Ah Guan, Ben Honan, Carla Huynh, Isha Kaur, James Wilson, Jarvist Frost, Kenneth Tan, Kong, Kong You Liow, Liam Johnstone, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers
Aquamole: Kenneth 'Still not dead' Tan, Peter Ganson, Kong, Guan
Jingling: Ben Salmon Honan, Rhys, Liam
The weather was not promising as we ascended up the hill towards the Turbary Lane. Low clouds hung menacingly only a few meters above and as we reached the green lane, our helmets were brushing the fog. I walked into the field and confidently announced that I could see the Jingling tree, only as I approached it became obvious it was a tuft of grass. Luckily this was roughly in the correct direction and the real tree soon loomed out of the mist (Jingling is not hard to find after all).
We said our goodbyes to the Aquamole team and Ben meandered into the cleft to begin rigging. Liam, Carla and I chatted for bit, sheltering from the wind in the cleft until Ben was down the first pitch. I supervised first Clara, then Liam descending the couple metre drop and both were down relatively quickly.
Next the shimmy across the drippy ledge. By the time I got there Carla was already ab'ing down the other side. I took advantage of the open shaft to take some easy photos. I walk Liam through the slightly tricky mount, ab and dismount that gets you into the lateral cleft, and into the proper gloom of a cave. Down, down. No problems with our novices first deviation, nor with there first rebelay further down.
We were soon huddled on the ledge above the final pitch. Liam needed some encouragement to get close enough to the edge to rig his descender properly. He descended and I followed. At the bottom I found a disgusting red blob, billowing and steaming, making awful, organic noises. Before I had time to dispatch it with my descender it spoke. Turned out to be Ben, beneath his Bothy bag. Liam and Carla had refused his Ben's offer of sharing body heat in the bag. I joined Ben briefly but the incredibly humid air was quite suffocating, to say nothing of the company so I exited quickly. It was warm though and a pretty interesting idea.
Back up again, I kindly offered to derig (read: was guilted into it by Ben). Carla and Liam made a reasonable pace upwards and again managed most of the ascent quite competently. Liam has a bit of trouble midway up the cleft where a low pitch head makes getting off (fnar fnar) a little bit tough. Ben talked him through it and we were on our way again.
Once on the surface we ambled over to Aquamole where Ben had snared Kong in his Bothy bag. Kong had wisely refused to let Ben also enter the bag. Nonetheless Kong had become quite cold whilst waiting for the other Aquamolers and was quite grateful to be steaming in his own warmth. As Peter and Kenneth came up the final square shaft, we gathered round and screamed the chorus of "My Heart Will Go On" down at them. As encouragement. The sky had cleared a little bit allowing glimpses of the moon and stars.
We wandered down to the road together. I was confused by why the road was so reflective in the moon light. It turned out to be the beck. We met a deliriously happy Isha at the gate, and then at the minibus changed in the darkness watched by the Bull Pot'ers who had been back a couple of hours apparently!
Bull Pot: Jarv, Isha, Rebecca (Deborah) Diss, James (Not Dave) Wilson
Driving up into Kingsdale, we passed through fog banks. As the minibus slowly edged along, I fettled my GPS expecting to be crawling our way to the entrances. By Braida Garth, however, the fog was lifting off the valleys.
After the usual confusion packing (Rhys had very sensibly packed not one, but two complete extra kits! a surprising number of items were taken from these), we headed up the valley and onto Bull. Looking back from the scar, the fog banks heaped up in the end of the valley looked impressive, the valley was really very photogenic today.
At Bull - as well as the rather sombre memorial, there was a rope down! We rigged alongside, and were just rigging the traverse when we bumped into someone leaving the cave. (In our defence, we had only arrived in Yorkshire at 1AM, so I think meeting someone underground at 1PM is just fine.)
A bit of time spent waiting for their deriggeur to haul the ropes out, I rigged the traverse to the next pitch head, and we descended down. This pitch was quite wet, and there was an impressive amount of water crashing around. The slot was still dry ish, so down we rigged. The 'wet way' alternative looked pretty inhospitable from below.
We went and had a look at the fourth pitch; the two deviations in, the last 10 m of abseil was pretty wet with water richocheting off the ledge. Waiting at the bottom, the pitch was well impressive as the others descended. The feeling was like being in a boat at sea, the waterfall stream was snaking around the chamber and occasionally catching a different boulder and throwing itself across the whole way, a sheet of sent across the way. The lights above descending lit up a clean washed shaft, orange and black, with sheets of water falling. Needless to say, by this point I was backed up and wedged into a crack at the bottom of the pitch, hidden from the wind, looking at the world through the slit between my hat and pulled-up neck warmer. I took a few photos before deciding my camera was getting dangerously wet.
I realised that it was possible to pull the climbers out of the worst of the spray, at least until the first deviation, by physically pulling the rope across. Which was very successful - for them! Old muggins here, had no such luxury. After over an hour at the bottom of the pitch, I was rather keen to climb it. So when I heard a 'Rope Free' echo down the pitch, I was off like a shot! Pull through the rope, get that pantin on, and dance up the rock heading for the core of the waterfall. However, increasingly confused sounds came from above, eventually getting to a sort of half worried 'Mnerrrr mnerrrr!'. Oh shit. It wasn't rope free, was it? A quick bit of down prussicing, water trickling down my back, and step off onto the ledge. A few more shivers, and they were truly free. I sped up the pitch, trying to warm up. We made really good time on the way out, getting up to the surface for a sky slowly darkening, and a beautiful large oblong moon rising above Whernside.
Valley Entrance: Jarv, Rhys, Isha, Kong, James, Kong, Carla
Plans were slowly drawn up in the morning. Many caves were suggested. Valley Entrance came up and I decided that I'd like to do it because amazingly I'd never been before. With me as a nucleation point we got packed and piled into the van.
We arrived at Kingsdale and piled back out onto the road. Emptying our kit onto the road Isha made a horrifying discovery. She'd left her oversuit at the NPC. She implored us to be taken back to the NPC to get it. Jarv and I, the drivers, engaged in a silent battle of wills over who would drive back. Jarv won. I wonder if he knew he was playing. Isha and I hopped back into the bus. I managed a three point turn in the turning place and more impressively managed to avoid hitting any of the 4 million doggers driving up the Kingsdale road.
Handbrake turn in the NPC car park and then flying back up the hill again. Isha and I changed in record time. We wandered into the low stooping entrance, dry, then wading waist deep. As Iround each corner I try to listen for people, unable to tell if the faint noises are voices or sloshing water.
We rounded a corner and there was Carla hanging off a traverse line. Between us were several out of place looking people wearing sodden hiking trousers and 'waterproof' coats. Apparently some mountaineering club come for a look at what's beneath the hills they walk on. We squeeze past and drop down to the Valley Entrance down stream sump. Jarv leads us upstream.
Some lovely walking streamway follows and then we turn off, into a muddy crawl which emerges in a low streamway. Some wet crawling follow, though I manage to keep my hands dry by using convenient boulders and shelves in the walls and ceiling. Jarv, Carla and James speed ahead. Isha, Kong and I go at a gentler pace. Eventually we catch up. Apparently the grim watery crawling gets grimmer and this is probably not the way to Swinsto Aven.
We head back to where we first entered the low streamway and notice that it is in fact a junction! An even lower streamway crawl leads off. James and Carla shoot off that way. Isha and Jarv follow. Kong has had enough so I accompany him out. Later we're told its only a few minutes up the lower crawl to the Aven. On the way out we stop at a couple of cascades and I try to photo Kong. At the second of the cascades my flash ends up in the fast flowing water, a final flash as it disappeared into the forth. I expected it to be in the downstream sump but after a 20 metre walk down stream we find it, clinging to a rock underwater [It lives on, btw, a few days of drying and its back to flashing unsuspecting people].
As we get to the pitch, the others catch up and we head out together. Valley Entrance is a really lovely cave. Very nice Sunday trip as you quickly get into some fun streamway.