David Wilson, James Wilson, Louise Ranken, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Eve Chaddock, Astrid Rao
Lank-y-Link prerig: David Wilson, James Wilson
Pool Sink to Link Pot: Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Astrid Rao
Despite the hate Easegill had been getting the night before, the Dubz’ enthusiasm for a cave that could be walked to from the hut convinced most people to do a traverse through the streamway. Link and Lanc had been rigged by them the night before, so after some excessive faff the following plan was conceived:
All in Pool Sink; David and Astrid out Lanc; James, Ana and Matti out Mistral. Little did we know, only David was to stick to his plan.
We made the most of the fact that the cave was within walking distance and got to the entrance super early at 12:40. Ana enthusiastically dove straight into the tight crack in the wall of the streambed; the rest of us watched, glanced at each other, and silently agreed to wait outside. Until she called from inside ‘umm where is all the metalwork?’ Shit, its in the other bag. Guess we do have to go inside after all.
The descent was uneventful, I only had to straddle an obscenely large gap once after I screwed up near a rebelay, which was then changed into an only slightly easier deviation by David. Once the final pitch had been descended the route finding began. Somehow I had ended up with the description but managed to avoid responsibility by reading it out to everyone and making a decision based on common consensus. The democratic approach worked superbly, with us only taking a very short wrong turn near the start, making our way through the dry upper caverns until we hit the streamway.
A short stomp through the stream saw the Mistral group splinter from the Lanc group. James was quite enjoying the streamway splash so switched groups, and Astrid was up for a challenge so joined Ana and me down towards Mistral.
Route finding after this became more problematic – I’m not sure if the description had become less detailed or the route was generally harder, or Ana and I were just doing a worse job of interpreting it (surely not?) but we took two quite lengthy wrong turns and spent a good amount of time discussing and contemplating.
At the 88ft pitch I, without thinking, decided that I had the tackle bag and that meant I had to first onto the sketchy in situ traverse rope. It was only when I was sitting on the slippery ledge clipped into the tatty old rope, never having rigged a pull-through rope that The Fear hit me. Thankfully ever-patient Ana walked me through step by step what to do, and all three of us descended without issue, pulling the rope down behind us.
Since we were quite short on time we decided to bail at Link rather than push on to Mistral. Hastily ascending the rope to the top, I was horrified both that the top of the rope seemed to be several metres down the pitch, and that Ana’s face had disappeared. There wasn’t much I could do about the dodgy rigging, but Ana’s face did reappear once she was done hiding from the midges in her buff.
Pool Sink to Lancaster Hole: David Wilson, James Wilson
Tatham Wife Hole: Louise Ranken, Rebecca Diss, Eve Chaddock
Boxhead - Death's Head exchange: David Wilson, James Wilson, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Astrid Rao
Davey had suggested the classic head-to-head the night before, taking advantage of the low water levels to get to the Death’s Head connection in the Leck Fell master streamway. The nasty stories I had heard enticed me - how the water is neck-deep with little airspace, how it floods to the ceiling in wet weather... On the morning Davey solidified my place on the trip by describing the Boxhead connection: ‘a tight, wet tube with a 90 degree bend where cavers taller than 180cm may struggle’.
As a man of 185cm, I was determined.
Eccentric hip-hop music from Radio 1 accompanied us on the obscenely roundabout way to Leck Fell from Bullpot farm, and I was whisked into the boxhead entrance by Davey. As I dropped the entrance pitch, I began questioning the reliability of the rigging topo. I heard James’ ghostly voice in my head: ‘there are two deviations on the second rope – make sure to use both of them’. I saw the two deviations but only one traverse bolt above them – maybe this was the second pitch already? I dropped down to the tat and put in the deviation. Glancing up, Davey’s blinding light illuminated excruciating rope rub – something was wrong. The attempted changeover was more faffy and exhausting than I had hoped, but saw me back at the bottom of the gravel slope where I finally saw the missed Y-hang bolts. Keeping it together, I rigged my best fusion knot and called rope free to Davey. Scanning the right hand wall as I abseiled, I caught the third and fourth Y-hangs without issue, successfully landing on the ledge where It’s a Cracker pops out of the wall. A quick 10m handline and a short free climb and we had reached The Tube.
An ominous waterfall obscured the entrance, leaving us to imagine the tightness for a few minutes more as we hyped ourselves up with a gourmet chocolate bar. Finally we committed and Davey dove in, SRT kit in hand. Although wet, it didn’t get particularly tight until the right-angled bend. Here I decided an arched back was preferable to hyper-extended knees, so I faced away from the bend – a wise choice in hindsight. After that it was a short thrutch into a large elbow-deep puddle and we were through. Not too bad really.
We were gradually approaching turnaround time so were hoping to find the alternative route’s connection quickly, where the exchange group would hopefully be waiting. Sure enough, James met us in the streamway, and led us back to where Astrid and Ana were shivering. After a short exchange of advice we parted ways again and Davey led me through the master streamway, pointing out each of the entrances’ inlets as we passed them.
Davey must have said ‘this must be the Long Pool’ about six times before he finally said ‘This, this is the Long Pool’.
We waded in. The water rose to our wellies, our knees, our hips, our chests, and oscillated ominously around the nipple region. My wetsuit was doing wonders keeping me comfortable. The ceiling dropped down quite low at some points, but the wideness of the passage meant it wasn’t too constricted. We did freak out, however, when the water lapped up into the hollow grooves in the ceiling and the resonating ‘thump’ reverberated around the chamber, sounding ominously similar to a flood pulse. Once out of the pool we had a cheeky splash in the gross foamy sump before climbing the rope up to our exit.
Death’s head in summer was expectedly superlative – the huge open shaft bathed us in glowing sunlight as we lazily prussiked up the rope to the sweet smell of the fell. I paused just below the midgeline while Davey derigged, wallowing in the greenery. As I watched him, about 20m away he stopped, looked up for 10 seconds, then carried on.
‘I thought you were a log.’
Lancaster Hole derig: David Wilson, Astrid Rao
Pool Sink derig: James Wilson, Matti Mitropoulos
‘David, please stop fisting the orgasmatron’
I looked up.
Reluctantly, David removed his hand from the penta-pronged scalp stimulator and continued poking his sausage. James took away his toy and told him off for being a bad boy.
The meagre four people that had the will to descend underground today started weighing up options of caves to do. The others had finally made the connections concluding that Vitamin-D deficiency and harness bruises are, in fact, quite avoidable. Nevertheless, Lanc and Pool sink had to be derigged before we left, so the fearsome foursome kitted up and said our goodbyes, before Running Up That Hill to the entrances.
James obligatorily asked ‘do we have to go caving?’ as he tentatively whetted his left glove in the first puddle.
Of course, stop complaining. ‘You can always stay here in the sun if you like…’
‘Fine, I’ll go…’
I clearly hadn’t gotten close enough to guillotining myself on the Bacon Slicer the first time round so I tried harder this time – still unsuccessful. Maybe next time. My left knee pad had given up the ghost on pitch 2 so the right one carried hard while we crawled through the streamway. After eventually reaching, admiring, and deserting the Easter Grotto, we made our way back to the ropes. I had a hard time convincing James to do the derigging.
‘Do you have particular opinions about derigging?’
‘Good. You do it.’
I had full understanding that this would ultimately result in a bigger bag for me, but in the moment that was future me’s problem. Current me got out of derigging. Half an hour later though future me became current me, and current me cursed past me for that.