Alex Seaton, Augustinas Prusokas, Chris Bradley, Dave Kirkpatrick, Dave Wilson, David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, Jack Halliday, Jack Hare, James Perry, Jarvist Frost, Nick Koukoulekidis, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Rita Borg, Shaun Kong, Thomas Porter, Tunvez Boulic
We had plenty of drivers on the way up to Yorkshire for what was about to be a great trip. All in all we had 19 cavers splitting up for multiple trips mostly through easegill. When we got to the hut Diss (and apparently DKP?) had made us a cake with cake mix and lemonade which turned out to be great.
A bit of miscommunication meant that my space on the minibus was full, so I planned to get the train - I had no intention of staying in London and doing work this weekend (or any weekend). Thankfully DKP picked me up from Stafford station and we drove the rest of the way to the NPC. Two leisurely stops at Aldi and Asda en route provided the toothbrush I managed to forget (AGAIN), some lemon cake mix and cheap cheap alcohol. Arriving there several hours before the minibus, I made the cake which took no time at all thanks to the fact that there were only two ingredients - Cake mix and lemonade. Totally legit, honest. The icing to cake ratio was excellent (more icing = better) and I had some jelly sweets which I let Dave decorate the cake with, so he had the illusion of being helpful. The (mini)bus wankers arrived and there was an evening of mild drinking and chat before bed.
Wretched Lanc (Lanc -> Wretched): Ho Yan Jin, Jack Halliday, Peter Ganson, Rhys Tyers
I had not planned my route for this trip. Instead I waited as the trips formed over the course of Friday evening and Saturday morning, seeing who could offer me the most interest, or express the greatest need of my many talents.
So it was that I ended up in Peter's team on a classic trip from Lanc to Wretched Rabbit. We were assigned our charges for the day, and I was pleased to see Yan Jin and Mr Jack in our list in the little red book.
We drove up, following Tom's van, on the winding lane towards Bull Pot. On the edge of signal, Mr Jack got a phone call. DW claimed that we'd left a bag behind. A quick conversation and a call to the van ahead established it was Jack and Perry's. I failed however to establish who would go back to get it. Perry reversed the minibus down the lane to a passing point until it became obvious that Tom's van wasn't coming back. We went to get the bag.
Eventually at Bull Pot, we changed. I had a cunning plan to have Diss leave me a beer at Wretched Rabbit so I arranged that. Our team was ready quickly and we set off on the short walk to Lanc, almost immediately followed by a another pair of cavers. They overtook us on the last field and they joined a party of cavers already about to descend Lanc. Alex and his group joined us then, planning a bounce and a visit to more esoteric areas. We waited for the strangers to go down, and then Peter rigged down.
We gathered at the bottom of Lanc, our casios just sounding 2pm. I was a bit concerned that we wouldnt make it all the way to Wretched and out within our 8pm 'back to the van' call out. An echoey conversation with Alex hopefully instructed him not to derig on us, just in case we turned back. More echoes set up a complicated krab clipping system to establish who was out. Given our tight callout I set our team the challenge.
If we reached the Minarets by 2pm we could continue, if not we would have to turn back. We began. Peter in front, armed with our laminated knowledge. We made good progess all the way to Stake Pot, Peter setting a quick pace. Stake Pot is the big up/down pit with fixed ropes. We negotiated this and on the other side Peter made the obscure right turn that the description told him to. After some narrow passage and crawling we stopped. Peter was unsure where the description was leading him, and I had no memory of small passage on this route. Some careful thinking established that we were now following the route towards Pippikin! Which is what the description is actually for. It's a bit tricky having to follow certain sections, some of them backwards.
We backtracked and popped back out in the big main passage again and stomped off. Gosh there's a lot of it. I always forget this. We stopped I think twice, for less than a minute a time to regroup. Mr Jack had a wild look in his eyes and was drenched in sweat. Yan Jin was sweating for what she claimed was the first time in a cave. We would occasionally reach some landmark and feel bouyed, the Minarets were only a few sentences of description away! Then we would take precious minutes traversing some vast passage, barely touched on in the description and our hearts would sink. The closer we got the worse it would be to turn back.
The final section before the minarets is Bridge Chamber, followed by a chamber with a half arch of rock stacked up against a low bit of ceiling. Seeing these I madly rushed up the pile of rocks, hoping to catch sight of the low entrance to the Minarets. I got there, panting a little, sweating a lot and glanced at my watch. 2.04pm. Fuck it. Good enough. We had a rest, drank some water, ate some chocolate and continued.
It turned out I had found someone's shit dig rather than the Minarets, but it did not take us long to find the real Minarets. Everyone was suitably awed by the shape. I even felt confident enough in the time to take a few photos. Peter led us confidently on. It is then another long way before you reach Stop Pot and the fixed iron ladder. Again, much more than I remember or will ever remember. Though the description is good the bit just before Stop is different enough to the rest of the main passage to make you worry a little bit that youn have gone the wrong way, into a narrow climbey section. But the ladder is reassuring. At the bottom I took some more photos.
Time was ticking on so Peter allowed me to lead through Wretched Rabbit. Twisting and turning, again much more passage than I remember (though I remembered the important bits!). Took some photos at the phalactite. Finally the big ropes indicated we were most of the way out. We were greeted by darkness and unfortunately a lack of beer. As we made our way back across the fields I imagined all the situations in which other cavers could have taken it. No one was above suspicion. Back at the van it was revealed that Diss and Jarv had picked it back up again on their way past from Top.
I nipped back across to derig Lanc, meeting a freezing Alex at the entrance. We instructed Davey to derig and I waited for their group to emerge and walked back with them. A brief interlude whilst we 'lost' the minibus keys and we were soon back at the NPC. It seemed like everyone had had a pretty good day! I was certainly satisfied with our trip.
It had been a while since I had done any SRT so was glad to be back in Yorkshire. Top to wretched turned out to be a fantastic trip which I would definitely do again! It had it all, decent pitches for novices with a good ability to supervise from the pitch head. Pretty descents through some spray lead to a great cave that had large chambers, streamway, crawls, mud, climbs and pretties, the lot! The only downside would have to be the long walk but was hard to complain since we had beautiful weather and would be a shorter walk back. We didn't rig a pull through since Diss and Jarvist were intending to do the opposite trip to us and so would appreciate the rope. We met up with their group and made the decision to take Augustinas and Rita back out through wretched as we were getting weary of time. Having to appear competent in front of 4 novices was certainly daunting and only went wrong once when the group got split up. However we all ended up out of the cave early enough to enjoy some chatter with the glasgow cavers whilst we waited for rhys’s group.
Some useful notes:
- Don't forget rope
- Don't go back for rope and forget maillons
- Don't let novices wear all their day clothes caving
- Check harnesses are doubled back
- Check the bonnet for minibus keys
Don't walk really far for signal, use the pay phone
Jack and Jarv headed back with Tom to make food and we followed closely behind them. The key was left in the Cowl Panel so was easily located, sometimes it’s put in the glovebox or the ignition or even back in the tire but fortunately it wasn’t. By the time we had got to the hut Jarv had enough time to make a pea soup starter, much appreciated. Caving games were fun, I stole Rhys of Diss for pot and sling and he liked it, so soft. Fack was a brilliant addition to the caving games playlist. I drank beer then slept.
On Saturday, Rhys, Jack, Peter and I went into the Ease Gill system, and the plan was to enter by Lanc hole and exit by Wretched Rabbit. We met a group of cavers who were alumni of their university’s caving club. They had fancy equipment and looked legitimate so we let them go first, thinking they would be fast. Turns out we were wrong and they took bout half an hour to rig the ropes and get 5 people down. Their rigging was also really awkward and it was a pain descending past it since it kept getting tangled with our rope.
By the time we got down the only pitch, we had doubts as to whether we’d make the call out time, and whether we should continue out Wretched Rabbit or turn back at some point and out from where we came in. We had to press on ahead if we wanted to make it. It was fun but tiring to walk and climb for 2 hours straight. Whenever we had a brief stop to catch our breaths, Jack’s face was red and sweaty and he looked so done with all of this; I was carefully threading the boulders, trying not to fall or break any bones. Meanwhile, Rhys and Peter seemed to be in their natural habitat. (Also, thanks Rhys and Jack for lending me a shoulder/knee on many occasions.)
Somewhere along, we got briefly lost (Rhys likes to call it a ‘detour’) because we were reading the directions in the opposite direction. But thankfully, we found our way and made far enough to know that we don’t want to turn back. When we rested, I got the chance to read the description of the Four Way Chamber (which is on the way to Wretched Rabbit) and it read ‘the chamber has several obscure holes in the floor dropping down to the streamway’. Well that was heartening to know.
Wretched Rabbit was mainly all right except for the last few climbs looked terrifyingly high and smooth (so there weren’t very good grips or footholds). Thankfully the ropes and knots there were pleasantly good and I could pull myself up (by extension, that meant the rest could do it easily). We finally made it out, but still had a distance to walk so it seemed like caving didn’t end until we got changed. That night we got to know that Tunvez wore a shirt and jeans below her furry and we wondered how she survived and also how no one noticed.
We played Pot and Sling at night and had two formidable teams (Rhys and Perry, Diss and I). Unfortunately, the guys’ advantage of experience outweighed our natural advantage of smaller hips and they won the game. When we swopped teams after that, Rhys and Diss won. Congratulations to all! Though I’m not sure if it’s something to be proud of, and if it was worth the pain.
The earlier starts in Yorkshire are always slightly painful but this was nothing a plate of grease and a mug of tea couldn't fix. We had a permit for Easegill so there was much planning to be done for exchange trips. I ended up in a team going in Wretched Rabbit - apparently so called because a dog ran into it chasing a rabbit - and out of Top. There is a ~30-minute walk through boggy fields to the entrance and I carried a beer for Rhys who was planning to exit the way we went in. Jarvist was leading and had decided to rig the route down (even though this isn't needed as there are in situ handlines for free climbing) to give the novices some SRT practice. The entrance was really lovely - very reminiscent of Aggy but slightly prettier. There were several stops for coffee to feed Rita's addiction before we reached the streamway where the description said to go downstream but this way got very low and grim, so we went upstream instead. Apparently Jarvist's route was different to the norm and we went through a nice flat out crawl before popping out into a big-ish chamber. It wasn't long before we met up with our exchange buddies (Jack and Perry 's group) and sat down for some food and escape plans. We were slightly later than planned and thought the ~novices (Rita and Augustinas) might be a bit tired/scared of Top. They agreed to head back out of Wretched Rabbit with the others so Jarvist and I could make it out of Top at a reasonable time.
The way out was pretty scary at times and there were several free climbs with handlines that I wasn't happy about but somehow just did them anyway. It seems a year of caving has made me ignore my fear to some extent. We went through Nagasaki chamber and some pretty sketchy traverses over big holes before reaching π r 2 which is a long windy crawl through a tube, occasionally in water. This was arduous but not too much trouble and we got through fine. There were only two pitches, the second of which is Walrus pot and was supposedly very wet. Prepared for full soaking, I put my hood up and started the ascent. It was sort of like prussicking in torrential rain, but I could quite quickly move to the side so wasn't under the water for too long. The top of this pitch is very interesting. It's a window (hole in the wall) with a pretty vertical wall behind and what looked to me to be the most horrific free climb known to man. I had no intention of attempting anything without Jarvist present so shouted "rope free" and waited for him to reach the top. Apparently, what I thought was just a short traverse line to clip into actually went around the corner and this was the way on, not the free climb from hell. Thank fuck. I think the relief that there was a way on that you could actually clip in for made me less scared of the weird manoeuvre I then had to do. The traverse line basically goes around a curve in the wall to a tube that's quite far away but still high up. Hanging on cow’s tails wasn't a the best idea because 1) the rope is of unknown calibre and 2) you end up being too low. My method was somewhat unorthodox - grabbing the traverse line instead of the loop and leaning out, kicking off the side wall and doing a sort of wedged leap of faith. It worked, and I didn't die so I'm happy. After this there was a bit of supposedly thrutchy crawling that had nothing on Daren and we were out much quicker than I expected.
It was very chilly out of the cave, so we started the trek back to the minibus quite promptly. The way from Top to the bus goes past the entrance to Wretched Rabbit and we were slightly concerned to find Rhys' beer still outside, suggesting that they weren't out yet. Jarvist went in to see where Jack's group had got to because we had expected them to be out before us as their route was meant to be much shorter (spiral staircase). They weren't too far in and had taken longer because they couldn't find the way so had come out the longer route. We left them and headed back to the bus, taking Rhys’ beer with us (assuming they had either gone out the way they came in or forgotten it). Nobody was back yet so we went to Lanc to check they were alive – Alex’s team were on the way out and decided to leave rope in just in case Rhys’ group had come back the way they came in. A very cold change and a bit of waiting in the hut before Rhys’ group came back – glad that I had the beer and not some thieving caver. No problems with minibus keys on bonnets and we were back at the hut for a late dinner of pea soup and what I assume was Patatas Bravas.
More epic caving games – Arun wasn’t there so Perry and I fought over Rhys (Perry won, grr). No matter. Yan Jin and I make a great team and gave them a run for their money. Later we switched, and it was technically a tie as neither team got through the sling but I like to think we got further through it. I have some serious behind the knee bruises now. The squeeze machine was also brought out at some point and I guess I tried a lot harder than usual because my hips are now very green. The usual dangerous card game was played when our numbers started to dwindle. This time there was floor licking and a minibus squeeze by Davey Dubz in shorts and T-shirt with no shoes.
Lost Johns': Alex Seaton, Augustinas Prusokas, Chris Bradley, Dave Wilson, David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, Jack Halliday, Jarvist Frost, Nick Koukoulekidis, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Rita Borg, Shaun Kong, Thomas Porter
A surprising choice for a Sunday but it got no complaints by anyone before, and not by anyone on the trip after! I ended up rigging down Dome, with Yan Jin, Rita, Gus, DW, and Diss. I did not pack our ropes and realised once everyone had changed and the other groups gone that we did not have the rope for first pitche of Dome! DW came to the rescue, offering to drive back and get another rope, whilst I used one of our bottom ropes to rig the first pitch. He would then swap them out on his way down.
I realised at the bottom of the first pitch that we also did not have the rope for the second pitch! Luckily this one can be free climbed (it's not even that dodgy, I suspect its mostly roped for tired people) and a sling 'for protection' made it fairly pleasant. Thankfully I did have the rest of the ropes we needed and eventually met Alex and co. at Dome Junction. We negotiated for a while eventually deciding that my entire group would head out Centipede and derig and Alex and his group would do something else.
Everyone was pretty quick up Centipede. Diss derigged and didn't die. First group out and we got to see the sunset! Lovely trip, would do a Sunday Lost Johns' trip (despite it delaying our departure from Yorkshire).
I spent the whole day inside the hut. It was good.
On Sunday morning, Jack, Jack and I (that was not a typo) made breakfast. Tunvez was amazed at how hot food just magically appears on the table and Jack Hare had a funny response to that (which I can’t recall). Those that decided to cave were off to the Lost John’s Cave. Don’t let the sun fool you because it was freezing cold and windy. To add on, we forgot a 10m rope and DW had to go back and get it. A part of me started to regret my decision to cave but thankfully that was soon dispelled when we started caving. Diss, Rhys, Rita, Augustinas and I went in through Dome and out from Centipede. The SRT was great fun since there were no rebelays. Rhys then realised we didn’t have rope for the second 10m pitch and decided it was ‘safe enough’ to free climb. It indeed was, but it looked impossible to climb back up without a rope (thankfully, it wasn’t something I had to worry about). The next improvisation came when Rhys realised he didn’t have a sling to do a deviation so used the rope bag for it.
We met the other group and did an exchange to come out by Centipede. A 40m followed by a 20m pitch was not fun to ascend on, but would have been very fun to descend. I led the way out and briefly doubted myself when we had to traverse round a pitch. The climbing and other traverses were generally quite safe with many grips, but it was still terrifying not being able to see the floor below. Nonetheless, this is probably my second favourite caving trip (aside from Hunt Pot)
We were the first out and enjoyed the warmth in the minibus and games of Contact. Admittedly, we left Yorkshire really late, but nonetheless it was a great trip with great adventures and friends.
Today we did another proper trip (not just a Sunday bimble) down Lost Johns. Rhys (and I, sort of) led the crackest team (Rita, Auggy, Yan Jin) down Dome and planned to exchange with other teams lower down. The cave was lovely. There are lots of interesting traverses that go over pitch heads and terrifying holes but with good foot holds so are actually fine. We got to the exchange point where we switched with the Centipede team. Rhys went up first, followed by Rita who wanted some photos of her climbing. I had my second practice at derigging which went well, and I only found myself accidentally clipped into nothing at a pitch head once…Rhys came to check that I was alive and we sung I Will Follow You Into The Cave, and all went well. The tackle sack was bloody heavy though. When I reached the final maillon, I sung “It’s the final Maillon” to the tune of It’s the Final Countdown which at least I found amusing. For some reason you notice the terrifying-ness of the traverses way more on the way out. This was made even worse by the fact that I had a massive tackle sack this time. It’s fine, I don’t think anyone died. Once out, we took a few cheeky photos standing in the bog before changing and chilling in the minibus for quite a while. It was pretty late by the time we got back (around 6pm) and I was slightly worried about catching trains. We rushed back, I packed and ate some food quickly and DKP and I hit the road without helping with the tidy up. All seemed fine, we made it in good time and I was left at Stafford station. Stupidly, I hadn’t checked that the trains were the correct train company and all that was left was Virgin trains which my ticket wasn’t valid for. 3 hours and £40 later and I was home before the minibus kids.