Cecilia Kan, Dave Kirkpatrick, David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, James Perry, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Una Barker, Will French, Nic Gruse, Ana Teck, Carl Hentges
The journey to the NPC went smoothly, with us stopping at Stafford station to pick up our glorious ex-president Mr Perry so he could drive the rest of the way. We decided to do our shopping at Stafford Tesco, a huge and confusing place, with wild DWs and hidden Thai Red curry paste.
The NPC was glorious as ever and there were debates about the merits of the fairy lights, which are obviously far superior to real light.
Lost Johns' Cave: Cecilia Kan, Dave Kirkpatrick, James Perry, Rebecca Diss, Una Barker, Nic Gruse, Ana Teck, Carl Hentges
Lost John’s’s’’’’ was on the agenda this weekend and a select few decided to go to Boxhead. We ended up with three groups: Boxhead, Centipede, Dome.
The walk to Lost Johns is absolutely excellent, we should do it every trip.
It had been quite wet over the last few days and the entrance to LJ was pretty damp, with some ominous collections of foam. I was doomed to rig dome, which was actually really fun - probably my favourite rigging experience to date. This was i think the first time i didn’t need reassurance from another human that i was doing it right so that was nice. I did overenthusiastically tie a rethreaded fig 8 with a little too much tail on the first pitch which had to be redone because the rope wouldn’t reach the bottom (despite it being longer than suggested), but other than that it all went well. Bowlines as backup knots also featured and this is definitely something i plan to do more often.
Bowline = best knot
Rigging the pitch into the window was good fun - although i could only find 3 bolts at the top rather than four as it had on the topo. Didn’t seem scary though so was all fine. I also couldn’t tell if there was supposed to be a re-belay or a deviation from the topo ( after looking on CNCC website it is clearly a deviation) but remembered people struggling with a re-belay there before so went for a deviation (easier for me to rig as well, hehe).
Dave and I have conflicting ideas on how to get into the window. He thinks you should descend to the bottom of the loop and climb into the window. I say you descend whilst pulling yourself in with the other hand. My advice is better.
We eventually arrived at Candle and Shistol which Perry’s group had rigged, woop. A lovely stomach shower under a vaguely unavoidable torrent of water made me glad for PVC. We eventually heard the others and emerged at the end of battleaxe traverse. Apparently someone has a headtorch that does “ambulance mode” because there were lots of flashing blue lights and i was somewhat confused. Eventually Perry appeared as he had decided, after rigging the pitch and traverse, that he didn’t want to have to prussik back up Valhalla. Cecilia took the rope down and we followed, leaving Una and Perry at the end of the traverse. Battleaxe is not as scary as i thought it would be as the walls are close together so i didn’t feel all that high up. Dave said to me before doing it it’s easy as long as you trust the rope which is accurate as you just have to hang on your cowstails to move from one section to the next. It felt quite committing at first as you’re never sure if you’ll end up too low to get back up easily but it worked and was actually quite enjoyable. Absolutely zero chance i would ever rig or de-rig it though. Terrifying.
A bit of a wait at the pitch head before descending (it’s quite big). Boy is Valhalla wet! We got to the bottom and were stranded in a stream with extreme draft and spray. Luckily everyone prussicked out surprisingly quickly and we didn’t get hypothermia.
Perry’s group went out Dome, swapping Cecilia for Una, whilst i wait for the rest of my group to appear. All arrive in good condition and Cecilia de-rigs. Some grumbles occur and she decides she dislikes tall people and we eventually make our way out of Centipede.
The big pitch in Centipede was infinitely harder than Valhalla which i can only assume was down to the heavy tackle sack i had, but maybe general tiredness too. The way out was generally fine and we get back quite late to pre-chopped veggies ready for a Thai red curry which was quite tasty. It wasn’t a tomato based stew at least.
NB: It was nicer with one pot of curry paste than two (described as 8 portions).
Boxhead Pot: David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, James Wilson, Will French
Having woken up and looked at the weather, I decided it was too wet to do my planned Death’s head to Lost Johns’/Notts 2 trip, and wanting a change from Lost Johns’ I hastily recruited an initially slightly reluctant team to go down Boxhead, including James and Yan Jin who had both been down on winter tour but not made it to the bottom, and Will, who also felt like doing a harder cave. The plan was to go down Boxhead to the bottom of Lost Johns’ see if the other team were there and if not, continue out of Notts 2, and derig Boxhead the following day. We made it to the cave with no problems, but then had to wait for some friendly Kendal locals who were leaving. Now feeling quite chilled, James rigged quickly down the impressive shaft from ledge to ledge, while I tried to take some cave photos on my camera, and we very quickly arrived at the Kendal Flyover, ready to start crawling. The next bits of passage are mainly a blur, with some pleasant bits of crawling and some interesting steps over large holes, with the occasional slightly unpleasant free-climb with in-situ tat on and some squeezes. This bit of passage also included an almost duck, where I ended up submerging (and potentially killing) my camera. The description was very good though and we made fast progress to the bottom of the big climb up. James said he’d shout when he’d reached the top of this hessian rope snaking up this highly vertical climb, disappeared around the corner and kept grunting for some time, leaving us wondering what we’d got ourselves into. The climb was way bigger than I’d anticipated, and went up around several corners and constrictions, I estimate it at around 20m, but with no one individual section being taller than 5m. I followed up at the back, spotting Yan Jin in front of me, and finding my face and shoulders all being used as footholds at different points, which was rather amusing. At the top of this climb, we turned right, and followed the main passage until the large junction with the Notts 2 passage. We turned right towards Lost Johns’ and did two rather interesting free climbs to get to the top of the Lyle Cavern ropes. Descending this Will and I shot off downstream to Lost John’s and whistled up the last pitch, unfortunately the Lost Johns’ party assumed my double whistle was a rope free on Valhalla pitch and although we got a couple of replies, and briefly saw someone’s light shine in the streamway from the final waterfall, we eventually decided to move on, no exchange today. Maybe we should have decided on a whistle signal before we left, ah well. Before we headed out, we went downstream on a half an hour trip to the Long pool and back, which was good, the water in the streamway seemed relatively low and we were long overdue some striding down streamway after crawling around in Boxhead. Walking upstream was surprisingly more tiring than we thought, and we had a quick water break by groundsheet junction before heading back up the fixed ropes and free climb to the Notts 2 junction. Although we were worried about navigational issues, this didn’t turn out to be much of a problem, just go straight ahead (whether that be up or down) and follow the wear and survey stations. There was a quite heavily blasted section near the start including a vertical downwards squeeze that James baulked at initially, and was rather unpleasant, and would definitely necessitate the removal of srt equipment for its reversal. After this you play the ‘follow the scaffolding’ game, with many interesting squeezes and varied caving from squeezing through puddles to strange u-bends, where you had to decide whether you wanted to go feet or head first, with the right answer always being neither. A truly impressive amount of scaffold later, and after some slightly damper squeezes, we reached a chamber and could hear the Notts 2 streamway, yes! Will and Yan Jin immediately reacted to this excellent news by stepping straight into a muddy bog-like bit, and both got stuck, requiring me to extract them, and then get pulled out myself. We climbed down into the Notts 2 streamway, which was the highest I’ve seen it and quickly headed out, which included stepping under a torrent of water from the wet inlet. Although being tired from the trip made the Notts 2 scaffolding climbs harder, we were still soon out on the surface, ready for the walk up the road, and we arrived back at the minibus just before the Lost Johns’ people, and 5hr30min after we left originally (although we did wait for 45min at the Boxhead entrance). As I got changed Perry managed to stand on my watch, getting one of the buttons stuck in, and it started making an annoying beeping noise, which it would continue to make for the next 2 days until I took it apart and fixed it, and which I like to think motivated everyone to get changed quickly. Back to the hut for an excellent Red Thai curry and chilling by the fire.
David ‘Davey Dubz’ Wilson Jnr
I was quite keen on going down the Monastery route of Lost Johns since I've gone down Dome and Centipede before, but the group was disbanded (too much faff? too few experienced leaders? I can't remember). Dave and Carl joined different Lost Johns teams, making four people in each team, while there were three going down Boxhead Pot. It seemed almost wrong to spoil what could be a perfect trio of fours, so I put my name down for Boxhead. Apparently, the two months since winter tour was enough for me to forget how awful some bits of the cave were. Besides, I know what to expect, so it couldn't be that bad... right?
As we were getting changed, we saw someone in full caving gear, running across the fields. We later learnt from the cavers leaving Boxhead that that was their mate rushing off for a trialthon (mad). These local cavers also brought a speaker with them which sounds like a great idea.
The SRT down was nice but long, making me determined to do an exchange so I wouldn't have to prussik up. Having done the T-shaped passage and the low, wet crawl before, it didn't feel as bad as I remembered. We eventually got to the free climbs. This is the exception where having experience is not ideal - previously, I was only terrified midway through the long climb, after realising how long and awful it was, whereas in the second time, I was already terrified before starting it.
James and I got to the master streamway of Lost Johns after descending the in situ ropes, where David and Will were already there, shouting and whistling up the waterfall. That evening we learnt that part of the Lost Johns team saw us, but decided that it was too grim to go down, and couldn't find the bolts to rig down anyway.
We then made our way to Notts 2. It was a long, low and continuous crawl, with little variation in height. After a series of down crawls where I went in feet first, I put my feet into the next bit before I heard Will say "I think head first is better here". Well too late, and it was too much effort to get out and fix it. I trudged through unhappily, while David, having gone in head first, had a more pleasant time. He said "go on", which sounded like a mix of encouragement and mockery at my plight. The seemingly never-ending crawl eventually ended, and we got out of Notts 2.
Shuttleworth Pot: David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Nic Gruse, Ana Teck, Carl Hentges
Boxhead Pot: Dave Kirkpatrick, David Wilson
Today we had a somewhat special trip planned down Shuttleworth, which the club rarely ventures to for unknown reasons.
We were wary of the vaguely long walk to the cave but it was actually much shorter than i had expected - about 20 minutes there and 30 minutes back. Route finding was also very easy. Follow the wall in the field past Deaths Head until you reach a clearing overlooking a steep-ish hill. Turn slightly right and walk towards a building on the other side of the valley and you see some limestone outcrops, one of which is next to the entrance.
The entrance is a plastic tube with a ladder in it (rigged with a rope) and a hole off to the side at the bottom that you go through to get to the re-belay. Then down in a series of pitches quite reminiscent of Aquamole in my mind. Only thing to note is that everything is quite loose so need to be quite careful not to kick rocks onto people’s heads. This is easily avoidable by making sure you’re out of the way before shouting rope free.
The final pitch descends down a big chamber, with an easy hanging re-belay a few metres below a ledge where a Y- hang is rigged. The floor is a bouldery slope which reminded me of a much much much smaller Galactica. Down the slope there’s a sump, which Jimmy went to look at. Up the slope you get to a muddy crawl which leads to all the pretties. The horizontal part of the cave was basically like a far superior version of OFD2 but there were formations all around and no horrific traverses. We turned around at the impressive collection of straws after some photos were taken. All was a bit rushed as Perry had a train to catch.
On the way out we were in two groups. Most of us left as soon as we got to the entrance and got back to the parking space just before Perry arrived in the minibus (he hadn’t caved). The de-riggers were out a bit later and we were in quite a hurry to leave. The hut was completely packed up and the minibus ready to go by ~5.33, which was pretty good going seeing as we must have got there not much before 5.
The journey back was smooth and we got to Stafford in time to get McDonalds before Perry’s train, which ended up being delayed anyway.
The BAFTAs had occurred over the weekend but some sweet talking from Arun meant we were able to park right outside the union.
Back home quite late but well worth it for the great weekend of caving!
Woke up and had a lovely breakfast, and decided on an optimum derigging plan. DKP and I would quickly go to Boxhead and derig it, and then depending on the time, I could wander over to Shuttleworth to join the others. We got changed and I whizzed down the rope to the Kendal Flyover, the cave being significantly drier than the previous day. After prussiking up with the first two bags, I handed the full one to Dave and he headed out. I kept heading up the cave, only pausing to lick the condensation off my glasses as I was so warm. At the last big ledge on the way out, I struggled to remove the traverse line, which for some inane reason had been put 2.5m off the floor, (has the floor moved?) and this resulted me swinging into the entrance waterfall and back onto the floor when I took it out grrr. I clipped the bags to the Y-hang just below the tube and we then hauled them up the entrance tube. We got out ~50min after we went in. Heading back to the car park, I grabbed my phone and power pack, and headed off to the entrance coordinates for Shuttleworth, leaving Dave to get changed at the car. This interesting exercise led to me walking in 3 ever decreasing circles 100m around Shuttleworth trying to update my gps, but I eventually found the entrance. I bounced down the tiny entrance shaft and following pitch after the rebelay and bumped into Yan Jin and Carl, who were taking photos. After the second pitch we landed on a boulder slope, and went up the slope and through a muddy crawl and were then walking through an incredibly beautiful gallery with lots of helictites and stal. We met up with the others who were turning around and took a couple more photos. I briefly went to explore the right hand branch from the large chamber, finding it to die in a muddy crack, and after the final few photos headed back to the pitch rope. While the other started heading up the rope, I went down to look at the sump. I can say without doubt, that it is the most evil looking, and one of the biggest sumps I’ve ever seen. A brown bowl shaped kidney shaped hole taking up the whole chamber with a rock bridge over the top. It looked very deep, and some later research suggests it is a flooded shaft, which makes sense. I quickly derigged the ropes behind Carl and Yan Jin and we headed back to the minibus to speedily get change to head back to the NPC and leave so Perry could get his train. Shuttleworth was a satisfying end to a brilliant weekend of caving.
David ‘Davey Dubz’ Wilson Jnr
I was the last to go into Shuttleworth (or so I thought since David came after), and witness the sky turned from bright sunshine to gloomy rain. Some pitches down, there was a sound of something dropping. Knowing that the cave has alot of loose rocks, Carl/Nic shouted "ROCK". Carl later realised that that wasn't a rock, but his camera lens. Thankfully someone else picked it up. The straws at the bottom were very pretty, but there was some crawling (not unpleasant but unexepcted). I wish we had more time to poke around, but we had to go back up.