Yorkshire Winter Tour
Andrew Wilkins, Andy Jurd, Caroline Ainsworth, Chris Keeley, Clare Tan, Dave Wilson, Fiona Hartley, Izi, Jarvist Frost, Oliver Myerscough, Rhys Tyers, Saber King, Sam Page, Tetley, Tim Child
Saturday 15th Dec
Notts I - Everyone!
Advanced Party (Central + Deep ropes): Andy, Izi, Fiona, Oli
|Central:||Jarv*, Andrew||Tetley, Chris, Saber|
- = went all the way to sumps
First trip of winter tour, everyone in the same cave, excellent. The advanced party had rigged down the first pitch (outside the cave) by the time we got there and we headed down. Apparently due to some issues with the pre-packed rope they had been delayed and we caught them in the main chamber. I headed off with Tetley, Chris and Saber down (or up) Adamson’s. Our rope issues begin early with the rope for the dodgy climb being far too short to cover the whole climb. Never mind, I was climbing up first anyway to tie the ropes at the top so it made no difference. Rigging down to the first ledge was fairly uneventful but then going down the second was quite tricky. Tetley repeatedly suggested I put in rebelays but there were no p bolts so I had to use naturals.
As we neared the bottom (where the three routes meet) I saw Sam (who had entered via a different route) through a window in the wall, he flew down his rope without noticing me. I got the final hang and dropped the rope, shouting to Izi below as I did. Our rope was comically short, about 5m off the ground. Replacing the traverse with a dodgy sling/wire combination, more rope was now free to finish the hang.
We dropped in on Jarv and Clare who were waiting for us. We descended further finding Andy and the others in a small chamber. Andy had a plan and directed us all to our various fates. I was to go down with Jarv, Clare and Sam to the bottom. Jarv rigged down to the bottom and we followed. Down to the top of a waterfall and then down past this, swinging into a little passage. The passage is a great respite from the freezing water and draught of the pitch. Only a few metres in is a sump and we huddled in here for a few minutes. Eventually I volunteered to derig and we headed out.
I think we managed every combination of routes in-and-out between the twelve of us. The advance team consisted of myself, Oli, Andy, and Izi; Oli managed to rig the entrance pitch and second pitch into the main chamber just before everyone else got there, despite a massive faff on the second pitch where he used the traverse line as the pitch rope and abseiled to the knot in the end of the rope.
We continued down the centre route. Izi gave me lots of helpful advice regarding re-belays and was generally a great companion to cave with. We dropped into the three-ways chamber first and Oli and Andy continued down to the traverse. We waited around as Clare & co dropped in from the left-hand route, to space things out a bit. When Rhys dropped the last Adamson's rope down it was four or five metres too short. Our president and treasurer seem to be doing this a lot at the moment - blame the rigging guide!
The Adamson's group dropped in eventually, revealing that they had cut the rope and fashioned a traverse line out of wires and slings to make their descent possible. Everyone wanted to carry on so one-by-one we went along the high and fun traverse and down the next pitch. Here we squeezed into the small amount of space available and each person was shuffled along if they weren't thinking of heading out.
After more discussion, I started heading back up the pitch on the way out. However, I was too big to get back up into the rift at the pitch head. This led to me swearing a lot. The highlight was involuntarily back-prussiking due to being so tightly wedged in; scared myself a bit there. I'm still not sure how it happened! Tetley came up the rope beneath me to help. We concluded a bolt had been missed; the traverse wasn't finished where the pitch began. So Tetley taught me how to back-prussick (intentional this time!), then changed-over and descended, as did I once the rope was free. Then he went back up to re-rig the pitch head. On my second ascent the pitch head was far more manageable, although still a bit awkward.
I went up Adamson's route with Oli and Clare on the way out. I was pretty slow. Clare sang a lot. Izi came down to find us after a while and told her she should sing happy songs, not sing like she was at her funeral. Tetley was smoking in the main chamber. I had to stand on Izi to get out of the entrance climb, and then he helped me out again on the final re-belay. Good trip!
Sunday 16th Dec
Rumbling (actually Deaths Head): Jarv, Oli, Fiona, Andrew
Well - we attempted to go to Rumbling. Not having paid that much attention to the description, nor brought the GPS from the minibus we found a surface shaft, belayed to the fence post and then the tree (Oli) and duly abbed down. Deaths Head, much closer to the wall than we should have been, is a nice slender shaft with the usual entertaining trees growing sideways. The long y-hang from the bottom is pretty wet all things considered, certainly the bolters were not there while it was damp! Another short pitch off a y-hang lands in a large boulder sloped chamber. We had a little poke around the various digs, made use of the washing station under the inlet and then powered out. Apparently the impressively 10 m deep shored dig dropping down in the corner leads to another pitch or two, a wet bit that's probably sumped and thereby into the depths of Lost Johns'.
"We thought there would be more cave at the bottom" said Jarv as I finally joined them in the big chamber at the bottom of Death's Head Hole, having flailed around on one of the re-belays for ages during my descent. So there wasn't much left to do except head out again. A nice short trip, very appropriate for a Sunday. Back at the van the men decided to go down Lost Johns' but, having satisfied myself for the day with some much-needed practice at free-hanging re-belays, I shivered in the minibus for an hour, slept for an hour under all the jackets, and then waited another hour for everyone to get out of Lost Johns'.
Lost Johns' - Dome to Final Pitch: Izi, Saber, Tetley, Chris (joined by Jarv, Andrew, Oli)
Having got back to the minibus rather earlier than we expected, Jarv, Andrew and I decided to nip into Lost Johns, since it was (a) so close to the road and (b) already rigged by the other team. Little did we know that they had accidentally used the ropes out of order, leading to an interesting style of rigging on the second pitch involving a rather "fun" swing. Since we had plenty of time we spent a few moments here to normalise the rigging.
A pitch or two later I heard the noise of an advancing caver ahead of me. It was Saber, with Izi and the rest close behind. Jarv and Andrew turned around while I offered to take a tackle sack, but quickly decided I couldn't be bothered to wait and followed them out.
Craftsmans Pot: Clare, Rhys
Upon deciding that as small people we should do small people caves Clare and I decided to do Craftsmans. With a warning that it may be collapsed we set off to find it. We wandered around near Bull Pot and after dishearteningly discovering only a blocked off rift and a disintegrated sheep we were ready to call it a day and nip off to Brown Hill. Luckily we stumbled across it and dived in. The entrance is ominous, a half heartedly shored up climb down into a small chamber. The way on from here is a muddy crawl that gets muddier with each person that passes, as Clare discovered following me. I wimped out of the 'tight' rift climb initially and Clare took the lead. She slipped straight through and I then found it much easier. The first pitch follows shortly after and involves putting on SRT gear whilst standing perilously close to the pitch. Clare rigged and I followed. At the bottom a loose slope lead into a hole surrounded by precariously piled rocks. The second pitch was a swing into a small tube followed by an interesting traverse to the hang. Shooting straight down this we came to a large boulder strewn chamber. A quick search confirmed that the way on was a flat out crawl in a stream. We debated whether to go for it. "I'll go where you go" said Clare, grimacing at the thought of me taking her up on this offer. I crawled in attempting to dig at the loose pebbles on the floor to make more room for myself. About halfway into the crawl with my helmet scraping on the floor and ceiling and water covering one side of my mouth I thought "Fuck this". I desperately shuffled backwards, pausing briefly to unjam the Mr Choco in my pocket from a pebble. I emerged to Clare's laughter. She was still dry. The fucker. Clare elected not to attempt the crawl and we headed out. Clare ahead, with me derigging. We emerged from the cave at dusk.
Monday 17th Dec
Pippikin to Mistral (with various side routes): Clare, Jarv
Cow Pot: Izi, Tetley, SamP
After having done some one-to-one rigging with Dave down Jingling pot the previous day, I was keen to apply the basic techniques I had learned elsewhere, and so Tetley, Izi and I headed off to Cow pot.
The first pitch started immediately from the surface, so I tentatively backed over the edge of the rock. I had been told by Tetley to keep an eye out for bolts as places to put in first a rebelay, then a deviation. The rebelay was easily rigged, as I was able to stand quite sturdily on a ledge, whilst reaching the deviation was fun as it required swinging across to the bolt. I soon reached the bottom of the pitch, and the others headed down, Tetley giving me some choice advice on ways I could have improved my rigging thus far. Then followed some short passage which required crawling/crouching. We soon reached the next section which required rigging - a traverse around the edge of a large pitch. This was a lot more challenging, scary, and fun, than any rigging I had done before, and although progress was quite slow, I grew more satisfied with each knot that I threaded, and was pleased to make it to the other side, away from the constant drips, and somewhere that I could comfortably sit. We took a short break above the next pitch which followed directly on. Wisely, Tetley suggested that he rig this pitch, which I was happy to let him do - I was not yet ready to rig a pitch that big, where you cannot hear your fellow cavers due to the size/water, and where there are slightly annoying rebelays/deviations.
Arriving at the bottom, knowing that we had lots of time to spare, Tetley wanted to have a good look around at several of the different ways on. One of which led us to go down, through gaps in the boulders, until we reached the streamway. At first, we happily started walking along, through the water, though the freezing temperature and the increasing depth of the water led to me and Izi getting out of the water onto the first rocks that we could find. Tetley however carried on, not noticing that we had stopped. This then led to several minutes of us shouting at each other, too far away to properly hear each other, Tetley yelling at us to follow him, us yelling for him to come back, which he then did. Tetley was keen to carry on that way, but me and Izi were feeling the cold, and thought it was a silly idea. After minutes of Tetley trying to persuade us to go on - 'It's not far, it doesn't get very deep...’ I caved in, and so we followed him. However, the streamway was far, and it did get deep, and so as quickly as possible we made our way back. Of course, back at the hut, we learnt that we were in fact heading towards the sump, and wanted to be heading the other way along the stream...
At this point, feeling pretty damn cold, Tetley urged us to keep moving, onwards and upwards, back to where we had come from, and further upwards. After a fair bit of clambering up boulders, and using hand lines in parts, we reached a chamber with lots of very pretty formations, which we continued to explore for a bit, before heading out. The plan was for Tetley to derig the bottom pitch, Izi to derig the traverse, and me to derig the top pitch, however Tetley ended up derigging all (!). At the top, me and Tetley quickly headed back together towards the relative warmth of the minibus, both commenting on successful trip.
County Pot: Rhys, Andrew, Saber (who forgot all his gear except for helmet)
Leaving the hut at 1pm we were all eager to cave. Arriving at Bullpot Farm I realised that in my enthusiasm to leave I had forgotten to pack an oversuit. Saber realised he had forgotten everything except his helmet. For me the solution was borrowing Jarv's suspiciously comfy fabric oversuit, for Saber the caving was over. I headed off with just Andrew in tow. The fluorescent markers, so clear in the daylight, lead us to the stile and we were quickly at County. I descended first. We made it past the first pitch with relative ease. We climbed down into the streamway, using our fuck-up rope early on to aid our descent. Following Tetley's instructions we made it to Siphon Chamber. We spent 20 minutes looking for a way around, the waterfall looking fairly intimidating from the top but in the end I used our 2nd pitch rope to abseil down and upon discovering that the climb down was actually pretty easy Andrew untied the rope and passed it down, then climbed down himself. We found Poetic Justice quickly, again with Tetley's sage advice. I scrambled up with some difficulty and proceeded to watch the climber in Andrew die. Without handholds or footholds and unaware of how useful his bum and knees are for climbing he tried in vain for a few minutes. In the end I dropped a rope down and he popped up. We proceeded down the second pitch and then headed upstream, discovering a few odd nooks and crannies as well as White Line chamber. The waterfalls were swollen with the recent rain and very impressive. We then headed downstream and found our way all the way to Eureka Junction, though we didn't realise it at the time. Instead, noticing the thick foam forming a solid layer across the ceiling we decided that it was unwise to continue this way. We explored up towards Wretched Rabbit, reaching Four Ways Chamber before turning around and heading out. Our trip back across the fields was hampered by the poor planning of the fluorescent posts, they are unevenly spaced and some of them do not fluoresce. This was not helpful in the fog and we ended up back the stile after getting turned around. Our second attempt was successful and we arrived back at the van.
NPC: Fiona, Chris
Really should have gone caving, and intended to, but then final year guilt got the better of me in the morning and I did some revision instead - not enough to make it worthwhile however. What one realises is that if you're not caving, there really isn't much to do at a hut. So you might as well go. You might have a bad trip, but I feel like even that's better than being bored/unproductive.
The last time I did 3 days of straight caving having not been for a while ended legendarily badly so it was definitely a good opportunity for a break and a lie in, followed by a lame attempt at final year project work.
Tuesday 18th Dec
King Pot - Jarv, Oli, Rhys, Saber
Oh King! It was already beyond midday, and we needed a target. Uncertain weather and a pile of relatively unused short lengths of 9mm, the target was obvious. Saber packed the bags and was keen for some rigging. We set off, making the cave entrance after asking permission at Braida Garth for a rather late 3PM. Saber rigged the pitches on the way down to the T-shaped passage (traverse still rigged), I hunked the bag through the T-shape and then Oli & Rhys rigged the next two. I took us down to Kakamondo, and then we got together, considered the time and decided to give Elizabeth a try. It was pretty wet, and we went onto the two 8mm Spitz. Someone has threaded a permanent sling around a bit of stal accessible in a small bedding plane. This would enable you to rig pretty dry from a Y-hang off the P-bolts without needing hangers, with quite a swing.
With high efficiency we exchanged at the bottom, Rhys setting off up barely as Saber had removed his descender. Oli and I brought up the rear with him derigging as far as the T-shaped passage, I did the T-shape again, and then Rhys derigged the entrance series. Out for 9:20PM, not a bad little >6hrs trip! Back in time for tea and medals, or rather, pasta and tomato sauce.
Bull Pot - Dave, Chris, Andrew
Keen to get a first rigging trip in before leaving on Wednesday, and keen to avoid the King trip, I asked Dave if he'd "show me the ropes" in a cave he thought suitable. He decided on Bull and we started packing, albeit at a much more leisurely pace than the other group. Having only half-learned (and since completely forgotten) the three loops method for tying an alpine butterfly last winter tour, I instead learned Dave's (superior) twist method, practicing while we were faffing around in the NPC and on the drive over.
After changing we headed up to the entrance, only slightly overshooting where the entrance was. Starting with a double-threaded figure-of-eight and an alpine butterfly for the backups I edged towards the primary hang and proceeded to tie another alpine butterfly and bowline on a bight, which was pretty awful and I fixed with some instruction. Then came the excitement (fear?) from the first time abseiling on my own knots. Of course there was no problem but it's hard to tell the nagging feeling in the back of your head that. Heading further in and starting on the first traverse fully revealed why rigging is so tricky. While you're always attached to the rope and safe, I found myself being extra cautious while positioning myself to rig the next bolt as if you slip you fall that much farther and it's a pain to get back up again. After some short pitches and traverses, we reached the bottom (one pitch before the sump as it's apparently not worth it) and wandered down a bit further before turning around. Derigging wasn't particularly eventful but still fun, if a strange, methodical kind of fun.
Thinking about not only what you're attached to but what that's attached to adds another level to rigging and derigging that makes it more interesting, but time consuming. My experiences with rigging aside the trip was good fun, short and sweet and I learned a great deal quite quickly.
(((Tim & Caroline arrive)))
Wednesday 19th Dec
Knacker Trapper - Rhys, Clare
The morning started unenthusiastically. With a howling gale and threats of rain it did not seem like a pleasant day for caving. Nevertheless Clare suggested doing another 'more interesting' cave and eventually we settled on Knacker Trapper. The cave itself begins with a plastic tube covered with a metal plate down which is a small chamber. A tight crawl leads off. Sometimes sideways, sometimes flat out, with a tackle sack the crawl took about 10 minutes. This emerges on the first pitch, which is a free climb and the second pitch, which is rigged. Despite the plan that I would rig, the lack of p-bolts meant that I was quite unsure of where to belay so Clare did a lot of the decision making. Down the pitch a tight awkward rift begins. This was probably the first time I found a rift a bit tight. I had to think fairly carefully about where I moved my legs. A lot of the rift required committing to plunging in head first and as I got half way I got a bit stuck and backed out to let Clare take the lead. As per usual Clare slid through with minimal effort and with renewed confidence I followed. After the rift we went down the third pitch to a passage very similar to the T-Shaped passage in King, but smaller. We soon found 'University Challenge', a much larger rift. Without any p-bolts it was our choice where to descend into the rift. We got maybe 20 metres down and 20 metres in. I decided that I wasn't really up to continuing and wanted to head out, Clare agreed. We sped out and I actually enjoyed the tight rifts a lot more on the way out, perhaps just because I was confident I could actually do it now. We got to the second pitch (i.e. the first rigged pitch) and Clare went up first. I followed and wedged myself in at the top of the pitch. As I did the flake we had belayed off, fell off the wall and onto me. It had lasted just long enough. Inspired by my near death (or near twisted ankle) experience, Clare and I got out with few problems. Unfortunately we got out one and a half hours before Dave had agreed to pick us up. In the wind and hail we walked back to the road but Dave wasn't there. We sheltered in a disused kiln until Dave came. An interesting trip.
Jingling - Lateral & Direct - Jarv, Tetley, Saber, Tim, Caroline
A nice little trip. The weather was coming in, but we had at least a few hours of pleasance. Saber grappled with the direct route, while I set off across to the Lateral, before guiding Tim through the rigging of the lower levels. Tim then derigged the majority, getting us back to the surface just as the winds starting really getting up. A quick change before the heavens opened, and back to the hut for another delicious meal.
Thursday 20th Dec
Easegill - Wretched Rabbit - Oliver, Rhys, Caroline, Saber
With my newly manufactured Daren drum based protection for my camera I was keen to take some photos underground. The now familiar walk to Easegill was made quite difficult by the gale force winds and driving rain. I was even able to lean against the wind during the stronger gusts. Undeterred we made it into the relative protection of the valley and navigated the swollen streamway to Wretched Rabbit.
Once in, despite the thick fixed ropes in place, Caroline rigged down the entrance climbs. They are not too difficult to climb up but since you don’t have to lug rope through the rest of the cave it’s easy enough just to rig it. We headed down the tight rifts. At one point we all had to squeeze into crevices to let another groups of cavers, heading the opposite way, pass us. There must have been at least 20 of them.
We found our way to four ways chamber and attempted to find the way up into the higher level passages. 45 minutes of searching revealed nothing but some interesting dead ends beyond crawls and climbs. Keen to do some caving we instead headed to Eureka junction. By now the menacing foam had started to dissipate so we stomped upstream. We eventually came to a boulder choke with no way on other than crouching neck deep in the stream. Saber was the only one brave/insane enough to do it. And despite his assurance that the passage was fine and dry on the other side we decided to head out.
On the way out I practiced my photography, capturing the elegance and beauty of caving (or managed some blurry photos of muddy walls). We arrived back at the van and Tetley and Tim turned up 40 minutes later.
Easegill - County - Tetley, Tim
Friday 21st Dec
Lost Johns' - Dome, Centipede Exchange - Saber, Rhys, Oliver, Tim, Jarv
On Friday morning we decided that we would escape to London in the evening. We thought, however, that it would certainly be a shame to waste this last day of caving. We quickly got our gear together and headed off for a quick Lost Johns’ exchange.
Saber rigged down centipede, followed by Jarv. Oli rigged down Dome, followed by Tim and me. It was an uneventful trip, nice and easy. A good warm down from the tour.
Due to increasingly dire weather conditions, the threat of more rain, a dwindling of members and our second driver being unable to make it on tour we decided to cut the tour two days short and escape to the safety of London. It was perhaps ambitious to plan for a 9 day tour, so ending up with a 7 day tour (which is what we normally do) is perhaps not a bad thing.