a black, plastic pipe. At the bottom, I could make out a small ladder, presumably left as an aid for those desperate to ascend as quickly as possible. There was already one set of ropes rigged on the thick steel bar resting across the lip of the hole, but I resisted the temptation to descend as soon as possible – it was considered a bad omen to use the ropes left behind by previous missions. Instead I unpacked our own rope, and began rigging myself.

Once at the bottom of the entrance shaft, I called to Salwa to descend. Ahead of me lay the end of the man-made entrance, and the jagged rock formed a shaft beneath me, inviting me into its jaws. A crude picture, like a child’s drawing hung on the parent’s fridge, was all I had to prepare myself for the ropes I had to rig ahead. Muttering prayers under my breath, I continued to rig, utilising the primitive metal hangars hastily hammered into any solid rock found. I descended further, a short distance only, until a crawl was reached. I felt the walls of the cave close in on me claustrophobically as I squeezed myself headfirst down the tight tube. After a few minutes of whaling myself through, I suddenly felt a force holding me back. I couldn’t move my head to see what was pulling me, but no amount of wriggling would free me to keep pushing on. I began to panic; the first attempts of the cave to stop our progress could not be successful. More and more I tugged with all my might, until eventually the tackle sack behind me was ripped free from the crevice that had enveloped it, and I lurched forward. I felt my cheek with my hand, and analysed the blood on my fingers. Indeed, the cave was testing me.

The team reach the main chamber.

A mercifully short crawl later, the tunnel opened up into a narrow rift, quickly making a sharp left turn and falling out of sight. The bolts before me traced a horizontal line in the form of a traverse. I obliged, though only after the rest of the team had caught up. Together, we clung to the wall as we turned the corner, and were astounded by what we found beyond. A huge chamber stretched before us, reaching far beyond what our torchlight could illuminate. Thousands upon thousands of crystal spines hung from the ceiling high above, sparkling as though each were emitting a faint glow of the purest white light. Water trickled down every one, forming a cascade of droplets that poured to the floor far below. I began to scramble down the slope, transfixed by the sheer number of stalactites this cave was a home to. Standing below them and looking up, I felt the pattering rain caressing the injury on my bruised cheek like a soft divine hand.

The sample is prepared.

Once again, Astrid’s rational, urgent voice called out: ‘we need to prepare the sample!’ I tried to orient myself using landmarks around me, recognising only the perfectly still, bottomless pool of water from ancient photographs I had seen in books many years ago. It seemed to swallow the droplets falling into it, each passing through the surface without a single wave or ripple. Gathering my thoughts, I began to climb back towards the entrance, Astrid’s light guiding me away from the ominous sump. She had already unpacked the equipment we would use for extraction, passing the angle grinder to Salwa, who prepared to slice the tip off of one of the thousands of straws, arbitrarily chosen. The whirring of the machine cut through the quiet ambience of the cave, only amplifying once the spinning, diamond-tipped blade contacted the solid straw. We all stood in horror and anticipation as the circular blade cut deeper and deeper into the rock, until finally the tip dropped; and a long moment of silence permeated throughout cave. Even the water pouring down the straws seemed to hang, suspended for an eternity. The metallic clinking of the tip bouncing off of the rock floor echoed through the motionless chamber.

A great, trembling roaring shook me to my very core. The sump, previously motionless, began foaming and bubbling furiously, its surface rising with astonishing speed. Straws began falling from the ceiling, shattering and splintering into thousands of shards around us. I lunged for the tip, picking it off the floor with my fingertips just before the rocks it was resting on split to reveal a yawning chasm below, swallowing all light within it. I turned and ran – the others had already scrambled up the slope to the bottom of the rope, and were clambering up the walls, using the rigging only as handholds – prussiking would only slow us down. Furiously propelling ourselves through the crawl, it seemed to stretch far longer than it had felt on the way in, as if the cave had extended it as far as it could to trap us, giving it enough time to flood the tunnels. Water pooled around my wrists as a jagged rock hidden beneath the foamy surface sliced straight through my glove and into the fleshy outside of my right hand. Another burst of water poured into the crawl from behind me, soaking my elbows. Panicking, I realised that there was no knowing how long this crawl could be – what if it had broken through into the Leck Fell system in the time we were inside? If so, the resources that it would have access to could easily allow it to extend the existing tunnels by hundreds of metres.

The sump rises rapidly, in pursuit of the cavers.

I kept crawling, water level continuously rising until it lapped over my shoulders, slowing my progress as my arms became sluggish through the thick liquid. This couldn’t have been water – As I dragged my arms through it it felt more like tar, sucking my whole body backwards and thickening by the second. As the liquid licked at my chin, I began to slow down, already mentally submitting to the cave. I slowed to a halt, feeling unable to move my arms through whatever it was the cave was desperately trying to trap me in. A light blinded me from in front: someone was looking back to me. ‘Come on!’ I heard Astrid shout; she couldn’t have turned around in the tight crawl, so must have made it to the bottom of the entrance pitch. One final push of adrenaline freed my left arm from the tar, and used it to grab hold of a protrusion in the ceiling. Pivoting onto my back, I held my mouth above the relentlessly rising viscous liquid, and felt for handholds in the shattered roof of the tunnel. My torso and legs dragging uselessly behind me, I had to rely purely on my upper body to carry me for the final stretch. Finally reaching the entrance chamber, Astrid grabbed my flailing hand and dragged me onto the cold but dry rocks. The liquid was so thick it could hardly be pushed upwards by the cave, the opaque surface glistening threateningly as the crawl was flooded for good, no airspace left at all. The ladder could be seen just above - one by one we clambered up the rungs and burst into the clammy mist above. Here we lay for a while, hearing the tumultuous sounds beneath us gradually subside as Shuttleworth gave up hope trying to reach us.


Jingling rigging (and de-rigging): Dave Wilson, Erica Keung

I wanted to write something memorable to celebrate my first ever rigging trip, however, everything went smoothly as planned and thus nothing specially could be noted. I now love alpine knots and will thus use them for every rigging trip ever.


Voldemort Hole/Notts 2 exchange: Andy Jurd, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck, Leo Antwis, David Wilson, Kevin Sohn, Jergus Strucka, Herman Wong Andy Jurd, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck, Leo Antwis, David Wilson, Kevin Sohn, Jergus Strucka, Herman Wong

“I prepare the breakfast”, said Matti, “I slept little. I repaired a PhD machine in Germany. Twenty hours, three days in a row.”

Now he imbibes a glass of wine. Now he converses with Ellie. He gazes intently into the carmine-hued seascape. I will join him. I shall wake early, to be at hand. Let them cast their coins amidst mushrooms and eggy bread.’

We find ourselves in the kitchen, amidst the blazing jungle. A trail veiled in smoke unfurls, and the oven door opening perpetually chafes us with distractions. Sporadic visitors lay the fruits of their wisdom upon our shoulders. The bread is burnt.

“The mushrooms are perfection,” Erica affirmed, “thoroughly crispy and well-seasoned”.

“There is not enough bread,” Chris lamented, “we shall perish in the caverns, I will lay in front of Lost Johns and examine the roots. I will take them between my fingers, dine upon roots and grasses for supper. I will sleep under the entrance pitch and drink water from ditches and die there.”

“In the spirit of exploration,” said Davey, “the depths of Voldemort present themselves marvellously for a novice. Three drops, each size of ten men, and myriad subterranean wonders.”

Kevin in Voldemort

“The scale of matter becomes more apparent,” said Herman and peered at a small blue covering of a man-made shaft filled with Kevin, “Already notably smaller than anticipated. I have signed my name, but I remain unequivocal in my claustrophobia. I shall descend 20m pitches into the abyss, banishing my fear of tight passages and anguish; for I yearn to see the curtains, helictites, and straws as large as three men and experience the thrill of underground exploration. At least once.”

Echoes of rocks, round or pointy, the knees and chest feel all of them. Davey rigs the first pitch, a brief drop of barely 20 meters. At the base lies a rocky barrier leading to Haywagon – where calcite wonders lay undisturbed. Kevin demonstrated how to descend, and Herman follows. I descend gracefully into the rock pile, triggering an ant-sized avalanche. Davey yells if all is good – a long response is lost to the cave, the question is repeated and answered by a single word.

Haywagon presented us with indescribable wonders one may not speak about - only experience.

Stepping over the gardened rock wall, I observe Davey rigging the second pitch. “Do not let trepidation cloud your heart, I made this look scarier than it is,” he reassured. Davey descends, Kevin leaves his stone throne to follow just as scarily. Herman asks, “what do I clip to stay safe?”, I respond helpfully, ‘Anything safe.’ He descends smoothly.

At last, a wet tortuous rift squeeze, barely 80m in length present itself to us. As we traverse it, we our positions interchange:

Many formations.

Davey, Kevin, Herman, and I.
Kevin, Davey, Herman, and I.
Kevin, I, Davey, and Herman?
Kevin, I, Herman, and Davey.

Finally, we emerge at the head of a large drop, Kevin rigs it, we descend. I find it tight, impossible to hard-lock and pass a deviation, helpfully, I re-rig the deviation. No one else will know this, but now they descend swiftly through a waterfall. I hear complains about Kevin’s rigging. I walk away quietly.

We exit via Notts 2, leaving the wonders of Voldemort to Andy, Ana, Diss, and Leo.


Saturday morning, I wake up excited for my first trip. At the breakfast table, I was told that the routes hasn’t been decided yet. No worries. I was talking to Salwa, where she shared her experience from her previous trip. For context, I though caving was all going to be big open cave mouths, with wide passages where you get to look at pretty rocks and stalactites and maybe some crystals, with the occasional up or down climb. Nothing prepared me for the description Salwa told me, of tiny passages, tunnels you have to crawl through, tiny gaps to squeeze through, drops from which you will never climb out of should you fall. It was at this point that I first mentioned my claustrophobia as a child when I went into a Vietcong tunnel.

The groups are out, I was told I will be with David, Kevin and Jergus. Someone told me David doesn’t usually know the level of cave you should give to a novice. I didn’t think much about that. I mean, surely they exaggerate.

Onto the cave. We arrive at the entrance, where I spotted the wooden panel covering the hole. This is my first sign tipping me off at the journey ahead. This hole already looks tiny, and I was questioning whether anyone can fit through this. Boy have I got a whole lot more coming. This first part was already a hurdle for me. To get in the cave, we have to climb down the shaft at the surface, then, get on my belly and shuffle backwards, using every possible movement to move my body backwards, and there aren’t many ways to move in there. For the first time in my life, my body is restricted to the point where I can’t perform the simple movement of looking behind me. As first experience inside a cave goes, this was pretty scary. Another section where we have to crawl backwards, and then, my first SRT descent.

My mind cast back to the breakfast table, where David was asking me how my SRT skills was. I told him I was pretty confident in the tree training. I believe this was when David found out I have never even been on a caving trip before. Ana, who was there, said that rope skills in a cave is very different compared to being on the tree. With these words in my head, I made absolutely sure that everything was correct, checking several times with Jergus behind me that I have done things right. I remember the most common thing people say when doing rebelays is that it doesn’t come up much, or were they saying that for deviations. Anyway, boy did I do a lot of rebelays that day. My descent went fine, and we came to a junction. We decided to explore a protected area, where David explained the cave conservation rules to me. We saw bunches and bunches of stalactites, so so many. At some point, I put my hand over the tape where I didn’t see any stalactites, as I thought it was fine as long as I wasn’t touching anything important. I got a small telling off by Jergus, who told me that just touching these things can and will stump stalactite growthes. We came out of the protected area after what felt like an hour, and here is where things gets real. We proceeded through the cave, onto a loose pile of rocks hanging over a descent. David rigged the next section, then Kevin went, then me, then Jergus. After the cave, I mentioned to Jergus that they should take other novices to Voldemort, so they can see what I went through. He said that they probably won’t do that, because although I did alright today, the risk with other beginners is that at the aforementioned section, novices could get too close to the edge before Kevin called “Rope Free”, kicking rocks onto Kevin’s poor head. I of course did not do that, and rested comfortably away from the edge while waiting for Kevin. This descent was definitely one of the cooling descent I did throughout the trip. You go down for a bit, and stop halfway down, where if you look down you can’t see the bottom, or at least it felt that way. That post cave amnesia is getting to me. Here, You get onto a traverse and walk to a hole in the wall. Next section that I remember(again, post cave amnesia), We were crawling, and then came out to a long long tunnel. They gave me the numbers, but I can’t remember it, but it felt like 15-25 minutes of pure crawling. Either way, it was a big long crawl, my arm was getting so tired, I remember thinking to myself, if I get too tired my arm will just collapse, and then my head will be under the water flowing beneath us, and I’m gonna drown in this 3cm water. Near the end of the tunnel, I remember it getting really tight, to the point where I have to keep my chest to the floor, and crawl forward by inching sideways like a worm. Kudos to Jergus shouting encouragement behind me about how great a worm I was. Finally, I hear Kevin saying it opens up ahead. Salvation, I thought. But of course when a caver say it opens up they mean you get a bit more room. Boy I missed standing and stretching my body out at this point. The next challenge is a long corridor, with the two walls squeezed together to just about fit a human. This part scared me the most, as there were a few sections where I truly felt stuck, like there’s no way I’m going to be able to go forward. Meanwhile, I don’t want to go back either, because I know what awaits me behind me. These are the sections where, for a long section, I am squeezing through meters upon meters of pure gap, my head only looking forwards because there’s no way to turn my head backwards even if I wanted to. Finally, we came out to an opening, where there is a long long descent. It took a while for Kevin to rig this, and then Jergus went next. When it finally came to my turn, I get my descender out, and oh no, the bottom clip of the descender is jammed. I pushed at it hard as I can, but it remains stuck. David behind me tried to help, and told me to take the descender out of my crawl. At this point, I’m thinking, what if I drop the descender now. I’ll be stuck here forever. Thankfully, after a while of fidgeting, we figured some dirt managed to jam itself in the descender, we gave it a wash, and slowly managed to open the gate. This pitch was a long pitch, where we went through a waterfall despite the help of a deviation. At the bottom we were greeted by the other exchange group, who had waited at the meeting point for 2 hours. Boy did I feel bad, they were looking quite cold at that point. We went on our way, and from here on, we were at Notts 2, full of large tunnels, winding waterways, open spaces, unlike anything I’ve experienced so far. I remember thinking, this is what I actually thought caving was going to be, but since we were getting on to the call out time, we couldn’t take our time looking around, and had to rush through the rest of the journey.

Returning to the cabin, stories were shared about the traumatized novice who went down Voldemort cave. Although no official newsletters mentioned this, I (in my own head) became known as the boy who lived.


Ellie and Cecilia outside Notts I.

Notts 1 rigging (Christmas dinner chefs): Cecilia Kan, James Wilson, Rhys Tyers, Ellie Pizey

Team "I want to chop vegetables for 7 hours instead of caving" decided to do a crack rigging trip down the first bit of Notts 1. Originally we thought there might be more people coming down and that this would be helpful but as the trips shook out in the morning it turned out to be just one team following.

Arriving on Leck Fell my eye was immediately drawn to a pair of wet pants lying by the side of the road. I conducted delicate negotiations with Jimmy to ascertain his price. I got to £20 (well £20 of debt forgiveness) but this was not enough to convince him to wear the pants.

Knowing the "fence post and then 45 degree" trick and benefiting from a suspicious lack of clag we found the entrance in no time. I volunteered Ellie for the first portion of the rigging. We slithered down smooth like Bond (not chemical bond) whereas I imagine a less crack team might have been slow (like snail).

In the morning I had demured about rigging to the bottom and so we hadn't packed the rope. In the end we were probably quick enough that we could've gone to the bottom. Jimmy's sad puppy dog eyes as he stared down the stream passage caused me great anguish. Still our MAIN priority was manning the oven for the afternoon, and also it was quite wet down there, so I don't feel too bad.

Because of our incredible efficiency, Cecilia had time to write a song, Cave Oddity:

Ground Control to Wilson 1
Ground Control to Wilson 1
Take your Mister choc and put your helmet on

Ground Control
To Wilson 1
(Eight, seven, six)
Commencing rigging
Descender on
(Four, three, two)
Check your cow's tails
And may God's love
Be with you

This is Ground Control to Wilson 1
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose pants you wear
Now it's time to leave the pitch head if you dare

This is Wilson 1 to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the floor
And I'm hanging in a most peculiar way
And the rocks look very different today

For here am I sitting in a harness
Far above the ground
My croll is half worn through
And there's nothing I can do

Though I'm past one thousand meters
I'm feeling very brave
And I think my survey knows which way to go
Tell Davey his toes are very weird
He knows

Ground Control to Wilson 1
Your battery's dead, there's something wrong
Can you hear me, Wilson 1?
Can you hear me, Wilson 1?
Can you hear me, Wilson 1?
Can you he—

Here am I sitting in my harness
Far above the ground
My croll is half worn through
And there's nothing I can do

I contributed a word here and there (mr choc ;) ) and we knew we had an instant hit.

On our way out we found our derigging crew and I offered to take their bags and save them the trouble of rigging (they had intended to do left -> center and we rigged center but it seemed pointless given that we were basically out). They did not hesitate to unburden themselves.

We drove back, still thinking about the forbidden pants. Cooking dinner was fun. I don't think I've ever cooked a meal for over 20 people (though it was mostly Jimmy) and it turned out mostly alright!


Notts 1 derigging: Ben Richards, Chris Hayes, Ashley Wong, Janak Subberwal

Notts Pot Potter! Ben and I led our first trip, accompanied by Janak and Ashley we planned to descend the left route (with the centre allready rigged by team christmas dinner). We would then split into pairs and asccend both routes de-rigging simultaneously... this did not happen. As the christmas team left they comfirmed our temporal trepidations, and offered to take our rope. Foolishly I accepted and went on my way, unburdened by the weight of Desmond. Reaching the main chamber, we stormed down the centre route and reached the bottom with multiple hours to spare. Our saving grace was our rainbow backup lights with which we brought a spruce of magic to the cave and had a banging photoshoot in Ben's magic groto (please see the excelent photos for reference).

Chris clearly enjoying being in Ben's Magic Grotto.

After almost too many photos we began our way out, finding ourselves in the main chamber with 2 hours to kill. Instead of rigging the traverse (because it's ****) we crawled underneath, following the rift, then ascended, doubling back on ourselves to reach the steeple climb (the climb in up the rift is about 5m and could possibly be rigged with a 7m rope off a natural chockstone if desired). We wriggle through the crawl, rigged the next pitcha and flew across the in situs in Adamsons Route, before turning around after the first pitch in the acrobat series. We made it back in good time, and had a great trip :)

Chris H

A great intro to SRT trip for Janak and my first trip to Notts 1. Chris' report says most of what needs to be said, and I'm sure some RGB photoshoots will happen in the future given how well this one went! The initial route down was a nice warm-up and the Adamsons route provided some more challenging SRT but it was all pretty easy and we made it back to the bus at exactly 7:29 for our half seven meet up with the Shuttleworth gang that was only a short while behind. We met them while wandering over towards their entrance and headed back to the hut for a superb Christmas dinner cooked by the cooking team who had gone into Notts before us and taken our bag out.

Ben's Magic Grotto feat. Janak

As always seems to be the case the Christmas dinner night descended into a variety of festivities. Jergus had brought the Magpie car buffer and buffed out many of our caving aches and bruises. He also told us how he'd walked into Magpie to see Jack Haliday being buffed on his bare chest, but that's a story for another time. After the meal had finished Astrid jumped onto the table and rolled around on it while "cleaning" the surface. This prompted a frenzy of table traverse activity, initially starting with just a single table, then becoming a C shape, with three tables back to back, and then after relentless petitioning from myself, the most beautiful table traverse ever conceived was created - three tables end to end, spanning two rooms as they passed through the door to the kitchen. Admittedly by this point, the most keen traversers had all but destroyed their arms but we gave it a go regardless, with various others sitting on the table buffing those foolish enough to attempt the mega traverse.

As if these astounding innovations were not enough, Put Your Legs On The Table also received a bumper update of new features and game modes. As a warm-up we did a round of traditional PYLOTT (which I found out I was rather good at), followed by put your bum on the table (which I found out I'm rather bad at). This all went fairly well, at which point Matti and Chris started scheming whether they could add a multiplayer mode where both players pull each other onto the table. By interlocking legs, and starting with their heads away from the table (i.e. chins pointing towards each other) they then both did sit-ups to the point that they could pull the other up with their arms. Despite Matti nearly falling off in a horrifying manner, this went rather well. A second version was then attempted, where they were forehead to forehead under the table, and photo evidence infers this was successful as well. Ellie also solved a Rubik's cube while watching these antics, which was very impressive.

All of this still left some with more energy to burn off, so we attempted the age-old game of trying to remember how to do a broom traverse. This was eventually figured out, as it always is, after much hilarious trial and error, and we even managed to do so without destroying any brooms, which is always nice. Finally, at about 2 am I called it a night and headed off to bed, to start healing my various bruises from the exceedingly entertaining evening.

The infamous Christmas dinner.

Ben R

Notts 2: Fiona Hartley, Úna Barker, Kitt Thomas, Ksai Lee

Una and I had planned a chill trip for her return to caving after 18 months: Notts 2. This was gratifying as we avoided all the planning faff and I had time to go for a swim in the morning with Ana and Diss. We added Ksai to our team for his first ever caving trip. The entrance scaff always goes on for a little longer than I ever remember and the climb was wetter than usual so we got a good sprinkling. Bimbled upstream for a while until before the water got waist deep, finding the entrance inlet to Voldemort, then turned and made our way out. Although we were in time to reach Inglesport before closing at 5pm, turns out the cafe closes at 4pm, so I sadly ate a chocolate pastry from the Co-op to tide me over until excellent Christmas dinner.


Notts II Pot: an unexpected beninging (yes, pun intended) to a long journey

Notts II Pot’s opening is basically a mineshaft, and since this is my first proper caving trip in “Yorkshire” (yes Notts II is in Lancashire so whatever), I’m kinda surprised that’s the way of getting into my first cave ever as I have watched a lot of caving disaster documentaries which they just entered from a natural shaft via a rope or whatever means into a cave instead of a MINESHAFT, NOT EVEN FOR MINING BUT JUST GETTING INTO THE CAVE. After descending the weird mineshaft, we hit an underground stream not long after. Given that Yorkshire Dales National Park mostly is formed of Carboniferous Limestone and from Google Maps terrain map u could see it is highly folded (apart from The Calf near Sedbergh which look more like part of Lake District by the shape of it but ye whatever), it is expected, at least to me as a EPS people, that the water should be containing a lot of Ca2+, and should be well filtered through the rocks. But no. I think that was a brown grease stream instead. (Obviously it was caused by the Tannin or 1,2,3,4,6-penta-O-{3,4-dihydroxy-5-[(3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoyl)oxy]benzoyl}-D-glucopyranose dissolved in water which if I get it out into a beaker it will look like tea but I was underground without sufficient lighting [a few headlights are not sufficient lighting for determining the actual colour] so that solution does look like brown grease to me.) I was rather disgusted by the water as it is brown like brown grease. Trekking along the underground limestone brown-grease-like-water stream, we hit a confluence after some time. And we entered the main stream. The streams look like what they would appear on the overworld, but just simply underground. Due to the Winter weather, the water level is higher than what should be expected. Hence we went upstream instead of down as there are some more inlets, adding more water into the main stream and basically what we want to see will be either visually destroyed beauty-wise or completely overwhelmed with brown-grease looking water. Going upstream we went through some more narrower bits, where we faced some rapid flows just like back in the overworld. The current is pretty strong which I have to expand my volume just like what a puffer fish does and clog myself in the channel perpendicularly to the fluid flower in order to avoid myself being washed downstream by the fluid. Along the way, there are calcite (CaCO3) deposits all over the place, forming different brilliant stalagmites and stalactites. Well Yorkshire Dales is a karst area so obviously CaCO3 will be present. We passed the connection to Lost John’s and the bypass if the stream is flooded and then at one point there is a chamber above us while we r inside a small ravine like structure below. That should be an underground lake before and later on the underground stream just had other idea and decided to eat the CaCO3 and erode into that ravine we see today. Finally, we arrived where Voldemort Hole joins up the Notts II part of the entire Cave System. There are a lot of tiny stalactites, some are brownish cloudy white, some are rather pure as they look half translucent and is white in colour. Slightly ahead there is a large pool of water which we tried to see how much further we could go ahead but decided to turn back out instead due to it was actually an underground lake instead of “Nottsford” and water level was indeed high. Upon turning back, we passed again the “If-flooded-passage” and the connection to Lost John’s which sound more like “Los John” to me. We met the other group on our way out which they have to crawl up and we went underneath continue on the streamway. They were going to Voldemort which they had to wait 2.5 hours later on at the connection I mentioned above for yet another group to cross towards Notts II. (Please see other cave reports for those 2 trips: Notts II <> Voldemort) We did see some other cavers (not from ICCC) along the way, 2 from Voldemort to Notts II and 2 from Notts II to god knows where. And since I have kinda make myself a little bit comfortable to a cave environment so we move faster than when we entered the cave. Surprisingly I did not miss the confluence like a lot of people do, and it’s my first trip. Well this is a good start. We ascended fairly quickly, and got out rather smoothly, which the only thing getting in the way was the steel lid covering the cave. That took me like 3 whole minutes to get it open which causing a massive noise throughout that 3 whole minutes. And by that time, on Gragareth, we r in the cloud. However, I felt some pain right after I got out from the cave, which would finally cause me an actual damaged skin 3 days later, on 19th, right before I ascend onto Ingleborough (yes the mountain, not the cave) via Gaping Gill. I treated it at Saw Mill Cafe, Clapham, where I found out that I had the damaged skin, and continue my hiking journey up to Ingleborough. On my way, I passed Ingleborough Cave, Gaping Gill & its various pots and Little Ingleborough before finally reaching the peak. I descended via Simon Fell and Park Fell towards Ribblehead and took the train to Leeds, where I discovered that I had another bruise responsible for causing a notorious amount of pain along the journey. The second bruise is on a rather funny area that I couldn’t really treat it, also caused from the Notts II pain 3 days prior. This caused disruption to the journeys later on of the tour, which originally Wednesday I planned to go caving again but due to that bruise I went to Hull & Scarborough instead. Yes, Kingston-upon-Hull & Scarborough in East Riding of Yorkshire.

Well, overall, Notts II is a good trip to start off. However, the boulders hanging over the ravine actually kinda haunts me throughout the trip as I don’t know when will they fall onto the streamway. But generally, a great start to my journey of caving. I wish I won’t see more disgusting brown grease like water in the future which probably I will face them again sooner or later anyway.


I think the difference in trip reports for Notts 2 goes a long way in demonstrating how different caving feels to the inexperienced and the not.



Lancaster Hole - Wilf Taylor's Passage round trip: David Wilson, James Wilson, Ellie Pizey, Salwa Ahmad, Janak Subberwal

So, today's adventure had me paired up with the dynamic duo of James and Davie. Innocent enough, right? Wrong. Little did I know, these two weren't just buddies—they were twin brothers Oh boy. I knew about James' reputation but one look at Davies physique, accentuated by his snug shorts and I knew I was in for a ride. Do they know how intimidating it is for the two of them to be in one group!!! It's like I have to prove my worth yet I know I will fail miserably (which I most definitely did). Anyway, Lancaster hole was our route today…. Now all I remember is my fear of heights and my lack of trust of SRT decided to settle in very quickly! But I had made a call to my close girlfriend earlier who reassured me that I, alongside the caving society, were absolutely crazy so that gave me a lot of comfort knowing that my feelings were entirely valid. Down I went, and after what felt like a few light years, I finally made it down… Once we started doing horizontal caving I was happy as that is what I do best of all caving related things. Got soaked in hip deep water but I would rather that than be 30m up in the air on one rope and some metal equipment. I don't know who the first leader was but Davie did an amazing job…. I think cavers are some of the most calm and patient people I have ever met. I just still don't understand why experienced cavers would want to take time out of their life to lead a freshers group into a route which they have probably done before and which they can take a fraction of the time to do if they were to do it themselves. I guess that's a question to ask for next time. Anyway by the time we started turning round I soon realised that my biggest fear was ascending for sure. I struggled with it yesterday and I had a very strong feeling I was going to struggle with it today but I think I defo performed much worse today. After ascending at the rate of a snail I finally got to the last rebelay until I would be out into civilisation. And well I got a bit carried away for I couldn't even get my bloody chest jammer off. Panic tiptoed in, whispering about potential malfunctions and the plummeting-to-my-doom scenario. In my head, Davie might've been rolling his eyes at my sluggishness, but truth be told, I had no idea why that stubborn chest jammer clung to me like a koala on a eucalyptus tree even though I was placing my entire weight on the foot loop. Anyway it was decided that he would rig another rope but in the end he just hoisted me out. I think this trip has taught me one very important lesson. It's all well and good going to the gym to build muscles and toning but the true strong people are definitely cavers. And no one can make me think otherwise… Did I forget to say that Janek and James were already in their dry clothes and heading back to Lancaster hole to try and figure out why we were taking so long. That's how slow I was. I truly believe I am not fit enough for caving. Anyway it was safe to say I have embarrassed myself yet again. My mother always said I was always book smart but never very good at sports and caving has been making me all too aware of that.

We got back and I had a very long lovely conversation with Ashley about everything and anything. A girls bonding of sorts which was very much needed and then it was time for bed. I am very happy with the room I chose. No one snores! And so within 3 minutes I fell straight to sleep!


County Pot bimble: Dave Wilson, Rhys Tyers, Ioana Balabasciuc, Herman Wong

Ioana enjoying County Pot.

Herman, master of blue steel.

I decided to do a nice photo bimble round county. I recruited DW to navigate and the two surliest cavers (Ioana and Herman) as photo models. This turned out to be a good decision as Herman can do a perfect blue steel on command.

The trip itself was easy with DW in the lead. We encountered a group of lost (insert incompetent club name du jour here) cavers who were struggling to find the second pitch. DW and I both tried to explain the way to them (we were not far away!) but in the end they seemed strangely incapable of understanding our words. After some minutes DW led them to poetic justice whilst I took photos in the chamber we found ourselves in.


Knock Fell Caverns: Andy Jurd, Ben Richards, Jergus Strucka, Ashley Wong

It was finally happening, Jergus was going to Knock Fell which we’d discussed many weeks prior after having flicked through the Northern caves and having spotted the truly ridiculous survey. Andy joined and volunteered his car for the long drive, a one-and-a-half-hour drive each way. We then poached Ashley as a top-notch fresher having been very competent in Notts pot yesterday, and set about investigating the finer details.

Wandering across Knock Fell

The walk time from the parking spot rapidly decreased from 5 miles to 3 to 1 mile, to 10 minutes. It wasn’t clear where we could and couldn’t park as the cave is on access land but the road to it is private leading up to the radar station and quarry.

We all jumped in Andy’s car at about 11 at which point he told us it was a 100-mile round trip. We made ourselves comfortable and chatted the whole way there about random things, including how Jergus thinks no one should ever hard lock and how SRT should be fully interpretive. Fascinating.

Jergus also got excited at the idea of visiting the second highest mountain in the world, (later found out to be instead the highest mountain in England outside Lake District). The rest of the journey passed in an hour and a half blur of trance music and small countryside villages. We also passed a strange Christian commune that looked like a prison.

Eventually, we reached the designated road and found 5 scary signs telling us that we really shouldn’t pass this point and then another sign saying we mustn’t pass the point in a mile. We decided to park there so Andy could go to work tomorrow instead of being arrested. After a quick and easy change given the lack of SRT we started plodding up the hill, a walk of about an hour and a half on the way up, an hour bombing it back on the way down.

The walk itself was very scenic and easygoing, and we passed a later parking spot further up the road which would be better to park in next time.

We continued walking up, Andy veering off on a cheeky shortcut to cut the corner, disappearing into the clag as we climbed above the cloud base. Continuing on we eventually made it to the point to turn off and beelined towards the cave. A much easier walk would have been to continue up the road, and then take the Pennine Way across to the entrance, but our shortcut seemed quicker. The wind was picking up higher up the mountain and the PVC was getting sweatier each step, leading to my odd setup of hood up and chest open. The top of the hill becomes something of a plateau potted with shake holes and eventually, we found the specific one we wanted, using Andy’s phone and the GPS coordinates from the CNCC website. Some still had snow in the bottom but overall there was practically no snow left after the cold weather a few weeks earlier. The metal cage opened easily and we rigged a single handline for the entrance pitch. It would have been possible to free climb without one but it was definitely much nicer to have one, and it wasn’t that long a pitch, perhaps 10m in height. There’s no need to rig it for a descender as no SRT is required anywhere else in the cave, and the wall would have been terrible in harnesses. It also is supposedly possible to park right at the top only a 10-minute walk away somehow, but we weren’t sure how legal this was. Other members of UK Caving have done so at least.


One by one we climbed down and Ashley did well given this was her 4th ever cave. Immediately we dropped into the maze, apparently the largest maze cave in the UK, which wasn’t hard to believe. The initial passages are a foot to a meter wide and a few meters tall. Following a bizarrely perfect grid layout with choices at almost every junction every 5m in some places. We had brought a compass and had three backup phones with the survey on, using the cave phone as our main survey phone, which worked very well. Using the compass we set off in a given direction and navigation, although challenging, actually was completely fine for us the whole way as we were checking every turning and feature that we could in order to know where we were. We followed the red main route on the CNCC website as many of the drawn connections in the survey are not passable by a person but you can see onto the next chamber through gaps in boulders.

Turning the corner we found an incredible bed of fossils, by far the best I’ve ever seen in any cave and possibly some of the best I’ve ever seen in “the wild” outside of a museum. There’s clearly a bed of coral that just got squashed or something, and it’s in such pristine condition it looks like it was fossilised a decade ago, with amazing detail and its full 3d structure poking out of the rock with tubes shells and all sorts. This bed of fossils continued throughout the whole cave, since it’s almost completely horizontal, and changed colour to red, yellow, grey and almost black in places. Incredibly pretty.

Ben near Scotch Corner.

We continued on and had to look around for the specific routes, but we’d always find the required compass direction and then look for routes that matched it which worked well. There was a little crawling near the beginning but almost all of the rest of the cave is walking in a rift and clambering over boulders, with occasional crawly bits here and there. One crawl near the entrance had an unfortunate calcited rock in the middle which had to be squeezed around but this wasn’t too hard, and no one had SRT on anyway.

As we continued we found many weird chambers and passages, many having weird levels spaced by about 30cm and the passage itself being diamond shaped with these ledges getting wider and narrower until they made a crack that went up high into the ceiling. There were many random stals out of nowhere with some of them being white, red, black or some combination of all of them, like the bacon curtains.

We made it to Scotch Corner relatively easily and then made a slight detour to see the drippy aven around the corner which was quite fun. After that, we headed onwards, passing bands of red fossils and more pretty things. Navigation instructions were ridiculous for this cave, such as 15th left or 13th on the right, as every 5m or so there was an almost perfect cross rift often with promising looking rifts and tunnels leading off on either side.

A lot of the cave seems to be semi-collapsed with boulders strewn across the floor which often need clambering around over or under. We eventually made it quite far along the red recommended trunk route, heading towards the northeast series where we became confused as to where we actually were. We poked around but there seemed to be no obvious way on through a boulder choke, but the survey matched all the side passages and indicated we had to just continue straight on through it. Jergus inserted his feet into a very small squeeze rather cautiously and in the meantime Ashley and I investigated a potential bypass, instead discovering the rainbow curtains which looked a lot like bacon. Jergus decided this was not possible to get through and I poked my head in to conclude the same. However, just beyond the squeeze, I saw an obvious orange waypoint marker, like those we had been following in reverse as they all pointed out, indicating this was definitely the way on. We decided that either we couldn’t find the obvious way through (unlikely, we poked everywhere we could see) or rocks had moved and blocked the easy way on (more likely given it was a massive boulder choke).

Team Knock Fell just before turning around.

We turned around and headed back, photographing along the way and we stopped to poke in side passages, finding a second aven behind some sketchy balancing rocks we gardened a little for those who would come after us. Retracing our steps we ticked off the various mental waypoints we had each made on the way in for this exact purpose: gravel cairns, that weirdly shaped rock, the twin squeezes, the particularly pretty shelved passage off of Scotch Corner, and before we knew it we were back at the entrance climb having had no other navigation issues at all!

One by one we climbed out - it was a bit loose so we avoided being below those climbing. Popping out the top we were confronted with the cold and unpleasant outdoors. It was incredibly windy at the entrance but as soon as we poked our head out of the shake hole the horizontal rain greeted us and I retreated inside my PVC hood and balaclava. Visibility was down to about 5m again, much as yesterday when Ashley and I walked back from Notts 1. We stomped down the mountain in an hour with the howling gale at the top reducing to a slight breeze. We had a surprisingly pleasant change at the bottom where Jergus managed to drop a Snickers on my kit so I ate it thinking it was mine. Andy said this was one of the top 10 trips he’d ever been on and spirits were very high on the drive back. A truly weird cave but a great day out and an adventure into the unknown.

Ben R

King Pot: Matti Mitropoulos, Leo Antwis, Chris Hayes, Astrid Rao, Erica Keung, Kevin Sohn

Team King with Astrid behind the camera.

T-shaped troubles in King! A large team of 6 went to king, absolutely devastating Matti's plans of reaching the final pitch (....sorry!). We made reasonable pace to the T-shaped passage, and slowly edged our way through. Quite tired and time-conscious we decided to turn around after the last of the walking passage. Soon after beggining our return we had some trouble with the T-shaped passage as Erica was sliding down into the rift beneath. After some trial and error we found a technique that worked - filling the rift with my body! After hanging upside down for a mew minutes I was feeling a headache coming, and Astrid saved me from chocking on the Parry-C. The rest of the cave passed with no issues other than a bothy thrown down the third pitch.

Chris H

Having done a nice rigging trip at Jingling pot yesterday, I was ready for a classic, hard and fun trip, or so I thought. During the lovely pancake breakfast that Ellie and Chris made, I was prompted by Matti and Astrid to go to King pot with them to try to get to the bottom. Thinking it would be a fun challenge, I agreed. All the more experienced cavers warned against the infamously difficult ‘T section’, which Fiona has gotten stuck in and followed up with a half-attempt of comforting me. Against my natural self-preservation instinct (or lack thereof), I confirmed my decision to go to the cave, and was soon joined by Chris, Leo and Kevin, who all wanted a difficult cave.

The hike up to the cave was the first warning sign to it amount of pain I would put myself through. After a quick chat to gain permission to a very friendly farmer, we marched towards the hole with as much excitement as a bunch of hung over and dehydrated people could manage. The walk up was steep, steeper than anything I have ever done, which sets the tone for the rest of the journey. Fortunately, the entrance was found rather quickly, near a tree which grew in a little dip on the ground. The order of cavers were decided quickly, with me being second to last due to having the least confidence.

After a couple of steep steps and a smooth free climb down, the first pitch was reached rather quickly, and was a chill 8m descend, which comforted me a bit. The crawl and squeeze after that was quite strenuous but not difficult, with the occasional tight bit that I rather horizontally went through, flapping myself like a fish. The tight passage led to some traverse which was done with no issue with the traverse line and rather quickly I was down to the second pitch, described as the human sized hole, a bit of wriggle and I was down. The next serious of squeezes and crawls were rather comforting as they were tiring but not scary or hard, and I started to get into a nice rhythm, and had hoped that it would carry down through the rest of the journey. Little did I know, King was about to rear its ugly head to me in the shape of a T- crawl/traverse.

After a bit of squeezing and crawling which is getting tighter and tighter, a tight rift with a T-shape showed itself. At this point, Astrid, who was in front of me and had been in King before told me that we have reached THE T BEND, and I thought I was ready. I tried using the technique mentioned by many cavers, dropping one leg down and keeping the rest me of me on the top of the T, I started the painful journey across. This was the first time I ever felt this constricted, where I had to manipulate my body parts in painful and gruesome ways to barely keep me on top of the rift. The foot holds that I was told existed in the bottom part of the T seemed to have disappeared, leaving me with nothing to propel myself forward but my arms. Thankfully, having done a bit of bouldering I managed to hold myself up and with a lot of assurance from Astrid showing me techniques , some screaming to gain strength and a knee from Chris at times, I managed to get through the T-bend and the horrible 4 meter climb down where I was staring at a big hole all the time. At this point I was exhausted, both physically and mentally, and after a bit of caving vertically (thank god), I decided stop and rest while the rest of the group did a bit more crawling and Kevin thought of some new cave songs which we definitely need to write down. I almost fell asleep when the rest the group returned, seemingly in high spirits and we started our slow way back to the top.

Erica in King Pot.

To think the way in the T-bend was hard, it was nothing compared to the nightmare I was about to put myself in. Having experienced the difficulties of coming in and been very tired, I was growing less confident of making through by the minute, and eventually with Leo in the bend, it was my turn. The 4m climb up to the initial squeeze did nothing to assure me, though clipped in, I could not find an ounce of strength in me to propel me up and across to the start of the T-bend (bad sign). After a while, and some defeated sitting, I decided that enough is enough, and through sheer willpower, splashed right up to the squeeze with me feet still out. After some struggle, I got most of my body over the rift and looking down, realizing I am very high up, I thought to take extra care to prevent a similar fate to Fiona. Trying to do a similar technique compared to on the way in, I dropped my foot in. However, maybe due to a lack of core strength, the motion brought half my torso down as well and my descender got jammed between my torso and the cave walls and I was ‘stuck’, unable to get up but sliding down ever so slowly. My attempts at pulling myself up using my arms, which were stuck in awkward positions in front and behind me restricted by the rocks near them or pushing me up using my leg down the rift did nothing but pushed me down even further. At this point, with little strength left, the horrible reality that I might fell has started to come onto me, and as if my survival instinct finally kicked in, a terrible panic came in and I started screaming, and it wasn’t a simple grunt nor a short screech, it was screaming like a pig being slaughtered. I desperately tried to move my head around to figure some kind of solution and realized that the rocks around my head meant I cannot see anything around me, and the bend suddenly seemed a lot more smaller, and I felt light-headed and started to hyperventilate, turns out I was claustrophobic at all. I had went through the five stages of grief by the time my descender had slipped almost all the way down and my leg and arms reached their endurance limit, and accepted that I would need to be rescued. Thankfully, Leo, Astrid, Matti and Chris managed to talk some sense into me, and with a sling positioned by Chris, Matti’s legs , Leo’s words and Astrid attempt at climbing dangerously to my location, and my innate stubbornness, I managed to struggle out of my almost certain fate, and returned to being in a relatively more comfortable position (Not really), mind you I was still at basically at the start of the T-bend. The rest of the bend wasn’t pleasant either, but maybe due to my frustration and just the shock I just went through, I screamed all the way through the T-bend and everyone heard my ‘AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH’, as I pushed and squeezed and wedged and fought my way through this section, while simultaneously rethinking every life decision I have ever made that led me to this. With Leo comforting me , and Matti’s knees, I finally got though the section, and by this point, I was completely done with this day and cave. Thus I silently made my way up to the King, which thankfully was so much better than the horrible bend. As I poke my head through the final climb, and breathed the fresh all underneath a foggy sky, I can’t help but wonder, what the Fxxk was the point of that, man I want some pasta bake and wine right now.

However, just like how evolution made women forget the pain of labor, I slowly forgot the pain of going through King with the help of some alcohol , and somehow it has evolved into a fond memory and an exciting story that I am too keen to tell others, and I find myself somehow yearning to brave this trip again, perhaps to its bitter end, maybe with a bit more upper body strength next time. a bit more humor and a bit less screaming.


In the morning I had wanted to do a hard King trip, aiming to make it to the bottom of the last pitch. However during the course of the planning phase though the team grew larger and larger despite my protests, making my dream of a hard trip sink into the brown muddy upstream sump (or is the downstream sump the ugly one? I can never remember). Anyway I got a bit pissy with people while packing kit (sorry about that), but on the drive to Kingsdale I came round to the idea that it’d be a social trip where we just chat shit and have fun. We shouldn’t really have done King if that was the aim but eh whatever, we weren’t gonna change caves now.

Popping by the farm to ask permission to trespass, we opted for the steep, slippery route up the fell, but found the cave without issue (at the top gate, turn 45 degrees to the right and walk until you see a shakehole with a tree. The entrance is in the shakehole to the left of that one.) I was navigating on the way down so was preoccupied with that for most of the trip, just chilling at the front. I was a little concerned about the T-shaped passage, but decided not to make a big deal of it and just carried on straight through it. It was easier than I remember from 2 years ago. The others managed it mostly without too much difficulty, only a little slowly.

We decided just before the really low submerged crawl started that the motivation to get fully wet wasn’t really there so turned. The T-shaped passage on the way out, however was far more interesting. I was supposed to be at the back, so didn’t pay much attention to what was happening ahead, until Erica’s screaming took a new tone: calling for help. Huh I guess I should see what’s going on. She was right at the start of the passage, and was simultaneously stuck and gradually slipping down the ~5 metre drop. I tried to wedge myself into the rift as best as I could below the screaming and gave her a few footholds to push off of with my knees. Luckily she didn’t fall and (with lots more screaming) managed to get past the scary droppy bit. Then it was just slowly making our way through, giving her shoulders and elbows to kick off of every couple metres (with a little more screaming). Eventually we made it, had a break for chocolate, a chat, and some dancing, and then exited.


Climber-clambers: Fiona, Diss, Ana, Una, Kitt, DKP

Current understanding is that one can't hire climbing shoes from Inglewall (it's unmanned), thus we needed a standard wall option for our cheeky indoor climbing session. We chose Lancaster Wall and drove over, meeting DKP at his house to split into team climbfirst and team eatfirst because Una doesn't like pancakes. I circled a rammed car park in Lancaster under increasing stress, kicked Una and Kitt out to get a head start on ordering food, and promptly found a space on my next go round the car park. I then received a message from Diss that the climbing wall was closed due to the entirety of the industrial estate it is on being full of waste on fire. Faff faff faff.

The replan had us heading north to KendalWall. It was absolutely heaving. I felt quite out of it for a bit when we got there due to the unexpected extra driving and the bouldering room being at the top of a five-storey tower. Mood improved from playing on slab though. Drove Una and Kitt back to Clapham in time for a train, shared some tea with Cecilia who was 'working' alone at the hut, then had more tea when Dave brought Diss and Ana back. Team Lancaster Hole was late back, oops; guess I was wrong to think that a Wilf Taylor round with novices would be achievable within reasonable time on a Sunday. More like 'could be achievable'. Ah, just never really know.



County -> Wretched Rabbit: Dave Wilson, Astrid Rao, Salwa Ahmad, Ashley Wong

Today, I put in a special request to team up with Ashley. Our dream team included Ashley, Astrid, DW, and me, venturing into the enchanting Wretched Rabbits. It's like the Disneyland of caves for me—oodles of horizontal exploration, the stuff I absolutely adore. Plus I had very good company and I knew I was in very good hands! I think that's what made this trip very fun! I was able to appreciate the cave itself and the layout rather than worry about my life! Astrid and I also indulged in the fine art of executing a perfect face-first dive into the deep bogs. You know, just adding a touch of elegance to our cave exploration escapades.



Wretched Rabbit -> Lancaster Hole: Ben Richards, James Wilson, Ioana Balabasciuc, Herman Wong

Rhys had been convinced to visit Knock Fell Caverns after Andy, Jergus, Ashley and I had come back raving about its weirdness: the giant fossils, the maziness, the shelved passages and the upside down streamways, it really is weird. That left the rest of us going to Easegill as although it would have been a great day for all in Gaping Gill, the weather did not comply and was incredibly wet and ridiculously windy.

We eventually settled on a County-Lanc exchange and an extra team in Wretched Rabbit, only for me to realise that this plan would have made Herman and Ioana go in County two days in a row, so I successfully turned it into a three-way exchange (in spirit) of wretched rabbit to lanc, lanc to county and county to wretched rabbit. Quite impressive me thinks.

The change and walk over the fell were particularly grim and we stuffed SRT kits into tackle sacks for the final parts of the traverse in Lanc. It was nice for me to return to Lanc after many years - Lanc was my very first SRT trip back in winter tour 2017 so it was nice to head back as a leader with freshers of my own this time. We eventually made it down the streambed to find it a raging torrent, completely impassible. This was initially quite concerning and James nobly attempted a crossing only to bail early on and we instead scrambled up the Northern bank's grassy cliff to find a convenient sheep path to follow instead. Ioana also shared all sorts of horrifying tales about escaping from cars in rivers as a child, which sounded very traumatic indeed.

James trying to reach the new stone wall entrance.

We eventually spotted the new fancy wall for wretched rabbit and were surprised to see the water go right up to the bottom of the wall. I’d been assured that it was fine in wet conditions but hadn’t actually read the description I’d picked up in a rush on the way over. Worryingly, when picking it up it said that the route was completely impassible in wet conditions and very dangerous. Had I read it more carefully at the time I’d have seen that it was in fact describing the spiral staircase route, which of course was impassible, but this did make us all quite cautious as we tentatively made our way through the big tube into the darkness.

Fortunately, the cave was indeed completely fine despite the high water levels, a little splashy in places but very passable. We rigged a couple of bonus ropes to help the county team on the rather tall hand-lined free climbs near the entrance, then worked our way on through the exciting windy streamways. James successfully spotted that one climb up into four ways chamber that’s so easy to miss. Big fan of wretched rabbit, the winding streamway is very cool actually.

At four ways chamber we stopped for a short break while James went off and poked around. Herman, Ioana and I stopped for a chocolate bar and after regrouping we all set off for Lanc. We popped out into the large chamber of Stop Pot, just after four ways chamber, and had a poke around before climbing up the ladder towards Lanc. The roof was interesting here, with large muddy walls but a clean white-painted ceiling that continued on through much of the subsequent passage.

The ladder emerged into more stomping passage, pretty muddy and covered in large boulders, with beautiful straws and stals on the ceiling above. This was far prettier than I was expecting and quite something. I should return for some photos at some point.

A very grainy minarets photo feat. Herman

Not long after this, we bumped into Chris, Matti and Erica headed for County. Warning of a drippier than usual Lanc pitch were given but apparently it was still fine. We bid them adieu and continued onwards through the large mud-filled chambers with more beautiful roofs, aiming for the famous minarets chamber to do some photoing there. Although very pretty, I think the large chambers were more photogenic and impressive than the minarets, but then again I like big passages and I cannot lie.

We did get some photos of the minarets (hopefully I’ll have added them here and they turned out okay), and the way the three passages are joined by crawls between parallel tubes is really weird - loved that. Having returned to the hut and seen some other photos from this part of the system I don't think I did it justice but never mind. Next time.

Herman pointing at the painter's palette.

From then on we blasted towards the lanc traverses, at one point James poked down to investigate the stream again, and he also appeared up the back of Stake Pot having found a back route to the main pitch Ioana and I did. We donned SRT kits at the traverses of Lanc, at which point I recognised certain parts from that winter tour 6 years ago (!) which was fun. The painter's palette was very impressive. We headed up the very drippy pitch, which looked particularly awesome from the bottom with lights turned off, seeing James's head-mounted sun lighting up the floor from outside the cave 30m above. I derigged and headed out last through the heavy rain-feeling drips and then we wandered back to the bus.

Ben R

Lancaster Hole -> County Pot: Matti Mitropoulos, Chris Hayes, Erica Keung

Lancaster landing and County climbing! Matti and I did not know the way - this made for an interesting trip. We landed in Lanc after bombing down a very wet entrance pitch, and fell down fall pot to begin the long walk to Stop Pot. Some of the in-situs were rather slippery, and fortunately our extensive knowledge of italian hitches came in clutch. After a lot of walking, crawling, climbing and admiring we passed throught the minarretes hanging concluded this was better than Shuttleworth. We bumped into the WretchedLanc team just before stop pot, and the CountyWretched in Stop Pot. After some classic Dave Directions we boldly proceeded in the wrong direction. With our impressively lacking comprehension of the route, we packed the wrong route discription and exited via the upper trident. The upper trident as the survey said was 'sporting' with all the water, and we had a brilliant time in spite of our navigation issues. After an uplicmb and strong debate (Matti for, Erica and I against) we removed an in-situ rope believing it to be one rigged by Dave. The route finding was clearer from here and we proceeded boldly with confidence making excelent time. Stomping back over the fells we beat the Lanc team and quickly stalled the minibus a few times in celebration.

Chris H

It was extremely funny to go out of the county after doing the same route three times as we were very unsure of the way, and being told to walk into the flowing river as 'It is easier than the traverse' and then fell immediately into a giant hole and filled my PVC up with water (Thanks Matti). It was even funnier when we went back to the hut and realised that we somehow went out of county via upper trident instead of the right way (pun intended), and that we had de-rigged an insitu rope and left a rope not de-rigged (Biggest I told you so moment in history). Welp, at least the formations were nice, and upper trident is a very fun route when done in calmer weather.


Nothing could possibly go wrong. I had done Pool Sink to Link ages ago and remembered nothing at all, so how hard could Lanc –> County be? Down Lanc was easy – making our way through the high level with the route descriptions felt like we were doing the cave on easy mode. This was supposed to be a risky trip where things go wrong, why is this so chill? Just before Stop Pot we met the Wretched -> Lanc group who complimented us on our speedy caving – why thank you very much; I don’t know if you know this but we’re actually pro cavers. In Stop Pot we met the County -> Wretched group, who complimented us on our speedy caving – why thank you very much; I don’t know if you know this but we’re actually pro cavers. They then gave us instructions on how to exit through County. As soon as we separated however, disaster struck – The verbal instructions and route descriptions violently contradicted each other. Confidence crumbled, stress set in. A cool head remained however (lol), and we decided to follow the route descriptions, not really being sure what to do with the unlabelled rope. I decided to take it. Tricky decisions were made, and before long we were lifting the weirdly heavy manhole cover with pure neck muscles.

Back at the hut: turns out it wasn’t that surprising that verbal instructions and route descriptions had displayed discrepancies – there are multiple different ways to exit County and we had gone out a different way to the one they came in through. And I had just derigged some random guy’s rope, oopsies… Luckily that pitch was just about free-climbable…


Knock Fell Caverns: Cecilia Kan, Fiona Hartley, Rhys Tyers, Ksai Lee

Cecilia and Rhys photographing beyond the squeeze.

Come the morning I felt like a long time spent in a car would be a comfy way to pass a day of grim weather and agreed with Rhys's Knock Fell proposal. Unfortunately I forgot that one reason I like to do all the driving is to avoid travel sickness, and so being a back seat passenger was less comfortable than I hoped.

The walk to the cave was as described by the others, with a vile crosswind to numb one side of your face in each direction. The entrance shakehole was a blessing in such conditions, the underground even moreso. The maze cave is indeed weird with its myriad junctions and fallen blocks, and fascinating with its myriad junctions and band of fossilised corals. Ksai did well for his second caving trip but declared midway through that he preferred Notts 2, despite having declared in Notts 2 that he preferred dry caves.

Ksai in Knock Fell Caverns.

Rhys had taken on the job of navigation so I only pulled out a compass a couple of times for solidarity. We passed a nice grotto of formations and stopped at the next, where a squeeze filtered myself and Ksai out of continuing. As we waited for Cecilia and Rhys to photograph the formations on the other side I reassured Ksai that it was statistically very unlikely a rock would fall on us while we were present, instead emphasising the danger of water and cold and overall probably not providing comfort. More photography punctuated the way back to the entrance climb, which is indeed free climbable, but the rope (or I daresay a ladder) are reassuring for a beginner. I also raided my first aid kit for the eyewash pod because Ksai got some grit stuck in his eye - I've never used this before, but have remembered that someone else did many years ago and was happy that there were eyewash solutions in the kit. Also is a source of sterile saline in other circumstances I guess.

Another vile wind pushed us around on the way back to the car. Thankfully, as the cave is so dry, I could simply strip to my thermals and jump into the vehicle. Luxury compared to a standard change. A nauseating drive (no fault of Rhys) returned us to the NPC for an evening of chatter and as soon as the first human from the Easegill traverse walked safely through the door I went to bed, for a night of non-restorative sleep lay ahead of me.


A good post about knock fell: https://northall.me.uk/posts/knock-fell-caverns/

Knock Fell is a wee drive away from the NPC and it was mostly uneventful until the last few miles. We were trapped behind a herd of sheep for about 20 minutes just before we got to all the scary signs saying "absolutely no one is allowed up this road". The first set of these signs is funny becasue there are 4 different ones forbidding you from continuing, and then 1 that (I think correctly) tells you that its actually 1 mile ahead where you are forbidden from driving.

Undaunted we continued and got to the obvious car park and informational sign and then the probably actually forbidden bit of the road. Online sources say its probably fine to drive on but be courteous about parking as maybe there are trucks driving up and down. Online sources also rave about the quality of the tarmac which is just as pristine as I expected. As we drove up the forbidden road my fear of being caught diminished as the clag thickened and it seemed unlikely that we could be spotted by anyone that wasn't physically touching the car.

We finally got to the truly truly forbidden bit of the road because theres an actual locked gate across it. Turning round we parked just off the road and began a very grim change. Howling wind and biting sideways freezing rain. I reckon a grade 4 change. We then walked in those same conditions towards the cave, glad that the illegal parking has shortened our time in the elements from an hour down to ten minutes.

I have no experience of maze caves and so was initially daunted by the navigation. The entrance section is small and grotty and I immediately began planning how I would berate Andy for tricking us into driving an hour and a half to such a shit cave. But pressing on the cave increases in size a little and becomes quite attractive. The fossils in the walls are nice, there are cool red rocks, and the grid like nature is really quite interesting and fun to be in.

I am pretty sure that the survey available online (https://northall.me.uk/images/posts/knock_fell/knock_fell_survey.jpg) is slightly wrong. In the survey the Transpennine Express passage is shown as a straight line leading to the left most northward heading dotted line. We tried following this and it is definitely necessary to move nortwhards by one "row" in order to get to that northwards heading dotted line i.e. if you follow the Transpennine Express in a straight line you reach a dead end with no way to the North. Despite this the navigation is quite easy and the cave is pretty small.

During our time in the cave, Cecilia composed the following song, to the tune of Stayin' Alive

Well you can tell by the way I do my crawls
I'm a prussik man
No time to talk
Wellies wet and furry 's warm
I kick myself around since I was born

But now it's all right, it's okay
You can go the other way
We can try to understand
The Descent mag's effect on man

Whether you're a beaver or whether you're a caver
You are stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Feel the jammers slippin' and every muscle workin'
We are stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Ah ah ah ah stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Ah ah ah ah stayin' alive

Well now, I go low and I go high
And if I can't do either, I really try
Got the curse of cave gods and my booze
I'm a prussik man and I just can't lose

You know it's all right, it's okay
I'll live to see another cave
We can try to understand
The Descent mag's effect on man

Whether you're a beaver or whether you're a caver
You are stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Feel the jammers slippin' and every msucle workin'
We are stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Ah ah ah ah stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Ah ah ah ah stayin' alive

Life's going nowhere
Somebody help me
somebody help me, yeah
I'm stayin' alive

We reached a squeeze towards the Northern section of the cave and it turned out to be relatively technical so in the end Cecilia and I went through for a quick recce, leaving Fiona and Ksai. On the other side was more pleasant walking passage with some decent decorations. We took some photos and returned. We then photoed on the way out and emerged in the now benighted grim horizontal freezing sleet.

I would return!



Rescue Training

Rescuers rescuing rescuees.

'Oh my god, that is sooooo sick' - Leo Antwis, anytime anything happened

'I feel so cool' - Me, wearing two descenders

'Leo, why is there a sling up your arse' - Ben staring intently into Leo's arse

We learnt to rescue an unconscious caver by changing them over to a descender, to cut a rope and lower a caver, and to pass rebelays with two descenders (this is very fun, very efficent, and we should consider using it for UGC setup). Thank you Tony :)

Chris H

Rescue training was a lot of fun. Went to the cold barn with all the fun SRT things everywhere. Talked about general rescue situations with Tony Seddon to start with, often detouring to discuss various gruesome fatal incidents which was highly entertaining. Also discussed typical rescue situations we might encounter on freshers trips, slov etc.

The first practical was counterbalance mid-rope pick-offs. My main takeaway was that you can use a cows tail to lift a quite heavy person off of their croll. Approach from below, rig their descender, setup a pulley from your long cowstail to their central mallion (ideally via pulley, crab as next best thing), lift them off of their croll onto their descender, attach yourself to their central mallion via your croll on your cowstail (to make a teeny tiny cowstail) then lower both of you on their descender, don’t test as you could get both of you stuck very easily with all the weight. Before figuring all this out I spent ages trying to deadlift Kevin while halfway up a rope which did not achieve much other than drenching my clothes in sweat.

Lunch was entertaining as the options were either the miserable sandwiches we’d made since there were no sandwichable items other than fake bread, nutella, cheese and danger pesto, or else eat cold pasta bake with no utensils. After regretting opting for the former I changed my mind and opted for the latter with an improvised coffee cup lid spoon. This worked reasonably well.

After lunch we cut ropes for lowering people down pitches. Lots of fun. At the top of the pitch rig your descender and braking krab upside down ready to lower them from it, tie rethreaded fig 8 through crab on ascender at the end of a spare rope, attach this to the existing pitch rope upside down so it can take their load, hard lock the new rope on the new descender, tension the hand jammer by pushing it down as hard as possible, after checking they won’t die cut the old rope so they fall onto the new rope, lower victim down to the ground, receive tea and medals. This is much less fun when you are sitting on the rope high above the floor.

Chris enjoying the feeling of two descenders swinging between his legs.

Finally we learnt the caving life hack of using two descenders. This means you never have to lift yourself up at a rebelay. I shall do this next Slov/whenever possible as it’s lots of fun. When approaching a rebelay just rig the second descender onto the new rope and use the old one as safety for testing the new descender. Simple!

After all this fun we eventually started swinging around on all the ropes, doing foot wraps and Leo and Matti started aerial jousting, a sure sign that we should head home. The evening included star-shaped potatoes in a curry and liberal use of the HTML Rhys tag after a catastrophic trip report deleting incident while finishing up Y2 reports that led to the glorious addition of changelogs on the website. Superb.

County pot gang went to fix all their many errors the day before, successfully derigging the pitch they were supposed to and re-rigging the in situ they had stolen instead. Apparently, they had a lot of fun despite getting fairly lost on the fell or something.


County: Matti Mitropoulos, Chris Hayes, Astrid Rao

Countless errors in County! After leaving the second pitch rigged in county, and removing an in-situ yesterday, Matti and I went to fix our mistake with Astrid. Leaving at 6pm we had an absolute banger of a trip planned and stormed out onto the fells from the bus at 7pm in completely the wrong direction. After racing up towards the hills summit for 45 minutes, we turned downhill and walked to the river. Much to our horror, we walked dwonriver for half an hour before reaching Wretched and eventually County.

County gang with Astrid behind the camera.

Here everything changed; We dove into county, and threw ourselves downriver, climbing upwards and crawling right into Battle of Britain chamber just before hitting the spout. We squirmed up to the streamway and shot down the in situe, reaching the one we had removed. I did actually throw myself down this one, my fall broken by rock and rope, and led Matti and Astrid swiftly around a dry bypass leaping into the chamber we had previously gone wrong. Shooting upstream we prussiked with extreme passion to poetic justice, where Matti and I positined ourselves in the crawl as Astrid de-rigged. Passing the tackle sack from one to the other, it was hurled into the next chamber, spending less than 20 seconds total time in the crawl. Falling epically down the squeeze we marched upriver and dove up the spout like three coked up trouts and leapt up the free climb. Tripling our efficency we made use of another rope allready on the first pitch, de-rigging our own as everyone prusskied up the other. Finally we slithered upstream and out of county.

TLDR; a 3 hour power bounce

30 minutes storming back to the bus

60 minutes flying through a cave

120 minutes very very lost on the moors

Chris H

Walking: Erica :)

More climbing: Fiona, Rhys, Cecilia

A lunchtime trip to Inglesport and then Inglewall for yorkshire pudding and light activity. The wasp room traverse at Inglewall continues to elude me but once again playing on the slab made me happy. Erica walked back to the NPC; James ran and then added a casual half marathon which I won't stop being awed by. The novices went on an Ingleborough hike. Erica introduced us to her musical taste - a total contrast from Leo learning salsa - and I very much vibed with its high energy.


Walking: Matti, Ioana, Herman, Salwa

Today I wanted to add in a hike seeing as we were in close proximity to the 3 yorkshire peaks and what better day than when most society members were off to rescue training. I had done my research the previous day and Herman and Ionna were also up for the adventure! Once everything was packed and ready to go, Matti offered to give us a ride and we took advantage of his offer and asked him to take us to the cheese shop as well. That was a very unique experience! So much selection of cheeses and we even ended up buying organic ice creams. After trying it all it was very evident organic from processed but I still think the best icecream I have ever tried is from ‘Buonocore Gelateria Pasticceria Gastronomia e Tavola Calda’ in Capri. Anyway after taking some pictures we got back on the minibus and headed to Ingleborough Nature Trail.

Team selfie.

Matti also decided to tag along with us. Perfect, that way Matti and Ionna could walk and talk together and then me and Herman would pair up… At this point I must disclose this was my first time coming to the North of England (anything past Oxford) so mountains and hills and sheeps were new to me so yes I did take out my phone and take a million pictures… As we were drawing closer to the top Herman decided to jog up to the peak as the incline was rapidly increasing and humbly flaunted his fitness whereas me and Ionna were huffing and puffing… Once we got to the top the view was well.. rather grey. We were up in the clouds with absolutely no view so we took some quick pictures as evidence that we had climbed the peak and then started to head back down! The walk down- I have never been able to get to know someone on such a level in a small amount of time as I did that day which I would admit was rather therapeutic and thoroughly enjoyed. As the old saying goes, ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’. We were down by 4pm and were ready to pick everyone from training. I absolutely loved today. It was most definitely my favourite day of the winter tour by far! Natural scenic views with very good company. What more could you want!


A slow start to the day, I woke up late after intentionally not setting an alarm. I was to drive the rescue training team to the Yorkshire Dales Guides Barn and then return the bus to allow for maximally flexible planning. Not a problem – we left slightly late as is tradition, I drove first to Clapham station to drop Ashley off for her train, then to the cheese shop to drop Erica off for her shopping spree, then to the YDG barn to offload the riffraff and say hi to Tony, then back to the cheese shop to pick up Erica again, then went diesel shopping in Ingleton, and then returned to the NPC. Then I had breakfast.

It seemed my options would be join the old lags to go climbing, or join the freshers for a hike up to Gaping Gill. I didn’t really fancy climbing, and the hikers didn’t know the cheap way up the hill, so I went with them. The amount of faff was quite comical for a non-caving activity, but eventually we rolled out of the car park straight to… the cheese shop again. This time I also went in and bought some exquisite Yordale Wendsleydale along with some tomato chutney, and finally reached the start of the path.

Halfway up the path Herman decided to start running ahead, called back, couldn’t hear a word we were saying, generated much confusion, came back down, said, ‘I’m going to the top’, to which we replied, ‘ok, we will as well’, and he ran off again in the direction of the top. We did eventually make it up to the top of the hill, and proceeded back down the pretty nature trail. High quality, deep conversations accompanied us, and we made it to the bus perfectly timed to pick up the rescue training team again.

Back at the NPC Chris and I started making preparations for our rapid County bounce to retrieve the forgotten rope and replace the stolen rope. After DW’s instructions had been immortalised by the laminator Astrid said she’d join, and we sped off towards Easegill. I hadn’t really been feeling the trip that much on a day that was supposed to be my rest day, but the drive put me right in the mood. Empty country roads + light bus + hype tunes = extreme fun. Normally there would be someone in the bus to tell me off for driving enthusiastically, but neither Chris nor Astrid were that kind of person, so I took full advantage.

After a rapid change Chris and I raced up the hill, somewhat leaving Astrid behind. Her short legs weren’t doing her any favours, especially since the walk is quite long, but eventually even Chris and I realised the walk was getting way longer and way steeper than it should be. A quick check on Astrid’s ‘cave phone’s’ GPS and sure enough, we were way far away from where we were supposed to be. No matter, down the hill we sprinted, followed the river back towards Pool sink, and eventually made it past wretched rabbit to the county entrance. Total walk time: 1.5 hours. Quite shoddy for a supposedly ‘quick bounce’.

Nevermind, into the cave we jumped and down the stream we stomped, reversing our footsteps from the previous day with only one small uncertainty along the way. Replacing the old rope took all of 10 seconds, and derigging the NPC rope took even less time as we optimised ruthlessly for time. Leaping up the Spout we were out of the cave in just over an hour. Then we opted against the long way round on the return walk and stormed over the fell the correct way back to the bus, again leaving Astrid’s shorter strides slightly behind. I pushed the bus to its absolute limits with even more hype music, and we made it back in record time.

High on adrenaline we fell through the door into the NPC and collapsed at the table to eat dinner. Over the course of the evening I gradually came down from the high and relaxed, chatting to Rhys about the meaning of life for many hours.



King Pot: James Wilson, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Kevin Sohn

Valley entrance:: James Wilson, Ellie Pizey, Kevin Sohn

Sell Gill: Dave Wilson, Erica Keung, Salwa Ahmad

It was suppose to be another rigging trip for me, however after the first pitch ,getting a waterfall full of water into my face constantly while trying to tie knots, and see the entire ceilling flowing with water, we decided wisely that we would go back and enjoy the rest of the day in a warm hut. My love for alpines thus grow stronger.


Shuttleworth: Ben Richards, Fiona Hartley, Chris Hayes

Pre- Trip, trip report: We had a enjoyed a lazy morning, leaving the NPC bang on 12:00. Afer a quick change and brisk walk, we sped down the in-situ's, two descenders swinging glouriously betwixt our thighs. After a joyful bimble to the pretties, we shot some brilliant photos and had a good crawl about at the back. We leasurely made our exit and returned to the NPC for 6pm sharp.

Chris H

Ben's actually after the trip report: We did indeed enjoy a relaxed and lazy morning as Chris's prophesy foretold, writing trip reports and laminating surveys. A King Pot trip was floated and although initially interested, having looked at the weather I decided to try find something less intense, which Fiona delivered when she mentioned a tart trip to Shuttleworth to go do some photoing using just the in situ rope. Chris also needed a short trip as his train left in the evening, so the three of us grouped together for a cheeky speed run.

Driving up we ran into a rubbish bin lorry, which required reversing and getting stuck in a lay-by. Chris and I jumped out to push and we continued up to Leck Fell, where there were a surprising number of cars and minibuses given the strong fog, howling winds and horizontal rain. We strategically parked next to a very shiny minibus filled with very shiny kit, and used it as a windbreak against the gales. A quick change later and we stomped off over the Fell at about 1 pm.

Having had rescue training the day before, Chris and I were keen to try out the duel descender technique we'd learnt and were curious to see its time savings. We each stole a second descender braking crab combo from freshers who'd already left and bombed down the cave on the in situ. I timed it on my watch to be 8 minutes (perhaps the timed shuttle run will become a thing) which given we both had tested the descender every time would definitely have been sub five minutes without testing or without care for knocking rocks onto other people's heads, etc. etc.

A somewhat meh photo attempt, but at least Chris in the background looks pretty cool.

First, we had a look at the sump, only to find that it was very high indeed, about a foot below the main ledge. After some thought, Chris decided he was curious to see what was on the other side and would take a flash over there for some photos. I faffed around a load and Chris and Fiona were very patient with my frequent forgetting to say "flashing" and my poor communication but hey, practice makes perfect. I struggled with my two flashes but tried to get something. I even experimented with putting the flash in the water to get the cool light bloom effect, however only having two flashes I didn't manage to find a way to get that in the photo as well.

After I'd finally finished my photo phaff Chris headed back down the slope only to find the ledge he'd used to get across was not half a foot underwater, which was a little scary. Despite not being a fan of water he crawled back through the sump and made it across, although we could visibly see the water level rising as the stream continued to pour into it. Scary.

You can't go to Shuttleworth on a photo trip without getting a shot of the straws, so we headed down the passage past all the pretties to "the good bit". We had even thought of bringing the framed NPC photo of this exact spot down with us to get a photo of it with the Shuttleworth straws, but in the end couldn't be bothered given the bad weather. Another time perhaps, this would be very funny indeed. Eventually it could become a recursive tradition perhaps...

This photo turned out much better than the last.

Iconic photo of the straws acquired, I tried one more photo on the way back of a good tube in the ceiling. After this Chris was getting quite cold from his aquatic endeavours and his lack of any caving kit, having come down in his hut clothes. We headed back to the main chamber and had one more look at the sump before we headed out. It had now risen over a meter since we first saw it a couple of hours before, and the main ledge looking out towards the continuing passage was now submerged by half a foot of water, with the level still clearly rising when looking closely at angled slabs. A brief toilet break was had before zooming out of the cave in about half an hour and plodding back to the car in the howling gale above ground. It is always ridiculous how much nicer caves are in winter than the weather up on the surface, most of the time anyway. The luxury minibus windbreak had left, meaning we had to change while exposed to the full force of the Leck Fell horizontal rain. It was about half past 4 when we all jumped in the car.

Even more photo practice.

Driving back down from the fell we first nearly ran over a hare in the road, followed by another, followed by a pheasant (perhaps grouse?) which flew directly in front of the windscreen along with the car for what felt like minutes but perhaps was only 1 before it finally stopped giving us heart attacks and flew off. Then there was another hare in the road, followed by a very lost and cold-looking runner who assured me he was okay. After all these wildlife encounters we headed back to the warm and inviting NPC to crash on the sofas and continue with the trip report writing and laminating we'd paused earlier.

A great trip! While the weather outside was frightful, the photos were oh-so delightful.

Ben R

Obviously I didn't go to King. Absolute bliss to just go fast down a couple of ropes without waiting for anything. Borrowed an unfucked oversuit as well, also bliss.

Sump height at the end of our trip.

Useful info: Apart from the sump coming up by like a metre or more in about 2 hours, Shuttleworth seems otherwise pretty suitable for wet weather. In wet conditions, Shuttleworth is quieter because the sump has risen over the little waterfall. Clearly if you go, be a lot more aware of the sump rising than we were, especailly if you're considering crossing over to look at the Exercise Yard (probably the safest thing to do is simply not chance it). Obviously you'd have to wait on the surface for the initial rigging, which is unpleasant; bring a shelter. And the first rebelay descending the big hang would require your hands to be submerged while tying the knots when rigging. The rebelays down the small canyon also feel a bit more risky with regards to loose stones in running water. At time of writing there is a detailed survey of Shuttleworth on the wall by the table in the NPC.



Death's Head / Big Meanie exchange: Ben Richards, Matti Mitropoulos, Astrid Rao, James Wilson, Kevin SohnBen Richards, Matti Mitropoulos, Astrid Rao, James Wilson, Kevin Sohn

Terrible weather the past week and more rain was forecast on this day so we couldn’t be bothered to do most caves. Lost johns was floated along with other caves but Matti kept murmuring about Big Meanie from the back of the room. Eventually, I gave in that given I'm quite thin I find the squeeze quite fun, but I didn't want to do the muddy crawl at the end as it's pointless and grim. As more people bailed on the other caves it became apparent we could do the exchange with Death's Head, clearly the best way to do Big Meanie, and James then mentioned that there's a traverse that links the two, allowing Death's Head to get to the bottom of the Big Meanie pitch by avoiding going to the very bottom of Big Meanie. Kevin finally gave in and accepted that today was going to be the day he faced his arch nemesis, the Big Meanie squeeze.

Ben rigging down Death's Head, followed by Matti.

Astrid, Matti and I signed up to go down DH, Kevin and James down BM, and we set off in the bus. I was desperate to rig as I hadn't properly rigged anything the whole tour given various non-SRT trips and otherwise had let others get some practice in. Given the recent few terrible changing experiences on Leck Fell, I pre-changed to guarantee the weather wouldn't be too bad, and sure enough my efforts were not in vain. As we approached DH we also saw a few red grouse, always nice. Many of the shake holes on the way were also filled with water which was a little worrying to see, but after we'd arrived the forecast had improved considerably, albeit pretty windy still.

I rigged down DH using only bowline on the bites having been brainwashed by Tony Seddon, and this worked well other than eating a ton of rope such that we nearly didn't reach the bottom (do single spit rebelays on bowlines on the bight take up less than a fig 8? Will have to investigate) meaning everything was a bit tight for Matti and Astrid, oops.

A bit drippy but as stunning as ever, DH is one of my favourite entrances and if it wasn't ultra misty and drippy I'd have taken a few photos. I spent a while looking around for bolts near the bottom but eventually saw the traverse over BM leading up towards the roof of the bottom chamber. Following each bolt to the next got me over to the pitch via the very slipper muddy wall traverse, and I rigged a horrible threaded Fig 8 stopper in the middle of the mud at the end of the traverse for no reason other than I'd started it so I finished, which I'm sure was hated by whoever derigged.

Just as I finished the traverse and was about to head into the crawl we heard Kevin and James approaching. Kevin had made it through the squeeze quite easily this time, given how much better at SRT he is, and also that this time he didn't have a tackle sack, and put his descender on his short cowstail. Great success. We then parted ways, and we went on through the terrible muddy squeeze which was as grim as I remembered, and got mud in my wellies despite my best efforts not to, which was sad. Given the incredibly high water levels it was impressive that the crawl seemed practically the same as usual, as we were expecting it to be far worse. Water was above welly height in the crawl and the squeeze where you have to go onto your back was about the same as before where it's fine if you're in PVC.

Matti in the jaws of the Big Meanie.

Astrid went up the pitch first and Matti and I both went for a piss and enjoyed some quality catch-up time, as distinctly separate events. Only streams of breath mist were crossed. We also reminisced on the last time we were both here, waiting behind that one slow guy who took ages. Matti headed up after about 20 minutes and I sat at the bottom with my nice electric hand warmer (the electric hot potato) and layered up my balaclava and PVC hood. It was impressive how little we could hear of Astrid, so we agreed on a single whistle for rope-free, which may be useful for next time. I waited for about another 30 mins before hearing the pitch-free whistle and started to head out while derigging. As I was climbing up, just above the second rebelay, something whizzed past my head and clanged down the pitch. Frustratingly I knew it would take ages to re-rig all the way down the pitch so decided not to bother attempting to retrieve them. Later analysis confirmed that this was two slings and their krabs from Astrid’s SRT bag, which I think had fallen onto the rock or rope before, and I must have dislodged them with the rope as I headed up. Quite an annoying place for this to happen but not the end of the world.

I then slid up through the squeeze even faster than my previous very fast time, having perfected the technique of pantin on one foot, footloop fastened to the other foot as tightly as possible, lengthened a bit so I can remain perfectly upright, and then taking very small steps to climb up through the gap. I didn't even have to move anything off of my hips, oh the joys of being lanky.

Ellie's creation before lamination.

And after...

Astrid filmed and said I got out that it took under a minute for me to make it through. It certainly felt fast as I remember last time faffing around with my pantin meaning it took at least a few minutes. Noice.

We then wandered back over the fell as the sun was setting, found the minibus and headed back. This particular evening descended into pure chaos as we expended all remaining energy left over at the end of the tour, and decided to laminate as much food as we could fit between the last two laminater sheets. Oh and hair samples from everyone sitting around the table. As could probably have been foreseen, this was a terrible idea and not much of the food made it out of the other side of the laminator. On the plus side, the laminator smelt amazing: a combination of grilled cheese and roasted ham. Liquid cheese poured out the holes in the bottom and only the mushroom seemed to turn out as expected. DW came to the rescue and deconstructed the machine to pick out the leftovers, and after a wipe down you'd never know it ever happened, other than for the fact that new surveys all smell delicious. Ellie then made a nice star shape out of spices and laminated that, before inserting a lemon slice into sleeping Matti's mouth, sketching Astrid's face onto a lemon and then making a tin foil person out of a cork. Highly entertaining.

Ben R

My genius plan worked – make a Big Meanie <-> Death’s Head exchange happen, despite no one actually wanting it. First it was just Astrid and I bouncing Big Meanie to the Death’s Head chamber, with the others planning a Lost John’s exchange. Then Ben said, ‘ah actually I’d come out of Big Meanie to make it an exchange’. Then James says, ‘yeah alright I’d join an exchange trip’. Then Kevin, reluctantly, says, ‘Ugh fine, I’ll face my nemesis’ (remembering WT 2022’s debarkle). Then Ellie says, ‘fuck you guys I’m not doing that trip,’ (or similar).

Ben was happy to finally get to rig this tour, rigging (almost) everything on Bowlines on Bites. Unfortunately somehow the rope ended up being quite short, and on some ropes we couldn’t even soft lock – oh well. Just above the first shelf Ben swerved violently right and traversed just below the roof on seldom-used bolts over to the Big Meanie Connection crawl. This is awesome – way better than dropping down into the main chamber if you’re looking for a shorter trip. If both sides bring enough rope for the drop into the main chamber either side can rig the traverse, so meeting in the middle is no trouble at all. Just at the connection crawl we met Kevin and James, the former of whom stated that the entrance squeeze was disappointingly easy.

Through the Big Meanie crawl with a tackle sack – it really isn’t that bad as long as you’re prepared to get wellies full of ultra-viscous water-sludge. Only the final squeeze screwed me over – I made the classic mistake of orienting myself the obvious way, facing into the curve. My legs, however, are too long for this – I had to reverse, face the other way, and arch my back around the boulder instead, facing outwards. At least now both sides of me were soaked.

Now to the tight upwards squeeze – Astrid first. Ben and I chatted shit for a while at the bottom, till I figured either Astrid was through or needed help, so prussiked up to just below her. There’s actually quite a nice ledge just below the squeeze to stand and wait. Turns out she had had to do lots of mid-squeeze kit rearranging, including cutting her chest harness in half. She did make it through shortly after I arrived – then my turn. I had borrowed/stolen Ellie’s pantine again, so was curious to see how much difference it made. Turns out, loads – I was through in just over 5 minutes. 100% would recommend. Ben got through even faster though, literally prussiking through as if it weren’t even a squeeze.

This is actually a good weather-proof trip with some tricky bits; the club could do it more for confident novices up for something challenging.


No caving: Fiona, Salwa, DW, Ellie

Somehow people were swayed to cave by Matti's love for Big Meanie again. The saner of us stayed inside and I did some cleaning. Ellie had a long sleep and looked a lot more human afterwards. Salwa did a jigsaw all day and confided that her aim is to become as good at caving as James. Aspirational! The cavers were back in before 6pm (actually so good this happened) and before dinner everything was piled into the drying room to dehumidify overnight.

A short summary of discussion about wet weather trips

Discussion of wet weather trips and info gathered over the week included:



No spelunking adventures on the agenda today. It was all about packing up and hitting the road for the return to London. We kicked off around 2 pm and rolled back into the city by 9:30 pm, with a few pit stops peppered along the way. I must say, James defied expectations with his driving skills—probably one of the safest chauffeurs I've hitched a ride with! Note to self: never judge a driver by their car, even if it's a celica.

Internally, a twinge of melancholy set in as the winter tour was drawing to its end. It's been an absolute blast – making friends from all walks of life and making some lovely memories. But fear not, more epic escapades await in the not-so-distant future!


James carrying rope to stores with his face.

Wow can't believe we spent an entire day doing nothing but packing and heading back to London and we still got back at like 10 pm. Might as well have gone caving after all.

The coolant had all disappeared again but impressively I don't think anyone had checked over the course of the week and the bus hadn't died. Nice one magpie jubilee clip. We dropped Ellie off at what has been re-confirmed as the best service station ever, Oxford, complete with water features and this time even a choir of carol singers at the door. Pure decadence. Matti also made weirdly moist scrambled eggs in the morning that did taste okay but had an unpleasantly wet texture, more akin to egg porridge. I think it was all the cheese.

Overall a highly successful week in my opinion. Bring on Easter Tour!

Ben R

To conclude, a small collage of photos providing evidence that Ioana looks like a wet cat when caving.