Yorkshire III


Ben Richards, David Wilson, Fiona Hartley, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Leo Antwis

Chapter 1: In Memoriam, LM59 KYW


Leo throwing himself under the bus.

19:30 Oh dear god the bus sounds so bad that I've started writing the trip report pre-emptively. I wish to leave all my earthly belongings to Thurston for suggesting such a great dinner choice of mousange - obviously mousaka crossed with lasange. [Editors note: wow, how little he knew of what was to come]

We pulled over at a random services near Slough to investigate what Leo said was a weird feeling in the steering. Various people jumped out of the bus, not via the side door as KYW no longer opens from either the inside or the outside at this point, but via the front and back doors. The side door is more of a wall come to think of it. Everyone jumped back in and reported that the front left bearing very hot. Leo jumped out and sniffed the underside of the bus for no apparent reason, concluding that it was not safe to drive. He then got back in the drivers seat and continued driving. At this point the noises became very bad. Very bad indeed. When going slowly there was a terrible throbbing grinding noise, which blended into the background the faster we went, so naturally we carried on at full speed.

This brings you up to the present time, where we're happily swaying around between the middle and outer two lanes at full speed. I guess everything is fine now. No union tricycle as of yet.


20:00 Update, it's sounding very bad. Leo has turned off the motorway to see what's going on. Hmmm, it's not sounding very good and Leo says the driving is getting worse with the wheel wobbling around a fair bit. We're only 10 mintues from the Asda superstore in Wheatly, near Oxford. We'll try and make it there. Also you'll be glad to know we've scored 6/6 on the symptoms of a failing wheel bearing bingo that Laura found online.

On the way to the motorway the sound got much worse. Much much worse. Window down it sounded as though the wheel was no rotating... at all. Let's go for a lap of the roundabout. Ah it sounds fine now. Let's go. [editors note: oh wow, they were so wrong]


KYW at it again, one last time

20:20 Success! We made it to Wheatly Asda and the smell of burning plastic is overwhelming when we open the door. Pooring water on the wheel has resulted in a geysir of water vapour rising high into the sky above the van, really quite impressive actually.

20:35 It's been 15 minutes of pouring water on the wheel and it's still instantly boiling off into a cloud of vapour. Chris and Laura have both had a look round the back of the wheel and have each made an astounding variety of ooos and aaas as they've tried to explain the extent of the internal melting. It's looking very unlikely that we'll make it to Yorkshire unfortunately, but at least we can go buy some food given we're next to Asda.


Chris, leading his first weekend trip

21:30 So the RAC have refused to tow us as having looked up the registration of the vehicle, it's classed as SORN so can't even be towed away under the insurance. We also checked ourselves just now on the government website and confirmed this. Wow the union is so unbelievably incompetent. We got through to a security guard who said he'll try and contact everyone he can to help us get somewhere. He phoned back 10 minutes later to say he's getting nowhere but at least he sounds dumbfounded by the situation.


We have gone for a mental health break to buy sugar-filled food items from Asda while we try to comprehened the union. Chris is angry. I bought chocolate.


Okay security has finally got through to the union. There are two Robs. Rob Fenner who we know but now another Rob, Rob P. Both seem to have competing interests with Rob F trying to get us to Yorkshire claiming that the vehicle is not SORN and in fact this is an error from the RAC (hmmmm) and therefore that we should be able to continue on with our journey to yorkshire given it's covered by the insurance. The other Rob has already booked us taxis to Oxford, given it's only a fifteen minute drive away. Neither Rob seems to have managed to contact the other despite both of them having phoned us and Chris having told both of them to phone the other. Perplexing. In other news Kevin has shoved his gloves in a pot of chocolate mousse and Julien has stomach ache after downing an entire coconut of cocconut water which he stabbed with his metal straw.


'If we left KYW now it might be adopted.'

22:00 Asda delivery vans are slowly surrounding us as they come home to roost for the evening. If we wait long enough and avoid direct eye contact they will surely accept KYW as one of their own.


Bus unloaded.

22:30 A Rob has said that 5 taxis are on their way to take us to Oxford train station. Even if we did get our onward journey covered to Yorkshire then everyone would have to pay an extra £40 for the trains home (with railcard) almost doubling the price of the trip for freshers. Much sad. Time to unload the roof rack and shove all the bags into the bus itself. Through the back door of course since the side door has ceased to be.


Turns out we're right by the Thames. It's just behind the car park. Looks quite nice in the moonlight. However it does run it in just how far south we still are. Sad. Perhaps if KYW is not road worthy it can be converted into a river worthy high speed barge.


Hidden Earth flashbacks loomed large.

23:00 The taxis have arrived to whisk us away. Just as the third one turned up and as we were about to close the boot and drive off an RAC van rolled up. Luckily we pased and asked if we needed to stay with him. He had apparently been told that the vehicle wasn't starting due to a cooling problem. Laura's hopes of a speedy fix in the car park were obliterated in seconds. Upon learning the full situation he said someone would have to stay with the vehicle for when it is recoverd, given there's no chance he could fix it on the spot. There is no hope. I volunteered to stay with Chris with the bus and we shooed the others into the taxi to appease the grumpy looking taxi driver.

As soon as he looked at the wheel he let out a loud exclamation and instructed us to photograph both of the tyres given they were on a hire car. "Luckiy I got to you before the police" he said looking at the complete lack of tread on the new tyre. "That's clearly not a new tyre" he scoffed. Chris and I looked at each other trying not to burst out laughing, recalling the installation of a brand new tyre only two months prior. He jacked up the minibus and rattled the wheel so easily that it looked as though it might just fall off then and there. "Oh dear" he exclaimed, explaining that this would need a whole host of things fixed. No hope of a minibus for the weekend then.


The RAC man has left. He said that recovery would be with us in a few hours possibly maybe who knows. The night is cold and dark, might colder and darked by half the car park lights turning off for no apparent reason. We blasted the minibus heaters and arranged the bags so we could try and get some sleep.


23:30 Rob P phoned again. He checked in that the taxis had arrived, which to be fair was quite nice of him to do. Then he completely undermined our trust in typical union fashing and said "the union would be investigating how this might have happened over the weekend"... no particular possible reasons come to mind.

That being said, the fact that the vehicle was classed as SORN and that over the past 6 months it's been in a constant state of decay are surely coincidental. Other hints for the union include taking a look at the wheels, or perhaps the lack of side door. At least two weeks ago it opened from the outside. Oh yeah, and the twin shockingly deep dents on either side of the body (n.b. was the bus caught in some awful pincer maneauver???). The leaking coolant probably doesn't help, but to be fair it completely emptied it's guts onto Prince Consort Road thrice, and that was months ago. There's also practicaly no remaining rear bumper. The right hand side looks eager to break free as well. It probably shouldn't wobble with such a ridiculous amplitude either come to think of it. Just a couple hints to get the union started on their investigation over the weekend. I forgot about the windows, the right one doesn't shut without bending the frame into place and the left is held close with duct tape. And the fire extinguisher is 6 years past it's last inspection. And these are just the flaws we actually know about.


The long wait begins.

00:00 Everyone has left, Chris and I have hunkered down, with Chris getting some sleep and myself writing up the end of the D1 trip report I'd been meaning to get round to over the past 2 weeks. It's nice and warm in the minibus at least, but feels as though this could be a long night.


02:00 Having heard nothing from the RAC for ages, we decided to check up how the rescue situation is going. To our surprise they tell us that they were trying to contact us but didn't have our number, since we'd phoned on Laura's phone earlier and Rob F had organised the breakdown rescue and then gone to bed. They said that they would try to assign a pickup truck to us within 45 mins...


2:30 Matti having flown all the way from Germny for this weekend trip is very keep to catch a train and head up to Yorkshire regardless. Now I've got a new job I decide to accept the price of the train tickets and join him and Leo on the 7:30 train the next morning to meet Ana, Diss, Fiona and the Dubz at the NPC. However given the pickup may not be for many hours, and that it then further hours to get back to London given a slow tow, unbelievably that means there's a chance I might miss the train. We decide to try and organise a taxi, phoning all of the options we can find on Google. None pick up other than one which says they'd take us to Oxford station, from which we could catch the Oxford tube. We phone the RAC again to see if we really do have to stay with the vehicle, as the RAC man had insisted, and which was the only reason I was still awake at this time of morning, only to find that it's completely unecessary and we could just leave the keys with the travellodge across the road. Furthermore they agreed to get us a taxi all the way back to East Acton! Result! Although slightly annoying we only found this out now.

03:30 the taxi has arrived! After waiting in the travellodge we lugged all of our many bags to the car. Chris is in an incredibly chatty mood and has a great conversation with the driver about the Oxford nightlife scene while I try finish up some trip report writing.

04:30 at long last, I've made it. I walk into my flat, drop my bags on the floor and collapse onto my bed.

Ben R

Well, at least if I run another weekend trip, the bar is achievably low.

Chris H

Chapter 2: A Tart Trip Weekend to the Dales

 Long Kin West (and Pillar Holes): David Wilson, James Wilson, Matti Mitropoulos, Leo Antwis

The motto for this weekend truly was: ‘it’s a miracle anyone went caving at all’.

My Saturday started not much later than my Friday ended – awaking at 06:15 to make sure I would meet Ben and Leo at 07:30 at Euston to catch our train up to Lancaster. Ben and I serendipitously met on the Victoria line platform, leisurely walking to the platform to arrive at 07:10 with plenty of buffer. So we waited for Leo to arrive, still joking about shit buses and sleep deprivation. Imagine if Leo missed the train, we said, wouldn’t that be awful. 07:20. Hm hope he arrives soon. 07:25. Cutting it close? 07:26. Maybe we should just get on in case he actually doesn’t make it. 07:27. He skids dramatically around the corner, ungainly lugging his huge kit bag over his shoulder, falls through the ticket barriers, and we stumble onto the train and find any random seats at a table. About 5 minutes of conversation ends in our faces on the table, passed out.

I was mostly in a state of semi-sleep, still registering every stop. At Wigan a loud group of burly blokes boarded, and I catch a few snippets of conversation: ‘ah typical’, ‘come on mate, ain’t you never been on a train before? You just sit anywhere!’, ‘whatever, lets just sit here’. I decide not to engage, keeping my head firmly on the table. Sure enough, when Lancaster arrives and we alight, they immediately snatch up their beers and replace us, though thankfully not making eye contact. Think I would’ve been forced to engage in conversation and apologise if that had happened.

Davey channels his inner delinquent when picking us up. Capital Dance blaring, driving way too fast, braking way too late, braking way too hard, snap back on backwards, greeting us with ‘sup bitches, hop in the sick whip’, rudely smacking his bright orange mini-SUV. His style guided us to Asda, where a rapid shop commenced.

At the NPC we were greeted by thick, stodgy porridge and Fiona, Ana, and Diss ready to leave to go to Five Ways pot on Dowlass Moss. James had sort of been packing for Long Kin West, so Davey, Leo and I committed to that, while Ben was whisked away in the Dissmobile. A not unreasonable amount of kit faff ensued, Leo had his third shit of the day and Davey drove the whole 7 minutes to the Dowlass Moss parking space, somehow managing to continue his wild driving style even in such a short distance. I had the words ‘smack barm pea wet’ on my lips, giggling frequently.

After the pre-changing shot of rum, we changed and Leo realised he didn’t have access to a head-protector, having successfully locked it in Diss’ car inside Ben’s kit bag. Helmetless caving was considered, shot down by James who correctly pointed out that the one danger explicitly mentioned on the description was a very loose pitch head. So we had another shot of rum and Davey drove Leo to Inglesport to buy a shiny new one, while James and I trekked up the hill to start the rigging.

Now James mentions that, although he had been to Long Kin West before, and he remembered it was a good trip, he remembered very little about the actual cave, and didn’t know how to get to the entrance. Luckily, he had his trusty cave phone, who’s GPS guided us right to the helpfully labelled entrance coordinates. I note that the CNCC description mentions a non-CNCC approved stake to back up the first bolt from, which was notably absent from the surface. I just assumed someone had decided it’s non-CNCC-approvedness was unacceptable and had removed it. I rigged with what I found, but the further down the cave I went, this increasingly didn’t match up at all with the rigging topo. James began exploring some side passages with his tackle sack, trying to make sense of where we were, when we hear from above – ‘AYO! YOU’RE IN PILLAR HOLES!’


James insisted with certainty that the coordinates his trusty cave phone had led him to were labelled Long Kin West. Davey insisted with more certainty that this was definitely Pillar Holes, one of the worst caves you could accidentally drop into. At least that meant another cave count though – Its such a shit cave that just by dropping the entrance pitch and going halfway down the second, I had made it through ¾ its total length.

Davey then proceeded to lead us a hundred metres or so back the way we came, and pointed to a similar looking, but notably staked hole in the ground. I had lost the motivation for speedy rigging, so James took over, while Leo and I discussed smack barm pea wet, moults and grills.

At the bottom of the first rope, James was presented with a problem – attaching himself to the bolts wasn’t too easy, but he needed me to come down to deliver the next tackle sack, so he just stood on the loose ledge with a lot of slack above his descender and called rope free. I dropped down beside him, delivered the bag, and hovered just above him while he rigged a complicated vertical traverse that would assist the derigging effort, so he claimed. Davey helpfully sang a wild collection of dance, hip-hop, acapella, rap, and pop songs from high above us.

Mid-rope, I hear Davey aggressively complaining from high above, rattling off something about vertical traverses being shit. James and I decide to leave him to it, figuring he’s a big boy, he can figure it out himself. When he descends down to us the complaints continue, which James pointedly ignores, instead focussing on the dead sheep that had unhelpfully died right at the pitch head. James honoured the fallen by kicking half its corpse down the pitch, severing its spine.

The long traverse is actually quite cool, crawling over huge drops in the floor, until you reach the other end of the chamber, where the rope drops down past a series of rebelays until you reach the very bottom. Here I found a bucket, so serenaded Davey and Leo with some intense drum beats. The derigging discussion consisted of everyone standing in a circle, saying ‘I don’t mind carrying a tackle sack’, until I just clipped my ascenders and left, murmuring about smack barm pea wet.

Back on the surface, Davey and I had a minor cave rave in a nearby shakehole to keep warm, until Leo’s very leisurely derig was complete. Leo was totally convinced that taking a bearing straight from the cave was the quickest way, while James was totally convinced that walking right first until you hit the path then following that was the quickest way. Naturally the solution to this disagreement was to split up and see who got there first. Turns out, pretty much the same, except Davey spent ages queuing up new songs so maybe the direct bearing is a bit faster if you skip that step.

The Five Ways gang had prepared a superlative pasta bake by the time we were back, which we devoured with vigour, followed by the similarly superlative brownie bake, celebrating another year of Ana’s life passing. While chatting I felt the chair was a bit too uncomfortable so transitioned to the sofa, and immediately passed out.

What is it with people wanting to put things in my mouth when I’m sleeping? This time Davey inserted his cracker, and splurged barbeque sauce all over my front. Lacking any form of decorum. At least make it some smack barm pea wet.


Five Ways Pot: Ben Richards, Fiona Hartley, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck

Take two.

06:30 After two hours of sleep, I wake up, pick up the bags I'd just dropped on the floor 2 hours earlier and walk out my flat. It's time to head to Yorkshire once again.

For those of us who had the means to cough up enough for the expensive train tickets, a select group of overly keen and chronicaly tired cavers made our way up to Yorkshire despite the union's best efforts. Leo, Matti and I met at Euston, with varying levels of sleep deprivation, and attempted to reach Yorkshire a second time. Leo bought a coffee with a ridiculous lid that he ended up ripping in two, and then we all collapsed in various positions and fell asleep. We woke to a train seemingly full of ragingly alcoholic football enthusiasts, and hopped off at Lancaster to get picked up by David.

The tiredness eventually hit.

We reunited Ana with her bag and immediately put together caving plans. I joined Ana, Fiona and Diss for a exploratory trip to the newly bolted Five Ways Pot, while the others headed for Long Kin West. At the car park I was confused as to why I had two helmets in my bag. None the wiser I presumed I'd packed two and so threw it back in the boot. Diss locked the car and took the keys as we headed up for the hour walk up to the cave. It later turned out that Leo packed his helmet in my bag as he brought mine from stores and had called me only fifteen minutes after I'd left my phone in the car to go caving. This meant he had to go buy one from Inglesport before his trip. Oops.

The walk was quite long but not too bad. Surprisingly it wasn't that windy for once. We followed Diss' Garmin watch with the route loaded onto it. Even having been there I'm not sure I could find it again without a GPS as there's a ton of identical looking holes on that part of the mountain. No one else wanted to rig, other than Ana who said she wanted to rig something later on in the cave. It was also Ana's birthday!

We actually went caving.

Five Ways Pot TLDR:

The entrance pitch turned out to be an easy climb, a handline wasn't necessary but was very nice. This drops into a chamber with various holes to the sky and holes to lower parts of the cave. The obvious way on follows a small stream that runs down a 10m pitch. This first bit is the hardest part of the whole cave on the way out, and not that fun on the way down either. You insert yourself through a person sized hole over the top of the pitch, but the Y hang itself has to be traversed to. However, there are no footholds for the traverse at all, and hoisting yourself back up into the pitch head after the traverse with no footholds is really quite hard. Given it's reasonably tight it's also not that easy for someone else to help, but this shouldn't put off experienced cavers from enjoying the rest of the cave.

Two of the five ways.

After this we reached a series of half a dozen enormous containing walls holding back vast piles of rubble, the start of the Tonga Trench. Much of the cave seems to have been blasted into existence, and this is seemingly where much of it ended up. Some are a good meter and a half tall and they're incredibly steep. This bit really should have a handline imo.

After this comes a shockingly spacious short crawl for about 10m to a notts 2 style scaffold pitch. Again, it's not that bad but could really do with a handline as a bare minimum. It's a bit slippy as there's a load of drips, and you'd fall down a fair way if you put a foot wrong. After this comes anothe shockingly spacious crawl for about 10m (they blasted the crawls to a luxurious size) which then reaches the first propper pitch, blade runner. This was really drippy but a large rebelay and deviation hold you out of the worst of it. If we'd had a slightly longer rope we could have dodged a tiny 1.5m free climb at the bottom right in the worst of the water but oh well.

Very pretty mud.

This brings you to the junction of five ways! There was a small skull here, not sure what of but looked rodent like, but bigger than a rat would be my guess. The other directions may go somewhere but we didn't look too hard, they were all less inviting than the obvious way on. Heading onwards the mud became very colourful indeed - I've never seen pink or purple mud in a cave before, and there was also red, orange and yellow mud in beautiful bands on each side of the passage. There were also a few small stals in the ceiling. Not bad!

Ana wanted to do some birthday rigging down the next pitch so I handed the tackle sack over to her while I took some photos of the pretty mud. My Left Foot pitch (terrible name) has a shockingly round plunge pool at the bottom of the small waterfall where the active stream rejoins. A beautiful pitch, a tall fluted shaft. Next up is picnic pitch which is also a lovely tall fluted shaft which feels increidbly out of place given the top of the cave is practicly a mine.

A few more lovely short pitches later and we made it to the bottom - a small chamber with plenty of room for us all to eat some food in (including the incredibly delicious veggie chorizo Diss had, so good omg) before Fiona shooed us all away so she could piss all over the lovely pools. Fiona derigged the small pitches up and I got some great pictures of Ana on picnic pitch and Fiona on MLF pitch. My first photos with my new sponge colour coordinated three flashes setup and they turned out really well!

Ana on Picnic pitch.

Diss headed out first and I followed, with Ana derigging at the back. I waited for Diss at the top of the Tonga trench for a while before wondering whether everything was okay. Diss then called if I could come help as she had gotten tangled. I headed up to the botton pitch to find that she had put her hand jammer on the traverse at the top, but given there were no foot holds had then slid down again until the hand jammer was out of reach and the foot loop was no use. Fortunately the pitch isn't that high, and she was above the Y hang so I could ascend up the first rope to help. I took the bag off of her and volunteered my shoulders as footholds, after which she easily climbed out and disappeared up towards the chamber by the surface - the lack of footholds is the real problem. In retrospect, this means that these shouldn't be traverses but instead rigged very loose so that you can put your croll onto them. Why this isn't just a pitch with a lower down deviation, or with they couldn't just put in some scaffolding as a foot hold I do not know. Perhaps there's another easier way to rig this pitch but doing the traverse as a mini rebelay seems like the best way to me.

I then headed out and also found this incredibly annoying. Not wanting to do as Diss had done, I clipped my short cowstail to my hand jammer and that made things a lot easier. Fiona then followed me and also found this very difficult. She used some extra slings to make things a bit easier, only for her pantin to eat the donkey's cord of the tackle sack, which I ended up undoing by sliding down the pitch head first over the top of her to unclip (I was clipped in chill out). Ana then flew through the traverse in typical Ana fashion.

We then clambered out, all very cold from the soaking on the drippy pitches and stomped down the mountain following Diss' watch. Fiona got decent signal at the entrance to the cave so we were in no rush, and the cold windy change was frotunately over very quickly, even if Ana couldn't feel her fingers at all. We headed straight back to the ghostly empty NPC and got the fire going while Diss cooked up a feast of a pasta bake and birthday brownie with ice cream for desert. Fiona and I chopped all the wood we could get our hands on and the others soon arrived back telling tales of getting lost trying to find Long Kin West only to start rigging pillar holes before realising. It sounded like a great trip.

Davey got very excited looking up the websites in the London Fetish Week pamphlet, telling us all how we had to "expand our limits" with an inflatable but plug. We then noticed Matti had falled asleep while sitting upright and remarkably still holding his beer bottle on his lap. This of course meant we had to insert food into his mouth, with a cracker being the chosen item. Davey then squirted BBQ sauce all over the cracked and Matti's coat, which he then wiped off as a bleary-eyed and confused looking Matti slowly woke up and spent a good five minutes without moving with the cracker still in his mouth eyeing up the room as we all died of laughter.

Ben R

Fiona on My Left Foot pitch (--orig image so link won't work)

Five Ways is a new addition to the successful digs of Dowlass Moss and thus was resin anchored over the winter. A description of a relatively easy cave with seven short pitches was more than enough to tempt me, a lazy caver, into visiting its novel depths and it seemed doable on this grey but dry Saturday.

We parked at the Cold Cotes layby. Other than an attempt by the bog to claim me, our walk to the cave passed without incident, though we were all chillier than we desired. We selected the least deadly-looking way in and chucked a piece of high visibility orange deathmil down to make the route look more dodgy. The climb was slightly crueller to those of greater hip.

Ben rigged down an interesting first pitch which involved blindly trusting that hanging off the traverse line was okay. I didn't have to blindly trust this however as I had a Diss to reassure me of the methodology. We then gingerly clambered down a series of scaffolded steps and were rained on by a shower inlet throughout a second scaffolded climb. I found this whole entrance section of the cave to be the worst part on account of the moisture. I wouldn't like it to be much wetter but maybe that's because all my oversuits are rather worse for wear.

Once we had descended the big pitch (that is, the longest rope) and been showered once more, the cave changed character completely into a fun, lovely affair of ease and sociability. This was high quality. The downside was the pitches were so short and simple it was not possible to truly warm up from the cool earlier temperatures. The bottom was interesting in that it ended in a reasonable chamber that dies with an immediate puddle. Being a simple woman I offered to derig because I wanted to pee. I listened to what sounded like the dulcet miaows of Bella ciao above before ascending.

Some photography on the nice pitches occurred and some bag rolling in the blasted crawls. I had my hood up for most of this cave which made the wet parts of the ascent more tolerable. The first tight pitch head was a major sting in the tail for three of us, culminating in my pantin trying to amputate my leg by catching the tackle sack donkey dick in its teeth and locking my ankle under my bum. Ben came to my rescue. Ana, being the most pro, casually slithered up with zero issues.

Everyone was cold after this affair and colder still when greeted with a strong breeze on the surface. Back to the car we strode, not feeling warm, but not getting colder either. Each time I slipped over on the trudge, I made a noise akin to a Mortal Kombat character doing a spin kick. I should retire my treadless wellies (I won't).

At time of writing, both deviations on the rigging topo had in-situ deviation tat (but take krabs), and the given re-belay on Picnic Pitch also has deviation tat (and is fine done as a deviation, as seen in the photo of Ana). Although it’s not a hard pot, the cave is a bit too much of a concern to trust to novice feet - that entrance pitch is definitely awkward and there is a lot of loose rock around. You need everyone to know that you can't just blithely stomp through without keeping an eye on things.



Best entrance ever (other than perhaps Scanty Lardos)

Starting Handle Hole: Ben Richards, David Wilson, James Wilson, Matti Mitropoulos, Leo Antwis

Once again I apologise for writing a long trip report, for I do not have the time to write a short one.

It turns out that perhaps freshers do serve a more valuable purpose than just being the future of the caving club - they also provide a sense of urgency to lags who know they can cave quickly. This meant that nothing really happened for ages this morning as we all faffed around. I also only woke up at 10 given the lack of sleep on Friday.

Leo did all manner of interesting things with Jenga blocks while the rest of us discussed our options - illusion pot? Could do but I protested, complaining that I'd be freezing cold and that it sounded miserable. The others seemed sadened by this but that was there problem. My vote was to finally visit starting handle hole which I'd wanted to visit for ages, given it's right next to the road and we walk past it all the time. The other option floated was actually White Scar Caves, given we were all tarts and couldn't really be bothered to do a big trip. Eventually I won and starting handle hole was chosen. At this point Leo and Matti set fire to shot glasses of spiced rum and drank them which seemed somewhat insane, and then Leo did this cool thing where he lifted the outser shell of a block of jenga bricks, all pointed upright in a square, off of the inside of the block of jenga blocks, then repeating like an onion. Very cool. How does he do it.

Diss, Ana and Fiona all wanted to go running for some reason so ran off much sooner than we could get our things together, and apparently found Victoria Cave and Jubilee Cave on the way, which looked fun despite all the running.

Flaming shots finished and rope packed, Leo threw his two bottles of alcohol within wet socks into the car and we drove off to Leck Fell at 1pm... 1pm. The change was reasonably cold, but not too bad by Leck Fell standards. Yet again no one else wanted to rig. SHH is all on spits, which was very odd, and had also been rebolted a little bit in 2020 after some more explorations. Finally I opened the manhole beside the road after wondering what was down there many a time. The manhole was just placed on the cave and easily removed. Below was a forrest of scaffolding poles, some of which moved a worrying amount and multiple large rocks fell down the pitch as I took the cover off. Wonderful. Some gardening later and having noted which poles were completely unattached, I headed down with a handline off of a single bolt. The handline turned into an actual pitch given the bottom isn't climbable, making me regret not backing the rope up to the dodgy looking scaffolding... even more wonderful - why couldn't they have put in a second bolt?!

The whole cave looks like this.

After this came a small crawl to the first actual pitch. All of the spits had nylon bolts in them to protect the spits, and I took the chain of NPC spit hangers (which prompty broke conveniently before a big pitch they nearly all fell down). Rigging took an age given I had to unscrew the protectos, usually with help from a spanner, store them in a little bag provided at the first pitch head, get a spit off the chord of a million spits, try to not drop it down the pitch, line up the thread with the spit, screw it in, tighten it up with the spanner, and then I can start all the normal rigging faff. This little Y hang then becomes confusing with a Tyrolean on the far wall and some spits there as well. I decided to end the pitch as soon as possible and free climb down, but it did look like perhaps the better way would have been to figure out the rebelay Tyrolean thing, as the climb down requires you to climb over the dodgy looking supporting walls made of rotten wood and best rusty metal poles.

We were warned from a UK caving post that the next pitch was longer than the Northern Caves topo due to additional backups at the top. We packed 15m, 15m, 30m, 30m but the last 30 could have been another 3-4m longer so we could have avoided another free climb at the very bottom of squalid junction. Northern caves recommended 15m, 15m, 20m, 27m but this seems out of date given some rebolting in 2020 ish and also helpfully doesn't include any topo. Metal used - entrance bolt and hanger were already there for chaining the lid. First pitch has two bolts for a y hang, one for a backup and potentially another 1 or 2 for the funky Tyrolean thing. Klunk pitch has two backups, a y hang and an in situ deviation. Big Bang pitch had two backups, a y hang and a rebelay.

Rigging Klunk pitch was a massive pain with large tacklesacks as the pitch head is quite tight. Nothing too bad but even more of a faaff with all the spit stuff. The pitch head also knocks gravel type rocks straight down the pitch, as turned out to be a theme of the cave. This drops down a nice pitch, which featured a remarkably alive looking frog. Sadly I decided to leave the frog there - James was telling me how the UK caving post also found frogs and how they wanted people to leave them in the cave. I didn't really understand the logic of this as surely there's a 100% chance of death in the cave, but I had a train to catch on the way out and didn't want to deal with the emotional trauma of crushing my new friend while getting back through the tight pitch head. Alas.

After Klunk comes a brief crawl followed by a somewhat sketchy free climb, with an in situ handline. It would be difficult to rig this yourself as it's attached to a well engineered chock stone rather than any metal, just to add to the dodge factor. This also send rocks down the next pitch if you're energetic enough, so great care should be taken if someone has already headed down Big Bang before others have done the down climb.

The perfect Davey trap.

Matti, enjoying the mud tremendously.

Matti removing Davey from the Davey trap.

The consequences.

Then the final pitch, Big Bang. This has a nice little chute thing at the pitch head which you slide down, knocking even more gravel onto the heads of anyone at the bottom of the pitch. Garden well before use. The pitch then stops on a mega dodgy looking retaining wall made of wooden beams which bent when we loaded them, so we tried our best not to. As mentioned before, had the rope been a few extra meters longer this would have been completely avoidable as you could have just carried on descending, it's only about 2m tall anyway.

This brings you to Squalid Junction! As the name implied, this is horrible. The bottom of the pitch intersects a mud filled tube running in both directions. To the right is half filled with black stinky mud, the left half filled with mud and dark brown water. It did just about provide enough space for all 5 of us to stand, and provided some shelter from falling rocks (albeit not much). James was next down, and after poking his head in the crawls declared this a "Davey trap" with a 100% chance of him exploring them. He was completely correct. Matti reached us and his screach of a pitch free was enough to ask how many shots he'd taken that day. It turned out to be 6. In an attempt to make this sound more reasonable he stated that this was over 8 hours, which given it was 4pm implied he'd been drinking since 8am. He certainly seemed to be enjoying himself.

Davey reached the bottom and immediately started taking off his SRT to go explore this terrible crawls. He first went right, making noises about how horrible the mud was. Quickly he came to what must have been a dead end, which we shouted down was probably a squeeze. Davey seemed to give it a go before regretting his choice and returning looking absolutely filthy. Matti had followed him but seemed to have dodged most of the grime.

To wash off the filth, Davey headed back down the left, wet route. This seemed truly horrible and quickly he exclaimed that he was being sucked into the mud below the water. A short while later he shouted that he'd reached a duck. Despite our best efforts of encouragement he decided not to go on his back underneath the protrusion in the ceiling, as he feared he may get sucked into the mud forever. As he tried to reverse he seemed to get more and more sucked into the mud until he gave up and asked Matti to drag him out by his leg, which Matti seemed to enjoy tremendously. He waas so disgusting that he got someone to empty his water bottle over his chest, which did absolutely nothing. James then shoved a chocolate bar in his mouth, given all four of Davey's limbs were fetted, and Davey returned the favour in possibly one of the weirdest ways possible by trying to push the biscuit further into his mouth using James's face. James was not overly pleased with Davey's advances, and so forced davey to ram his face into the wall in an attempt to eat the rest of the chocolate bar.

Twin weirdness over, we all zoomed out and I volunteered to derig given I'd done all the spit faff on the way in. While waiting Matti decided to eat parts of the wall in an attempt to "expand his limits". Occasional rock bombs fell from the ceiling causing us to lean towards the safe end of the hole but it's all gravel sized anyway so probably fine. At the top of Big Bang I looked down in horror to find the small bag I was using for the spit holders was no longer on the end of the string I had clipped to my chest harness. In retrospect I immediately cursed myself for not just putting it in my oversuit pocket, but fortunately I looked down to see it by my feet rather than at the bottom of the pitch. I thought I'd dodged a bullet and put it in my oversuit pocket at last, but by the top of Klunk pitch I had run out of spit protectors... on closer inspection the cord ripping out of the bag had left a large hole and so presumaly the missing spit protectors are now scattered around the lower pitches... I shall return with more Nylon hex headed M8 bolts to rectify my errors.

We got back to the car for 5:30, just in time for a speedy hut clean before my train at 6:30. A great little cave, but the best part is probably the fact that the entrance is in the road. I shall likely not return after reinstalling those spit protectors.

Ben R

Waking up without an alarm clock was so blesséd. Not waking up to breakfast was less so. But acceptable – I had my pre-breakfast shot of rum, started faffing about with pans until Leo took charge of the eggs, handed me a bowl of milky eggy mixture and told me to make magic happen. I had another shot of rum, and did as instructed. While no smack barm pea wet, breakfast was acceptable, during which I made it clear I wanted to go to Illusion, but no one else really shared this desire, so we faffed about a ridiculous amount, ate some more brownie, set some rum on fire then drank it, soaked more brownie in more rum and ate that too. Finally, Starting Handle Hole was decided, Ben reluctantly agreeing to rig off of spits, and we sped off at Davey speed towards Leck Fell. The pre-change shot of rum was drunk, we changed, then the post-change shot of rum was drunk, plus a bit of chocolate-orange liquor inside a wetsock for good measure. Only thing missing was some smack barm pea wet.

Probably the only claim to fame that Starting Handle Hole has is its titchy walk – you can pretty much jump into the entrance from the road. Not that you’d want to, this really is a collector’s item. It is longer than I was expecting to be fair, but its mostly loose shale held up by crusty scaff, janky rigging and weird squeezes. Without a tackle sack the squeezes are ok, but on the way up they did get a bit ugh. At the bottom we reached Squalid Junction, where an extremely muddy crawl dies quickly in one direction, and a wet, tight duck leads on to an extremely tantalising passage, that also dies quickly. Davey was naturally tempted by both, and even lured me into the muddy crawl for about two body-lengths, until he complained that he was being sucked dangerously by the mud, and I couldn’t really be arsed to go further than that. Around we turned, really pushing Ben’s train time. By the entrance, a divine hand had placed a wetsock full of chocolate-orange liquor, which I generously swigged from while waiting for Ben to derig. On the drive back I managed to time pouring my shots of rum with the straights on the road, ruthlessly minimising spillages.

The hut cleaning was extremely efficient – though my dinner was essentially a slice of white bread and a whole packet of salt and vinegar crisps. The kind that really melt your tongue away with how acidic they are; i.e. the best kind. And of course another few shots of rum to wash it down. Just before Peterborough I only had a tiny bit left, so I took the hit and finished the bottle. In the station we happened to meet Ana, who had had a delightful, slightly more nutritious dinner with Fiona’s parents, and cracked open the wetsock wine to pair with the chocolate orange liquor. This turned out to be essentially slightly alcoholic grape juice, i.e. one of the best wines I’ve ever had. Even Ana agreed it was great. Leo kindly took my bag to stores so I headed straight to cave house with the residents. I literally spent the entirety of Sunday night rehydrating – the intensely salty crisps completely sucked all the water out of my body. Oh and maybe the rum didn’t help. Should’ve just had some smack barm pea wet.

Also omg, next trip will be my 100th trip; I want to try set off a firework from the bottom of Death’s Head and have it explode right at the surface.


Trail running with cheeky royal caves: Diss, Ana, Fiona

Ana outside Victoria Cave.

Fiona in Jubilee Cave.

Alas, I slept badly. A real breakfast greeted me including freshly buttered toast (thanks Leo) and spinach with garlic (thanks Diss) and nice scrambled eggs (thanks someone). Very warming after dealing with ropes for a bit. I'd decided to go running with Diss and Ana back on Thursday and off we went to Settle. Diss was doing a 16km loop; we ran/hiked swiftly up a steep ascent out of Settle and I died at the back for a bit. We reconvened after a nice downhill and then repeated this order on the way up a footpath that led to caves!

Here we split up. Already destroyed, Ana and I took a break from running to explore Victoria Cave and Jubilee Cave. These are not sport caves and so they're both a more interesting and less interesting feature to us than to hikers. Of course we immediately hopped a barrier in Victoria Cave and poked down a smooth rifty tunnel, trying to escape from the daylight. Ana had cunningly brought a head torch along so she could investigate further reaches than I dared as there was a lot of slippery mud around.

Back in the entrance, we enjoyed the way the cave mouth frames the landscape. The sky was especially nice, orange and pink all along the horizon, almost as if the sun were constantly setting. Further up the path and round the corner were the smaller entrances of Jubilee Cave. In both caves, Ana managed to do through trips between the entrances on account of her headtorch and argued that both should count as once-in-a-lifetime caves like Powell’s, or Rowten/Jingling/Yordas (cave not pot). I'm undecided. [edit: I have now decided I agree. Which suggests I should return. F^ck.]

We pioneered a different route back down towards Settle with liberal use of Google Maps and many stops to check our location. We ended up doing a U shape and then descending into Langcliffe before a short climb up to reach a footpath contouring back to our starting path into Settle. In the car park, Ana located a useful bit of wall and started a stretching masterclass, all hidden behind a handy coach. Diss joined us about five minutes later. Perfect timing.