Depth through thought
OUCC News 16th October 2013
Volume 23, Number 7
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Editor: Andrew Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas Leung (with the help from Olaf Kähler for some route description)
With: Olaf Kähler, Mike Hopley, Frances Pope, Nick Edwards, Kayleigh Gilkes Also present: Gavin Lowe, Eabha Lankford, Rosa Clements, Tom Spriggs
On Friday (31st May 2013) we met at the hut at around 17:45. Gavin with Olaf, Eabha and I started heading north at 18:05, while Rosa stayed at the hut waiting for Frances and our second driver, Mike. We stopped half way near Birmingham for food and arrived Bull Pot Farm at half ten. Mike, Frances, and Rosa arrived later around mid-night.
The next morning, some of us (Olaf, Mike, and I) woke up at eight and started making breakfast while Gavin had already finished his. The mushroom committee (being Olaf as Treasurer and Mike as the Secretary, no Chairman appointed) cooked the mushrooms, and microwaved the beans while I fried eggs and bacon. The caving plan was already established - the Easegill traverse as an exchange: Rosa, Tom S., Gavin and Eabha planned a trip from Pippikin to Top Sink. All others went to Top Sink and either come out Pippikin or Link Pot or Mistral.
I got changed and started walking up the hill at around 10:30, since it took longer for me compared to the rest of the team. I decided to stop half way at County Pot, and wait for the others. I met another group of cavers when I got to County and about 15 - 20 minutes later, the rest of our team showed up. Then all of us headed upstream towards Top Sink past several other entrances on the way. Olaf, with his GPS, located the entrance of Top Sink. It was covered with a rusty metal board, and directly opposite a section of collapsed stone wall. While others geared themselves, Olaf went ahead and did the rigging of Walrus Pot.
From the entrance of Top Sink to Penknife Pitch was straight forward - we walked sideways like a crab downstream (typical crab walk) until Walrus Pot, abseiled Walrus Pot with a little waterfall running down it. There was more crab walking along the pi r2 passage until reached the short Penknife Pitch. The route finding was confusing from Limerick Junction to Nagasaki: Olaf only knew the middle section of the whole route from the Assembly Hall to Dusty Junction; Nick roughly knew the way, and Kayleigh had done the full trip about four years ago. However, we managed by following the description, passed the Bridge of Sighs, Rock of Ages, climbed up the Fairy Steps, and got to Nagasaki. After another short section, we were at Assembly Hall after climbed down two in-situ hand lines.
The way on from there was easy and well known to most of us. After Assembly Hall, we followed the stream in the White Way to Holbeck Junction, followed our nose above the stream to Stop Pot, and climbed up the ladder. There was more boulders-hopping until the Main Line Terminus, where we took a short break. We then started almost running through the next section in the huge high level series, passing Monster Cavern, Snail Cavern, Cornes Cavern, the Minarets, Oakes Cavern, Oxbow Corner and Boulder Hall. Then we carefully traversed the holes of Charybdis and Scylla (with in-situ traverse lines), Painter's Palette, Bob's Boss (formation), and eventually arrived at Stake Pot. At Stake Pot we left the main passage, went through the Rabbit Warren and, Barlick New Road, and got to Thirsty Junction (it was bone-dry instead of the usual small stream. I was disappointed that I couldn't fill my water bottle, and I was thirsty). After a short crawl to the right, we climbed up the in-situ ladder of Canuck Climb, passed Breakthrough Chamber and Bridge Chamber and arrived at the dribbly climb down into Brew Chamber. There we took the small hole to the left leading to the Long Gallery.
We met Gavin's team at the Long Gallery and the last of them were just coming up the 88ft Pitch. So we decided to have a short break and some chatter. Rosa and Tom S. later on went out of Wretched Rabbit, Gavin and Eabha went out Top sink, but for now the rest of us headed on towards the Wormway. There was a bit of confusion as there are two ways down from the Long Gallery to Rat Pit Chamber. I got trapped half way down a rift thanks to Olaf's misleading directions. When I was traversing along the rift, Olaf, Nick, Kayleigh had already disappeared ahead of me and I didn't know which way to go. Olaf told Nick to go down, and Nick told me to do so but not knowing that I was still in the rift. As I could see the bottom of the rift, I slid down the tight rift and landed on a ledge 4 metres above the floor with no way to go further down. I could either have risked jumping the 4 metres and breaking my leg or climbing back up. I chose the latter, and with Frances and Mike above me giving suggestions, it took only a short while for me to climb back up this unpleasant rift. Up there we found that there was a parallel rift, and we had to follow that one down instead. Passing some stals in the middle of the way we got to the 88ft Pitch, and after the pitch head was clear, we started our abseil. It was a nice, clean abseil. At the bottom of the 88ft Pitch was the Lower Streamway and then the Wormway. I finally managed to fill my water bottle at an inlet at the beginning of the Lower Stream Way, which made me happy.
We were about 3/5 through our Great Easegill traverse (a bit more for the group planning to go out Mistral). The Wormway was mostly walking with some hands-and-knees crawling on gravel with incredibly muddy walls and puddles, and it ended at Echo Aven. We met another group abseiling Echo Aven so we took a short break. At the top of Echo Aven was a short section of crab walk, Echo passage, and then we got to a junction. Olaf and Mike took the right turn, went into a crawl on the right hand wall and ended up somewhere back at the top level of Echo passage. So we tried the left instead and ended up at a point where we could either go through a boulder choke or head straight on. Nick tried the boulder choke first, but it was not very inviting. So, we all tried the other route, but Nick ended up in a tight crawl with low ceiling which he said it could not be the way on. While Kayleigh, Nick and Frances went back to the Echo Passage to look for another possible route, Olaf and Mike tried the boulder choke again and found the way on to the Hilton Hall and Link Pot. The original plan was that Nick, Kayleigh, and Frances got out of Link Pot, where Gavin had rigged us a nice emergency exit in the morning. The rest of us wanted to carry on to Pippikin. However, it was still quite early (around 17:15), and we decided we would all go to Dusty Junction.
The way from Hilton Hall to Dusty Junction was the most miserable section so far from Top Sink (not considering Pippikin, of course). After the small climb up into Pybus bypass and turning left at the junction, the passage soon became a crawl and eventually took us to the Wet Wallows - a duck on gravel. As Olaf was leading, he approached the duck face down, the result was obvious: it started with the usual mumbling when he met the water, then silence. He was holding his breath under the muddy water for this section, and then popped out into an Aven. He then shouted back and told us to do it face up on our backs. That was very kind of him. My nose was touching the roof of the duck all the way with part of my body soaked in the muddy water until I could stand in the small Aven again. After the Wet Wallows the Muddy Wallows followed soon. It was a dry, short section of low crawl slightly up a slope on gravel. The final section before Dusty Junction was the wet and muddy "Trowel Crawl". Then, it was the time to make the final decision. Nick, Kayleigh and Frances made a wise choice and went out Mistral via the Hobbit. Olaf, Mike and I decided to push on further and come out Pippikin. At this point, we didn't know what to expect, but it would be very challenging.
From Dusty Junction, we followed the way to the Hall of the Ten. By climbing down a hole at the bottom, we went upstream following the Pippikin stream way, and eventually reached the Ratbag Chamber. Olaf, for some reasons, said we need to follow the water. So, Mike went to explore the stream ahead and the rest of us followed. After series of crawling, Mike was wondering that this was not the way on, since it became a flat out crawl in water. Olaf started reading the description and found out it should be an easy walk instead of crawling (only later back at the farm, we found out this was the Ratbag Inlet). Back at the Ratbag Chamber there was another obvious passage, and around the corner, I found the rope of the sixth pitch of Pippikin hanging out of the ceiling. Before we did the trip, as Olaf didn't know the route between Dusty Junction and Pippikin, and he asked Gavin for some direction. The only sentence I remembered from Gavin was "the last bit up Pippikin shouldn't be underestimated, especially after going all the way from Top Sink." When Gavin said so, he meant it, but we still chose the toughest way out...
Continued next week.