Depth through thought

OUCC News 9th November 2005

Volume 15, Number 11

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Penyghent Pot

Peter Devlin

Some time ago Steve had suggested I have a go at Penyghent at some point. Recently Gavin asked whether anyone was going to the Dales as he had to drop expedition gear back, so the weekend of Oct 29/30 Gavin, Gareth and I headed up to BPF planning to do Penyghent on the Saturday.

Having read about Penyghent, I was prepared for the long crawl to the first pitch, but I found the equally long (or so it felt) stoop to the second pitch tough going. I rigged the first four pitches under Gavin's watchful eye adding an element of excitement to my caving. Some of the free climbing gave me cause for concern for the way out due to the paucity of hand and foot holds. At the last pitch (not sure if it's number 10 or 11) I opted out of going for the sump in order to save some energy for the way out. Gavin and Gareth were back in 10 minutes.

Penyghent is a good example of the truism that it's usually easier to go down than up. I found some of the friction climbs tough and being tired found some of the traverses scary. Needless to say I was quite slow up the pitches.

On the long way out I found myself listening intently for the sound of falling water indicating that the next pitch was near. The crawl back out was long, particularly the bit involving a belly crawl. I was thrilled to get back to the entrance: just the tight entrance to squeeze through. That took a bit of negotiation, but once I got my torso out I knew I was nearly there.

During the trip I was probably a bit too intimidated by the cave to enjoy myself, but sitting by the fire at BPF, having warmed up I could say I had enjoyed "the finest stream pot in the country".

Many thanks to Gavin and Gareth for an excellent trip and thanks to Steve for the suggestion.

Anyone up for a trip to the sump in Penyghent?

Bonfire Weekend at UBSS Hut, Mendips

Andy Morgan

St Cuthbert's Swallet, Saturday 5th November : Pete D, Phillip, Chris S, Keith, myself and Pete H the leader from the BEC.

We met at midday at the BEC hut (apart from me as I was late!) and had a nice pleasant change indoors for a change. Once we were all kitted up, we headed to the cave, which was only a couple of minutes walk away. Pete H went up valley to turn the water off. In the entrance series of this cave there is a narrow 10m deep rift that is difficult to negotiate with water pouring down it. Therefore the BEC had constructed dams with valves up valley, so the water flow into the cave could be temporarily stopped. However there was something wrong with the first valve so the water couldn't be shut off. Pete T went further up valley to shut the other valve, which only reduced the water flow, rather than stopping it.

After 'watering the plants' we descended the ubiquitous concrete piped entrance, then there was a short crawl to head of the rift. There was no water going down it and we all descended with no problems (watch this space). We headed down a fixed ladder into a rather impressive spray lashed chamber (there was more water than usual because of the broken valve). Descending more fixed ladders and climbs there was a short step down through a very impressive shower bath that completely drenched us.

The next obstacle was Wire Rift, a narrow steeply descending passage, which required some good traversing manoeuvres. After this we entered a large chamber, and a short climb up reached another chamber with very impressive white formations. Pressing on we entered Curtain Chamber, which had enormous curtains (about 6m long I think): very impressive! After some squeezes and tricky climbs down we reached the South Pitch Bypass, which was difficult narrow 5m drop down, with few foot and handholds. At this point the streamway was reached, and involved some low crawls in the water until the passage opened up. Most of the group climbed up on to the Great Gour in Gour Hall: a very impressive 5m high set of Gours and climbed back down to the stream way. Phillip and myself crawled through the streamway beneath the Great Gour which was great fun and involved some squeezes into the streamway.

We rejoined the main group and headed off down the passage. Pete T put the bung (a bucket) in to a dam that reduced the water level through Sump 1, turning it into a duck. Sump 1 was quite fun: it was low so you had to turn your head to the side, getting water in your ear; and it had a tricky 90 degree bend in it. Once though there was an easy march down the streamway to the terminal sump, with only a short free climb down to negotiate. We turned around and started to head out of the cave. At the dam we had problems getting the bung out. Poking it with a long piece of wood didn't shift it, so I volunteered to remove it from the other side. The water was pretty cold and up to my armpits, but eventually I managed to get it out with my feet.

Once it was removed we pressed on, going a slightly different route to the way we came in: through the Rabbit Warren, a complex maze of passages. There were many steep slippery slopes that had no foot or handholds that required some interesting techniques to climb: from digging finger nails into the mud, to pressing against the low ceiling or walls. For every couple of steps forward it felt like there was one back! Once through the Rabbit Warren we rejoined the route we came in towards Wire Rift. Wire Rift was much more tricky on the return; since it was very steep we had to fight gravity to progress upwards and to avoid dropping down into the rift.

After this a few more climbs and up the fixed ladders we got to the bottom of the entrance rift. A couple of the 'larger' members of the group found it rather tricky and without the aid of gravity as on the way down; they were getting stuck in it. I climbed up from below to give one of them a few pushes and was rewarded with face-fulls of water as it came out of his wellies! Eventually we got to the top while the second 'larger' member of the group got wedged half-way up the rift. Those of us at the top went to get a rope, but the 'individual' had freed himself by them. Chris S was the last man up, and had been waiting for 45 minutes at the bottom for 5 people to negotiate a 10m ladder climb!

Many thanks to Pete H for leading us on the trip.

In the evening we had a big bonfire and a good firework display, along with a roasted lamb and other nice food. After, there was much more drinking and caving games involving bits of furniture (which has given me huge bruises) and string until the early hours of the morning.

Many thanks to UBSS for letting us join them and to Pete D for organising the weekend and the fireworks.