Arun Paul, Dave Kirkpatrick, Jack Hare, James Wilson, Jennifer R, Rebecca Diss, Úna Barker, William French
My first weekend trip in six months. Jimmy was late. Arun agreed to drive out of London. The M40 wasn't an option, but the M4 was smooth. The sweet smell of the minibus awoke old memories. This felt...right. We arrived at the Pennine to find it over run with friendly Yorkists. I went to bed.
James has an interesting concept of being “here”.
Ireby Fell Cavern: Arun Paul, Dave Kirkpatrick, Jack Hare, Rebecca Diss, Úna Barker
Grand plans. Ropes packed. Large pot - Red Herring. Not feeling it - second pitch notoriously tight. Rift Pot then. Divided into teams, drove to the fell. Mr Jack forgot his wellies, opted not to cave. DW picked him up. Ireby team seemed uncertain and heavy rain was forecast. Rift floods in wet weather. Simple choice really - bail on Rift, go to Ireby.
Set off across fell, pointing out landmarks as they emerged from the fog. Into the cave. Diss rigs. Entrance waterfall seemed larger than usual. I split off to rig Shadow. Arun follows. Shadow is excellent as always. Final rebelay totally dry. Very odd. Arun arrives.
We wait. Lights and shouting above. Eight Yorkists pass, heading deeper. Two hours pass. I prussik up and down to remain warm. Arun and I discuss life, liberty and the pursuit of caves. Eventually Diss, DKP and Una arrive. They don't want to cave anymore. Ding Dong too wet. Bodes well for the rest of the cave.
Arun and I head off, high speed. Exhilirating. Caving as fast as I can to warm up. Beautiful streamway, compressed in my memory to twenty metres. Actually 600 m or so. Duck isn't so bad. Pitches relatively dry. Meet 4 Yorkists in Duke Street. The rest are doing Cripple Creek.
Look at the sump in Duke Street. Arun and I both piss. Lighter, we ascend. Crawl takes six minutes. Exhausting. Arun is fast. Down into canal. Tiptoes: only one testicle wet. Up Duke Street 2. Escalatator Rift. Arun close behind. Flat out crawl into Jupiter Cavern. Awe.
Yorkist voices in the distance. We sing the Imperial March. They sing back. We leave. Odd acoustics - they say they were ten minutes crawl away. Down the rift, through the canal, the crawl, Duke street 1. Very fast. Pitches are wetter. Shadow is extremely wet. Head down, prussik fast, speedy deviation, burst through. Out of the cave. Ninety minutes from Jupiter Cavern. Caving this fast is an unusual experience.
Back to the minibus. Everyone else out and left. Leisurely change, then back to delicious curry. Lots of booze.
Welp, seems like every caver in Yorkshire decided to go to Masongill this weekend. It was also pretty wet. Hmm.
The original plan was to have groups to Large, Rift and Ireby. Due to some welly issues which involved no drama, the plans were changed and we had a bigger group in Ireby and no Rift trip. Jackhal tarted off to Rowten with DW and we were doomed to a moist trek to Ireby.
Hare was to rig Shadow and I Ding-Dong-Bell, supposedly the drier of the two. Una and Dave were doomed to follow me. I did some rigging, did not get stage fright and refuse to tie a rethreaded fig 8. Walked through some unexpected waterfalls and eventually got to the top of Dong. After rigging the traverse and dropping the rope down i was pretty sure it wouldn’t reach the bottom. Dave came down and agreed. Some reshuffling of slack occurred and Dave bravely went down first to see if we’d fall to our deaths or not. All was well and I came down to start rigging the next bit. The first bolt was fine and then the second was conveniently under a rather large torrent of water which lead to a full soaking and me deciding to stop. I conveyed this to Dave to see if he wanted to rig instead - after considering the water he didn’t seem too keen and so he, Una and I made our way back up to try out Shadow which we’d heard from a shouty Jack was actually dry.
There were a bunch of York humans on the traverse above us so i sang whilst waiting for the ropes to free. I eventually got on the ropes and heard a Jack who had come up the big hang in Shadow to keep warm. I had trouble passing a rebelay as the rope below was caught on a rock but Jack came to the rescue and I eventually got to the top of the last hang, where i waited for Una before descending.
Arun and Jack (the Shadow team) had been waiting at the bottom of the pitch for two hours now apparently and were keen to get going to the next bits of the cave. Naturally, after having them wait, the rest of us decided we hated caving and left, but not before spicy cheese was shared. I left my unopened block of cheese with Jack and they sped off into the further reaches of Ireby.
Arrived back at the bus after a longer walk than remembered, found out i totally packed the correct ropes for Large, and eventually headed back to the hut to cook fancy-ish curry.
Large Pot: James Wilson, Jennifer R, William French
I volunteered to join James and Will in Large Pot. About twenty minutes later I was beginning to regret this. It is a marvel to me that despite packing the bags the night before we left the hut at a similar time to normal, it seemed that we had just consumed more tea to compensate. Arriving at Masongill we were the only vehicles there but by the time we finished changing it had become apparent that everycaver in Yorkshire had decided to come this way. Ireby was looking to be very populated, Large was only going to have two other cavers in.
Upon finding Large (fairly easy - it's by the big fenced sink in the field) we found those two cavers still in the entrance so we waited around outside to try to avoid getting too close to them. As it turned out they must have been wildly more competent than us as we didn't see them again and by the time we left their ropes were already gone.The first pitch is pleasant, one of those where you rig your descender sat on the rock. Our rope was a little short so we landed on a ledge, then dropped down to the floor. The way on is a tight crawl to the pitch. James took the advice he had been given that morning and went in head first, I entertained myself by listening to his grunts and swears. After a while he asked me to go in and get the tackle sac for him, I do so, very grateful for the fact I could turn around a bit earlier than him so didn't have wriggle uphill as far. A new plan is made and krabs raided to make rigging easier. James disappears again and after a while I hear shouts, positive sounds this time. Turns out feet first was just better in all ways. We have a yelled conversation through rock and I follow him through. Pitch head is crap, the only way to be remotely comfortable is to have one's legs down the pitch. We have a further yelled conversation about rope lengths, James says his is too short. I look at my tackle sac, 42m the labels says, wasn’t the last pitch 50ish? More shouting, much survey looking and James comes to the conclusion that all the ropes are short and that the pitch lengths must have been packed instead. New plan: use the Colossus rope here, go down and look at the top of Colossus and turn around. I manage to wriggle the rope bag over my head and down the rope to James and sit pretty, convincing Will that he definitely does not want to come through yet.
The confines of the pitch head lead to new level of fuck-upery for me, I keep my ascending gear clipped to my chest harness and do to the lack of space I had managed to put the hard lock on my descender through the foot loop. I look at it for a time and decide to just pretend it hadn’t happened and flick it free when I could. This works well enough and I can go down, very aware of my hair - tight pitches put it much closer to the desender. It widens up soon enough and after a series of rebelays and ledges we are on the floor. Ignoring the awful start, it was all quite nice and attractive.
The cave then goes on in a way I don’t remember till the pit. The pit is supposedly free climbable and has some in situ ropes there. We dropped down the first rope, ignoring the single bolt, and had a look at the second. It was a bold climb to contemplate without a rope. I believe we all tried to climb it rather than prussick, I tried last and and stood for a time with my foot at near hip height debating my life quite seriously. I went for it and found it really rather scary, it was rather slippy and my hands were doing next to nothing so I was just relying on this single foot. After this bit it was all rather doable. The whole thing is rather questionable as a free climb.
At the top I am not met by James and Will, thankfully the way on is obvious and they are waiting not too far ahead. The cave is suddenly pretty, stooping passage decorated with many white straws. I idly wonder about a photo but decide to do so on the way back.
Then mud. Awful, wet, muddy passage. At this point I start hating life. As well as muddy it was also awkward, there were two bits that I found particularly tight. The crowning moment was, whilst inwardly swearing at the mud, my hair managed to slap me in the face. The last clean place on me now muddy. It was straight across my lips and I spent a moment sadly contemplating that I had now way to wipe it off without introducing more mud.
I rejoined the others, thoroughly grumpy, just before the top of Colossus. We all stood at the top and mourned the lack of rope, it looked big and open, a really cool pitch. There some in situ tat that must have been used for digging at some point. James went over to it muttering about using it with some of our ropes and a knot pass to be able to descend. I check the tag on the end of the rope, 2000. That's not at all terrifying, casual twenty year old rope.
We leave, I hate mud some more. I utterly fail at being remotely clever about how to fit through tight bits and appreciate James offering an arm for me to push off. I’m surprisingly tired and ask him to derig. We then start arranging the awkward bag hand over midpitch before the tight pitch head, this requires some thought about how to make it so James is actually attached to something. I then prove to be completely incompetent and go up the pitch with my back to the bolt (definitely the wrong way) and with both camera + SRT bag on my hip. This made it considerable worse than it should have been. At one point I stop to try and move the camera at least and find I had reached a point of no return. I am exceptionally grateful to reach the top of the pitch and be able to flop. We left the cave to find we could see nothing and just followed the wall back to the minibus. Part way down we spot lights in the distance, the mad flashing mode reveals it to be imperial but the number of lights was mildly alarming. When we saw them we found out the group had simply split up and Diss, DKP and Una had simply had enough of caving. A sentiment I agreed with for that day.
Today we had a real epic planned. The bus was packed full of hyped-up cavers and we set off eagerly in the direction of Kingsdale. Two of the group had a measly Bull Pot trip planned and we left them to their own devices (along with my block of spicy cheese). The more bold of us prepared ourselves for, quite possibly, the greatest trip of our caving careers. Our first obstacle was met early on - a brown, squelchy chasm in our path - but not to worry, it was no match for our skill and we traversed the sides with ease. The route finding was notoriously difficult but we pushed through, making only one wrong decision, thinking the correct path was lower down than expected. No matter, we quickly realised our error as we arrived at a grassy bank and took a right, uphill onwards to our destination. A second obstacle was met, but alas, it was no match for our gate-opening skills and we proceeded into the darkness.
Being equipped with the highest grade of light and safety equipment, we navigated through the treacherous terrain, mostly avoiding a full soaking, before reaching our first checkpoint. After some frankly professional photography, we continued on to our next and arguably more interesting destination. The journey was tough and there were a lot of attractive ropes to distract us from our task, but eventually we reached the final ascent. Panting from a mix of exertion and excitement, we staggered up and up and up and finally we were there. The summit. We’d done it, we’d actually done it! The Yordas - Inglesport Cafe through trip was no match for us.
Sadly i’m no writer, but i hope i conveyed the epic-osity of this venture.
Side note: my block of cheese did more caving this weekend than me.
I woke up ill and with painful shoulders and back on Sunday. I did not go caving, unless you really want to count prancing around Yordas in hareem pants. Tea in inglesport was much more appealing.
Bull Pot: Jack Hare, James Wilson
No enthusiasm. Yordas mentioned. Jimmy wants something tougher. Fine, Bull. Pack ropes, dropped off in minibus. The others go stand in Yordas. We follow the track by Yordas up the hill. Don't do this. Go down valley and take the Jingling/Aquamole path.
Jimmy rigs fast. The cave is wet, but we have PVC. Down Slit pitch, then third pitch. Big swing for the deviations. Jimmy knows the tricks. We look at the fourth pitch, but we aren't feeling it. Back out, I derig. One hour down, half an hour out. Arun collects us. Back to the hut, more curry, then the long drive home. More time driving than caving this weekend (every weekend?).
Fast caving with good people is fun. I know it's not in the spirit of the club, but there were no novices around, and it's good to see what you can do.