As usual, our most dangerous moment came on the drive up, rather than caving. After a quick stop at a service on the M6 at 1AM, we had barely got back up to our pootling speed-limited 100km/hr when we slammed into the back of (figuratively speaking) a carriageway covered with blinking hazards. About a dozen emergency vehicles whistled down the hard shoulder over the next half hour, flashing lights blinking from barely 50 cars away. After 90 minutes we slowly started moving off, passing through a single lane glass strewn gap between four totalled cars. One had ripped all four wheels to shreds and ended up flipped in the slow lane, another had torn into the centre reservation and ended up moulded into the crash barriers facing the wrong way...
Arrived at the NPC at a rather late hour - to bed around 4AM.
The plan was a byzantine construction that would have left even the most anal health and safety officer impressed. 11 people would be divided into 4 important tasks. Tim and James KP would rig Rowten. Leo + everyone else would go down valley entrance and check the sumps (Leo even brought some air in a tank to do that!). Leo, Dan,Nathan, William and James B would then descend Rowten and split into two groups: team a would join TimO and JKP, free dive the sumps and live, team b would derig Rowten. Meanwhile Jarv, Jana+ freshers Aleeza and Magdalena would go to Yordas or possibly heron and improve their SRT skillz.
With a plan so simple - what could possibly go wrong?
So after a characteristically late start - 4 pm ish - we go. TimO and I soon reach the bottom of Rowten. We meet two burly Leeds-men and tell them we are planning to do the through trip. "Looks well rough, it does" , comes their answer. At 5.30 pm we are at the bottom and start snoozing. An hour and a half later we are shivering and getting seriously cold. Waiting is no longer an option really. Our dilemma: dive the sumps or prussick out?
Meanwhile in valley entrance, the large team has hit an obstacle. The description talks about waste deep water, but the canals leading to the sump are 100% swimming material - and not only for shortie Jana! So Leo kits up and starts looking around for the sump, but to no avail. At 6.30 he turns around and heads out. Most of the team decides to go to Jordas while Dan and Nathan come up to get us out and derig.
Tim and I meanwhile have decided "f**k it" , let's give these sumps a go. We've been mentally prepared for it and in any case we will leave a clear message on the rope (pencil on ZnO2 tape stuck to the rope). We toss a coin for who gets to go first and wear the only face mask. I "win". At the bottom or Rowten pot, all the waterfall falling into the open hole at the top seems to emerge into one roaring jet of water that batters a small pool. For the first time I step into the water and turn the corner. The water is calmer here and eventually we find the caving rope that indicates the way through the sump. I am not feeling too happy now, trying to flood my suit to be less buoyant. The water is cold and I am very scared - what is an 8 sump like? What will the air bell be like? Will it be large? Will there be obstructions? Will I be able to hold my breath long enough? Eventually I manage to find some nice stones to weigh me down, take a big breath and go for it facing the ceiling. 1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8..9..10.. the rock roof has disappeared and I am in a large room. It is utterly quiet and my heart is racing: I passed the longest sump! I give Tim the preagreed signal for "come along" and wait for his light to appear. The next two sumps are a breeze in comparison and when we finally get to Valley Entrance we have a good old hug and think that the ordeal is over. We decide to leave another ZnO2 message on top of the sump and I marvel at how hard my hands are shaking - adrenalin and cold water a powerful combination. At this point we realise that the orderal is far from over as we don't really know the way out from this particular spot of Valley Entrance. Meanwhile... someone else is lost.
Despite my accurate description of the Rowten entrance (walk up the hill, then turn left), Dan and Nathan take over an hour to find the entrance. Once in its pitch pitch to the bottom where perhaps they are mildly surprised to find us absent - the ZnO2 tape on the rope found illegible. They start derigginng and dragging all the wet old rope back up again.
Tim and I are in a state of mild panic, my clock says it only took 40 minutes to get out from Valey Entrance and most of that would have been following the stream and the known way out. All the passages near the sumps are flooded and I am rather scared that they will fill to the roof, I keep checking for passages with high avens, just in case the worst should happen... Finally we are somewhere we recognize and soon enough out in the Yorkshire night. Another adventure over.
James Kirkpatrickrequire('../footer.php'); ?>