Alex Seaton, Arianna Renzini, Arun Paul, Ben Honan, Bhavik Lodhia, Cecilia Kan, Finbarr Fallon, Fiona Hartley, Floris Wu, Jack Hare, James Perry, Max Hörmann, Nuria Devos, Ramon Winterhalder, Tanguy Racine
Photos by Finbarr Fallon
After an exceedingly long drive, we arrived around 1 am at Bullpot farm, I shall only describe the accommodation at basic, traditional, cramped and cold, which is a little sad for myself - being a 5 star only hotel person. There was also no Wifi and no phone signal (cries!)
After a long day of lectures, it was finally half past 5 and, thus, time to go caving!!! I grabbed my stuff and went to stores. This time I already knew some people from my previous trip to Wales, but I was also glad to see some new faces. We loaded the mini-van and set off as soon as we could. On our way we stopped to do some shopping and grab some dinner, as our expected arrival time was really late (1:30). We arrived at the hut and try to find some space to sleep, which was a bit difficult because it was really crowded.
It was a relaxed drive during which Tanguy explained to me the meaning of the French national anthem and how caves in Yorkshire formed. We arrived some minutes after midnight in the caving hut where a lot of people stayed for the weekend. So it was quite cosy in the sleeping rooms. I soon got to bed. Saturday morning we had the usual eggy fried bread breakfast with lot of cinnamon and sugar. I ate a lot. The day before I also ate a lot at Burger King. Chicken Big King and Long Deluxe Cheeseburger for 4 pounds, which is good value for the money.
Lancaster Hole: Fiona, Max, Arianna, Alex and Fin
An early start the next morning involved a 15 minute walk across the scenic moors, however the gale like wind and heavy rain made this a somewhat chilly endeavour and by the time I arrived I was already shivering from cold. The entrance to the cave system, Lancaster Hole, was a small concrete shaft penetrating the ground vertically. Peering into the shaft one could only make out the first 20 feet downwards, which consisted of a tight cylindrical rock chasm.
Alex was first to enter followed by Arianna. Then my go, and my first use of SRT in a cave! I rigged in and popped into the pipe which led to a rebelay about 10 foot down. Luckily Fiona was on hand to shout instructions down the pipe as I had never done a rebelay before...having clipped into the next section one descended about 20 feet more where the cave shaft suddenly expanded.
At this point one had to do a mini traverse and rebelay on a rather small ledge. The drop into the darkness below was over 100ft and I was worried of this traverse and rebelay on my own, but Arianna boss moded it ahead of me. With Shia in my head screaming JUST DO IT I reattached myself kicked off the tiny ledge and luckily I had done the descender right and didn't fall to my death (unlike Max who at the same point forgot the braking crab...which Fiona pointed out at the last second... phew ) . The free hanging descent down all the way was satisfying and I met up with the others at the bottom.
Following this ropey ordeal we finally had some horizontal exploring and quickly navigated to the beautiful section of cave called X (Ed: the Colonnades) where we observed large stalactites and took some photos. We then proceeded to X (Ed: Fall Pot) where we met up with Tanguys group who were stopping for lunch. Our aim for the day was to exit out Wretched Rabbit and we continued towards there, spurred on by the echoes of tanguys recorder. There were some short descents involving a hanging rebelay, which went well and we passed directly under a group from another university descending from Something Pot.
A little after this we ate lunch and then came to a small valley which involved some very fun traversing and clipped in freeclimbing, but it took quite a while for the whole group to cross this section. At this point following a discussion with our leaders and another university group we decided to return back the way we came instead of going to wretched rabbit (of which we didn't really know the way) else we might miss our call out.
So we returned back to Lancaster hole, getting a little confused for directions here and there but finally made our way back to the hole. We began the long ascent back up- the final pitch was quite tiring and the traverse and rebelay scared me again (first time ascending in a cave and a million times bigger than the tree). I was incredibly relieved to get to the surface, although it was crazy cold and I had to jump up and down for about 40 minutes to stay warm until the rest were out.
We had been underground about 10 hours I think, which went super quick, we got back around 9.30pm ish, quite a while after all the other groups, and just as Jack and Tanguy came out onto the heath looking for us. We then ate the dinner leftovers and played typical caving games in which Nuria beat us all.
A great trip, although the big pitch scared me, and I don’t really like ropes.
We made ourselves ready for the cave. A lot of people struggled putting on their kit, me as well. After we all finished Jack showed us how to deal with rebeleys and how to put the rope through the descender, the breaking crap, hardlock, softlock and so on. It was a lot to memorize, when you see it the first time, but all of it was important for safety in a cave. So that's why there's tree training !
The entry to Lancaster hole is terrifying. It's looks like a gully! Everybody is going into the hole, so I think: “Why not? Can't be too bad!“ The weather was windy, rainy and really cold. Because Tanguy wasn't able to find Lancaster hole, our group, which was led by Fiona and Alex, went in at first. Alex started, then Arianna, Finn and then me. I put the rope wrong through the descender at first. There's a big difference doing it at tree training with no frozen hands and no fear. So before going in a cave I really think it's good to be able to put the rope through the descender properly blindfolded. Fiona supervised me and everything was fine for the start. The first rebeley comes about 2 m below the entry and with Fionas help I could do it.
Then for the second one, maybe 5 metres below the entry and one where you can stand on a ledge, I got insecure. It was already dark and my lights didn't work well. So I asked Fiona, who then started to scream something about my breaking crap. I got confused. I understood something is wrong but didn't really know what to do. I looked down the ledge and saw that it's going down a lot of metres. I realized, if I fall down there this is the end. From this moment on for me caving was and is a dangerous sport. People might tell you everything is secure and I think they are right – but only if you are not making mistakes with the technical stuff. I didn't know exactly what I had to do while I was standing on the ledge. I got angst-ridden which isn't a help. Luckily there was Fiona who knew what she was doing. She told me to put on the cowstails. Then she came down and helped me. It was good she came down cause I didn't use my breaking crab for the abseiling from the first to the second rebeley. Doing the same on a rope 30 metres over the ground would have been dangerous. She helped me getting over the second rebeley and I got down to Finn, Alex and Arianna. They had to wait quite a while for me. Even worse was the situation for Tanguy's group. They had to wait outside in the cold Yorkshire weather.
After going down Lancaster hole I realized that I need a toilet. All the food in me created a constant pressure with only one way to be released. But there was no possibility because it is not good to shit in a cave. So this was bad. Always go to a toilet before going down a cave. You can enjoy your time in the cave much more then. Also people told me that on my helmet it is written dodgy. In my Germanness I didn't get the meaning of that. But as the lights didn't work how they should, dodgy helmets are definitely not the best to choose.
We met Tanguy's group after a while. He played flute and was relaxed. I asked myself who he only can be that relaxed. For the next pitch I joined Tanguy's group because they took an easier way than my group. After descending down I used the moment for a piss. The pressure inside me lowered down to a tolerable level.
We met other cavers, they told us how long our planed way might take and we decided to turn around. We saw fancy stalagmites and stalagtites and in the end had to get up Lancaster hole again.
This was scary again, though less than going down for me. Alex ascended at first. Fiona and Finn got out before me, because they were cold and so would reach the warm hut earlier. But they didn't know the way. So when I was on the surface once again I saw three freezing people. Despite his cold hands and fingers Finn did a really good job and made nice pictures of everyone.
Back in the hut, the food was already prepared. It was a good curry. I enjoyed it. But before it I enjoyed the bathroom facilities of the hut. The usual caving games followed. Nuria of course won all of them. Hanging on a table with only one hand on it she had time to smile and make her hair with the other hand. Amazing.
Lancaster Hole to Wretched Rabbit: Tanguy, Arun, James, Cecilia and Nuria
After a full British breakfast and making lots of sandwiches, we changed into our caving suits. We were split into teams and Jack gave us a quick explanation on how to do a rebelay or a deviation.
I left the nice and warm hut alongside my group (Arun, Perry, Cecilia and Tanguy) and started the walk towards the cave entrance (Lancaster Gate). The weather was quite grim: there was a lot of wind and it was hailing, but the worst bit was when we arrived at the cave entrance and discovered that Fiona’s group was already there, so we had to wait outside, in the cold, until everyone had descended into the cave. However, the thought that we still had a full day of caving awaiting us kept us cheerful. After approximately one hour waiting, it was finally my turn to descend. My hands were so cold that it was a bit difficult to clip the descender on the rope, but with a bit of an effort, I managed to get through the 33 meter deep pitch!
We walked for a bit with Fiona’s group and then stopped to have some lunch. Tanguy played some nice songs with the flute and I also tried (though I didn’t remember them very well). After resting, it was time to leave because we were starting to get cold again, so we descended another bit and walked for a while.
After passing a place where we had to go down and then up again with a rope to help us, we arrived at an area that was a bit less crowded. We were able to see some really nice formations. A lot of places had the ceiling covered with stalactites, as if it were a mouth with a lot of teeth about to eat us!!! Our initial plan was to go back the way we had walked and get out of the cave through Lancaster Gate, but Tanguy made the wise decision to continue our way and exit through Wretched Rabbit, which would be less crowded.
We walked and climbed and at some point we stopped to go down to the streamway to get some water. This was such an incredible place!!! With the water, a big mouth with “stalactite teeth” and some other stalagmites, it looked like Gollum’s home. But the fun hadn’t ended yet!! After a few minutes, we arrived at the Minarets. This was a long tunnel with an onion shape, where we took lots of photographs of onion-shaped and astonished cavers and also a couple of pictures of a caver trying to (unsuccessfully) turn off his light... We continued (now watched by Perry’s camera) and at some point Tanguy went crazy and we run down a hill and up again while singing a song from The Lord of the Rings.
It was a really nice trip, because we also did some teamwork: we switched bags, helped each other with them at some difficult points, Arun helped me to go up a rope and we even shared the last crumbs of the delicious gingerbread Tanguy had made!!! We squeezed and climbed through the last bit of our trip and got out through Wretched Rabbit. And so, we were on the surface once again.
We walked back, again in this cold and rainy English weather. At some point, we almost lost Perry, who nearly drowned in the mud. But in the end we arrived at the hut, where we had some curry with rice. We were all worried for a while because Fiona’s group didn’t seem to feel like getting out of the cave and it was already quite late. However, in the end, they made it to the hut and we were all together again, ready to... Start playing caving games!!!! We did the table traverse and the sling and the pot game along with some other cavers from Oxford. I managed to win again. However, suddenly Tanguy turned up with two slings and attached me to him. I had to find the way to get out but it was just impossible!! Nevertheless, Ramon the hero, who had saved Isha in our last trip and Floris in this one, somehow found the solution and got himself untangled!!! After this, everyone was tired so we started to make our way to bed.
On Sunday I woke up feeling surprisingly good (even though I had the usual bruises around my knees and elbows). I was ready to go caving again but while I was putting my kit on, Jack came in to give us some sad news... We were not going caving today because it was too crowded... However, the day had just begun and we still could do a lot of things!
So we packed everything into the mini-van, had some lunch and started our journey back to London. At first, everyone seemed keen to just go directly to London. Nevertheless, in the end we managed to convince them to stop in a beautiful village called Ingleton. There we walked for a bit, visited some caving shops and a really nice tea house!!
After this, we set off to London. In the last bit of our journey we drank some really nice “Perry” and practised some tongue twisters (which isn’t very easy after drinking “Perry”...)
This was my second caving trip and despite the grim weather, I enjoyed it and had as much fun as in my first trip. Looking forward to Yorkshire III!!!!!!
Next day caving was cancelled because another group already went down the same cave.
We drove home making one stop in Illingdon to get a good tea and sweets. For me it was a scary trip with many strong impressions. Maybe because it was so scary I think I learnt a lot.