Weekend Trip 20th-22nd Feb 2009
Jarv, James KP, Sandeep, Rik, Ludo, Christoph, Emily, Gerardo, Tim, Nick, William, Paul
Saturday - Allotment Spectacular
Wainwright: 'It is a fine walk to the allotment, and it is a fine walk from the allotment, but the allotment itself is a wilderness.'
Lost on the Moors: Jarv and Ludo
Well, we weren't actually lost - probably the only people who knew where they were in fact, thanks to the GPS :)
Drove up to Crummack farm, found somewhere suitable to abandon the bus and started getting changed... except we discovered that two of our newere members had forgotton (well, hadn't realised they must...) packed a harness, having diligently remembered everything they needed for the Mendip trip.
Being the all round nice guy that I am, and wondering how on Earth we were going to find all these entrances in the desolate wilderness, I volunteered my harness for donation, and prepared for a spot of hillwalking with Ludo.
Walking up with the cavers, the wild spaces of the allotment was stunning. Ingleborough was obscured by cloud alas, but the light was fairly good and the limestone pavement stunning. The path through the limestone was very strange, don't know why it was there - seems to have been built for carts to pass, perhaps mining?
The JG team were sent off with some vague directions to find the obvious trickle of a stream. The rest of us headed towards Gaping, directly into a rather stern wind. Christmas pot and Grange Rigg teams were deposited, Ludo and I stumbled underground to inspect the first pitch in Grange.
We were making use of the excellent GPS coordinates from http://cavemaps.org/data.htm, printed out and laboriously entered. We also waypointed the 'gate with yellow bucket' (bucket is present on left post, but faded and cracked due to UV, small sheep fold on the left as you pass it) as we went past, which turned out to be absolutely life saving. Allotment Gate: N54.15091 W002.36214 (WGS84, Natch)
So what now? It was pretty late already - 4am arrival at the NPC had required a 11am wakeup, and after faffing, fettling and walking it was pushing 4pm for the underground teams. So I took Ludo to see the main gaping drop. Viz was already dropping, and we had to resort to yet another GPS lock to stop us stumbling in the wrong direction. Rather amusingly, at the top, after pointing out the dihedral and rat hole entrances we were faced with a rather surprisingly site - some young gentleman sitting on the ledge directly above the waterfall (requiring a slippery traverse along the actual lip, shudder), with their legs dangling down and merrily drinking some canned beverage. Where I grew up, in Kent, the equivalent would have been to drink at the railway station and then dare each other to run across the electrified tracks, so I guess at least they were getting the exercise of coming up to Clapham.
Disappointment Pot: Jarv and Ludo
"The lady who's now my wife there... I stripped naked... went in backwards...you always stripped naked you see...I would think I was naked for quite an hour or so... it was the first time she'd ever been in a pothole, accepted it as normal you see..." - Bob Leakey, Passing the sump in Disappointment Pot
We had been listening to Leakey's recently released MP3 interview on the ride up to Yorks (along with entertaining near-death and actual death cave diving experiences...). This interview was pure comedy, as he took a young lady he was courting with on a bike ride to Clapham, before bringing her up to Gaping with a couple of bike lights conveniently to hand in his rucksack, then took her down disappointment, stripped naked and turned the sump into a duck ('keeping warm' in between submegences), before caving out on the one surviving light.
So we did our best to relive this joy, diving undergound ill-equiped and ill-prepared. True to form, I had a quid-fifty single LED light, and Ludo had something similar from his bike. The climb was a little loose at the top, but easy enough. The rift down was absolutely lovely, worn limestone, tight enough to make you think down to get around the corner, but never squeezing. Great little trickle of water and deep puddles to find our way over (walking shoes, naturally!). We released we were approaching the duck when there was a sudden profusion of carbide graffiti, some looking genuinely old, some dates rather suspiciously too-far back in the past.
Relived some of the past glory, and then decided to go out. Hilarity ensued. First I dropped my light actually n the duck, it disappeared down underwater between a stack of peaty boulders, a bit of lego-brick disassembly and we had it back... Then on the way out, Ludo's bike light dropped from his mouth and plunged into an impressively deep pool - the dull brown light illustrating its position.
Upon reaching the surface we were greeted with a stunning visage - dense purple light filtering down through the clag. It was like an alien planet - stumbling across this oddly lit desolate moor with none of the usual landmarks to guide you, trusting the pixels on the club's little eTrex...
In view of the clearly comedy navigation situation, we placed the little dunked torch on the Allotment Gate as we passed - hoping that it would serve a miniature beacon for the Christmas / Grange Rigg group.
On the way down we abused an Eldon group - counting 4 clearly caving lights in the darkness, we assumed it was the Christmas Pot lot returning after failing to find the way on after the first pitch, and so waited up and then shouted at them to join us so that they could benefit from our superior navigation. But whoopsie, they were not poor starving students but had an impressive GPS along with the priciest lights.
JG: Rik, Gerardo, Tim, Nick
Jarv Notes: They went down to the bottom, and then came out again. Declared it as not particularly difficult, but all were rather shattered the next day. For added amusement, Tim climbed the bottom pitch on Prussic cord and then still went caving on Sunday, 'cause he's well hard like.
Christmas Pot: Paul, Emily, Sandeep, Christoph
Good first pitch for training freshers, 4 rebelays and a deviation. Wouldn't go down the climb before the second pitch with them though.
Jarv Notes (in case noone else writes up anything...): P-bolts on pitch (ledges everywhere), stake backup. They turned back after not deeming the ~4m+ climb suitable. Think they found the correct way on.
The Crimbo pot crew rocked up at the Minibus at a rather respectable 9pm or so. Once they'd faffed a suitable amount and got changed, I buzzed them back to the hut (leaving a tackle sac to promise that I'd be back) to get started on din dins. As we arrived at the NPC, the drizzle started. As I returned to Crummack farm, it turned into proper rain with truly awful viz. I parked up and endulged my Radio 4 addiction. We had arranged for everyone to aim to be back by 10pm, with a midnight callout. The 500th-edition moral maze was pissing me off, and as an atheist with no magic man in the sky to tell me what to do, I pulled on a borrowed waterproof, booted up my proper caving lamp, checked pockets for spare batteries, chocolates and backup backup backup light sources, and set up the hill, dropping a text to Paul so that he could coordinate from the NPC.
It was pretty surreal walking, unbelievably similar to solo sailing. I think it was the combination of following that Garmin GPS screen and having odd objects jump out of you from the fog. I couldn't find the path up the initial valley, bouncing from valley wall to valley wall until it was steep enough that the path made a definite groove in the landscape. Up on top, I kept on falling off the path, and regaining. Eventually I just followed the crows-route to the Allottment Gate, occasionally crossing paths to follow them briefly and find them taking me in entirely spurious directions. Missed the exciting rift through the limestone, so cross-countried it on the slippery pavement filled with perfect-for-leg-breaking sized holes. No sign of anything at the gate, so checked into base and mentioned I was heading first to JG to look for ropes.
At JG, after nearly falling down the rift, I bumped into Tim. Shortly after elevan, after first out the cave, he had decided to see whether he could pick up the limestone wall. Was nice to see another human being, and to know that everyone was fine and noone from that group yet lost on the moor! After sufficient time chit-chatting for Nick to emerge, I accepted my duty and headed back to the Gate. Still no sign of team Grange Rigg, and so was mentally preparing myself for the 1km+ walk into the cold wind and horizontal drizzle. Then my phone rang - Paul ath the NPC reporting that James & William had rocked up and were stuffing themselves with stir fry, courtesy of an extremely generous lift from the New Inn publican, where James had also been smearing mud over the bar in an effort to find a working telephone.
So I retraced my way to JG, everyone out and derigged by Midnight - naughty, but never mind. Sedate walk back, kept together in the dense fog. Path was good from gate through pavement, then became unfollowable. Followed slightly off back bearing to van till picked up the valley path down to Crummack farm. Quick change and then back to the hut for 1am, food and bed.
Grange Rigg: James and William
Grange Rigg follows a stream almost all the way so navigation issues were not forseen: little did we now! The cave starts as a rift with the first four pitches are all small cascades separated by roomy meander. On the day we visited them they were rather dry. In fact even on a very wet day I suspect that (excluding maybe the fourth pitch) they would all be rather dry. The first and fourth pitch are reasonably long drop, whereas the second and third are very short and slightly awkward: the second because of the idiotic placement for the hanger (way too far out) the third because it is rather tight (a P bolt hidden behind the wall to the right does help a little).
After the fourth pitch the cave briefly turns into a more crawly affair: first on cobbles, then in a crawl traverse (anemone crawl). Neither of these crawls is too strenuous, though I admit I did wish for better knee pads! Anemone crawl is decorated with helictites (maybe that is what it is named after?).
After the two crawling sections, we reach battleship passage, large roomy walking meander with lots of straws, stal and curtains in rather good condition. The passage continues in a awe-stricking fashion, passing the aven (to the right) where christmas pot drops in. At times the rift tightens a little and a few forks appear - I imagine that these are all valid ways through the rift. Eventually a beautiful chamber is reached, thick with straws. A hole in the boulders leads to the left to the fifth pitch. We had not brought rope for this, but preferred to rig it as it would have been a rather exposed climb back up. Soon after the 5th is the 6th pitch, which we did not have the time to descend - unfortunately.
The way out turned out more difficult than we imagined: the second and third pitches causing both of us to get stuck with varying degrees of severity. It is noteworthy that I managed to get stuck by me Pantin: incapable of moving my leg up or down and with my body stuct in a tight section I struggled to removed the foot jammer.
At 21:30 we reached the surface. This is where our problems began in earnest. Fog had descended and we were forced to find our way back on compass bearing. I tried to walk as true to East as possible and met with the first landmark (a stile). Walking through the next field we eventually reached another wall. If I had walked true to East the next gate would have been some short distance to the left. We walked in that direction to no avail, so returned to the right and found a gate which seemed like the correct one. We followed the path that was meant to lead us to the bus at Crummock farm and eventually - after a rather long walk during which neither of us said much - we reached a gate. At this point we knew for sure we were not on the correct route. Still we soldiered on, knowing that we were walking in a southerly direction towards Clapham. I must admit morale was rather low at this point: William was rather dehydrated and done in and I felt like a fool - how could _I_ get lost on the surface? After about two hours we reached a signpost: Clapham 1/4 miles to the right. Having reached the New Inn I decided to call the emergency services to make sure that no one had initiated a search party for us. No one had and to top of that piece of good news, the publican gave us a lift to Greenclose where the Christmas pot team were eating dinner.
In conclusion: next time it will be a through trip... THROUGH P5!
Yordas: Jarv, Christoph, Ludo
Well, we actually had bags packed for Bullpot, but after bumping into a rambler (with GPS) who reported ropes on the entrance, and perhaps more pertinently, after failing to find Bullpot, we headed for Yordas. Crawl wasn't too bad on way in, chest mostly dry. Water rather chill. Comedy rigging on the high level traverse was nice practice, and good for Christoph and Ludo to experience. Time was marching on, and so I headed out on a solo derig, hand waving Ludo and Chris in the direction of the lower ent (can't miss it, big chamber with a set of steps out of it to daylight... etc.). Either I was moving fast, or they were spending too long eating malt loaf, because I was at the bottom of the entrance pitch before they'd had a chance to descend and climb to practice SRT. Crawl made me a lot wetter on the way out - had to do a sea-lion manouver to regain the entrance chamber. I think its a really pretty pitch, small and sweet, with a nice rock spire right in the middle.
Rotten branch belay flexed but held, rather disturbingly its forbear was in a big broken heap at the bottom of the pitch!
Back to the van to get changed with the Heron Pot crew, before dragging Rik out of the Ingleborough sweetshop, refuel while sucking on a peardrop, then back to the NPC to tidy up and then leave for the Big Smoke.
Heron: Paul, Sandeep, Emily, Tim, Nick...
A fun Sunday cave, for Sunday cavers. Single 35m rope is ideal to rig both pitches together (there is a bolt for the first pitch in the alcove further along the rift from the initial y-hang).