We decided to head to Meregill Hole, a cave I'd been wanting to do for ages; it's very flood prone, so the great weather seemed like a good opportunity to finally get to the bottom. Having packed the ropes back in London (to discourage people from arguing with my choice of cave) we got to the cave with a minimum of faff, fuelled up with a fine breakfast of fruity porridge cooked by Tom.
Meregill has several entrances: the Mere Entrance, which sumps at the slightest provocation, the smaller and drier Aven Entrance, and the truly squalid Little Meregill. I had a look at the Aven Entrance but soon saw that it was far smaller and tighter than I expected, and I couldn't be bothered to rig the pitch while still stuck in the squeeze from the waist down, so we went for the Mere. The rest of the descent was rather nice, but the p-hangers were all miles up in the roof to avoid the water when it's in flood, so we spent lots of time traversing far above the streamway despite it having about the flow of a flushing toilet. Jarv and James turned around at the sixth pitch (after I had solemnly assured them that the fifth pitch was the last one) leaving only Tom, Thara and I to saunter through the streamway at the bottom, finding a beautifully sculpted whirlpool in the wall on the way, and derig out. It was still light when we got out, after seven hours underground -- isn't summer wonderful?
Easegill: The Magic Roundabout
I'd been chatting with Ray Duffy (the Easegill god) the previous evening, and he'd told me about a fine passage called the Magic Roundabout, which goes off the high-level route near Stake Pot and spirals down to connect with the main streamway directly beneath. I woke up on Sunday to find that Ray had already left, so I guessed some rope lengths based on the survey, photographed the survey so I could look it up on my camera screen if we got lost, and set off. We quickly marched down Lancaster Hole and through the high-level route to Arson Shaft, which I re-rigged with some old CUCC rope "And some brand spanking new shiny ICCC maillons? - Jarv" (the existing rig was very, very rusty, with a half-centimetre long stalactite growing on one of the hangers). At the top of this, the passage forked, and since the survey suggested that both branches joined up further on, I took the right-hand branch on the dubious grounds that it looked sporting; it started with a squeeze round a corner in a vertical rift with no floor, and subsequently got tighter, so we abandoned that idea and went round the other way.
The passage turns out to be mainly a narrow stream canyon with occasional crawls and short pitches (all permanently rigged, some with excitingly corroded gear), and one longish pitch, Aquarius Pot (which wasn't rigged, so we did a pull-through with our own rope -- you need at least a 50m rope for this I'd say). Soon an ominous booming and foam deposits on the walls heralded the main streamway, which we popped out into just upstream of Stake Pot, next to a charming bit of eroded flowstone shaped like a cobweb. From here we sprinted out via the low-level route, following the stream to Fall Pot and back up Lancs, getting out after 6 1/2 hours underground.
Alum Pot (Dave + Thara)
I suggested Alum Pot, which is a fine quick trip and good SRT practice, but there was a terminal lack of enthusiasm from three of the party, so just Thara and I went down. The main Y-hang for the entrance shaft is stunning, dangling off an overhanging lip above a 60m chasm; unfortunately there's not much too the cave other than the entrance pitch, so we were soon out again -- it only takes about two hours, most of that being rigging and derigging. We both free-climbed back up the second pitch (self-belaying with jammers); it's definitely a good sporting climb, perhaps about 5a or 5b grade for the climbers among you, enlivened by the fact that most of the good holds are under the waterfall! :-)
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