Right, as it was my first caving trip for ten months, I decided that it must be down this cave. It also coincided with 2 freshers needing to be 'broken in' on this trip. Perfect!
That's what I thought anyway.
Halfway through changing out of the back of the Minibus next to the trespass fee place for Giants, Clewin mentioned to me "I might go out early if I get cold...". That meant that I would be left leading the three tiny-tots along the round trip on my own with a dodgy shoulder IF CLEWIN GOT COLD! So naturally, this being Clewin the experienced Alpine exedition caver, I said "What?!". It'd turned out that he'd given his oversuit to a fresher [who managed to pack the smallest oversuit in stores - 5-foot Jo managed to squeeze into it on the Mendips trip with a fair bit of assistance, but was left with rather restricted mobility and a skin-tight fit], so would be caving in a bare Neofleece. Ok; could still be dealt with. Then I thought... Bugger. I didn't grab a spread from stores for the ladder... but a string of krabs will do. However, I then discovered that someone had taken the ladder out of the minibus the night before, and that it was almost certainly keeping itself warm in front of the fire at the Orpheus. Bang goes the round trip, so what else was there to do? [Considering we'd already paid our shocking 2-quid Trespass fees!]
Surprisingly, there was more than I expected...
We went into Giants Hole, five in caving kit, and Jarvist (who wanted to see the real Giants entrance) in Dufel coat, cords and walking boots. Jarvist joined us until Waterfall Chamber, where we went to Garlands Pot and the crawl opposite. Sarah Arctic seemed to take a shine to climbing until meeting a shear calcite wall (fair do's), but Clewin had a go for 2 metres. That was all. We headed back to Waterfall Chamber, with myself trying a climb on the way (NOT comfortable!). From there, Clewin, Sarah and myself climbed upstream (similar to the Crabwalk) until the boulder choke, where we turned around and climbed up into the upper series and the nice traverses up there. Passed a couple of other cavers and found a hole down to Waterfall Chamber, but wisely backed up and climbed down a rift to meet Nava, Dave and Jarvist. We then headed out of the cave, a trip from which I expected less than I got!
Following my last caving attempts in two left wellies, I concentrated really hard at selecting kit this weekend. Only mistake this time was thinking a dinky elbow pad would work a knee pad. Hmm... Anyhow, (as Sandeep has mentioned) I was persuaded into thinking a 90m trip down J.H> was what I fancied doing. Well, maybe not
fancied doing, but I thought it sounded more doable than the initial -200m suggestion. Frist pitch we all sped happily down, first time I've noticed my descender get hot! Pip went on ahead to rig the second pitch whilst the rest of us followed on behind. During this brief respite, I had enough time to scare myself into thinking that the first pitch was quite long enough and that I'd never be able to reach surface again if I went much further down (Hey! I'm a feeble fresher, I'm allowed such thoughts!). Sandeep and I both decided to abort + head out.
[Ed: Chris and Pip continued down the next pitch; had a look around, and with beautiful timing; came flying out of the entrance with their nitro-assisted footjamming speed just in time to hand over some of the tacklebags to the lethargic freshers. Out in time for sunset, then back to the Orpheus to help with the curry.]
Pip said it [Ed: Some kind of pretty mineral deposit...] was the only placce in the world where it could be found. The traverses as far as Bitch Pitch was beautiful, over crystal clear water which went down and down! I couldn't do the traverse over the top of [aptly named] Bitch Pitch, and so caught up with Jo + Dan to follow them out. A pity, I should have just trusted the rope and dangled over - Chris and Pip said the bottom was really nice. So we all ended up out in record time, a good Omen for Grenoble!
Sandeep 'Stan' Mavadia
Equipped with the ladder this time, we piled out of the minibus at the farm into a delightfully icy wind and trundled back off to the cave entrance, to find that Dave's light didn't work. After some quick thinking handy work from Daryl we were back on track with 5 illuminated torches, and all bombed down the ladder. At this point Daryl pointed out that there was a way of getting down by placing a handline, so actually we could have done the cave yesterday as we had a rope with us...
Onwards twisting up, down and round the crab walk, through the vice and surprisingly quickly we were at the half way point. A short walk down a passageway took us to the connection to oxtale (?) - a long, horrible tight crawl feet first on your back apparently.. so we swiftly turned back and began the second half of the round trip! Everything was a more open on the way back as we moved over the top of the crab walk. There were a couple of climbs using handlines, and, delightfully, a considerable belly crawl through muddy water which involved a few worrying moments of having to move your head into a position sideways enough to breathe, yet forwards enough to see where to go... Crawling through chocolate I told myself, pleasant, warm, hot chocolate...
Next was traversing, which aside from the 70ft drop I quite enjoyed, until we came to the last part. Here the ledges sort of ran out, so you had to kinda wedge yourself and lower yourself down and across to the edge, in that effortless seeming way cavers do, all the while over the 70ft drop. Not my strong point, Dave mentioned that he found vertigo in the cave much more of a problem than claustraphobia, and it strikes me that this is bizarrely very true. Anyways, in my efforts to remain wedged I moved far too close to the top and ended up relatively stuck to the ceiling, my exit was via pretty much kicking and then standing on Daryl's head, he was very good about this. Next was an equally interesting sideways crawl through the eye hole, which was easy once you believed you wouldn't fall down the big hole. I find it surprising how often caving is more of a psychological than a physical battle. We were all still soaked to the skin from the crawl at this point, and with Dave and I taking some time over these bits we were all rather cold from waiting. Luckily Nava sped through and we got off moving for more traversing and a climb down before re-climbing the ladder and seeing the end in sight! Luckily we exited the cave safely with all arms and legs in tact as there was not even a hint of the strange duffel coated monster we had met the previous day.
Like clockwork the minibus was driving down the road to us as we walked back up to the farm, and we were whisked back to the cave hut in true chauffeur style to very tasty cheese-and-a-variety-of-fillings sandwiches (thanks Jarv) - just what the doctor ordered before our return to bonny home!
Many thanks to all for your fresher patience, and particularly to the drivers for dropping Sarah Arctic in Oxford.
We set off with a purposeful stride which rapidly changed into a searching meander once we realised that no-one actually knew where we were going. After much peering into any likely dip on the way, Clewin thankfully bumped into the entrance hole at the top of the hill.
Dan rigged the first pitch with a reassuring "I've never done this before" whilst the rest of us all huddled out of the wind just inside the entrance. We descended as far as Grand Canyon before doing a sharp about-turn and heading back. The tight pitch made it slightly slow going but the top appeared surprisingly quickly (in my view anyhow, - I'm sure for those waiting it wasn't so rapid..!) I was first up and so, whilst waiting, I amused myself by trying to retrieve my gloves from somewhere down the back of my oversuit. This involved various contortions and finally proved to be a two man operation once Sandeep arrived to aide and abet.
We emerged from the cave to "a delightfully invigorating breeze" (A slight translation of Dan's words there) and with perfect timing we managed to return to Giants in coordination with the return of the other group.
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