The weekend started eventfully, with Clare and Nico getting locked into stores because of a faulty lock! Fortunately most of the caving stuff had already gone outside to be loaded onto the van. After a bit of lock abuse, we passed things out through the window in the fire escape, I quickly hacked off my excess cowstail tail, and we made our escape via fire exits + Beit Hall.
Said goodbye to the minibus as I was catching the train up. Made it to the NPC by about 745am in the morning, after a long, freezing 3 hour stopover in a deserted Leeds railway station.
We took a rather unconventional but more direct and very pleasant hike up to Gaping Gill, led by Le Jarv. Approaching from the path leading from Trow Gill/nature trail, Marilyn is about 50m east from Bar and unmistakeable, with a very well-designed monster metal gate covering the entrance. Belays off two scaffold stakes in the ground, with the actual hang rigged off the gate.
Was pretty chilly waiting out on the surface as I was bringing up the rear, but we were on the move soon enough. To call Marilyn an entrance in its own right is a bit of a stretch - it feels more like someone just blasted their way down to avoid the rather more grim first half of Disappointment. Two pitches in quick succession leads one to an easy rift traverse about 20m upstream of the 3rd pitch in Dis.
(Marilyn rigging notes: Completely p-bolted now, we brought ropes of 37m and 30m which were more or less of the perfect length. Braemoor rigging guide is accurate. Second pitch is v. loose at the top - care! Single permanent hanger on Niagara for deviation, apparently the p-bolting is to be tidied up and completed soon.)
I've never done the top half of Dis before, but the bottom half is an absolute joy to cave in. One follows the water for much of the way, with passages interesting enough to make the caving fun but never strenuous. Even the pitches have character; I think the 4th one in particular follows some nice little cascades down to a boulder slope.
The route from the last pitch to Bar is more or less just crawling. It is mostly easy hands and knees crawling, and not too long at all - as long as you know your way! It's a bit of a labyrinth down there. Jarv sort of knew the way, but not exactly, so Jarv and I did a bit of ferreting down the various passages. It wasn't too bad, because we always found the right route pretty quickly.
Directions: The way on from the start of the crawl is obvious and easy. Soon you get to a junction with a wet passage to the left and a dryish oxbow on the right. Both ways are correct, but the dry oxbow is decidedly more pleasant! It is over cobbled ground and semi-flatout (still plenty of wiggle room to turn head, bend limbs, etc) in sections, but this never lasts long. It rejoins the streamway soon enough; turn right at this point. Continue on following the water with more easy crawling. At the next junction take the left passage. This flattens out a bit but do not worry - you're going the right way! It never gets unpleasantly tight. At the next junction, the left wet passage doesn't go anywhere and gets pretty tight quite quickly. You want to take the dry right passage - you will very soon get to a right bend, which leads to a short, relatively tight, upwards crawl into the Bar chamber! Congratulations.
We saw the ropes from the Bar team already in place, natch. Continued on to the main chamber, with Jarv adjusting the rigging on the handline across SE passage pot ever so slightly. Main chamber was impressive as always but it was already dark out - grr, bloody short winter days (obviously it's not our fault we don't start caving before 1300/1400hrs). Faffed around a little bit, changed my light battery... soon joined by the Bar team returning from a visit to Mud Hall. Sat chatting for a while, then decided to head back to the Bar/Stream/main chamber junction, where it'd be warmer to wait for the Stream team.
More faff deciding on our Great Exit, while Kate paid the main chamber another visit to donate some bodily fluids. Finally it was decided that I would show the Bar team the way out of Marilyn + derig, while Eric, Nico and Jarv would look for the Stream team and decide what to do from there (they ended up just doing a complete swap, i.e. Stream team exited Bar).
Anyway, way out of Dis/Marilyn was uneventful. William derigged Dis while I did the route finding from the front. Once his bag was full/the hard work was done, I took over derigging Marilyn. Got to the top of the bottom pitch, continued on... climb a bit, climb some more, climb even more.. hmm, am I lost? I don't remember a long climb on the way down. I'll just go a bit farther before turning back, please don't fall now...
Turns out William had unknowingly pulled the rope all the way up to the rebelay with his tackle sack and I had free-climbed the pitch! Fortunately it wasn't too long and an easy climb. Anyway, got to the entrance to find Nico, Jarv and Eric there as well - they'd just come out of Stream. Perfect timing!
We were cheated of a Henslers-Dis exchange by the weather, but still had a cracking time down Gaping Gill. Amazingly enough, everyone exited via a different way from which they entered (except me, but I'm not complaining).
Back at the NPC soon, wolfed down three super delicious curries that Dave had cooked (he'd volunteered to do the shopping + start cooking on Friday) - turkey, vegetarian, vegan. I honestly think it was the best curry I've had on a caving weekend so far! Even Jana's rice was really well prepared :)
After the parting of the ways, we bumped into the stream team just in the start of Sand Caverns. The Marilyn deriggers had already disappeared, so they decided to have a gander at the main chamber and then leave via Bar.
Quick ferret through Sand chambers (lovely layering in the sand), and a careful traverse around those deep mud pots. Washed our feet at the stream entering from the left (to save the rope), then completely forgot that following the stream out of 'stream' might be a good idea, and instead headed off through more mud to the far end of these chambers. Quite fun though.
Back at the stream, washed the mud off, again, and followed the stream up + quickly dashed through the waterfall and found our rope. Every single pitch was too short - we made the mistake of believing the 'Selected Caves' lengths! The best howler in this is the suggestion of taking a 20m rope for the final, 27m pitch. A 28m rope was found to be just 2m short, and was backed up onto a 2nd 20m traverse rope. Having derigged these and handed the sack to Nico, I set about plodding up the main hang (in situ polyprop deviation held us clear of the massive water), and carefully climbing across to the final pitch. The rope was about 3m too short, with a tackle sac tied onto the end to help you grab it + pull it down. As it was a bit wet I automatically + quickly sorted my jammers out, transferred the tackle sac to my central maillon + shot up the pitch, derigging the extreme (to a slightly hidden p-bolt) deviation. It was only once I was standing on the pitch head undoing the y-hang and wanted somewhere to stash the rope that I locked in the bag and noticed the two large cobbles that were being used to weigh it down!
Eric + Nico had disappeared by this point, dragging the two fat tackle sacs through the stream was a bit grim - in the tight first bit I had a bag in each hand + had to thrutch along with my tip toes and chin. It was more pleasant once the passage was wide enough to get one bag on my shoulder and walk along holding the other one like a baby. The joy of SRT trips with 10.5 + 11mm ropes.
I was rather perturbed that I hadn't met anyone by the foot of the entrance pitch, I was a little concerned that I was about to desert them within the cave, or that they may have got out + decided to walk off the hill by themselves. This would be a bit of a problem - as if I got out to find them not there, I wouldn't know whether they were on the moors or in the cavern.
Thankfully the lazy toads were at the top of the oil drums, and I put them to work hauling up the two sacks of tackle. 7.5hrs trip, saw lights in the rough direction of Bar as we walked back and went over to meet the Marilyn crew, and picked up our rescue bag from the entrance to Bar. As agreed, the Stream-Bar team had taken the minibus keys + derigged Bar. Not previously agreed, they'd also drank the full 1L thermos of hot Ribena dry.
Sat star spotting through the clouds next to Marilyn while everyone exited (warm and still, for a Yorkshire fell in November at least...), then walked down together. Picked up the minibus keys from the Stream-Bar party ensconced in the New Inn.
All I know is 3 freshers got an SRT masterclass from Tony, Dave, Kat and Jana. Everyone enjoyed themselves blah blah blah, when we got back they had already eaten + were practising knots! Obviously taught by Dave, since they were using his 'double twist' method of tying an alpine butterfly..
Dave and Kat graciously offered to take the 3 SRT novices to Sell Gill for more SRT practice. T'was a good trip, I think.
They'd planned to do Rowten, but arrived to find it overflowing with cavers and did an exchange within Jingling (main and lateral route) instead.
Joke team. At the first (and only) pitch, Kate and Thomas look at each other blankly.
Thomas: I thought you knew what to do!
Kate: I thought you knew what to do!
They end up tying some alpine butterflies + having a stumble around the master cave. Nobody dies.
Both exit safely.
Spectacular faffage abound. Sorted out some rope and cleaned up the hut in between fags and tea.
Jarv pretended to work on his thesis.