Christopher Bradley, Dave Kirkpatrick, David Wilson, Fiona Hartley, Ho Yan Jin, Jack Halliday, James Perry, Kate Smith, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Thomas Porter, Lucie Studena
Yet another trip with a large blue bus. Such power. We made a cheeky stop at Silwood to pick up mouldy cups and other such important things on the way to sunny Yorkshire. I got my first proper attempt at driving the minibus and it was nowhere near as stressful as anticipated. No curbs were hit and (actually) no excessive stalling happened. It is possible it was even fun. Maybe. We arrived at the NPC pretty late. It was full of humans and other horrific things.
King Pot: Jack Halliday, Rhys Tyers, Thomas Porter, Lucie Studena
Something about discovering the shoulder size limit for the cave and someone else ending up head first in the T-shape again but this time to retrieve a tacklebag. Ah, King, never change.
Aquamole Pot: Dave Kirkpatrick, David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin
It was raining inside the cave as well as outside so just a bounce down the first pitch was had.
Rowten Pot: Christopher Bradley, Fiona Hartley, James Perry, Kate Smith, Rebecca Diss
The rain was atrocious, the faff spectacular and the company excellent. I had a great time.
We were the final stragglers (Aquamole deriggers) and eventually left Greenclose at 2pm. Sometime after me the bus turned up in Kingsdale. Getting changed Perry suddenly announced "Shit" as thanks to all the faff he had forgotten his oversuit. Of all the spare gear in the spare bag there was no oversuit. Luckily / unluckily for him I had one single item of spare kit: my normal fabric oversuit (I was in protective PVC).
Would it fit? Very snugly...! So not really. Crawling would have been out of the question and Perry's unmentionables were apparently extremely unhappy.
The fun continued as Kate found her helmet didn't fit her strangely shaped head. My helmet did fit her however and I could wear the club one. Luckily the spare gear bag was then remembered and another helmet was located so I got to keep my increasingly temperamental Bisun to myself. All of this was of great amusement, to be honest it was great to see Kate again!
We then went up the hill although not before one more return trip to the gear bag, from which Kate now selected two right hand gloves. We split up from Perry and Chris at the gate; Rowten was audibly wet. We rocked over to Aquamole. Note, yes it really is that close to Jingling.
There was no rope in Aquamole. This made no sense because the riggers hadn't been at Dave's car nor on the hill and so they must be in a cave somehow. We checked Jingling where there was a rucksack that looked identical to Perry's, but not our rope. Back to Rowten we went, where Diss went to the edge of the hill and announced incredulously that DKP's car was open and the riggers were down there. That they had managed to descend the hill and us go up it at exactly the same time yet completely fail to see one another defies logic.
I went for a wander. Next to the Turbary Road is a gash which had an exciting stream in it: the Rowten water. I knew Rowten Cave(s) as well as Pot exists so I wandered up a vague valley til I heard and saw water again. The streams were collecting together and heading underground. I picked my way down a classic Yorkshire streamway for a few metres then traversed along ledges over the water until I was out of daylight. I turned off my light to make sure. This fits my criteria for counting as a caving trip and so I then went back. Also nobody knew I was there and the idea of being flushed through into Rowten didn't seem unrealistic given the amount of water about.
Outside I followed some of the overground water upstream, went underground again and popped out a few metres away. I went back to the pothole and announced to the others (David, Yan Jin and DKP were now back, but changed) I had just been caving. I lead them to the water and fun tiny through trips were had. At least 4 but I'll only count 1 for my website numbers.
The dark streamway was still on my mind and Kate offered to come with me down towards Rowten Pot. We recce'd down many more metres of lovely streamway (knee deep water) until it got to a low point where we'd have to crawl, except we would be firstly swimming and secondly drowning on a day like this. So we left.
Back at the pot Chris had just finished rigging the hanging re-belay of doom. I had zero intention of going down Rowten. This had lots to do with having a bad time at that re-belay while coming out with a heavy bag in 2017. David, Yan Jin and I watched Perry's and Grace's techniques for passing the re-belay. Not quite armchair caving but almost. David, Yan Jin and DKP then left as they were no longer wearing PVC.
Soon Kate had gone down the first pitch and Diss was attaching herself to the rope. I still had zero intention of going down but had to justify this and so admitted that Rowten, being a huge pothole, gives me The Fear. Diss said she also had The Fear and somehow mutual Fear caused us to switch places instead of giving up on caving.
The re-belay gave me no trouble. I still revert to using handjammer and footloop rather than rope loops. I slid down to the bottom of the rope, the rock bridge, where Perry, Kate and Grace were chilling as Chris continued rigging. It was much nicer down there than up top. As I arrived Kate told me we had disrupted Perry and Chris's little scheme to have a merry time. It transpired they had deliberately left most of the rope in the bus so that they would only have to do two pitches. Cheeky! But a very good idea.
After some time Chris re-appeared on a ledge on the other side of the shaft which was definitely not far enough away to be the bottom. I kept saying, "Isn't there a floorless rift in the ceiling to traverse into?" which there is, but Perry soon realised I was talking about rigging a different route to the one they had the rope for (a 65m), which did not involve the cleft. For reasons that will shortly become apparent this route is not suitable in wet weather.
Chris came back up. He was rather damp. He wasn't sure how much rope he had left and whether it would reach the bottom of the pitch. Perry now had a headache and Chris eventually let on he wasn't that keen to go back down so I swapped with him, offering to see if the rope would reach the bottom and also derig.
The rope just squeaked past the edge of the ledge Chris had been on earlier. It was tasty wet thin rope so I was much more conscious of my braking krab than usual and also of potential rub on the edge of the ledge. As I descended the noise became louder and the amount of spray increased. I kept letting out rope, squinting up to see rope rub, squinting down to see the bottom. There it was - except I got to that point and actually it wasn't the bottom. I looked to my right. An enormous rolling torrent of white and brown water was pouring endlessly into the shaft just below me, filling the space.
I locked off and looked in the bag. There was still rope. I knew with certainty however that I was going no further this day. My glasses were simultaneously steaming and covered in huge water droplets. There was spray everywhere, like being in a cloud. It was impossible for me to see the bottom for all these reasons and it was also crystal clear that going there, wherever it was, would be a Bad Idea.
It was a spiritual minute. Just me, hanging in space on a thin rope alongside the unstoppable power of nature, safe and awed - and very grateful for PVC.
I changed over and prussicked back up. First time I've done a changeover in years. After some time I swung onto the ledge Chris had used so I could pack some of the dangling rope. I still couldn't see properly on account of wet glasses and spray and being otherwise blind so although the rope was light it was still quite a clumsy pack and an even clumsier return to hanging on the rope rather than standing up (just to be clear I was still attached the whole time).
Diss was waiting for the bag the other side of the rock bridge. Derigging the bridge was very scary. Doing the hanging re-belay of doom which so discombobulated me previously was frankly nothing compared to this, in fact it was easy. Handling the bag was also easy compared to the bridge, although I complained about the bag a lot at the top. It's not caving if you don't complain about bags. Diss agreed that tackle bags are the worst.
Back at the van we ate chocolate. I certainly ate more snacks on this trip than I needed to given the actual amount of caving done. Greenclose was bustling and the evening passed in a blur of ranting, merriment and music, as such nights are prone to.
Everyone was hella enthusiastic about caving and it didn't take us an obscene amount of time to decide where to go. Some people went to some royal cave somewhere and the more sane of us opted for a chill trip down Aquamole. There were so many sane people, in fact, that we decided to stagger the trip, having a rigging group and a derigging group. Being the keen keen caver that i am, i opted to be on the derigging squad to ensure maximum morning (and afternoon) tea consumption.
At some hour that was certainly after 12, we set off, Fiona in her car and Perry, Chris, Kate and an adopted Grace (as seen on D1) in the bus. We made no wrong turns and rocked up at the bottom of Kingsdale at a well reasonable time, passing by an obscene number of miniature humans (read: Scouts) in another bus, apparently Valley entrance bound. Usual changing faff ensued, including me peeing behind the door of the bus in order to minimise the chances of traumatising said miniature humans. Up the hill we went, separating at the top into the Rowten (Chris + Perry) and Aquamole squads. We appeared at Aquamole and naturally there was no rope. Hmm. Fiona’s trip report describes this scenario better than i’ll be able to. Some things happen and we end up joining the Rowten crew who had decided not to take all the rope because nobody likes caving anyway.
Cheeky trip in Rowten Cave to keep the numbers up and consumption of barely deserved double gloucester with chives before we actually descend into Rowten Pot (me last because of fear or something). I didn’t have a pantin on the way back up (with a tackle sack, cry) which was weird.
We get back to the hut at a time and the royal four have not died in some passage thing to do with the alphabet.
An evening of alcohol and semi-successful socialisation commences. The best nights always involve three drinks at once. This time it was Nesquik, wine and beer. Mm.
Heron: David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, Jack Halliday, Rhys Tyers, Lucie Studena
I made the bad decision to drink three bottles of cider, so on Sunday I was hungover and did not go caving. Excellent weekend.
As we’re all (mostly) young and spritely, no hangovers occurred this morning but the wisest of us did remember how much we don’t like caving. Non-London humans escaped by way of Dave-mobile and some incorrect individuals dunked themselves into a wet bird. Fiona, Chris and I made the trek (read: drive) to Inglesport for tea and (probably) necessary purchases.
Some driving happened and we ended up at a service station on the way back to London. Tragedy struck when Greggs was shut and we were doomed to very sad meal deals from WHSmith. The situation worsened when we found another Greggs open. Devastating.