Giants: Jarvist & Adam
Dropped off the JH crew, and paid various Trespass fees (oh lovely Derbyshire!), then zipped back in the nearly empty bus to giants. Met two cars on the farm track; forced us to reverse for a good few hundred metres up hill. Not impressed; but then again we wouldn't have all fitted past in the car park. Paid our outrageous two quid each, got changed in a brief hailstorm, retrofitted some FX3-Led bulbs from a headset with bad battery connector to an FX2 headset with the wrong bulbs and keen-fresher Adam had a vaguely reliable light!
Shot off down Giants, saw some people playing in the inlet just beyond the blasted passage (had a ladder up), and hopped to Garlands pot. Very wet - but Adam felt confident, and he was a Diver anyway! Threw down the ladder; Italian hitch belay. With the thin & stiff semi-static rope (forgot our dynamic ladder ropes), and a rather small krab there was a fair bit of friction. Adam got down & out the water fine, then belayed me from below - though I ended up abseiling due to the stickyness of the belay.
Crabwalk was a lovely bit of streamway; it just goes on and on! Little 2m climb was fairly tough; could see you needing to chuck freshers up it in desperation, though we were forced to traverse via a dry route due to the water levels. The squeeze 'The Vice' was barely a squeeze for us - though its all in the hip-depth & having long enough legs to lift yourself high, so I would imagine girls might find more of a problem...
Ohh - I wonder if I had lost the minibus keys yet? Ho ho. But still - better check... Take my gloves out my pocket. Tinkle. Oh sh** - I didn't just do that?! Looking down, the water is racing past my feet; most of the way up my wellies. I check my pocket - they're not there. Cross my fingers and look down - the red tag of the keyfob is visible wedged between two stones a metre down stream! Hurrah! Just a little bit of extra water in that cave, or fewer boulders and they would have shot off down to the sump!
Found a fixed ladder (that wasn't actually fixed) on a ~3m cascade. Volume of water was immense, and poured out horizontally through the rungs of the ladder. Pretty impressive - but not a good place to hand around. Shot off to the end of the crabwalk, and found the larger rift / stream beyond. Found our way into what I assume was the 'Eating House' and the start of the round trip, but its a labyrinthe! Found a few interesting digs, some dodgy freeclimbs & ended out crawling out of a low passageway through a waterfall, before finally conceding defeat & turning around at our failsafe of 3pm.
Adam led the way out - and wow did he burn rubber! Had trouble keeping up with the boy...
Zoomed up Garlands with no problem, followed him up & coiled the ladder while he dealt with the rope. Fully derigged and back to the start of Blasted Passage 40minutes after we turned around at the far end.
Decided to explore the little streamway (West Way Inlet?) that comes into the little chamber; glad that I did! Stal, Bacon, lovely fossils, weird Red & Blue stainings on the wall - all the good stuff! Very narrow streamway, but fun & exciting to climb, leading to a sump bubbling up water from who-knows where...
Out and back to the van by dusk, changed and off to JH to wait for the dudes to return from their battle with the Leviathan.
JH: Dan the pure of heart and mind, Clewin, Mark, Thara and Tim
Maskhill then Oxlowe: Dave W, Jana, James, Jutta, Tom & Ben
P8: Jarv, Clewin, James, Tom, Ben & Adam.
A return to P8 for Clewin - last here ten years ago on his very first caving trip!
Wet gear enormously reduced the speed of the change; few had bothered to hang their gear up - most had been left festering in the back of the van, as a result of which it was only just above freezing when we pulled it on. Bravery in caving isn't the heights, or the ropes, or the climbs - but putting on wet wetsocks standing next to a minibus on a cold December's morning. James could only find a pair of Size 10 wellies (I was wearing the only known pair of size 12s in stores), and so required help to push them on.
Water was, unsurprisingly, very high. Excellent stomping fun down the stream way; daunting for both the experienced & the novice! The 3m cascade was horrific; but a rather slippery traverse over the top managed to keep us clear of the water. Sinuous stream way was meandered down; reaching the pitch. Clewin rigged, following the P-bolts around & out of the water to a nice traverse along a ledge. The rigging however, was rather tough - diagonal abseiling & free-hanging rebelays! Pretty pleasant environment though; as I could dangle down from the pitch-head and shout words of encouragement / abuse at the fresher's; rather than have them sweat it out 20m above the ground under the waterfall - nothing quite so lonely as to look down and see the concerned headbeams looking up while being completely unable to shout above the roar...
All things considered; everyone coped with the SRT well - but James had got doused on the cascades and then been at the back of the group while everyone fiddled with the string, and was not at 100% by the time it was his turn - he also had a comedy collection of difficult to use (but still safe) kit on his belt - our last serviceable collection of gear. Taking him out; he did still manage a bit of SRT - I untied the knots in the hand line so he could Prussic up the slippery slope. Dispatching him through the entrance waterfall with the van key; I saw his shadow disappear into the dusk before heading back down solo to find out what the other's were up to. Of course, what I was mainly after was his descender (marked 'IC2' and no-longer blue - the second Petzl Stop we ever bought!), as I was otherwise on the old Italian Hitch.
After the pitch & ledge traverse (leaving a carabiner attached to the first knot so Clewin wouldn't derig my exit rope if we failed to meet up); you crawl along a bit of passageway then break out into a flowstone & rift traverse, to the next free-hanging Y-hang through a pretty window in the calcite, taking off from a large rounded flowstone boulder. Voices!
Met the others at the bottom of the nice freehang; ate a Mars Bar and discussed what they'd found - got all the way through mudhall & on to a sump, with pretty formations around! Pity there wasn't more time to explore; a 'Stalagmite Passage' is marked on the survey, but it was a Sunday & the van was heading back to London.
Clewin led the way out; freshers bimbled along behind & I derigged. I love derigging; rigging is a combination of Logic Puzzle and acrobatics, whereas when derigging you don't think, just follow the string - while still enjoying the same fun climbing and gymnastics! It also keeps you at a lovely temperature; you don't get stuck behind anyone (as you're going slower) - so don't get cold nor over-heat on the pitches as you're stopping to fiddle with ropes & undo maillons.
Still - once off the pitch-head I shot off like an arrow (eager not to walk back to the van in the dark on my own), and managed to catch up Ben on the cascades. Laughed at him wallowing in the water, before slumping over myself and getting a faceful. Luckily he was already off further up the rift - so I saved leadership-credentials 'face'!
Once out, Ben & I picked up the headlamps of the three in front, as they kept on turning around to lead the way on. Started to rain.
Back at the bus; we were fearful for James - the door was wide open, kit scattered around & he was not there! Had he been mugged? Murdered? Got lost? Eaten by a maraudering sheep?
We call out - a moan comes from behind the bus. And there he is; trying to attach his Wellington boot to the tow bar. We should have realised when it took two of us to get his wellies on that they might be slightly difficult to remove when his wetsocks had swollen! For ninety minutes he had battled, managing to remove one. His oversuit & furry was still therefore on; but he had at least managed to change the top part for some dry clothes. Poor fresher!
Eventually; it took three of us. He sat on the sliding door, braced against a seat & pushing against the crash bar. Tom then sat on him & further held him in. I grabbed his heel, Adam grabbed me. Eventually it suddenly came with an enormous 'SLURP' and Adam back flipped into a small tree, I collapsed on a pile of Manure & Tom / James slumped in a Lovers embrace into the van. Freedom!
Lovely cave; incredibly wet due to all the rain, but very well coped with by all!
Nettle: Dave W, Jana, Tim, Jutta and Thara
Tea Shop Cave: Dan & Marc