Mud-monster Ben slithered & slurped into his festering [Ben says 'It was the freshest of mud - only three days old!] and horrendously heavy caving gear; fresh from a dig in Rose-Cottage Cavern. Sandeep 'Spatial Awareness' Mavadia had picked out a too-small oversuit for Michelle, which I, being a skinny runt, could just about squeeze into; though with the constant fear of being bisected from the groin up if I bent over too quickly...Bimbled through the plush scenary towards the cave entrance; meeting a party of three exiting cavers with sparklingly clean kit. Not that unusual for an ICCC trip to meet exiting cavers as we go in, but it was a mere One O'Clock today.
Ben wrestled the padlocked entrance open as the rest of us admired the babbling brock and small stream which seamed to be diving down throug the cracks in the concrete... T'was going to be a wet one!
Descent quickly tightened into an extremely drippy and fairly tight chimney down a rift, continuously snatching at my helmet as I clambered. Lifting my knees to climb on the way up was going to be interesting! Vertical stuff bottomed out and changed into a fairly wretched flat-out crawl through rift, generally out of the stream. One particular bit however involved creative reverse parking around a right-angle bend with my chest dragged fully through the water. Was most glad for the 5mm wetsuit! Jo being Jo, managed to crawl straight around without even so much as dipping her chin in the water!
Rift meandered down pleasently; briefly opening up fully for Showerbath chamber, involving a dash through a pretty full flowing waterful and then a dive down into rift. Again pretty tight; but with gravity assistence we were making extremely good time... First ladder [supposedly free-climable] pitch was really quite pleasent, nice rigging off a wire grooved calcite column and a gentle slope onto the vertical section. Passageway continued fairly openly until reaching another waterfall; where a brief snooze was enjoyed as the 'boys rigged a dodgy traverse with our Old dynamic rope and a penknife. Rigging was shonky; rope tied securely round trapped boulder on the nearside, but then stuck to progressively backed up pieces of mud on the other... Ideal place for a few P-Bolts?
Traverse was fine for the long-legged, one can cuddle the overhang rock while placing the outreaching leg on the rock shelf beyond. Would be pretty dodge without a handline for the sub-six-footers.
Clambered down into an impressively large chamber; vertical waterfall transitioning smoothly into 45-degree slope, one would go an awful long way if you slipped on the traverse! Popped back up for the tackle sack, then followed the way on along a rock-shelf round to the right, finally diving down a 45 degree tube into a little chamber with loud crashing water. Second ladder pitch, accessed by climbing over the pitch and then rigging from the otherside, had a veritable Torrent of water exiting horziontally across the pitch with much gusto. Considering the weight of the water crashing down directly where the ladder would have to be rigged, a general decision was made to exit slowly, exploring other reaches.
Back in the main chamber, meandering crawly rift way was followed down to its plughole [which Ben dipped himself in] ending, we had followed the general run of the way on - and must have been physically very close to the head of the 2nd ladder pitch. Rift was pushed upstream from a junction to a grim and low-ceiling'd entrance. Managed to smash my knee into a projecting rock flake, managing to get that sweet-spot without knee-paddage where you can try your best to cleave your knee caps off.
Smooth + Steady exit was then executed; slight mis-navigation just before the Showerbath where GI-Jo + I pushed up the streamway to an increasingly tight and wet squeeze [rock was noticeably rougher just beyond where it got 'too tight']. Backed up and followed the climb up into and through the Waterfall.
Squeezy rift was quite exhausting work to pass, last bit of chimney was particularly grim - couldn't look up into the stinging water, couldn't see beyond knees when looking down - left groping in the dark. Padlock proved troublesome but not horrendous, a bit of jiggling and we were soon outside into the bright daylight! Maud + Denis had a little problem navigating just before the wet right-angled bend, continuing up instead of diving left over flow-stone into the low-ceiling'd passage. Ben + Clew appeared soon after; Clewin having found the chimney pretty dire - tacklebag of wet rope + droplet coated / mud smeared glasses effectively his visibility to nothing.
Ben, in his element, dived into the brook to wash the last remains of the mud off his now beautifully clean gear! One wonders whether his choice of cave was somehow motivated by his reluctance to clean his kit...
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES. STOPPED BY 45 MINUTES OF BAILING MUD SUMP, BACK TO THE WOBBLY LADDER AND WANING DAYLIGHT.
Short trip down to Mud Sump. Intended to do the short round, but after bailing for almost an hour, the sump had air space but we had no inclination to carry on. Headed back for food at the Belfry.
After a lot of shaking, pulling and grunting Gerardo was in his wetsuit and we were off, it was only later that I realised it was inside-out, but hey-ho. There was some trouble with oversuits, though I absolve all responsibility of the Tackle Master, how could I have known that an oversuit about my size wouldn.t fit Michelle? Soon we were within Swildons and saying a fond .cya later. to the other group who were embarking upon an exploration of the upper series.
We were off and all was well down the entrance and along the climbs, we arrived at the ladder. I went down first as none of the freshers had experienced the swinging joys of electron ladders before. Next down was Adam, he was fine but I think holding the ladder at the bottom helped a bit, Gerardo missed a few foot holds but got down fine in the end and Oded followed like a pro. Daryl ended getting belayed by the group behind; maybe he didn.t trust being belayed from the bottom by me, I wonder why?
Daryl expertly reminded me about the dwarf traps, twin pots, but I still climbed right into the middle of the first one. They weren.t a scratch on Grenoble but still deep enough; I learnt my lesson for the next one and traversed around the edge of it.
Everybody climbed above the stream way at Trapman.s temple surprisingly well, quite annoyed that I hadn.t seen a fresher bounce and fall back into the stream way I followed behind. From there on we had a few squeezes, and although Gerardo didn.t seem to enjoy these too much, he carried on like a trooper. A bit more squeezing and climbing and we were at the mud sump where we meet the Reading guys who had passed us at Trapmans Temple.
This was where Adam-the-mad-mud-sump-bailer got into his stride, he was bailing away at the top dam and keeping up with the other 7 people feeding him with fetid water. The Reading guys were there for 15 minutes already, and it took a further 45 minutes of combined effort before we saw some airspace. In total I think we must have moved a few cubic meters [tons!] of water. By now the freshers were tiring and a commitment to the short-round trip was judged by Darryl to be foolhardy, so after seeing the Reading push through, we decided to abort.
The way out was a lot faster than going in, partially because of Gerardo.s .I just wanted to get out of that [squeeze]. approach. Thanks to Adams sneakily packed waterproof bag there was plenty of chocolate to go around as well as a drop of refreshing water.
Descending through Trapmans Temple was more difficult than the ascent, as is so often with freeclimbs. I ended up wedging myself under the particularly fresher unfriendly bits, even though I know that I.m a pretty pathetic as a doorstop, and slowly coaxed them down.
At the ladder I belayed Daryl up, this time he had no choice in the matter! He didn.t fall off, so I wasn.t put to the test. The rope was just around a pulley at the top so if he had properly dropped, he.d [not so] slowly fall to the floor and while I.d end up suspended in mid air by my battery belt.
Everybody headed on out with out much problem, except for a few climbs where you had to think first instead of just launching yourself up and where I walked into a dead-end rift and then looked up to see Daryl grinning and waving while saying .what are you doing down there you muppet?.
We were out by 6, clothed & in the van by 7. By all accounts an excellent trip even though we didn.t lose any freshers.
My left boot didn't like me at all and fell off three times. Tim called me a natural... just before catching me as I fell from an 8 foot climb. Much fun and water ensued.
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