Arun Paul, Christopher Bradley, David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Lucie Studena, Ruth Goh, Matti Mitropoulos, Alan Deacon, Leo Antwis, Oxmi Kelruc, Mia Jones, Sean Li
FOUL Pot: Arun Paul, Rebecca Diss, Mia Jones, Sean Li
After an enjoyable but unfinished trip to FOUL on the last NPC members weekend, I was keen to drag some unwilling humans back to finish the job. While I was the driving force behind the trip, Arun became the driving force behind the trip, in that he was needed for vehicular reasons (as well as for underground purposes). Mia seemed to actively want to join us and Sean was indifferent and thus doomed to FOUL. A crack team had formed.
At a time not as shockingly late as is usual for us, we set off for Fountains Fell, partially kitted up in preparation for the notorious wind. I reminisced over the last trip Mia, Arun and I were on during which Arun’s car had to be towed out of the mud by a friendly human with cute dogs. Luckily this scenario was not repeated. Shame about the dogs though. We did however have some very hype tunes which I'm sure got us all in the mood for caving.
When we emerged from the vehicle we were immediately battered by the wind and changed as quickly as possible. Naturally some kit items were missing. Sean lacked a chest harness and my braking krab was AWOL. I gave Sean my chest harness on the condition that he promise not to adjust it (the fit has been perfected over many years) and I fashioned myself one out of a sling. As for the braking krab, i utilised a vaguely fucked looking club screwgate.
The past two times I’ve been to FOUL, we’ve easily made our way to the correct field and then spent like 20 minutes trying to find a cave which is mere meters from the wall. This time I was determined to get there without this faff. The mistake we made in the past was to think the cave was further from the wall than it is, and just head into the valley too far down. The best method is to walk fully along the wall until you get to the start of the valley, then walk down it and the cave is fairly soon on your left (in a dip, surrounded by fence). I felt very skilled when we found it immediately and began to rig off the questionable fence and wobbly scaff bar as is expected.
After the initial short climb (which really is free climbable) there is a short tight entrance crawl/wriggle which opens out into what I like to think of as mouse chamber thanks to the presence of a dead mouse on my past two visits. This is immediately followed by a wet flat out crawl, downstream of said mouse. Yum. Before the next pitch there are a few climbs/constrictions and in one of these Arun became slightly more well acquainted with a chunk of the ceiling than he had hoped for.
The next pitch features a wooden ladder of unknown vintage which we are told to distrust. Nevertheless I keep using it and it is yet to fail me. At the bottom of this pitch (which is very short) is an attractive orange formation reminiscent of an octopus. After crawling under the relevant boulder, I was unsure if the way on was straight ahead or in the passage to the right (previously I was just blindly following others) but the description pointed to the straight passage. Some amount of caving later, we appeared at the top of the first proper pitch, which is really quite nice as well as easy to rig and do.
What lay before us was the notorious squeeze. I did not have The Fear thanks to my previous visit and threw myself in without much thought. After removing all the easily removable SRT kit from my harness of course. There was then the classic faff of shuttling all the bags and kit detritus to the other side, which was tiring but not too challenging. I think I also came fully out of the squeeze and returned to show the others my method. Mia followed without any problems (ah to be small) and Sean also made it, albeit looking a little less happy than before. After the main tight section there is a second squeeze (which I did not visit on my last trip to FOUL) which was supposedly easier than the previous one. At first glance, I was sceptical of the accuracy of this statement, but after some careful consideration I threw myself onto the ground and made it through with less effort than anticipated.
Sean was next to attempt the squeeze and was stuck for quite some time, I think mainly because he is not well acquainted with the wriggling technique required for movement through narrow spaces. He tried to move by bending his legs underneath him and got one of them quite stuck for a while. After lots of attempts at reversal, Arun was recruited to pull his leg out. Surprisingly this was successful and both humans remained intact. He reversed and I followed to show him how I got through. The main thing was to stay completely on the ground at the start, with your arms out in front of you and your legs straight behind (stops you getting limbs stuck) and then just wriggle until you get to the wider part and then it just becomes a slightly awkward crawl. This time Sean succeeded, as did the others.
There is then a short horizontal section of cave involving some relatively annoying crawling (cue wet legs and hands) but also some attractive stream passage. The floor is also quite soft, consisting of pebbles and I assume some sandy mud, which my knees were thankful for. The top of the next pitch (the big one) starts with a short wedgy climb which I found fine because wedging is my main talent but Arun was unhappy about it (this has never happened before). Arun went ahead to rig the pitch which has a short traverse and then the biggest Y-hang I think I’ve ever seen in Yorkshire. There was a considerable amount of faff as Arun and Sean descended (which I could not know the details of) and Mia and I spent some time chilling in optimal seats. I definitely took this opportunity to see how many songs I remember the words to. The walls here are nice and close to you which yields excellent acoustics.
Eventually Mia descends and I follow. The topo suggests there is a single rebelay on this pitch and so I was confused when I heard a second rope free from Sean. I soon discovered that there was in fact a second rebelay (which was very necessary) and the rope we had was not long enough for this. The aforementioned faff was down to this. There was in situ rope of unknown vintage which looked pretty intact so Sean and Arun had gone down to the bottom on this. Apparently when they reached the bottom they found a label saying the rope was from 2006 and they regretted their life choices. Arun came back up to relay all this information and we decided that in the interest of survival and time, Mia and I would not descend the next rope.
Moving all the bags through the squeezes was exhausting, and when I eventually went up the following pitch I immediately star fished on the floor and almost fell asleep. There was some yelping about rocks being knocked down which woke me from my near slumber. Apparently some rocks fell from the pitch head but I was nowhere near it and not moving so there was obviously some phantom rock thrower trying to kill those below me. One did hit Sean but he seemed to be fine, if a little shaken.
The going was moderately slow on our way out but we eventually arrived at the flat out crawl near the entrance. I dived in head first with a tackle sack and Mia followed to help move it if it got stuck behind me. Once we were through I went back in and grabbed the second bag from a slightly stuck Sean (I don’t think the others were keen on the head-first verticality of the entrance to this crawl). Reversing with the bag was an interesting experience, but excellent wriggle practice.
The walk back to the car was windy but not as bad as I had expected. Mia and I spent a possibly excessive amount of time talking about cavers disrobing which was maybe due to cave induced hysteria.
We were very close to our callout, which was really just down to lots of little things taking longer than expected, but we managed to get a message to DKP at ~9.30 to let him know of our alive status.
The thought of food being ready when we got back was what kept us going and Sean joked that the others might also be late. We laughed and as if on cue Arun got a call from one of the other group to cancel their callout (they would not be back at the hut before us). Welp, dinner at midnight it is then.
At some point on this trip I decided that there are three W’s which are the key to caving:
I don’t think any other skills are required.
Cow Pot: David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, James Wilson, Lucie Studena, Oxmi Kelruc
Lancaster Hole: Christopher Bradley, Ruth Goh, Matti Mitropoulos, Alan Deacon, Leo Antwis
A slow morning as usual, but Easegill had been suggested during the week before so was on the cards already. A super-group was determined, splitting into Lancaster and Cow on the way in, reconvening at Fall Pot to do Wilf Taylor’s Passage together.
Unfortunately Lancaster hole had already been booked for that day – twice. I reluctantly agreed to be on the team to pirate it, warily thinking back to a recent trip where we had planned to pirate Notts 1 and had to rapidly change plans. Luckily we met no one on the walk up, so I rigged around the two ropes already there. Unfortunately, just as I got to the bottom of the first pitch, a large group of elders gathered at the bottom. I descended (like an angel, I was told) and had a brief exchange with them at the bottom (Craven folk) and confirmed there was a medium sized group coming down with some new people, so may be slow.
Unfortunately things were apparently occurring unacceptably slowly, so after asking me several more times if people were actually coming down eventually one man said he’d climb up to the ledge where the two ropes meet (rigged on a different bolt), I presumed to keep warm. I was a bit surprised when he then called rope free, and the group began to all climb up on various ropes. I was too polite to ask them to wait for our group to get down first, as there was no way for more than one person to get through the entrance climb at a time. Ruth eventually got down, and informed us that Chris and Leo had been pushed back to the surface by them. Once everyone finally got down we had a confused moan about what just happened and left, opting to skip the Colonnades to instead get to Fall pot asap, worried that the other group may have already left.
The Caving Gods must have sensed my tense mood so granted me a wish, joining our groups at the rendezvous point with perfect timing. Such a large group moved quite slowly but it worked out fine, there were only a few sketchy in-situ ropes we had to descend. I did laugh when Yan Jin hopped into an innocent-looking puddle and was submerged to the chest but we made it to the streamway without any major issues.
At the downstream sump just around the corner I walked past Davey without thinking, not expecting the bank to drop off so steeply, and almost fell into the sump. As I scrambled back up Davey grabbed me and Yan Jin grabbed Davey, and we had a laugh at the top, but looking back I should’ve really been more careful. Sorry Davey, hope I didn’t scare you too much.
The upstream walk was quite pleasant - until it wasn’t. Turns out I had missed the exit, and we were starting to go through some quite nasty rapids. I was talking to Alan who mentioned that just a few weeks ago the water had been so high he had to jump on Jack’s back to not be fully submerged. The general consensus of the group seemed to be rather unhappy with the waist high water, so after much back and forth in an extremely noisy passage we all turned around. I loved the typical polite way that people explained their preferences – no one dared explicitly say they wanted to carry on or turn around, hoping instead their vague hints would be picked up on. Classic British manners.
I was surprised at how nasty some of the crawls were in cow – Leo had been there on his first SRT trip so I wasn’t expecting much, but it was entertainingly challenging. Not really a first trip in my humble opinion but he said it was fun so guess it worked out fine.
Alum Pot: David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, James Wilson, Lucie Studena, Oxmi Kelruc
Notts 2: Rebecca Diss, Matti Mitropoulos, Leo Antwis, Mia Jones
I was neither enthusiastic nor against caving this morning. Notts II was mentioned and I was easily persuaded to join the trip. We were a group of 4: Matti, Leo, Mia and I but were blessed with the minibus because it was the only vehicle in the near vicinity that I had the legal power of utilizing. This meant our change was gloriously un-grim as we could remain in the shelter of the bus. We did however have to park near Lost Johns due to an excessive number of doggers lining the road. Shockingly none of them were in the cave.
Everything about this trip was chill and efficient. We swiftly descended the dilapidated mess that is the entrance and splashed our way upstream. Mia was the only one of us not to have visited the cave previously but it is always a delight no matter how many times you go. Such formation, such water, what more could you want.
When we reached the junction that splits into either the dry stoopy decorated passage or the wet place eventually becoming a canal, we pondered our next move. It was decided we would do the dry first and then the wet, in the interest of escaping soon after submersion.
I had for some reason thought the dry route involved a crawl but it was in fact all stooping (at least until you get to the muddy crawl beyond the formations, I assume there is more to see but this is effort). Matti and Leo considered the merits of entering the crawl but Mia and I were wisely certain of its lack of redeeming features. The others quickly moved to our way of thinking and we turned around, excited for the liquid adventure that awaited us.
There’s a fair bit of just moderately wet passage before it actually becomes swimmable, and Matti opted to wait for us in the dry. I think this was so he could eat a chocolate bar in peace.
I was at the front making yelping sounds as the water got deeper. Eventually I grew impatient of the slow submersion and threw myself into the water, head and all. Refreshing. Mia quickly followed suit, shockingly seeming to enjoy herself. Leo took a bit more persuading and when he did take the plunge hit his head on the rock next to him. Ouch.
We were all satisfied that every part of us was sufficiently soaked so we made our way back to dry Matti and headed out fairly swiftly (that water is cold!).
Our trip was so efficient we even had time to go to Inglesport before hut tidying required us to return. I expertly parked the bus mostly within the lines of a parking space and we stared longingly at Rabagucci for some time before heading to the cafe for warm liquids.