Finally the rest of JSPDT were coming to the UK, to do some caving here and meet the IC Cavers, with whom we'll be sweating on Migovec during the summer.
The first three hours on British ground we spent in Stansted airport exploring the new world and counting the rabbits. For Spela, Samo and Iztok this trip was something truly new - first time on an airplane, first time so far away from Tolmin and first time in a huge a city as is London.
Slovenians are very strange creatures. Apart from anything else - they all have at least five names. Forename (check), Surname (check), Nickname (ok, getting a bit excessive), some random mountain creature or bird (A bit extreme) and their house name (What the hell?).
Our little yellow bus of joy struggled along to Stansted. They had been waiting for some three hours in that concrete monstrosity of a building. Not the most enjoyable introduction to Britain! And so we zoomed north, swinging via the horror of Birmingham, skirting Manchester then finally coming to rest in a super Tesco near Preston. Somehow, and I truly have no idea how, we managed to get two shopping trolly loads of food into an already overpacked minibus, and struggled up to BPF groaning along in first gear. Two AM, time for a drink!
And then 6 hours of drive to the Bull Pot Farm, for some of us, a little bit too much trip for one day! After 4 hours of driving, finally a shop and two cases of beer have been bought immediately. We found your shops strange and when we came to the bread (sorry toast) shelves we were well disappointed. No nice and fresh loafs. Just some strange slices of bread wrapped in plastic (Ed: Though I challenge you to find anywhere to buy food in Slovenia at one in the morning!). We were quite tired on the end. But there must be some ~ganje before bed at dawn.
Cow Pot is truly lovely, daylit deviation + rebelay on the way down to remind the fresher what was to come, a gentle clamber down, bit of a crawl, bit of a stream then to Fall pot itself. Oh boy! An epic roof traverse, stepping across an increasingly wide and jagged crack in the floor, then a pivot to stand at a perfect Y-hang, dropping down and down again, with the falls gently fluting out - until one reaches the final rebelay. As you drop past this solitary p-bolt, the walls become a ceiling, leaving you dangling in free space and admiring the view as you gently spin down.
Chatted briefly to Sandeep who was running a quick Lancs-Lancs trip for the ill contingent (Jana + Kos with hurt legs), then dumped our SRT kits on a handy rock shelf and slithered through the boulders down to the stream. Heading upstream, we cruised along admiring the many formations on the way, finally clambering up into the high level route at Oxbow Corner. Chocolate and cigarettes, followed by a speedy stomp back down the stream. The slovs seemed impressed by the warm stream!
Wandered down to the sump, another ciggie break, then had a poke around those Waterfall things that every Lancs-going Easegill'er seems to be talking about these days, before clambering back up through the boulders, jumping into SRT gear + then heading for Lancs, climbing out of Fall with jammer protection just because. Trip out Lancs was uneventful; I failed to find the colonades (still unvisited after nearly four years active caving!). Sunny and tranquil on the surface; we ambled back, drank tea + ate some of Dave's traditional English cheese on crackers.
Jana + Kos both had rather dodgy legs (Jana through dancing with Kos on her birthday the weekend before, and suffering at the hands of his new walking boots!), and so went on a gentle ferret around the end of Easegill. They met with us at Fall Pot, and then went off on the high level, Jana exiting Solo up Lancs and returning to BPF for a spot of tea and a nap (!). The boys, left to their own devices, spent many a hour wandering around, no one entirely sure where they got to. With the longer trips exiting many hours earlier in the evening, we were starting to get worried up top...
But all was ok in the end; they had decided to come out of Cow and were struggling on the tight vertical climb. Jan & Shed located them on the moor, Tet, Dave, myself and Jana (so Kos could hear Slovenian after hours of impenetrable English) sat at the top of Cow shouting down helpful (and not so helpful) suggestions as they eventually exited under their own steam.
I had fully expected this to be a fun weekend, not least because I was looking forward to a host of Slovenian delicacies (and accompanying beverages), our own attempt at demonstrating the best of British cuisine and, of course, meeting some of the JSPDT cavers.
Anticipating a good trip, we rapidly filled the Union minibus and were forced to hire another car to transport us all up to Bull Pot Farm. This meant that those of us in the car were free to abandon the BPF plan and drive over to Gaping Gill instead. The Bradford Pothole Club had installed a winch on the main shaft that weekend, making it accessible to the general public (at least the portion of the general public willing to make the hour-long hike up to the top!), so we cleverly decided to camp up on the moors to beat the rush and get in early.
We arrived very early, pitching our tents just before sunrise, and amazingly did manage to get up a mere four hours later. Even so, when we wandered to the tent (picking up a cheeky cuppa tea whilst there), we were told it would still be a four hour wait to use the winch. Luckily, as we were real cavers, we were free to enter the system by any of the other entrances and only use the winch to exit the cave at the end.
Not wanting to waste the nice weather we were having, we decided to go for a hike up Ingleborough first, then entered via Stream Entrance. The trip itself was easy, yet still memorable for a number of reasons - for starters, it marked the first time any of us had played badminton underground. For me, it was also my first glimpse of the Main chamber of Gaping Gill, brightly floodlit to reveal its true, gigantic dimensions. Unfortunately, it was full of tourists (who had not even been given lights to explore beyond the entrance), so it was quite a long wait for the winch out. Fortunately, the wait was shortened somewhat by a steady supply of hot soup. Being lifted up the entrance shaft in a comfy chair did feel like cheating, and was over far too quickly to really get a good look around, but was still good fun.
Back on the surface, we began our long trek back to Bull Pot Farm, arriving conveniently just in time for dinner. Or we would have, had we not been forced to wait for the final group of cavers to return. As it was, we passed the time catching up with, or getting to know our guests for the weekend, and consumed a fair amount of zganje in the process (it would have been rude not to). We also got to know many other random cavers that evening, due to there being at least four different visiting clubs in the hut that weekend, plus a selection of Red Rose members, which made sleeping arrangements interesting, to say the least. The roast dinner was devoured rapidly once it had been served, but paled in comparison to the rhubarb & apple crumble (which survived the sabotage attempts by German infiltrators admirably). Evening turned to night, which turned to morning, and one by one we retired to our beds, bunks, sofas, floors and tents.
A smooth efficient trip from Dave W; taking the streamway route - to introduce the Slovs to the wonders of underground rivers, and to speed up proceedings. Spela's knowledge of the way out WR came in useful when Tetley had a wibble moment leading out on the Monday.
First day of caving began quite late (as it is in ICCC habit). In Tolmin we go caving from 8 till 10 AM!! (Ed: Lies! I've seen them after the ~ganje at Kal!) But it is also true; we do not have that much luxury as you do nice and lovely house to change and then a lovely easy walk to the cave entrance. We have hard core already to the cave entrance.
After tasting first, proper English breakfast (which the others JSPDT member find quite OK, apart from dodgy sausages and odd sweet beans (Ed: Tesco Value baked beans)) we finally manage to sort out our kit for caving.
"I woke up at 7 AM, we went caving at 2PM. Breakfast at noon I almost died of hunger! Finally got the caving kit so we can go crawl down the caves." Kos
The end of the day they were all very happy, all very exiting about how beautiful and different English caves are. We were a little bit scared, because Kos (plus his leg was not OK) had not returned yet from the caves. But all the nervousness went away with a swig of }ganje after he arrived. My trip to Lancaster was a little bit short. Yes I did hurt my leg on a dancing mission with Kos for my birthday. The wellies pressed too much on my leg, which was getting more and more swollen. No point walking more on the right leg than on the left in the caves. So, beside my swollen and hurt leg as well I was a little bit ill, plus I slept only 6 hours in 2 days plus all the arrangement for the JSPDT trip. Yes - I did deserve that nap at 4 PM....:)
"I woke up and went out to see where exactly they brought us. Quite interesting, I must say. Then I eat this English breakfast. Dodgy sausages and beans. Was not that bad, but the peoples who walk behind me in the cave did complained about my ...beans eating...:)...The cave was unbelievable beautiful. I saw lots of cave formations. It is like a labyrinth this cave. Truly nice." Aljosa
Joe JK took over as the roast master; and boy did he have a job ahead of him! The BPF of my memory had dwindled in ovens from two to one, the baking trays creeping behind a dust covered counter and all the sharp knives whisked away down to the Witch of Bull Pot. Never the less, fortified with the Zganje that was already flowing, a vast army of potato peelers was assembled, making light work of the ten alloted kilos. Squeezing them into the oven was slightly more difficult.
Tet turned up around 9pm, just as the party was kicking off.
A brief escape to Cow Pot to see exactly what Sandeep was up to, and the ovens vommited forth the most delicious English meal that the farm has seen in a while. True - we could have done with four more ovens, but still! As a veggie, the most delectable aspect for me was a particularly fine Rhubarb + Apple crumble, drowned in double cream.
Our second crumble was soon raided by the heathen Oxford + Manchester Uni lot, before general Anarchy descended on the ground floor of the farm. As I finally stumbled off to bed, dawn was breaking across the fell, and the long-abused BPF sound system was belting out another round of 'MONSTER ROCK GREATS'.
We all agree by the end of dinner time that even some English people can cook. It was really tasty. But we add they will taste tomorrow, what means true caving cuisine. After the full stomach, we needed a drop or two of Zganje (for health!). Well, maybe just a little bit more.... again and again till the dawn.
It was with some trepidation that I wrote a fateful 'Top to WR' on the callout board. I had most definitely been here before...
Trip turned out absolutely wonderful, chased Tet + posse down Top, checked out the grotto, and regrouped at Holbeck junction, with myself leading out of Lancs / Cow, time permitting.
Time was tight - and the speed of caving increased proportionally! Flew into the Miranettes as a result, and piled through into the way beyond. A few querying moments, and a descent to an impossible ten meter climb into the stream before backing up the slope and around to crawl the way on. Zooming along wondering how near we might be; a small body-sized arch in the floor catches my eye, no matter how similar it is to the identical thousands that have flashed past. Glance inside - a handline! Safely at Oxbow Corner, the traipse down the stream was now far more restful, ambling out Cow to catch the sun.
In the morning, plans were forged and broken over a good breakfast. A small group headed off back toward Gaping Gill in the minibus, while the rest of us went into the nearby Ease Gill system. Taking heed of the platform announcers on the tube, we spread ourselves along the length of the system, using all available entrances. Most of us went down Top Entrance, and the vast majority emerged out of Wretched Rabbit save for a brave few who soldiered on all the way to Cow Pot. Being one of the last to reach Wretched Rabbit, myself and the rest of that group were dismayed to learn that the carefully stashed beers had been taken to Cow Pot for T-totaller Jarv (And his not so T-total Slovenian/Polish posse! - Ed).
The feast our Slovenian friends prepared for us that evening was perfect after a long day of caving. Consisting of Jota and Frika, the recipes were quite simple, yet made a delicious and very filling meal. The fact that all the food & cheese had been produced on the Chadrg farm (and organically at that) made it taste that much better. More drinking and general merriness ensued before we once again retired to our respective sleeping places.
"Huge cave sistem. It seems there is no end. " Erik
"We've walked so much underground, it is unbelievable. And then at the end up on a rope. Good trip." Iztok
"The cave is very special and beautiful. I was wet and so was cold on the end." Spela
Again, Kos and I ended up together: just this time with different members of ICCC. I still did not know how my leg would deal with the caving and Kos was tired from yesterdays "Sandeep Mission". At the end everything turned out just fine. We both truly enjoyed this cave; Kos was in caving heaven! We met Jarv`s group on the way out and Mark joined us. He said that the Slovs (after drinking all night and eating just a few apples in the morning) and Jarv might be a little bit too fast for him.
After peeling of 12 kg of potatoes in the living room (the Oxford club was cooking at the same time) we finally managed to find some big pots (two, actually) for making Jota. Because we brought everything direct from the adrg organic farm, no way the Jota could be bad even when made in an English kitchen! It was so good! We all felt so reinvigorated after proper Slovene food. And of course }ganje wasn't missing tonight either. But this time; only for health purposes. We were all very exhausted so everyone was in bed early (Ed: 2am).
Monday came, and despite being bruised, battered and exhausted, the general consensus was to carry on caving, and so we made our way across the fell once more. Most of us headed for the Western reaches of the Easegill system, going down Link and out of Cow Pot. Having nearly reached the end of my first year of caving, this was a great way for me to end the weekend, as I have now seen most of the length of the Easegill system, though there certainly remains plenty more to explore.
As the day drew to a close, we boarded our minibus and began the long, exciting (courtesy of a somewhat temperamental alternator) journey home to London. Though it was certainly hard work at times, whether it be due to the physical exertion of caving or the long nights spent - socialising, it was clear that everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Shot down Lancs past a confusion of ropes, zoomed down to Fall pot & entertained ourselves taking photos while waiting for another party to get a head start. Zoomed on to the Arson Shaft window where we finally overtook, then ambled along the high-level route past those big big holes, found Oxbow corner once more and doubled back to Lancs via the stream. A lovely relaxed end to a weekend of caving!
Finally all the JSPDT cavers together underground! We were very happy, also because we had Jarv with us and could pose in front of his cameras. For all of us it was the most beautiful trip ever.
Kletnik singing in the cave
Groaning under all the extra water our kit had absorbed, we finally trundled away from the farm at seven ish, stopping in Ingleton to dispose of a most impressive collection of bottles & cans. Not all ours mind, we seemed to have drawn the short (late) straw at the end of a weekend! Zoom back to London was pleasent enough, till the radio failed on the M4 and the instrument lights dimmed into nothingness. That cursed bus, WGO, and its failing alternator! Joe JK managed a smooth no-risk-of-stalling ride back to London (balancing the fast diminishing electricity vs. the fast diminishing fuel gauge), we quickly unpacked with the engine running in front of the gatehouse then dragged our little Transit back to its parking bay. Checking we could restart before our refuel, we squeezed a good 63 litres into the tank - well into our reserve!
The Slovs were dispatched with the leftover food to the dodgy backpackers hostel in Brixton (aka. Acre Lane heavy industries), and we all collapsed into bed after a most tiring - but absolutely brilliant, weekend!
Jarvist FrostWe were all like to thanks each of the ICCC member that make this caving weekend really enjoyable. We'll never forget it!
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