An ace weekend! Turned up surprisingly early at the NPC, as the roads were clear and Al + co had done the shopping in their car. We arrived to an excellent speedy pasta meal cooked by Saber. Bed space was rather nonexistent, the NUCC/Hades crew were booked in but there were also a load of mature members of another club who had turned up unannounced, and turned in, spreading themselves over several bunk rooms.
Still, I counted 48 people at the NPC according to the sign in book that weekend, and it was great to be in a buzzing caving hut, even if the washing up does seem to scale with N^4!
I thought that if I were ever to write a trip report, it would most likely be posted on Erowid, not a caving website, but anyway, here goes.
On Friday we left stores incredibly early and so arrived in Yorkshire around midnight, giving us a decent opportunity to have a go at the generous supply of beer which had been purchased in an effort to maintain good morale and orderly conduct while in the hut. After a couple of hours of drinking and making merry, we went to bed for an early start at 12.00pm on Saturday morning.
On Saturday, we were lucky enough to find that the minibus was still working, so we managed to actually drive to Clapham, where we spent an hour or so improvising caving gear for those (myself included) who had forgotten a vital piece of equipment. Once we were ready we set off for an (approximately) 20km hike up the mountain (hill) to where the holes in the ground are, with the result that everyone (I) was exhausted before we had even begun. We then split up into individual groups.
The group which was doing Bar were disappointed to find that they don't serve on Saturdays, and so instead of getting hammered like we expected, we had to crawl down a tiny damp passage into the depths of the earth. To add to our difficulties we had to keep a watchful eye out for the cave- dwelling bears, which surprisingly enough are not uncommon in Yorkshire. I am speaking from experience since I have seen this with my own eyes. Bears are particularly aggressive when they are guarding treasure. We managed to make it to the main chamber where we left Clare to guard the escape route, and continued on to the mud hall. We returned to the surface half an hour before call- out. At this point we were thoroughly tired and wanted to go to bed, but alas, the minibus failed us at a most inconvenient time. There did not seem to be anything wrong with it but it clearly thought otherwise since it refused to start and kept flashing an annoying red light at us. We finally made it back to the hut with a lift from the RAC guy and then immediately turned our attention to drowning our sorrows in drink and an awfully good curry prepared by Dave.
On Sunday, with no transport and little will-power, we thought “Who wants to go caving when there's a nice warm hut full of food and beer?” and with no more ado we cracked open the Stella. By the time the RAC had finally provided us with replacement cars, the few people who were left sober enough to think straight used the power of math to deduce that the RAC had boo-booed by providing a 4-seater and a 5-seater car for 10 people, and so 5 people were left another 4 hours waiting for a bigger car.
All in all this was a very successful trip and hopefully the next one will be as exciting.
The Dis crew tried the duck, and Jan got plenty of foam on his head, but were dissuaded by it's rather sumpy nature, so headed down Bar.
The Stream rigging was rather experimental, as the first two ropes were packed the wrong way around, us squandering our 40 on the entrance, and having to rotate ropes (and install a rather spiffing sewn sling traverse line). As usual, Selected Caves (in this context, also known as 'the book of spurious rope lengths') gave us a bit of a headache in terms of rope selection [Nb: it calls for a 20m rope for the 26m final Stream Passage pitch]. Our intended 28, 40-55-50 would have been about right, to fully protect all traverses.
Took a few wrong turns in the bit between Stream Passage and Sand Cavern, managed to end up arriving in Sand Cavern via a 5m free climb with a bit of tat at the top. I popped (or rather, dropped) down, confirmed where I was and we connected the loop by shouting at each other. Zipped down to the main chamber, finding the pre-arranged signal of SRT bags at the T-junction with the mud dam. Main chamber was really just perfectly impressive. Just wet enough to have some proper winds and big fat waterfalls. Complicated exit strategy worked well, Al was still absent in Mud Hall so Jan & co came out with me & Konrad, rest were dispatched to Bar. Smooth exit, the derig of the big pitch seems to progress at exactly the same rate as novice SRTers, so you really couldn't time it more perfectly. Out for just before 9PM, entrance secured, ropes packed & we popped across to Bar.
Rather perturbed at the presence of ropes yet lack of voices, we were just wiggling into SRT kits to have a look after a few minutes discussion, when a shout raised Kate & she assured that everything was A.OK they were just slow with their big group. Walked back via Clapdale in the nearly full moon, turning off our lights after a while to enjoy the ambience: sheep and limestone pavement picked out in the beautiful soft glow.
Set off at usual late hour, arriving to a fairly empty valley, just a load of vehicles near Valley Entrance and two in the standard Bull space.
Walked up to Bull to find it occupied, with sounds of movement at the bottom of the first pitch, so went off to start with Jingling.
On arrival there, found a group already down the cleft route via the tree, and decided to bounce the shaft semi-directly via the new surface rift route and then head to Bull. However, while repacking the ropes, a caver exited and said there were only two more down, both on their way out and derigging, so we switched to doing the cleft route via the surface rift and ledge traverse, with timing working out perfectly, their last person swinging out of the cleft just as we reached it.
Down/out Jingling went fairly smoothly, apart from a brief tape footloop/Croll tangle at one point, with us getting to the surface in time to repack the ropes again for Bull in reasonable light.
Bull was empty by now, and remarkably dry given the heavy rain on Friday evening. There was hardly anything in the stream, with far more water and noise coming from the minor rift inlet at the bottom of the 4th pitch.
Having just a 3-person trip with one SRT novice worked out really well. With both caves being dry and quiet, communication was easy, and there seemed to be very little waiting. Splitting the trip between two pots which lacked any long ascents also broke up the effort, and meant that it wasn't a single long slog out.
Fafftastic day. Though I drank a lot of tea, and read my Feynman comic book, so it's all right really.
Hades had to go derig Henslers (they had taken the Deus ex Machina of a rope down bar). Mike and R. pulled the short straw, Andy + Toni dropped them off via Bar then derigged. R. arrived back at the hut at seven ish, "I've lost Mike". Oops. From the fact that Mike is a reliable chap, and that the entrance had it's lid down, a brief brain trust of cavers concluded that he was likely abandoned (as R. had continued derigging out the cave) but OK underground. Tony and Andy went up with caving gear, R. and DaveW offering surface support and checking out Long Lane in case he'd wandered on the Moors. Mike was soon located underground, making good use of his caving gear, and I'm in no doubt, grinning. Apparently he was rather unimpressed when Andy asked (after checking he was OK, natch!), where's R.?
We met DaveW as we finally left the NPC at 10PM in our 2nd, 5-seater, courtesy car. Reassured that all was well, we made our merry way, and got back to stores for 2:30AM (cruising empty roads), home for 3:30AM and in bed by 5AM.