Clewin, Jan, Jo and James - Originally Jo and James's fate was going to be
left in my hands, but Dave W was deeply suspicious of my route-finding,
and rightly so! For even with the extra guidance of Clewin-the-wise I
managed to fit in some interesting sight-seeing...
Particularly hazy in my mind was the section from the iron ladder, at Stop Pot, to the County Streamway; failing to find the way downstream through the boulders below Stop Pot to County, we opted for the Four Ways chamber route. All went swimmingly, but fatigue was soon to be our undoing as we neared the final pitch in County - we were foiled by an obvious way on that lead to a not so obvious way on.
A while later, after bashing through some really rather sinuous rift, we back-tracked to the stream and found the proper way on, and finally, five and half hours later, the exit (but not before I bravely volunteered Clewin to do some free-climbing!).
SRT was the order of the day with the two freshers opting to come down aquamole rather than the pull through in Swinsto. We got up top and checked out Bullpot (our original destination) but there were 2 parties already down there so we headed over to Aquamole [just 50m down the valley and over to the left from Jingling]. We got our harnesses on and were just about to start rigging when a gaggle of school children arrived. Dave gave them the info on the master cave but I think they just wanted to see someone descend which he duly did.
Freshers had no problem with the rebelays and soon enough we were descending the final pitch. This was the first time I'd been in Aquamole and I didn't know what to expect, it is basically just a big shaft with 30m of crawling/stooping in the middle with an impressive, perfectly circular, final pitch. 50m down and 10m across with smoothened walls make it an excellent place to have fun with echoes. We had a look at the diving gear that had been deposited by the terminal sump and then started the ~110m prussik up to the surface.
Everything was fine until Jay was half-way up the 10m middle pitch, he noticed his light getting slightly dimmer so turned it on to his pilot bulb, by the time he had reached the top it was no more than a red sliver of light which could barely be seen. He made it through the crawl easily enough without anything other than the light reflected from everybody else's the lamps.
At the bottom of the entrance pitch I remember that I had packed one of those new LED torches that we'd purchased. I handed it over and Dave tied it to a helmet strap. I started up the rope with instructions to stop at the rebelays and illuminate that changeover with my spot beam. This worked surprisingly well thanks to the spacing and location of rebelays and the rather obscene light intensity the Bisen1 spotlight provides on it's high setting. Obviously this wasn't the fastest time for an exit but passed without incident. Apparently Jay was used to light failure at his previous club so no permanent harm was done.
More flapjack than you could possibly imagine.
1The new name for Miglights
70m rope, can be done with a single length, 25m and 45m or 35m and 35m.
25m rope & 3 mions.
Final (quite impressive) pitch:
3 x 8' slings and crabs