Weekend Trip 30th January to 1st February 2004
Report by Jarvist Frost G+
, photographs here.
Caving trip got off to an unusually brisk and non-faffy start with ICCC caving club. We had
the minibus packed & were zooming along the M1 by half seven - a hideously
fast rate of progress that should have alerted me to the fact that something
was a miss. Picking up the stragglers from Derby, and cruising around a
hyper-Sainsburys [I swear Northerners get price-discriminated in a
beneficial way... but I guess it makes up for having to live up there :) ],
we were provisioned and installed in the Orpheus cave hut before
midnight. Ohh; and Clewyn [ picture here,
at the center of attention ] bought 5 pairs of lycra 'comfort' socks, as you
can never have enough pairs.
Space in the Visitors bunk room was very limited as an enormous collection
of Irish tinkers, on a week long mission of vagrancy, were occupying it.
Most IC-ers ended up in the 'fridge' extension; a disturbingly communial
arrangment of a 4-man wide double-decker bunk bed built into half the room.
Sat up talking crap and drinking tea with Rik & Dan; the fridge was rather
aptly damed, I swear I had to shake ice-crystals out of my sleeping bag hood
before sliding inside. Everything was peachy once things had warmed up, but
until then it was bloody FREEZING.
Lard-based breakfast was as delicious as it is every caving trip - the fried
bread was a sponge full of delectable liquid calories. Again, the mornings
preparations were disturbing faff-less, but things soon improved as
Maions[sic] were found chained together; needing to be carefully screwed &
unscrewed before kitted.
We were planning a swap over in the Owlowe-Cavern/Knotlow-Mine system, wind
was an absolute gale when the minibus trundled up, with random splashes of
rain that convinced most to don oversuits within the minibus. The
surrounding fields had vast drifts of snow-ice in the lee of the rock walls
- looked rather pretty in a picture postcard, but not slogging through it,
Our failure to faff manifested itself in two forms
1) We were a helmet short - obviously not enough faff at stores; Rik
volunteered to not Cave, being Treasurer, possibly the person that forgot
the helmet in the first lace, and all round nice guy.
2) Some people had forgotten mars-bars; that most essential piece of kit. I
stole the group hazelnuts for myself. [in fact, half of them are mixed with
grit & in the inside pocket of my oversuit current in caving-stores... whoops]
Both cave systems were entered via a grassy & sheep-covered knoll; which was
unbelievably windswept. The Orlowe cave entracne [Jarv, Darryl, Clewyn,
Steve, Lyndon] was to the left of the hill, in line with a clear break in the smooth
contours. Knotlow-Mine's entrance was right on the top of the hill [Tim,
Neil, Darryl, Dan, Nazi-Andy].
Entrance to Orlowe was a B-lay from an iron bar placed across the concrete
square of a vertical entrance. Darryl rigged, assuming one would be _IN_ the
hole before wanting to clip to the rope, which caused a rather entertaining
mess of cows-tail clipping back and forward as one lowered into the mouth.
The natural indentation around the entrance had filled with _DEEP_ snow-ice,
Darryl had slogged through it thigh deep. Clewyn filled his carbide by
dropping a bit of ice directly onto the rocks, made a lovely fizzing sound &
produced rather more oxy-acetaline at once than felt particular safe; but
warmed up the generator enough for more regular operation.
I can't remember that much about the pitches going down, fairly easy going -
only real danger or worry was of falling boulders. There's a handline that
runs for about 40m [possibly wildy off] with about a 1:3 inclination along a
smooth limestine channel _FULL_ of rubble. I nudged a rock about the size of
a doll's head down the pitch, towards Lyndon + Darryl. For a while it
skitted about slowly and nearly got wedged - briefly considered trying to kick it to a stop, but
decided I would probably upset more. It hurtled down the pitch, leaping
further with every bound - I called in a clear, firm and precise manner
"Rock! There's a Rock coming down the pitch! Watch out!" but which came out
more as "GrNKock! Ders Ner GrNKock Homein dane da Snick! Snotch Out!",
before the cave echo was added.
Anyhows, luckily, I didn't kill Lyndon or Darryl; it must have gone right
past D's head as he rigged at the head of the next pitch.
Once we reached the meet-up chamber, we sat eating mars-bars, taking photos
of the condensation & generally getting cold. We could see the other guys
headlamps all the way up the pitch from that enormous chamber - it looked as
if they just had 40m of rubble to run down, rather than 150m of vertical
pitches. Ended up waiting 40-50 minutes at the bottom; I went up right
behind Steve as I was bloody freezing & already regretting the
tackle-sack'ed Camera & Tripod. First two pitches were fine; prosocing
warmed me up nicely. The further we ascended, the wetter the pitches got;
all the deviations seemed to draw you up perfectly through the main path of
the waterfall, then make you fiddle for a while at the _EXACT_ point of
By the time I was on the third/fourth pitch, my body was
shutting down. I got rather stuck on a B-Lay; just couldn't get my chest
jammer off - I was suspended as high as possible with a view to transfering
onto the nearly-horizontal next pitch, but found that there was no where to
put my hand jammer so that I could stand up & take off the tension. I
eventually managed it by some complicated arrangement of cows-tails, the
handjammer & pushing off the rockface with my feet. Of course, I should have
just tied a knot in my foot-strop, but I feel that my brain was already
rather addled at this point.
I had been up there so long that Darryl at been joined at the base by Lyndon
& Clewyn, derigging. I found that my legs were too tired to stand up in the
Foot-strop properly, so I started using my handjammer to pull-up; which was
fine until my arms completely gave out.
By this point, I was on the last 40m rope - blissfully out of the water, but
in the rather cold draft to the surface. Darryl caught up with me and we had
approximately the following conversation as I ascended pitch after pitch at
20cm a minute.
D: Hello, bloody wet isn't it!
J: Grrr... fuckers... all of them.
D: You're looking really tired.
J: I ate hazelnuts... hrrrrr... a man who eats hazelnuts is never tired Stuck now.
D: Hmm, why don't you try shortening your footloop by tying a knot in it.
J: Ffffmpph. Can't do that; 's caving club property you fool. Ffff. I'll just sit here hanging for a bit... fffttt
D: No really, tie your footloop shorter, then you'll be able to get past the B-lay & generally prosoc faster
*Jarvist ties his footloop shorter, finds B-lay a lot easier, drops glove on darryl.
J: fffmfff Just 'cause you're right this time, don't mean no thing
D: Would you like me to take your tackle-sack? It looks pretty heavy.
J: Ya after ma camera, is that ya game? In leage with the tinkers eh? Well
you can't have, its mine! I'll take it to the surface or stay down here with
it, ya fucker. Ah ha, fucking caving...
After finally getting out of the cave, I suddenly found myself stumbling
around on a _riduculously_ windy hill, with horizontal rain that stung like
anything. Nearly fell back down the cave stumbling around; but sprt of guessed
which way the minibus was - there was a flashing white light, but it might
have been a burgler alarm. There was a slight hollow down-wind of the exit,
which I lay in foetus like, for the few seconds that it took Darryl to zip
up the last pitch.
Darryl zoomed down the hill, I half ran half slid on my arse in his wake. We
had indeed come down the right side of the hill; and after completing the
most dangerous part of our caving expediton - walking on the road back to
the minibus in the driving rain with mud-camoflauged. were welcomed with a
flashing Tikka and Martin's syrupy tea.
I refused to leave the minibus & Martin's sweet sweet tea ungarded, so got
changed where I stood - putting a beautiful oversuit arseprint on the
The Hut's main heating; an obscenely hot coal / wood burner + radiator,
worked wonderfully at drying out my clothes as I wore them.
Andy's Nazi-Curry was tasty yet satisfying, we cooked far too much rice as
ever; but which is better than too little.
I didn't realise how many muscles I had till I woke up in the morning and
they all ached.
Got mocked as ever for my vegetarian nature, but its ok - I got my own back
and pissed in the kettle.
After yesterday's trips only 2 people wanted to go caving (Rik and Martin) so
whilst they were off getting wet in a dark hole somewhere, the rest of us
enjoyed a much nicer day of tea and cakes. Mmmmm.
Back to London at a reasonable time, and all in all a good weekend.