Andy Jurd, Clewin Griffith, Dan Greenwald, Darryl Anderson, Jarvist Frost, Lyndon Leggate, Martin Kowalski, Rik Venn
Caving trip got off to an unusually brisk and non-faffy start with ICCC caving club. We had the minibus packed & were zooming along the M1 by half seven - a hideously fast rate of progress that should have alerted me to the fact that something was a miss. Picking up the stragglers from Derby, and cruising around a hyper-Sainsburys [I swear Northerners get price-discriminated in a beneficial way... but I guess it makes up for having to live up there :) ], we were provisioned and installed in the Orpheus cave hut before midnight. Ohh; and Clewyn [ picture here, at the center of attention ] bought 5 pairs of lycra 'comfort' socks, as you can never have enough pairs.
Space in the Visitors bunk room was very limited as an enormous collection of Irish tinkers, on a week long mission of vagrancy, were occupying it. Most IC-ers ended up in the 'fridge' extension; a disturbingly communial arrangment of a 4-man wide double-decker bunk bed built into half the room.
Sat up talking crap and drinking tea with Rik & Dan; the fridge was rather aptly damed, I swear I had to shake ice-crystals out of my sleeping bag hood before sliding inside. Everything was peachy once things had warmed up, but until then it was bloody FREEZING.
Lard-based breakfast was as delicious as it is every caving trip - the fried bread was a sponge full of delectable liquid calories. Again, the mornings preparations were disturbing faff-less, but things soon improved as Maions[sic] were found chained together; needing to be carefully screwed & unscrewed before kitted.
We were planning a swap over in the Owlowe-Cavern/Knotlow-Mine system, wind was an absolute gale when the minibus trundled up, with random splashes of rain that convinced most to don oversuits within the minibus. The surrounding fields had vast drifts of snow-ice in the lee of the rock walls - looked rather pretty in a picture postcard, but not slogging through it, kinda way.
Our failure to faff manifested itself in two forms 1) We were a helmet short - obviously not enough faff at stores; Rik volunteered to not Cave, being Treasurer, possibly the person that forgot the helmet in the first lace, and all round nice guy. 2) Some people had forgotten mars-bars; that most essential piece of kit. I stole the group hazelnuts for myself. [in fact, half of them are mixed with grit & in the inside pocket of my oversuit current in caving-stores... whoops]
Both cave systems were entered via a grassy & sheep-covered knoll; which was unbelievably windswept. The Orlowe cave entracne [Jarv, Darryl, Clewyn, Steve, Lyndon] was to the left of the hill, in line with a clear break in the smooth contours. Knotlow-Mine's entrance was right on the top of the hill [Tim, Neil, Darryl, Dan, Nazi-Andy].
Entrance to Orlowe was a B-lay from an iron bar placed across the concrete square of a vertical entrance. Darryl rigged, assuming one would be IN the hole before wanting to clip to the rope, which caused a rather entertaining mess of cows-tail clipping back and forward as one lowered into the mouth. The natural indentation around the entrance had filled with DEEP snow-ice, Darryl had slogged through it thigh deep. Clewyn filled his carbide by dropping a bit of ice directly onto the rocks, made a lovely fizzing sound & produced rather more oxy-acetaline at once than felt particular safe; but warmed up the generator enough for more regular operation.
I can't remember that much about the pitches going down, fairly easy going - only real danger or worry was of falling boulders. There's a handline that runs for about 40m [possibly wildy off] with about a 1:3 inclination along a smooth limestine channel FULL of rubble. I nudged a rock about the size of a doll's head down the pitch, towards Lyndon + Darryl. For a while it skitted about slowly and nearly got wedged - briefly considered trying to kick it to a stop, but decided I would probably upset more. It hurtled down the pitch, leaping further with every bound - I called in a clear, firm and precise manner "Rock! There's a Rock coming down the pitch! Watch out!" but which came out more as "GrNKock! Ders Ner GrNKock Homein dane da Snick! Snotch Out!", before the cave echo was added.
Anyhows, luckily, I didn't kill Lyndon or Darryl; it must have gone right past D's head as he rigged at the head of the next pitch.
Once we reached the meet-up chamber, we sat eating mars-bars, taking photos of the condensation & generally getting cold. We could see the other guys headlamps all the way up the pitch from that enormous chamber - it looked as if they just had 40m of rubble to run down, rather than 150m of vertical pitches. Ended up waiting 40-50 minutes at the bottom; I went up right behind Steve as I was bloody freezing & already regretting the tackle-sack'ed Camera & Tripod. First two pitches were fine; prosocing warmed me up nicely. The further we ascended, the wetter the pitches got; all the deviations seemed to draw you up perfectly through the main path of the waterfall, then make you fiddle for a while at the EXACT point of maximum water.
By the time I was on the third/fourth pitch, my body was shutting down. I got rather stuck on a B-Lay; just couldn't get my chest jammer off - I was suspended as high as possible with a view to transfering onto the nearly-horizontal next pitch, but found that there was no where to put my hand jammer so that I could stand up & take off the tension. I eventually managed it by some complicated arrangement of cows-tails, the handjammer & pushing off the rockface with my feet. Of course, I should have just tied a knot in my foot-strop, but I feel that my brain was already rather addled at this point.
I had been up there so long that Darryl at been joined at the base by Lyndon & Clewyn, derigging. I found that my legs were too tired to stand up in the Foot-strop properly, so I started using my handjammer to pull-up; which was fine until my arms completely gave out.
By this point, I was on the last 40m rope - blissfully out of the water, but in the rather cold draft to the surface. Darryl caught up with me and we had approximately the following conversation as I ascended pitch after pitch at 20cm a minute.
D: Hello, bloody wet isn't it!
J: Grrr... fuckers... all of them.
D: You're looking really tired.
J: I ate hazelnuts... hrrrrr... a man who eats hazelnuts is never tired Stuck now.
D: Hmm, why don't you try shortening your footloop by tying a knot in it.
J: Ffffmpph. Can't do that; 's caving club property you fool. Ffff. I'll just sit here hanging for a bit... fffttt
D: No really, tie your footloop shorter, then you'll be able to get past the B-lay & generally prosoc faster
Jarvist ties his footloop shorter, finds B-lay a lot easier, drops glove on darryl
J: fffmfff Just 'cause you're right this time, don't mean no thing
D: Would you like me to take your tackle-sack? It looks pretty heavy.
J: Ya after ma camera, is that ya game? In leage with the tinkers eh? Well you can't have, its mine! I'll take it to the surface or stay down here with it, ya fucker. Ah ha, fucking caving...
After finally getting out of the cave, I suddenly found myself stumbling around on a riduculously windy hill, with horizontal rain that stung like anything. Nearly fell back down the cave stumbling around; but sprt of guessed which way the minibus was - there was a flashing white light, but it might have been a burgler alarm. There was a slight hollow down-wind of the exit, which I lay in foetus like, for the few seconds that it took Darryl to zip up the last pitch.
Darryl zoomed down the hill, I half ran half slid on my arse in his wake. We had indeed come down the right side of the hill; and after completing the most dangerous part of our caving expediton - walking on the road back to the minibus in the driving rain with mud-camoflauged. were welcomed with a flashing Tikka and Martin's syrupy tea.
I refused to leave the minibus & Martin's sweet sweet tea ungarded, so got changed where I stood - putting a beautiful oversuit arseprint on the sliding door.
The Hut's main heating; an obscenely hot coal / wood burner + radiator, worked wonderfully at drying out my clothes as I wore them.
Andy's Nazi-Curry was tasty yet satisfying, we cooked far too much rice as ever; but which is better than too little.
I didn't realise how many muscles I had till I woke up in the morning and they all ached.
Got mocked as ever for my vegetarian nature, but its ok - I got my own back and pissed in the kettle.
After yesterday's trips only 2 people wanted to go caving (Rik and Martin) so whilst they were off getting wet in a dark hole somewhere, the rest of us enjoyed a much nicer day of tea and cakes. Mmmmm.
Back to London at a reasonable time, and all in all a good weekend.