Anne VDP, Clewin Griffiths, Dave Wilson, Gerardo Ocana-Fuentes, James Huggett, Jarvist Frost, Jay, Paul Hutton, Sandeep Mavadia, Shed, Thara Supasiti, Tim Osborne, Tom Brown
Notts I: Everyone!
Up early, fed and watered by ten pm. Time for some serious faff action; Shed & myself left the NPC with Dave for a quick Gear buying session. Returning an hour later, we were impressed to find apparently the same group of people standing behind the minibus packing the same ropes into the same bags.
Up on the fell, and, by following Dave Wilson, arrived directly at the correct shake hole. Our five tackle sacks were dolled out, and we were off!
Left Hand Route: Team Sinister, Clew, Shed, Jarv, Thara, Tom
Hopped down the entrance pitch, slithered along a short crawl then slipped down a wedged-in 3m chimney. Old stream passage was clambered down to reach short ~4m pitch with easy roped traverse. Here we zoomed off down a passage to the left, eventually reaching the Twilight Zone. Lovely social traverse, with an easy position of sitting on a flake near the Y-hang to rig descender before squeezing down between the tight walls. A quick zip and a dangle across sideways to reach the next free-hanging traverse, further smooth descent to reach a brief standing section, belay to a flake and around the corner listening to the soporific stream to drop down into a chamber filled with Dave Wilson's group. Drat! Beaten again!
Hot Vitaminski from a thermos; debauched chocolate eating, some very strange home-made cake brought by James - so swollen with fat that I had to wipe my hands on a rock before I dared abseil, less I oil my way to a messy death...
Here we separated; Team Kean heading down, Team Cook heading out with Dave to head back to the hut and prepare the dumplings, Team Deep bouncing briefly down the first of the stream way pitches before derigging out the Sinister route.
Down in the stream, then a quick clamber into the roof of a rift, along a traverse and (after waiting) to a most joyous Y-hang. With legs a good few metres long, and a sling deviation through a natural on the first one, this tri-hang was wonder to behold. Below, a lovely drop with careful abseil to avoid rope rub, a soft-lock then a long swing along the rope to get to the traverse.
Ben was crawling along the traverse when an ominous 'Fwing' came echoing along. Surely nothing had been dropped? A few minutes to sort himself out, then a rather guilty 'Ah - I no longer have a descender'. He wasn't going any deeper; and joined Team Deep for an early escape.
Beyond the traverse there's an old dry waterfall chamber that makes a nice resting place before the final Y-hang to a beautiful pitch. Picking up the water, a deviation keeps one free of the waterfall and protects the rope from the lip of the cascade. A quick dash under the water and to the final pitch, a short 4m drop after a traverse before scrambling up into a warm side-tube. The dive-line for the rather long sump to Notts II stared at us in all of its oily terror while we ate Jamaican Ginger Cake and thought of heading out.
I was de-rigour; and bloody cold it was too. Difficult indeed to unhook the sling deviation, so cold my fingers were. Had an interesting time abseiling down from the traverse looking for the dropped descender; passing rusting bolts that formed the original route. A bit tight and nasty, but far more pretty - lots of little pools, cascades and rock bridges down there. Couldn't quite make it to the pool that I suspected most (having also searched in all the prior places), due to lack of rope (was abseiling off the traverse rope). Of course; I was only doing this because I hadn't realised that Shed had already found it in the main splash pool!
Way out was slow but sure; the first-years rather tired by dragging tackle after this fairly arduous trip. Back in three-ways chamber I found myself dragging three kit bags up the increasingly difficult clamber. All good training!
Finally all safely out (6hrs underground) we set off over the Fell towards the minibus. Mildly disturbed by having someone else with headlamps follow us from t'other side of Notts I. Other Cavers? Or had Sandeep led his group on a merry walk, his homing instinct for Birmingham being too strong to resist?
The whole of the plain was lit up beneath us; the vis extending all the way to the Heysham nuclear reactors dotted on the horizon. Navigation was easy as pie; only problem was to avoid the sheep-eyes glowering out of the dimness.
Back at the road was Clew & Shed, but no minibus. Battery flattened. Bugger. But the AA were on the way; they had used the last TWO hours that they had been outside wisely - sharing a wee dram.
Nice Mr AA boosted our battery, tightened our alternator belt and sent us on our merry way, waiting for us at Ingleton shell to refuel in order to make sure we could restart.
Back to the hut to be welcomed by Team Cook with a most wondrous meal. Delicious soup for the Veggies, Beef stew with many dumplings for the murderers, served with side-dish of mash, sauteed green beans & fried mushrooms. Jay is truly a good cook; and his assistants much appreciated.
Lost Johns': Shed, Clew, Deep, Paul, Tim, Tom, Gerardo, Thara
The plan was to do an exchange (where you come down and go out via other route) with Centipede/Dome. The Clew headed off with haste and determination to be out before 4pm. It is possible, so we thought. With experience behind us now, the team followed the river passage, an easy traverse across a still active waterfall toward the older passage. There, the route led us toward the first pitch. Soon Clew discovered an inconvenient truth while dangling on the knotted end of the rope 2m above the floor.
Damn the rigging guide!...2m short... Nevermind, the back-up has to go.
Rerigging was done in no time, during which the team led by Deep passed above our pitch toward the Hammer, a 10m pitch. With easy descend out of the way, we marched on toward Vestry, a 8m drop, marking the entrance to Cathedral. An easy 4m traverse along the moist wall, followed by a 10m drop to a ledge, allowing for easy deviation. No trouble. Checked for Paul to do the deviation without incident, while Clew rigged like mad further down.
A nice fast descend down in Dome, swing across into the rift, haunted by the fossilised Clew. The echo generated by Shed could be heard, ringing, reflecting off the wall inside the gloomy chamber, enhancing the haunting atmosphere.
It seemed that Paul and James had some trouble with the rigged rope, which conveniently wrapped around the existing line. Clew decided to wait while I was eager to push on toward our final pitch. Since I had carried the second bag all along, I got to rig the last pitch, which Clew reconfigured significantly before letting other freshers plummet to their dooms.
The only malt loaf was shared before the arrival of James' homemade cake. The Shed/Clew council was immediately formed. The decision was made after the last bit of malt loaf disappeared into Clew's mouth. 'Next Cave: Teashop! Therefore we must get out by 3pm.'
The team separated again for the last time. Being the derigger, I was the last to go out. While waiting on the bottom of Centipede, again the echo of other cavers pieced through the tunnel. It was only then that I realised why you need a radio for underground camping.
The return trip was without incident, but the progress was slow. Clew raced ahead in front and out of the cave by 3pm, while freshers found harder to keep up da speed. Dragging heavy bag around was tiring, but it was a good training. I wondered how Jarv managed with three on the previous day.
On the surface, Shed approached Gerardo (now, with not so shiny SRT kit) with question marks all over his face.
Shed: 'Did you try to derig the rope in Dome, while we were at the bottom?'
Gerardo: 'I can't derig the rope' and the dispute resolved itself.'
Shed: 'Where is Sandeep?'
Apparently Sandeep was still underground, having taken the wrong turn at the first junction. Bimbling round the entrance series.
In the end, Clew waited for more than hour, wishing he could just drive off to get his fuel (more cake)...
"Both days I was out while it was still light; probably my best weekend of caving in the UK ever!"