First leading trip for Jarv, first in-cave SRT trip for Tom. What could possibly go wrong?
69m freehang pitch from the iron bar was impressive; should have dunked the rope to help heat dissipation - inside of shaft was practically bone dry + one had to descend SLOWLY to avoid a burning hand + an evil plastic smell from the rope. I descended; and stood at the bottom waiting to reverse-belay Tom - in the last 15m of the descend, the shaft opens from a 1.5m square box to an enormous cavern - pretty cool. Noticed a 'permanently' installed rope [belayed to a pleasent P-bolt one third of the way down], looked a little worn thugh + I thought we may as well have two ropes just in case, so rigged our own [lucky lucky decision!]
Tom descended without incident; leaving just Steph to come down. The trapdoor was rather overgrown with grass + so only opened far enough to slip through a body sized gap, as steph slithed through, she lowered the door a bit too early - trapping under the rim of her helmet. Whoops.
Not yet with her weight on the descender [rope was attached to a sling looped around the bar - to avoid rope wear on the trapdoor], unable to lift up the heavy iron door single-handed, and with legs too short to bridge across the shaft to provide any support - she quickly found herself increasingly garroted by her chin strap.
From below; looking up nearly 70m to a tiny flickering orange light, I was growing increasingly worried. I was holding the rope, and could feel Steph moving about - it carried waves beautifully, if you sent a wave packet with a few snaps of your wrist, they disappeared in a beautiful train upwards, only to reappear 15s later as a perfect echo. Also, after a few moments of FX3 light, there was very little that could be seen at the top of the shaft - my MigLight could just about spot a flash of yellow arse, but that was all.
Growing increasing worried; I yodaled a 'Ooooo-Kay?' and was replied with something that at the time I heard as 'Jarv! The rope's come off!', followed by something I can only describe as a wail - the rope then went absolutely wild in my hand as Steph thrashed in panic.
I don't think I've every been more terrified. Was our sprightly treasurer about to die? I had already sent Tom away from the shaft incase some rocks came tumbling down, she would fall for over 12seconds - plenty of time to comprehend the quickly slackening rope in my hand and make the obvious yet rather callous decision to walk out the way.
Having failed to plummit to her doom; she shouted something incomprehensible but sounding at least sounding slightly more rational. A few moments later I heard an ominous 'ping! ping!' as something small and hard bounced down the shaft. I guessed it must have been a piece of gravel kicked loose, though apparently it was her FX3 battery wingnut! After the panic had subsided, she managed to simultanously support herself without garroting + have a free hand to undo her chin strap. Once supported by her descender / cows tails, she freed herself from the trapped helmet by undoing her FX3 battery.
Meanwhile, with Tom quickly briefed on the art of reverse belaying; I was prussicking faster than I've ever prussicked before, up the rigged rope. As I neared the rebelay [about 2/3 the way up the shaft], I looked up to comprehend [a now easily visible with my spot beam] Steph abseiling towards me with no light. I tried to shout that she should head up, not down - but I couldn't make her understand; so was content to dangle there with an Oxygen debt to rival most third-world nations, watching Steph abseil with light from my spot beam.
It was only when she drew level with me at the rebelay that I realised her helmet was missing; I decided to continue descending with her, as the already-rigged rope was not backed up above the rebelay + I didn't believe she'd be able to lift the trapdoor by herself. Very strange to abseil in a cave with someone; its usually the time when you're utterly alone, yet here I was bumping legs with someone else on a twin rope - using just one light.
Steph's diabetic - and it turned out that her Epi pen + blood testing kit were in the safest possible place for a cave... her helmet. Which was trapped in the trapdoor 70m above us. So, leaving Steph + Tom nibbling chocolate on a ledge under a safe looking section of roof, I climbed our rope, and was reassured to see sling, rope backup and rope backup backup all pleasently intact! Literally as I was about to push up the trapdoor and get myself off the rope, I heard voices - it turned out to be half the other team, who were apparently involved in a full-blown cave rescue down JH [we had seen the vans when we arrived at the farm; but they seemed to have little interest in us and sent us on our way - the others were changing by the side of the road when a CRO van screeched to a halt and asked if there were any experienced members to help...]. Nice for a bit of company; had a rather out-of-breath exchange of information, attached Steph's helmet + readied for descent. The helmet was held in rather tentatively - if someone had opened the trapdoor without a hold on it, the weight of the FX3 would have dragged it down the shaft - and onto my head!
I descended as fast as I could - limited by the amount of heat generated by my Stop. What water I could rub off the shaft wall flashed into steam; I burnt my chin at the rebelay when twisting around to untangle from the other rope; for one horrifying moment the temperature got just TOO high and I suddenly dropped 50cm on molten plastic, causing me to desperately slap the shaft wall for water + hope that the rope wouldn't burn through.
After a succesful descent; Steph was reunited with her blood testing kit + appeared to have vaguely normal sugar levels; mars bar nibblings must have worked. Tom was sent up the shaft first, followed by Steph and then finally me.
170-odd metres climbed; not a bad workout for an English cave :)
Some poor caver abseiled off the end of his rope (packed for by his caving wife, not present on the trip natch!), hurting his back quite badly. Strapped to a spine-board and taken out the bottom via the tourist boat in Speedwell caverns. The Lucky Few (Dan, Shed and Clew) managed to get themselves on a rather impressive trip! I believe injured caver has since made a very good recovery (no broken bits). Steph, Jarv & Tom spent a rather exciting evening in a Castleton pub eating mince pies with cream.
Of course, Jarv didn't have any clothes to change into (left back at the hut), so was merely in a cave fury and duffel coat. A rather exciting time at the urinal - trying to pee while holding my furry up around my waist, when a big old local walks in, looks me up and down and asks in a thick Derbyshire accent: "Potholer then?"...
Right, lead a trip down a cave you've never even been to the entrance of. Right how, quickly read the selected caves description - turn left into blasted passage, used to be a bit tight etc. And hey - Stefan had been there a year or two before!
Well, we paid our Giant extortion to the farmer (he zoomed out on a quad soon after to check), then bimbled on our way. Went around the back of the little hillock, rather than cutting straight across and found a cave. Hurray! Stefan thought it looked familiar, so we dove straight in.
Giants Cave is not very pleasent. Its a long sideways squeezy crawl in weird mud, with clear evidence of flooding. Nice formations above, but that doesn't really justify the trip! Left the other two at a tight right angled squeeze, while I went on looking for that elusive 'blasted passage' (wrong cave!). Got to a flat out crawl in mud, inspected the cave shrimps and waited for the others to catch up. They didn't, having been defeated by the squeeze, so turned back to pick them up & decided to exit. Believe that crawl was the resurgance that flows across the path to the real Giants.
Absolutely fecking freezing, soaked & generally not in a good mood; got back to the van after the usual dangerous walk along the verge of the Hope valley road, whereupon we couldn't find the bloody key! Huddled in the lee of the van, pulled our arms & heads turtle-like inside our oversuits and so awaited the return of the P8'ers.
Jarvist Frost G+
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