Saturday morning brought the usual faff, a massive fry up was concocted for the eight carnivores followed by hours of discussion of which caves to do that day. The split was 5 to Kingsdale including our fresher, Hugo, and the remaining 4 heading off to Lonkin West (which incidentally is nowhere near Lonkin East).
I had stolen Jarv's Peli case from stores but while we changed I realised that I had forgotten my camera which was sitting frozen on my table in Fulham. I would have no time for photos on this trip. During the rather elongated walk to the cave I slide across several delicately frozen puddles hearing them crack subtly under my weight, only for them to be ravaged by le Rik immediately afterwards.
At the entrance, I asked 'What's the rigging like?' What I should have asked was how long the pitch was, this was probably mentioned several times but I was visualising alpine butterflies. Thankfully Clewin reminded me to attach my descender to the rope before going too close to the edge. Just over the lip was a y-hang point where I produced a figure - 8 and an alpine butterfly, only to get tangled up in them before abseiling further. Approximately 30m below I found the knot in the end of the rope, the first time I had seen the end of the rope that I was abseiling on, unattached, fortunately there was also p-hanger next to me which I tied this rope to and started on the new one. This is where I really started to faff, dangling in mid-air with my three other caving buddies waiting in the windswept, sub-zero temperatures above, I was faced with a choice of five p-hangers on the opposing wall. Not thinking about what was to come, I choose the two with no chance of finding any ledge to stand on and hence almost guaranteeing getting caught by short cows tail as I tried to leave. Being slightly confused by the muffled instructions bouncing the 30m down the pitch towards me, I doubted my own judgement and ended up loading a figure 8 on both ends. The entire section seemed to end in a cats-cradle but I was finally free. As I slowly abseiled the remaining distance to the shaft floor, carefully looking out for the final knot, I didn't realise the temperature of my stop gradually rising as this dry rope slithered through until the metal became hot through my glove and I had to make sure I was only holding the plastic handle rather than anything metalic. Later that evening I would realise that I actually burnt one of my fingers.
Dave followed after 'optimising' the rigging which included the occasional real y-hang knot. I decided that taking an hour to rig a single pitch could get slightly tedious for the others so I instructed Dave that would be that end of my exploits for the day. Following this was one small pitch and a crawl out to the second proper pitch which was another 50m.
At the bottom, we all scoffed some Tesco Value Christmas pudding and started the 150 metres out in reverse order to the way we entered. The 60m free hang on the entrance shaft gave for some interesting prussicing on the way out. Next time must remember to take some nice blue Lanex that doesn't ever seem to stretch. The heat generated by the time I reached surface was a great help in shielding off the cold until Clewin appeared brandishing a half full tackle sack.
A great trip, enjoyed by everyone and a great place to learn where to rig as long as nobody tells you it's an 87m drop beforehand.
DeepAlternative Perspective from Dave L...
It took us ages to find the place. Since I was the only one who'd been there and my memory of that trip was rather hazy, I'd decided to bring my GPS, thinking this meant that there was no way we could get lost. Alas, I copied the coordinates out of Northern Caves 2 with two of the digits transposed, so it indicated the cave being somewhere in the middle of the A65! After combing the area of moor where I thought it was most likely to be for some while without success, we bumped into a couple of other cavers from the Wessex, who finally pointed us in the right direction. (Note for next time: the guidebook says to follow the track from Cold Cotes and take the right fork at the first junction. This is misleading. To get to the cave, go to the fork in the path, then walk in a straight line more or less bisecting the two branches until you reach a third, less obvious path.)
When we finally arrived, Sandeep went down to rig the monster 86m entrance pitch, while the rest of us sat around on the surface (getting a bit chilly in the wind). I followed with the second tackle sack, fine-tuning the rigging as I went. The pitch is much less scary than you'd expect given its size; the first 30m or so is in a fairly narrow rift so it doesn't feel too big, and even the final hang below the second rebelay is comfortingly close to one wall.
I met up with Sandeep at the bottom of the pitch, which is decorated with a very, very dead, partially decomposed sheep and a whole load of old bones. From here the cave becomes rather grotty for a while with a short drippy pitch and an awkward crawling traverse to the final pitch, which is a fine shaft of 50m or so to a boulderous chamber. Nobody could be bothered to do the squalid abandoned dig at the very bottom, so we sat and ate our Christmas Pudding and prusiked out.
No One Yet