Arrived Charing Cross 10pm on the 24th Dec, and stomped down to Pimlico looking like a suicide bomber with rucksacks fore and aft. Tetley and Martin weren't in the pub [it was closed], so dropped off stuff at Tet's and went to an open pub instead.
Saw in Christmas drinking tea in abode de Tetley; slept on the floor while Martin snored on the Sofa.
Clew arrived with a rather small looking car at 10:30am on Christmas Day; kit was duly squeezed into every available nook and cranny - violating just a few laws of physics in the process.
Drove to Yorkshire spatchcocked by a random assortment of daybags + water bottles, rear right mudflap was scraping along the ground until we got up to speed on the Motorway. Christmas lunch was a mid M6 penknife prepared Brie + Bread delicacy.
Bullpot was true cliched Christmas-Card material; car overheating as we carefully drove up in 1st. Snow everywhere; unpacked + put Duck + NutRoast in oven and left the capable Martin in charge.
Escaped at 6pm with 1hr till Christmas Fayre was served. Waterfall was picturesque in the extreme with full moon reflecting off the white snow. Climb down was distinctly dodgy - everything iced over. Odd smell in start of main 'caving' section - turned out to be dead sheep in the end; but first suspect was Tetley's furry unwashed since Slovenia slowly rehydrating!
Two 2m climb downs [first one traversed for a bit as in stream; quickly lead onto large chamber:
Headed back with dry feet for our Christmas dinner.
Open-air pot rigged by Jarvist + left to freeze over the next few days. Played around in old-workings before finding modern clamber along slow flowing streamway + arriving at traverse above Fall pot.
Tetley rigged from the many ceiling P-bolts; requiring go-go-gadget-legs. Gavin rigged the big pitch; with a rather disturbing flake / rub point that had to be carefully avoided on the swing to the freehanging rebelay. Planning for a trip with the less experienced down here, Tetley added a deviation to prevent Death of Fresher [DOF].
Dropped through boulder choke almost directly by where rope landed. Drippy climb down onto streamway; sporting upstream bimble with some waist deep pools to be sidled around. Easily visible [from streamway] roped climb to left; followed up into the dry high route. Initially went the wrong way; realised + followed compass [SE] along enormous boulder-strewn passageway. Old lags absolutely zoomed aong; exhausting work keeping up.
Minorette's [enetered via tight climb-down on right at end of large passageway] were amazing - 3 parallel and very pretty passageways connected by unlikely + very short tranverse crawls.
Came out in more large passageway; with fairly tedious boulders to clamber over. Ate cognac-laced Christmas pudding at Terminal Junction - have been won around by Clew's controversial choice of cave food!
Left SRT kit in pile + dashed across to Holbeck junction via Stake pot, in order to connect-up internal map. Met 2-guys on a mission of surveying by the start of the crawl to WR from Stake Pot. Popped back up the ladder to the T-junction and started on the depraved Manchester Bypass.
Horrid flat crawl led up to right into pretty chamber + then immediate down on left to slightly more open crawl - but which had a central rift that one had to continually lift oneself out of.
Fantastically quaint 'fixed' rope ladder, with 1-inch chain sides and welded rungs 18 inches or so. There's a real fixed ladder sitting in Bullpot waiting to replace it - for shame!
3m climb up sheer wall to wander round to right to 'freeclimeable' [supposedly; I'd only do it when really really desperate] 5m pitch in County. Climb out county along tight trickling streamway + an easy entrance Chimney.
Easy wander back across Moor - the bog is so much more pleasent when its iced over!
Pints of Tea + Pasta Bakes for Veggies + Meat Murderers alike.
Day 3 on the farm. Day 2 of the mystery earth-shattering snorer, current suspects:
Weather turning mild, so all the snow+ice starting to thaw - thus flooding all our caves - ensuing decison making process turns into a long and protracted faff / meta-faff [if you are Martin]. James 'cave tart' Hooper gets himself onto a Notts Pot megatrip whilst the dregs:
Descended SellGill, only when realising that our intended destination of Rift Pot [Allot.] had a crawl which flooded in moderately damp weather. This was only realised when we popped into Inglethief to find a guidebook to check the cave's location. Impressive waterfall at bottom of wet route, large cavern, christmas cake + malt loaf, yum.
Stomped back to car and blagged our way into the just-shut Penyghent Cafe for pints of tea and cake.
After an extremely large amount of faffing to find 4 sets of club caving kit, we headed off to Bullpot of the Witches; notcing that a very large and overflowing stream was heading the same way along the path. Walk down to the cave entrance was past a memorial plaque.
Once in the cave, there was a fairly tight climb down. Jo got down to the bottom with no trouble; Sarah followed but it proved a rather challenging first-ever-climb. She aborted + came back to the top. Sandeep made his way down with a little bit of difficulty; followed by the refreshed Sarah. Jarv dropped in with a controlled fall rather than climbing.
Short climb onwards to the main chamber was easily negotiated by all; leading along some easy passageway to the massive open hole + enormous waterfall. Way on down a climb in the waterway was blocked by the enormous volume of water flowing through. Any evidence of dead sheep would have long since washed away. Everyone exited with no trouble and returned to Bull Pot Farm to drink copious amounts of tea.
Stomped across the moor after a false start [Sarah had no descender - doh!]. Efficient descent down the OUCC rigged pitch, entertaining clambers along the Showerbath passage. Arrived at a T-Junction in the streamway with pretty formations [believed to be aptly named 'Confusion Corner'], followed stream down to ever tigher crawl. Decided to take other upstream route, ended up passing through Spot Hall + Battle-of-Britain chamber oblivious to Poetic Justice.
After many exploratory clambers in regions with opposite-pointing carbide arrows, and a tasty Christmas Pud later; accepted a path of Ignorance-is-Bliss and looped around back towards County, assuming we were actually looping the other way towards WR.
Butterfields passage + Innominate Sink were pushed to their WET terminas in the belief that they might be WR. Butterfields had a hand-rope climb attached to some odd pre-ECO Resin permanent bolts that must predate my birth. The end of the knotted rope was absolutely pulped in the stream. Butterfields terminated in a wet chest-in-water wriggle before arriving at a stream trickling through a cold and draughting tiny boulder choked roof.
Innominate was very impressive, beautiful dry aven before a wet crawl eventually positioning you behind a 6m high waterfall. Dashing through the waterfall you find yourself in a large chamber with highly unstable and draughting boulder choke opposite the free falling water. Would be very enjoyable, if not for the severe icecream headache from the dousing!
Noticed that we'd passed by the free climb up to County on the way back from I.S.; exited smoothly
A rather miserable trip for Sarah's first proper journey!
Very quicky faced with descent + interesting/crazy bits where you had to throw yourself down a drop with support only by elbows! Slowly confirming belief that cavers are strange insane beings. Moderately worried by suggestions of roof being like to cave in, arrows pointing in opposite directions every few meters and exits becoming dead ends after ever tighter passageway. Still unable to compregend Jarvist's succesful yet taxing 'just throw yourself down' technique. Blessings to the guys for various shoving + pushing at 'hip' moments. Particularly enjoyed the xmas pudding break - genius.
Four hours later wearing trainers, I still feel like I'm wearing wellies full of water - where is the squelch?!
P.S. Jarvist is communually agreed to be a genetically modified cave being.
P.P.S. Wouldn't have made it in or out of cave without Jan 'The SRT Man' 's fantastic tremendous teaching on a tree in the hail this morning.
Sarah Arctic [AKA Sarah Johnson]
Jo Says: Quality faffing before we set off for our short stomp to cow. I was feeling a bit dubious as to how good two left wellies [Choosen by Jo herself!] in different sizes would be, but they served me well. Pretty OK first descent and little squeezy bit. However, the second pitch proved rather problematic [*]. I faffed on my way down slowly, but I think Sandeep must have had a snooze on the rope on the way down (that, or he got a tad stuck!).
Sandeep Adds: I faffed on the rope for over an hour, Jo had a nap at the bottom of the pitch while Jan whistled to himself.
Sandeep Corrects Jo: [*] At the head of Fall pot, there was a traverse slung from the ceiling. Jo thought it was a good idea to clip in and jump off the roof; the second time this happened she [**] fell down about 3m [0.5m really!] onto her long cow's tail / descender and sailed straight into the rock on the opposite side with a thud.
Jo defends herself: [**] Carried out a spectactular Tarzan impression, but unfortunately there was an insignificent lump of rock on the far side in the way (it was all perfectly intentional of course).
Jo continues: After the lovely long pitch [Direct route into Fall Pot], we ambled along 'muddy rocky cave' (guess who had no ideal of where we were...). We had some lovely breaks where Jan and Jo made stunning mud pictures of Rabbits and the Sun [very 'Watership Down'!]... Remember to look for these in 10years time!
Sandeep concludes: After what seemed like many hours jumping over boulders followed a dodgy traverse and more boulder jumping, which Jo was adept at doing. However, at one point I had to eat my own words when I mocked "That's not a squeeze!". I ended up with a very sharp piece of rock inbetween my legs, causing me an immense amount of pain. Meanwhile (sadistic) Jo was laughing her head off (be warned Jo, your time will come!).
Exited smoothly out of WR; poor Jan having to lend a fair bit of assistence.
Joanna King and Sandeep Mavadia
Having made a rather late start we trundled off into the mist to Top. I geniously tripped on a tuft of grass landing flat on my face (nice spongey grass though) and distinctly remember Jarv commenting that this was good luck...
In we went down the entrance chute, and unbelievably, only steps into the cave, water running off the back of the chute made its way down my suit to my pants, no way, not at the start! Lots of tight twisty stuff followed, during which my FX3 battery ran out (luckily had a second one), and on which I continuously got stuck and moaned rather a lot (pathetic fresher). Jo has since pointed out that I had all my SRT stuff on my front and should move it round to the side next time. Onwards to a 20m descent of a waterfall, stopped a bit too much on way down in effort to stay out of water and achieved opposite effect - decided momentum is the way forward with these things. On the next descent however, forgot to look down to where I was going and only remembered to stop about 6 inches from the floor. Everyone else zoomed along fine, a bit more twisty stuff and crawling until phew, we made it into more open territory. [Limerick Junction - Ed]
From here there was increasingly more stepping or climbing over rather big holes. Sandeep really didn't seem to appreciate these and would stop and look into each one for several minutes as if expecting it to swallow him. We were progressing very slowly and poor Jarv had to hoist and drag us up and through pretty much everything that appeared slightly difficult - notably a climb up over a big hole in a bit of a narrow spot [Holes in rift passageway above Assembly Hall - Ed] , I took absolutely ages here as I really wasn't getting it. Jarv deftly attached his cow's tail to my harness, reassuring, but pretty sure he would have just come down with me had I fallen. After much pushing, shoving, squirming and standing on toes, I eventually made it up there and across. While waiting for Sandeep to follow I got to explore Easter's Grotto - its absolutely amazing, very pleased I got to see it, made my day.
Onwards through the Assembly Hall, via a couple of handrails we had to clamber down, guided always by patient Jarv who seemed to literally glide over everything (still can't work out how you good caver people do that!). Unfortunately on the handrail climb down into the White Way Sandeep crashed onto Jarv pretty hard, which I think is where Jarv hurt his back. Wading and crawling through various streamways ensued, but the stream was rather higher than usual, up to my chest in places, and rising. We were having difficulties finding the direct way out to Stake Pot or something like that, as the river was too high where we needed to go. We searched up and down the stream, which was surprisingly strong, I had to yank a weary Sandeep out at one point when he got his foot stuck. We climbed in and out of the water, Jarv tirelessly searching for alternate exits. The water and the stopping and starting however were making us all cold and tired, particularly Sandeep, and my teeth were merrily chattering while we were in the water. It was also very very late at this point and getting very close to our call out, as Sandeep and I had been so slow previously. Backtracking and exiting via Top wasn't really an option as it would involve going back over the difficulties on the way in, and two very wet SRT climbs. Added to this Jarv's back was getting more painful, and us two weren't going to make it out without his help. With us all getting cold and tired it was a risk that someone would trip and injure themselves or get dragged under in the streamway while searching for a way out.
Jarv got us to climb up higher into Straw chamber where the rising water wouldn't get us (and right on our route - the nearest safe spot to Holbeck Junction) and got Sandeep into a survival bag. I spent a good 10 minutes trying to wring the water out of my wetsocks and emptying my wellies in an effort to get my feet dry for the wait. Of course as soon as I put them back on they seemed to have the same amount of water in them as before I started. I was cold, but remain impressed at how well furries do their job of keeping you warm when theyre wet, it definately dried as I sat there and I warmed up. Jarv put gloves and battery packs at various points in the vicinity to guide any rescuers to our location. Sandeep was pretty hypothermic and pulled his hat right down over his face for warmth, was hand-fed a vast amount of chocolate from Jarv's food stash (we could have survived there for days with that I'm sure!) and was prodded every now and again to prevent him falling asleep. The true colours of the ICCC, aka the Imperial Groping Society showed through as a pile of slowly-turning-blue people piled on top of shivering Sandeep in a kind of human survival bag knot to keep us all warm.
Several hours of nattering away, and a Christmas pudding later, we finally heard real voices over the ghostly echoes of the streamway, and Simon from Oxford appeared with Mark. Jarv crunched a few pain killers and got going with Mark, and I was very eager to go myself as I just wanted to get moving off and out and warm again, but Simon wanted us to wait to move till CRO came, and made us breathe a thing called a Dragon in the meantime (hot air that kinda warms you from the inside). An hour or so later (not quite sure) they turned up and force-fed us more chocolate (feeling way over-sugared at this stage). Sandeep now seemed a bit stronger and went straight off with them, but I somehow needed the toilet yet again, and this coupled with difficulties getting back into my harness (probably all the chocolate!) meant that the cavers with Sandeep got ahead of us, and unfortunately didn't wait. It soon transpired that my CRO guys didn't know the system and had no idea how to get out - and so I returned to the now rather too familiar process of stopping while they check out the route, move a bit, oh no, turn back, move a bit oh we'll just go check this route then that route etc. My thoughts were 'you are supposed to be rescuing me!' To make things all the better I slipped off a rock and really thwacked my knee which was flippin painful for all the crawling later. Then my second battery died, and as moving without a light was quite difficult someone leant me a tikka, which was better, if a little dim.
Eventually we came across a CRO guy who knew the way out, and from there on it was plain sailing. I soon warmed up when we were moving and we even met another CRO guy after a while who had a brighter headtorch for me. No-one seemed able to remember my name though, one guy kept calling me Sally and the other calling me Clare. With no SRT kit on I slipped round the twisty bits like a snake and with some pushes and shoves we were at the main climb in Wretched Rabbit, which had a rather handy ladder running up it, so all I had to do was put my hand on the ladder and feet on the rocks and I was away. The crawl up to the surface was a lot shorter than I expected so I was really quite surprised to meet probably about 20 people very rapidly after finishing the climb. I was absolutely sweltering at this point from all the moving! Lyndon handed me a nice cup of tea, and took a photo (not kind you know, not kind). I really didn't believe him when he said it was 6am! Anyways we trundled back over the moor to Bullpot, where there were yet more CRO people congregating, I said thanks to as many as possible, and then dived in the hut for a lovely hot shower, various nice people locating me towels and tea and clothes. Everyone else was back before me, tired but fine. All were heading for bed but I was kinda past that stage so I faffed for ages trying to make myself more tired. Climbing into sleeping bag had bizzare experience of seeing cave walls when I opened my eyes in darkness.
Many people have asked if this has put me off caving. Nah. I just happened to be on a trip where luck wasn't on our side and a chain of things went wrong. The decisions made kept us safe and I appreciate that. I also now know that there is a cave rescue and it is very comprehensive, I was astounded at the extent people went to help cavers when something went wrong. Of course I hope never to have to meet them again, but its nice to know they are there.
I haven't really done enough of caving to learn what it is about, but I like the fact that it is always a challenge. I think being rescued magnified the fact that being underground is very thought provoking. In my brief experience I found that there is something about caving which brings out the life in you, away from the everyday world's fakeness. Sorry, I imagine that sounds totally ridiculous. Basically now I just want to take more challenges, to improve and get stronger. Anyways many thanks to Jarv, Simon, all at Bullpot and the CRO.
Sarah Johnson [AKA Sarah Arctic]
Some locations corrected by Jarvist