On Saturday, after breakfast and waiting till midday had gone by, we set off to Clapham we all changed quickly into our caving gear. A fairly long and snowy walk up a hill, along a valley and into the dales (via Long Lane) led us near the caves where our group split in half, one to do an Gaping Gill exchange and the other half, myself, Clare, George, and Konrad, to do Jean Pot.
Finding the cave proved to be a small challenge in the snow and after a bit of backtracking we found it. In the cave itself a short stony entrance leads straight into the first pitch which immediately goes on to a flat out crawl through some misleadingly muddy puddles. This set the tone for most of the cave and other than being vertical on the pitches I think we were stooping or crawling for the whole way down.
After a couple of pitches we arrived at the top of the Chamber of False Promises. The pitch leading into the chamber is quite tight at the top and it was quite funny watching Konrad force his way through it on the way out. The chamber itself is fairly big (for this cave anyway) but we continued down the only way on and we soon arrived at an interesting traverse consisting of two muddy, very slippery walls to shimmy across. Shortly after that is a near 90 degree tube that was fun to try to get round, George nearly dislocated his knees doing it.
At the bottom of the cave was a very narrow rift that I failed to squeeze into and a small hole where someone may have been digging.
After quickly exiting the cave we emerged into a blizzard. Luckily we didnât get lost and found are way to the nature trail which lead us back to the minivan. One slow, snow chain aided drive later and we were nice and warm in the hut once again.
Excellent trip. Definitely one of the pleasant ones in the Black Book. Nothing difficult in it, though one should be prepared to be horizontal more often than not! Classic rifty, crawly passage, broken up quite nicely by cute little pitches. PVC suits highly recommended, unless you enjoy soaking up liquid mud with your fabric oversuit. Its relative obscurity means that you get little gems like a particularly well-decorated traverse that's really quite pretty. Well worth doing if you're bored with the usual Bar/Stream/Dis/Flood trade routes down GG. Was ace caving with George, Konrad and Rhys -- thanks guys.
I haven't been to Flood in a number of years. Cheated of my true love, King Pot, by the extremely threatening snow forecast, a quick rethinking of trips on flat easily accessible roads came to the inevitable Gaping conclusion. The Jean Pot team was already overfull, so it seemed sensible for a Gaping exchange.
Oliver and I soon found Flood (rather, Wade's). It was nice and warm in the gently out-blowing cave, at least compared to the snow and frozen rind above. Strangely, it was rigged already! And by someone who buys Mammut and Equirrel ropes, and enjoys Alpine Butterflies. It was a bit spooky, like some other doppelganger club had already got there before us.
I forget how much passage there is in Flood between the pitches. I guess because, in being efficient, my memory realises that it's completely irrelevant for route finding. We'd also not packed a rope for the 'climb', so completed it with care. Water levels were very low, so it was no real challenge.
The main drop was quickly rigged and descended, an almost pointless deviation around the 'bomb proof' flake considering how dry it was. Our rope was over long, so we tailed it up to rig the traverse across SE pot and then went to look for the Bar crew.
We found them mid-descent, after having ended up accidentally rigging the old ladder route. Actually looked quite interesting, something I've been meaning to do for a while.
All united, we bimbled off to the main chamber, and got there to find fine white snow-cloud visible up the shaft. Well impressive! It was actually much more interesting than when I'd been there in blue-skied daylight in the summer, as the diffuse light far better lit up the shaft. It was impressive to see the stream start so high up and then follow it almost in slow-mo down as it bounced & richocheted off the ledges to arrive at our feet.
The chamber was fairly calm wrt. winds due to the low water, we ended up spending the best part of a half hour there wandering around, sitting on the mud bank, checking out the little routes, eating choc and photo'ing.
A speedy exit with Oli up Bar, him derigging. I took up the pre-rigged SRT route to be able to keep an eye on him, and for speed. But, one of the maillons couldn't be freed! I popped back down to the ladder route to help - it was interlocked with a crazy cube of solid stainless, a bomb-proof hanger which we can only assume was attached to a similar bolt! Like a Christmas cracker puzzle, after a few minutes of trying every iteration we realised that you had to rotate the maillon (while open) to get the gate going through the core of the block, screw the gate up through the core of the block, then rotate in the other way (now the gate was shifted to the opposite side) and then undo! A hilarious logic puzzle to provide for the 'derigging' party, and something I will ensure I do from now on.
Smooth exit with Oli continuing the derig, out to see the last of the blue disappear from the sky and an ever increasing carpet of snow being laid down. It was so still, and only a few degrees below zero, that it was actually a really pleasant walk down.
Snow chain faff, shovelling snow off the windscreen, waiting for the other Gaping and then Jean pot crew, then a very careful rumble-tastic trundle back to greenclose.
Not the type of trip I intended for the day — (Oh to be with King Pot, my one true love) — but pleasant nonetheless.
As we headed out for our caving trip, there was snow around, but nothing to worry about; however, we were all expecting a lot worse later on. After the long walk to the cave, more than one of us were feeling the effects. Because of this, plus the momentary confusion arising from the fact that none of us seemed to recognise the entrance to Bar, we took a minute to regain composure before entering. Not long after the crawl through the entrance comes the first pitch. Although slightly tight to begin with, this gave us no difficulty. I came a slightly bit more unstuck on the second pitch, having a little trouble with the rebelay, but this was not a problem after Nathan spoke me through the solution.
At the bottom of this second pitch, waiting for the three of us were Jarv and Oliver. As a group, we headed towards the main chamber, hoping to get there whilst it was still daylight outside. Three of us decided to remove our harnesses for this part of the trip, as they were unnecessary for the time being. Pleasingly, I found myself remembering some of the passage between Bar and the main chamber.
The sight of the main chamber was as impressive as the first time that I saw it, if not more so, as this time there was indeed still some light coming down from above. The last time that I was here it was later on in the day, and therefore darker, and a lot of the effect is then lost. A fair bit of time was spent exploring, and a fair bit of time was spent sitting down too.
After re-equipping ourselves with our harnesses, my group of three proceeded to head out of Flood entrance. Again I had a little difficulty with a rebelay on the way up, but little time was wasted. This pitch was followed by a further two, both of which were relatively short. Unfortunately, Nathan was faced with the task of carrying the three tackle bags up the second pitch, straight after which the bags were more fairly distributed. Heading for the final pitch, there was a lot of crawling, which was not difficult, just quite annoying. We all needed a minute after this before heading up the last, longest pitch. Although quite narrow all the way up, we progressed up with no trouble. Here the rebelay was accompanied by a supremely convenient foot ledge, so that this took mere seconds to pass. At the top of the pitch, the outside was not far away. Scrambling out, I was shocked to see just how much snow had fallen whilst we had been underground. This made the walk back to the minibus quite nasty, as the snow continued to fall heavily.
On Sunday many cavers opted not to brave the snow but of the few who did most went to Hardrawkin Pot, leaving just Jarv and Oliver to go elsewhere (Joint Hole) so Jarv could have a go at diving in a cave. After once again changing by the road near the Hill Inn, Clare, Sam, Tony Seddon, Clive Westlake, and I walked to the cave which thankfully was quite close by.
We entered the cave by dropping into a mossy, icy stream where the entrance was. Some familiar stooping and crawling led us to the first pitch which was followed by a bit of climbing and quickly onto the second pitch. This dropped next to the sump that marked the end of the cave. Our trip did have a ulterior motive though, helping Clive Westlake photograph the sump. Whilst heading out Clive attempted to take a photo of me climbing the first pitch but unfortunately the flash at the bottom didnât go off so it didnât work.
Despite the very cold conditions, a group of us were led back out caving on the Sunday, most of the group tagging along to help Clive take his required photos of the sump at the bottom of the cave. After a short walk through the snow, the entrance was found, and carefully we entered down the wet, icy rocks. After a short passage of walking, with some crawling through a little water, we reached the first pitch, where we all got slightly wet. After only a little scrambling, the second, shorter, pitch was reached. Immediately at the bottom of this was the sump â fortunately we all stepped forward, not backward, into the deep water, after reaching the bottom. Clive wasted little time in setting up his camera equipment (after all, there was nothing more to see down there than the sump), and I was more than happy to help in the smallest way possible by holding the flash. I was interested in seeing him work with his box of tricks, and the extra difficulties associated with underground photography.
We then proceeded to return to the surface, with little difficulty. Clive had wanted to take a photo of one of us ascending the first pitch, however after one failed photo attempt, he found that he had run out of film. Sodâs law, of course, after seeing the care that he had taken with his equipment. Nonetheless, the necessary shots had been obtained. As we waited for Tony to derig the pitch, we decided it would be warmer to stay inside than to head straight out. Shortly after, we all proceeded out of the cave, after a pleasant, short Sunday trip.
Reminded by Clive + Tony (Dave Ryall had been tutoring in on Saturday) that the vis was exceptionally good, and that Joint was close to where they needed to park for Hardrawkin, I was easily convinced to drag my festering diving kit out the back of Greenclose and set off in the Transit. The Hardrawkin crew deposited, we made our way back to where Tony indicated to park for Joint and I wriggled into my trendy 1980s wetsuit.
Blessed by the joy of Sherpas, we set off down river. We got to a large pool, which was heavily frozen over. The idea of smashing ice while looking for the pot seemed obscene, so we started back to the van when Alex figured out where Tony was talking about as we drove past. A little pool of water under the bank, and more importantly, a dive line!
First ever, proper, cave dive. Solo. I try not to think of the poor Alan Erith. Or the ex-ICCC Derek Tringham.
Kit faff continued, Alex was the camera man while I wrestled with the chunky gear. Oli had to force my 5mm gloves on, the neoprene so cold and stiff and my fingers swelling with blood from the rest of the suit's constriction!
Lights on, gag in mouth, fins shuffled into. A promise to return within the hour (or... what?), and I bum shuffle down the cobbles. Face under water, damn it's cold! Regs are behaving at least. Face into the rock, I'm doing something wrong here... roll over and it's much more sensible, shuffling backwards down the slope, line on the right. It opens out into the cave proper, the line junction.
Wow! I'm diving, in a cave! The outgoing slope's line is marked with a very clear 'OUT' written on a little plastic seedling label. Reassuring. I try and find the line to Aquaflash pot (the wrong way, for me, and I want to confirm I know what the line looks like so I don't accidentally follow it on the way back out) but can't find anything. 7m depth at the OUT junction, I start down the reassuringly thick line, well belayed every few metres.
The vis is fantastic, limited by my lights more than anything else. I check behind, a bit stirred but not horrific.
So off we glide, such familiar style of cave passage, rocks eroded in that 'just so' way for Yorkshire, yet instead of grunting over it on elbows and knees, dragging tackle, I am effortlessly flying along. My gauges are difficult to read as the tanks are much more under my armpits than they were with the drysuit, this irritates me. My helmet glances off the ceiling a few times, turning the switches on some of my lights. I turn them back on.
After about a hundred metres of gentle frogging, the cave starts to rise (I got to 7m), the ceiling becomes a little lower, and there was a particularly long belay in the line which left it looking rather slack. Check my gauges, depth, run time and choose to turn on a very conservative 1/7th (twin 7s with a rather poor, self-service, fill) about ten minutes in.
Return to the line junction was without mishap. I found it really very peaceful and chillaxed down there. The line was my new best friend. I was never going to let us get parted. I'd used so little air getting back that I felt I should do something productive. So I got my spool out, and practised laying line parallel to the main line, criss crossing in a few places and learning to fumble with my thick gloves. About 20m of line out, I realised I was getting properly cold as my hands were starting to uncontrollerably tremble & I could feel my lips numb.
So I reeled in (more fiddly than out!), disengaged from the junction and stowed the reel, then started up the exit line. The green window on the outside world looked beautiful, and beckoning. Break surface and stumble out to the cold air, breath condensing & try to avoid sticking to any frozen rocks while getting de-kitted! Out with more than 2/3 of air, 24 mins, 10.9m max depth. Spotted little shrimpies, and a couple of guppy-like looking fish.
One breath from death, but then again, aren't we all?