Alex Seaton, Arun Paul, Cecilia Kan, Dave Kirkpatrick, Dave Wilson, David Wilson, Fiona Hartley, Jack Halliday, Jack Hare, James Perry, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Úna Barker
After two weeks of attempted essay writing, this trip was welcomed with loving arms. I’d been in Ipswich for the week so got to stores at 4pm to pack mine and the elusive Lulia’s kit. Perry arrived at some point, looking rather sad as he had to cycle to Charing Cross to get the minibus. Things were packed, and we were in the minibus in no time. A cheeky U-turn to evacuate Rhys’ kit bag from stores and we were off. The journey felt slow and I was itching to get to the NPC where my box of new caving kit awaited me. We arrived to a positively packed car park and were greeted by Arun, Fiona, DKP and a bouncy Lulia – aka Cecilia. Opening my kit box was like an early Christmas – it was all so shiny. There was chat and various forms of intoxication before bed. I was in a bunk room I hadn’t known existed previously which had new wooden bunks. What a smell.
Alex had told his friend 'Julia' wanted to come caving with us, but when we arrived at the NPC we found it was all a ploy and we were attacked by a small, extraordinarily violent Cecilia, who had just moved to Manchester to help the Machines in the war against Humanity.
King Pot: Alex Seaton, David Wilson, James Wilson, Rhys Tyers
Seeing the fairly full Swinsoms Simpsto exhange trip I decided to siphon off a few choice people to descend King Pot. For this task I selected Alex Seaton (President of the Brown Rose Caving and Potholing Club), and the two latest models of Dubz brother. I instructed the Dubz to pack the rope in the morning and left them to it. I was briefly concerned when they mislaid a rope for about 15 minutes, both swearing it was 'just there' a few minutes ago, but we ended up with three bags and that seemed like the right order of magnitude.
With just us 4 we were quickly away and tramping towards East Kingsdale. On our way past the farm we spotted the new farmers, and asked if we could continue up to King. "No bother" came the reply and continue we did. We found the entrance with no trouble and Jimmy, who was our designated rigger, spent several years meticulously donning his gloves. Once suitably sheathed he slithered down the entrance climb as I reassured him that it's much easier on the way up.
We practiced a sort of speed rigging where Jimmy would rig as fast and terribly as he could and I would correct any deadly rigging as I followed, though this did not often prove necessary. We were quick through the blasted rift and onwards to the pre-T crawl. Just past the dodgy traverse (for which we decided to use the in-situ rope, despite bringing our own) there was a brief argument between the Dubz as to which bag the next rope was in. I instructed them both to go ahead whilst I waited for Alex and to have it sorted by the time we caught up. On the other side of the crawl they had apparently decided something about the ropes we were carrying as the chat had turned more jovial. Davey took a lightish bag and wiggled in, I followed, laden only with a few kilograms of nickel metal hydride, and Alex and Jimmy shared the load of the final full bag at the rear.
We passed the rescue spot and already the drill damage is becoming quite subtle, worn smooth by bums and feet. It is also lower down in the rift than I remember. I've never struggled with the T-shaped passage and this time was no different. Davey popped out, using the in-situ rope to swing around, and I followed. We regrouped and continued.
Christ, it's a long streamway that follows. The Queensway. The survey would suggest its about a kilometre and it definitely feels at least that. It is neither easy nor hard, mostly it is just long. It had taken us just over an hour to get to the far side of the T-shaped and I think it took us almost another hour for this streamway. We finally reached Canutes crawl and Emma's pitch on the other side.
Whilst Davey rigged, Alex disappeared into a tiny inlet. He reemerged some time later covered in white paste and clutching a small formation he had found on the floor. Apparently it's 'cave coral' formed by percolating water in a static pool. As Davey reached the bottom of the pitch he screamed "JAMES YOU PYSCHOPATH". It trned out this was because he had hit the stopper knot a metre off the floor. This, I think, is preferable to not hitting a stopper knot any meters off the floor. With the situation defused we continued.
Beyond Emma's the pitches seem to fly by. King Henry hall is a bizarre place, a huge pile of rocks that you must climb up and then redescend on the other side. We had to desperately persaude Alex not to push a huge rock that was perched at the top of the rubble.
Finally we were at Elizabeth. Jimmy rigged down. I descended and was dismayed at how wet it was. In a fabric oversuit I was not looking forward to the ascent.
At the bottom both Dubz bruvs immediately dissapeared in opposite directions. Jimmy inserted himself into a sump, and Dave was scaling Jane's pitch. I checked my watch and decided that we did not have time to get to the master streamway so I called the rabid brothers back. Davey opened a block of marzipan and I told him we had to eat it all or else it would just dissolve on the trip out. Alex and I had a few bites each but the majority was consumed by the Dubz. Apprently it contains 1700 calories per 100g. More than enough to get out of King.
I ascended first, getting Davey to pull the rope out of the waterfall as I ascended. This was remarkabley effective. I assume Alex got them to do the same, and both Dubz were in PVC (wipe clean exteriors are an optional extra that I decided was worth it when purchasing my Dubz) and also both love grim ascents in waterfalls.
At the top we agreed the general strategy of Alex and I staying a pitch ahead and the Dubz derigging. However they were quick enough that they basically kept up with us (we did do a small amount of photography as well). As we left Jimmy grumbled about marzipan poisoning and Davey reassured him that there is probably not enough cyanide in marzipan to kill.
The top of Emma's pitch has a nice straw chamber to look at if you traverse over the pitch. Alex and I had a look whilst waiting for the Dubz but by the time I had set up my camera and flashes they had already derigged the pitch and were now waiting for me. A few flashes and we were off again.
We arrived at the T-shaped again and discussed strategy. It was simple. Davey and Jimmy would take the bags, Alex and I would tart about at the back. Davey inserted himself and made a complete mess of the entry, I think at one point bending his knee the wrong way in a desperate attempt to brute force his way through. It was very funny to watch. Jimmy went next, slightly more elegantly than Davey but still making a lot of drama about the whole thing. I went in next, taking the time to free Jimmy's bag that he had wedged deep in the rift in order to spite me I assume. Finally Alex clambered in and he was extremely pleased when I turned around, told him to stop in a really uncomfortable position, and took photos of his pained expression.
We proceeded slowly through. I don't know what happened to Davey as he quickly seemed to be singing somewhere in the distance. Thrutch by thrutch we neared the end of our toil. I defintely did not drop the spare batteries from my oversuit pocket, and Alex did not spend 10 minutes trying to retrieve them from the depths of the rift.
We clawed our way up the final few pitches and obstacles and I emerged into glorious bright sunlight. The other 3 appeared one by one and we made our way down hill, concerned that we slightly late. Free from confined space I joked that I would write in my trip report about the Dubz brothers bickering about who had the nicest toes (inspired by them showing off their bizarely different feet that morning), as an example of some of the banter they had been spewing all day in the cave. They immediately proceeded to actually have an argument about who had the nicest toes.
As it turned out the others had been having an interesting time anyway so weren't concerned about us.
Simpsons Pot: Arun Paul, Fiona Hartley, Jack Hare
I'm pleased to report that this weekend I banished some demons lurking from Y0 2015, a trip which I can't remember anything about other than pleasant hands-and-knees crawling in water in Swinsto and the aforementioned demons living exclusively in the upper regions of Simpson Pot. The shuffle, the duck, the pit; the Five Steps, the entrance crawl—oh god, the entrance crawl...
"So Fiona, are we going to repeat our trip from last time?" asked Jack.
"I really hope not," I answered. And wonderfully we didn't. I at least am a better caver now. Jack did not have a splitting headache. Arun is highly competent. (Anyway, the demons live in Swinsto these days.)
We made steady progress down to the wet and still-not-feathery duck. Immediately after this we met four exiting cavers, one of whom had an orange oversuit. Who wouldn't comment on this? Presumably bored of acknowledging such an astute observation for the hundredth time, the owner stoically said to me:
"Lots of people fancy the oversuit, but they never fancy me."
Yikes. Chuckling awkwardly, I said, "Oh, sorry about that," and swiftly left the scene.
An hour later we'd reached the bottom of the Great Aven (what a pitch!) and shared hot blackcurrant squash and squidgy goodness, only soggy in one corner. Lovely. Still, my teeth were soon chattering. We went down into Kingsdale Master Cave to the foot of the Valley Entrance pitch, a 45 minute excursion which certainly staved off the cold, but it's a lot of effort to make yourself go out the harder way when you're standing at the Valley Entrance pitch. Best not to think about it.
At 4pm I began to climb back up the Great Aven. It wasn't that I wasn't a little concerned for the well-being of the other group, but I admit I put it out of my mind almost immediately to make sure there were no repeat epics on the menu in Simpson. On Jack's instruction I put a deviation on the first section to prevent minor rope rub. The chamber at the pitch head is really quite pretty, reminding me of caves in the Vercors.
The pitches passed by steadily, including the aptly-named Shuffle. I slipped back through the duck with a gasp – definitely best to leave enough of a gap between cavers so you can immediately prussik up the pitch to warm up. Having passed this obstacle I felt like we were nearly out.
Jack took up the lead again and I took the second full bag of rope from Arun. The little pitches continued to pass steadily despite the weight of our heavy bags, and we reached the pit and the Five Steps. These too passed, not without effort, but without the mental and physical trauma of 2015. Just the crawl, then. Even that wasn't bad either, to be honest. We returned to a world of blue skies and stunning sunshine at 6pm, and headed over to Swinsto.
Jack checked the first pitch: still rigged. We agreed to wait for half an hour before making our next move. Arun went to find somewhere he could see the minibus from. It's good that he did, as he returned to tell us Diss and Cecilia were at the bus and Perry and Jack were making their way out.
Ah, the Simpson's-Swinsto exchange, a classic Kingsdale day out that never seemed to go very well. Either the water is a bit too deep or I have a splitting headache or the slit pitch is just a bit too tight. Still, surely it couldn't go wrong this time?
We opted not to rig Valley Entrance, and headed up the hill in vague sunshine. I lead the Swinsto group over to their entrance, and then Arun, Fiona and I plunged into Simpsons. It's as pleasant as always, with a slightly too long entrance crawl leading to the five steps. With only 20 m of rope, you must rig conservatively, and Arun had to help me take some slack out so we could reach the bottom. There's plenty of Eurospeleo rope in situ for most of the short 10 m pitches and the traverse - you need rope for the pitch down to the duck and everything after it, so we ended up leaving loads of rope in various places as encountered pre-rigged pitches.
The duck was quite committing - real full body immersion, and on the other side I made my classic joke "At least we won't be coming out this way " [Ed: they were to come out this way.] We met some old boys coming out from a bounce trip who claimed not to be good enough to be in a club, but I suspect they were tweaking our noses slightly. The tangle of rope leading up to the Swinsto Great Aven pitch was less intimidating than usual, and the beautiful flowstone at the pitch head was a fine sight, unusual in a UK cave.
We abseiled down the great aven to resounding silence, arriving around 1445. The others were not yet here. I poked around a bit, finding a way on straight ahead, but then realised that the way to Swinsto was a free climb down to the water. A tall waterfall bars the way up to where Swinsto and Slit Pitch come in.
Instead of getting cold, we decided to check out the Kingsdale Master Cave from this side. I'd never been, and after a few wet crawls we quickly got into a lovely stomping streamway. All too soon it was over, and we were at some pre-rigged ropes heading up to Valley entrance. So close to the surface, but not quite. We returned to the Great Aven to wait. It was 1515, and we resolved to leave at 1600. Many whistle blasts and 'Eh-ohs' later, and there was no sign of them, so we reluctantly turned round, prussiking slowly up the Great Aven.
The way out was quick, with Arun derigging almost as fast as we could cave. The duck was cold, the five steps tough (though Fiona handled them with ease this time) and the entrance crawl a bit twatty. On the surface was glorious sunshine, and we sat for a bit, drying off. Fion and I went to sit by Swinsto, and I went to the first pitch to blow my whistle. Arun went to the lip of the hill and looked down at the minibus. He had a hurried conversation with Diss and Cecilia which led us to believe Perry and Jack were derigging and everything was fine. We ambled down the hill and met up with them.
It turns out that the water had been ferocious on one pitch, and Diss and Cecilia opted to go out Valley Entrance (fortunately pre-rigged, though not by us!) whilst Perry and Jack came out Swinsto to rescue them (assuming that Valley Entrance was not rigged). It was unclear whether they were derigging Swinsto. We got changed at a leisurely pace, and after an hour or so we saw them running down the hill at high speed. I couldn't work out why they were in such a hurry, so we ambled over to say hi and realised that they were on a desparate mission to save Cecilia and Diss, who were fortunately in no danger. After a little chat, we peeled them out of their oversuits, fed them apple pies, Fosters and whisky and then watched as the King team came down the hill, having had a great trip.
Dinner was delicious chilli with rice paste.
Swinsto Hole: Cecilia Kan, Jack Halliday, James Perry, Rebecca Diss
Today we planned to do the classic Simpson’s-Swinsto exchange that had beaten many an ICCC cohort in the past. Our one fresher on the trip, Una, was unfit to cave on the Saturday yet again (bit of an sCHECC mark II). Interestingly didn’t seem to be alcohol induced illness, so we let her off and left her in the NPC with the Daves for a day of rest and recuperation.
I was in the Swinsto group, along with Perry, Mr Jack, and Cecilia. We walked up the hill, directed by Dr Jack, and soon found ourselves inserting our bodies into a small spider-filled hole. I, being rather averse to spider contact, put my head down and crawled pretty darn quickly in the hope that I might outrun (outcrawl?) the fuckers. Perry knew immediately that “this is a shit cave” as his lighter fell out of his over suit pocket and was immediately consumed by the streamway.
The cave was wet pretty much from the offset, with a nice soggy crawl to start. Fabric was perhaps not my best life choice but c’mon, it’s not like I wasn’t going to wear my shiny new over suit now was it. The first few pitches all blur into one, but I do remember the bloody long crawl, aptly named Swinsto Long Crawl, which seemed to go on forever. After the first pitch, Perry had gone on to rig, and Jack soon followed in an attempt not to freeze so I was crawling alone with no idea when it would end. Even with well padded knees, it got very painful after a while which I’ve not experienced before. Finally hearing an Aye-Oh from Mr Jack who was waiting at the next pitch whilst Perry rigged was a relief to say the least. Some more pitchy things and streamway walking occurred before (I think?) Pool Pitch which had a bitch of a deviation. It was extremely tight and ended up requiring cowstails in the bolt for me to muster enough strength to undo it. I got to the bottom and my hands were excruciatingly cold. It was the kind of cold that just feels like burning and I spent a good while shaking and pulling faces in an attempt to warm them up. In the end I found the best way to get rid of it was to just keep them extremely still. Good times.
Now onto Split pitch, the most memorable of the lot. Another shitty deviation (which was entirely necessary) lead to a descent into a fuck tonne of water – the description said we’d feel “the full force of the waterfall” and gosh was there force. Perry shouted something to me as I was descending but I couldn’t hear through the water in my ears. I later found out he was telling me to descend quickly in an attempt to avoid being in the water for long. Ah well – I was fully soaked now anyway. We got to the bottom and Perry said there was no way he was prussicking back up that – thank goodness it was an exchange, right? Ha. There was a convenient alcove at the bottom of the pitch that kept us out of the spray whilst we waited for the others to join us. We were all quite cold when we reached the bottom, but Cecilia looked pretty shell-shocked and we quickly made the decision to whip out a survival bag and huddle for a while. Perry went on to rig whilst Jack and I hugged a plastic-coated Cecilia. I’d never seen a survival bag in action before, but it basically looks like a clear plastic sleeping bag liner. Once Cecilia was in, I poked a hole in it vaguely near her face and we passed her a bottle of water to drink through it. Where was all that hot squash I made when we needed it?
I got a bit warmer and went to see how Perry was doing. There is actually a lot more horizontal passage in this cave than I expected, which felt even longer because we were often walking alone as none of us wanted to wait at the bottom of pitches to avoid the cold. I eventually found him at a free climb in a small waterfall and he assured me there was dry passage up ahead. I passed him a tackle sack and went back to collect the now warmed up Cecilia and Mr Jack. We eventually came to another free climb which Perry was unsure of when alone but we decided it looked climb-uppable if it was the wrong way. It turned out to be right and we soon found ourselves where the Simpson’s route comes in, probably after a pitch or two. No sign of the other team. Not surprising though considering how slow we’d been at the deviations and with the stopping to warm up.
We made our way down to the final pitch that leads into Valley Entrance before deciding we needed to start making our way out. I was in a pretty bad mood at this point, partly from the cold but mainly just being terrified of ascending up the waterfall in Split Pitch. We reached a free climb that had been okay on the way down but proved rather difficult on the way up. There was a nice smooth wall with pretty much zero foot holds and a small but incredibly deep pool underneath. I attempted it once, and one leg slipped into the pool. I fell down and didn’t reach the bottom but stopped myself fully falling by leaning on the wall behind me. I was in no mood to try again so Mr Jack valiantly volunteered his hands as a foothold and I was up pretty quickly.
At the bottom of the first/last pitch, we sat down to make final decisions about what we should do – in hindsight we really should have done this before but no matter. Our cold brains decided we had three options – all leave via Swinsto, all wait at Valley Entrance for the CRO or Perry and Mr Jack leave via Swinsto and Cecilia and I make our way to Valley Entrance and wait for them to rig a rope for us to climb out. Now it seems that option 2 would have been the best because 1) there was actually an in-situ rope there anyway and 2) the Simpson’s group may well have rigged Valley Entrance if we hadn’t emerged by a reasonable time so it likely wouldn’t have lead to a rescue anyway. In the end we went for option 3 which was great for Cecilia and I, but certainly not for Mr Jack and Perry.
We said our goodbyes and Cecilia and I made our way to the final pitch that would take us into Valley Entrance. I was equipped with a Krab, a maillon and 14m of rope and did my first bit of solo rigging, which didn’t lead to any deaths. The descent was again into a waterfall but it was much smaller and quite easy to avoid going under. It did mean I couldn’t see the bottom of the rope though so I descended very slowly out of fear of the stopper knot at the end. All was fine and I was soon standing on a large boulder pile, awaiting Cecilia’s descent. Now for my first bit of real cave navigation – we had the description for the route to Valley Entrance and I could clearly see the “route downwards through the boulder floor underneath the wall” so we set off into the unknown. You soon get to a bit of walking passage before it gets lower and you’re crawling through a low canal for quite a while.
We were then hoping for the passage to open out into the Main Streamway, where a right turn and walking until the sump would lead to the pitch in Valley Entrance. I remember there being one point where we were slightly confused as there was a right-ish turn early on but it wasn’t very wet so it obviously wasn’t the master streamway. The passage opened out for a bit which also provided some confusion but we could hear quite a lot of water from one direction and followed the sound before finding a large streamway with a good old right turn that signified our way on.
The streamway looked pretty terrifying and we first attempted to traverse above the water on the left but the ledge quickly ended and we had to get in there. It was actually deceptively shallow and nowhere near as strong as it looked so it was all fine. There was one point where we were like “shit, the water there is black, it must be super deep” and I genuinely thought we would have to stop. Amusingly the rock had just changed colour (I’m blaming my dodgy light for this) and it was actually even shallower than before.
We soon reached the sump and saw some rope hanging down – aha the pitch was rigged! We could get out right away. I may or may not have been slightly dubious due to stories of in-situ ropes and rescues in the past. I bravely let Cecilia go up first and she didn’t die so I followed. From here we had absolutely no idea how to get out – the description only told us how to get to the pitch – so we blindly took the most obvious route at every possible turn and managed to find the little tube that opened up into the outside world. The journey felt like it went on forever though as the passage was all very similar. We emerged into glorious sunshine, certainly not the kind of weather that fit with the ordeal Perry and Mr Jack must have been going through.
We changed and whatnot and eventually heard an Aye-Oh and Arun appeared at the top of the hill. The Simpson’s team came down and we explained the situation and waited for the others. Eventually they appeared and were practically running down the hill. We yelled some Aye-Ohs and they did some strange whistling and we eventually realised that they didn’t know Cecilia and I were out of the cave. We met a very disgruntled Mr Jack and let him know we were okay. He seemed about as traumatised as he was after King so we knew it hadn’t been the most enjoyable trip.
Back at the NPC for some very lime pickle flavoured “chilli” (which was still very tasty), a small amount of intoxication and red cows tails courtesy of DKP, before bed.
Heron Pot: Alex Seaton, Arun Paul, Cecilia Kan, Dave Wilson, Fiona Hartley, Jack Halliday, Rebecca Diss, Úna Barker
I decided I’d quite like to get some more rigging practice in after my successful rigging of one tiny pitch alone on Saturday. A good amount of morning faff and probably not enough tea consumption lead to the decision that we would try out Heron Pot. I’d be rigging the High-Level route and Mr Jack would rig the traditional route with the help of Alex. After the traumatic waterfall experience, the Swinsto route had been left rigged so Dr Jack, Rhys and the Dubz Bruvs decided to do a Swinsto-Valley Entrance pull through and derig.
We got to Kingsdale and I found I’d misplaced my chest harness. Not to worry – Fiona had a spare! It was a very interesting contraption that sadly did not fit the desired colour scheme but it did the trick just fine. The walk to the entrance of Heron Pot was much nicer than previously described as we had a DW as a guide so no wrong turns were taken. It was exceedingly warm though. Arun and I went in first – there were far fewer spiders and one extra SRT kit compared with Swinsto so I already liked this cave more. There was a small amount of very very painful crawling thanks to yesterday’s antics that had likely fucked up all of our knees. Thanks, Swinsto Long Crawl - you da best.
In some nice tight passage before the streamway, we met a Craven caver – the owner of the mysterious SRT kit at the entrance. He informed us that he’d been bouncing around all the routes with his 10 jolly, mostly novice, caver friends and a few ladders. Apparently this was the Craven’s ladder meet. Interesting. This meant the route I’d be rigging was already rigged so I had a nice guide of how to do it myself. I also took this as an opportunity to save my nerves a little and always had a cheeky cowstail clipped into their traverses but rigged as though I hadn’t for practice purposes, innit.
I climbed the in-situ rope up a bit of (I think) flowstone and rigged a 9m rope down. This wasn’t long enough and so the others just came up the in-situ rope as well. I later found that we were actually supposed to have rigged the ascent with the same rope as the traverse but no matter. Rigging the traverse was awkward and scary at first but I soon got into it and managed to rig without any direct help from Arun. There was a fun bit where I spent a long time wedged in an awful position, definitely killing my knees, before realising there was a nice ledge below I could’ve been standing on. A while spent doing the almost-splits across a large hole before descending and I was at the top of the main pitch. I rigged the Y-hang with a fig-8 and alpine because who knows how to tie a bowline-on-a-bight anyway?
Descending the pitch was fun and I didn’t fall to my death or hit the stopper knot so I think it was a general success. Arun later let me know I should have put more slack in the rope before the Y hang to allow for an easier time hard locking the descender – good to know for the future. It was ~14:15 when I got to the bottom and I spent a good while singing and getting only slightly chilly waiting for Arun, who was helping Una with SRT, and the other humans. I eventually heard what I thought was a Mr Jack but actually turned out to be DW, who had taken over rigging for the last pitch for unknown reasons. It appeared that the Craven and their dastardly ladders had made rigging practice for Mr Jack rather a lot harder than necessary. Some humans left the cave via the lower, crawly wet route. DW and I went up the High and traditional routes respectively and Arun and I’m assuming Alex derigged. All in all a good trip and weekend generally.
Almost as soon as I got into Heron I encountered another caver coming out. He'd done the lower entrance with a cast of thousands and said it wasn't very wet. I've wanted to do the lower entrance since 2016 so I stashed this information away despite suspecting I wouldn't get my chance today.
The lower pitches had been rigged with ladders and there was a rope going up to the high level traverse as well as the in-situ rope. Jack started rigging but unfortunately the cast of thousands started popping out of the walls behind us wanting to de-rig their gear.
Cecilia: Where are you guys from?
CPC Caver: Craven.
Cecilia: I don't know where that is.
Me: The Craven Pothole Club. It's in... I think you said you've been to Hunt Pot, right? Or Sell Gill? The village nearest those is Horton in Ribblesdale. That's where the Craven is based.
CPC Caver: Some would say it's the best club.
Me (grimacing at the rock): Some would say...
I sent Una up to the high level traverse and was blocked from following by CPC bodies filling the passage. Eventually they'd de-rigged the lower pitches, Jack could get back to rigging, and I could ascend. The chief CPC de-rigger asked me to undo their rope and pass it down. No such luck, they'd rigged the whole traverse. Perturbed, the de-rigger asked if there was another CPC member in the roof with me de-rigging their rope. I duly checked every tiny crevice for this dossing CPC member but obviously no. An actual CPC person was going to have to de-rig the CPC rope. Given Una was ahead of me on the traverse though I washed my hands of it and went to supervise her on the final section of the traverse and at the pitch head.
When I reached the bottom I promptly set off downstream with a vague "you don't have to follow me, I'm just going to have a look and fill in time while the others come down" but everyone did. In the end due to time Arun suggested myself, Jack and Una go out of the lower entrance while he and Alex de-rigged. I would get my chance to do the through-trip after all!
There's no route-finding to it: just follow the stream. The passage slowly lowers to stooping and then crawling height. Glimpsing daylight I briefly looked around for a way out that didn't involve getting more wet. No chance. Embrace it! With three splashy sideways wriggles all three of us were out.
It was not only great fun to cave with IC3 again, but good for my self-esteem as well. Not good for my voice though: if you have a frog in your throat all week and then go caving, you might find after two days of yelling down pitches you'll have lost your voice and be unable to answer the phone properly at work on Monday.
Not having to answer the phone isn't such a terrible thing, mind.
In conclusion, balls to Craven.
Swinsto Pull Through: David Wilson, Jack Hare, James Wilson, Rhys Tyers
Swinsto was left rigged after yesterday's trip, and initially the Dubz Bruvs volunteered to climb up from Valley Entrance, derigging as they went. This sounded great, so Rhys, Fiona and I planned a trip to Illusion Pot. However, just as we were about to leave, Perry remembered that although he hadn't derigged the ropes, he had derigged the deviations, leaving one pitch right in the full force of the water. Unsure how bad it was, a pull-through derig seemed the safest options. Rhys and I had done plenty of pull-throughs when canyoning, and it seemed safest if we joined the Dubz Bruvs, literally showed them the ropes and have a fun trip to boot.
We packed a nice 60 m from the NPC, and ambled to Valley entrance. Here we met a lady with a distraught dog - apparently her husband and daughter were underground. Inside Valley entrance we quickly met the husband and a very young girl, who proudly announced that we were inside a dustbin - a reference to the lid and plastic pipe entrance to the cave. Rhys rigged our rope just in case the in situ tat vanished, and we exited the cave to begin the long walk up the hill.
As we climbed, we discussed our tactics and whistle signals. We decided the first three would abseil on the pre-rigged rope. The third person would clip one end of the pull through rope to them and abseil with it, ensuring that it reached the ground, or clipping the end to a bolt to avoid the last person abseiling off the end. The final person would derig the pre-rigged rope, abseil on the pull-through rope, feeding out the other half (the 'pull cord') from a tackle sack on their back. The pull-through rope would be biner blocked as usual, and fed through two bolts for back-up.
After a few practice pitches which went quite well, we got to the big one. Rhys agreed to be the last one down, and I plummeted through the water. I wouldn't have enjoyed prussiking up this way, though we'd deliberately left the deviation out as we were only going down. Soon Rhys joined me on the spray soaked ledge and we discussed again how we'd do this rebelay. Rhys took a while detangling the ropes (it had got very complicated at this point) but he was quickly down. The few remaining pitches were rigged by the Dubz Bruv's, who did a great job, and then we were back in the Great Aven. Quickly, we exited the cave and were back on the surface: 2.5 hrs from Swinsto to Valley Entrance, not bad!
The Swinsto pull-through is lovely and high recommended if you have a chance. PVC is probably useful given it's very wet, and the split pitch requires a bit of thought so that everyone has somewhere safe to clip in to - either that, or take two 60 m ropes so you can rig both.
Rope rescued, we went back to the Pennine for egg fried rice paste, and hurried home. A great weekend of caving!