Depth through thought

OUCC News 6th June 2010

Volume 20, Number 4

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

Birthday T

Fleur Loveridge

As my birthday usually coincides with the late May bank holiday it is a good excuse to get a few people together for some caving. This year saw Hil, Chris, Ben, Pete and myself bound for Yorkshire. After only a moderately hideous run up the M6 we arrived at the Farm to engage in the usual beers with the usual animals. Notable visitors were Neil Pacey and other Misty Mountain Mud Miners, including Becca Lawson, who were on the hoped-to-be-final survey and pushing mission to connect Rift Pot with Ireby Caverns.

For us King Pot was the planned destination for the Saturday, and despite a late finish on Friday, ropes were packed and breakfast eaten by 10.30. However, we weren’t going to be underground that early as it seemed that this was the day that Spackhead’s Caving Club was to be re-constituted. Membership of this friendly club is open to all; you just have to do something worthy of the name to gain entry. The presidency of the club is rotating and Ben had made the early bid of the weekend by realising he had left his helmet in Gloucester. So our first stop was Ingleton to make sure he was properly equipped. However, Ben really didn’t want to risk the presidency going to anyone else, so he left it until we were getting changed in Kingsdale to announce that:

“I’ve got two left wellies……….and one is size 9 and one size 6……….”

Chris offered to swap a left size 6 for a left size 7 to at least even up the troubles and then we were off. Amazingly we found the entrance with no difficulty. This must have been worrying Pete as he put in an excellent rival bid for the presidency at the base of the 1st pitch. Hil had run off to rig the next pitch and Pete went into what he thought was the obvious way on. The rest of us all followed, thinking that he was following Hil. However, he was actually just pushing the tackle bag into a smaller and smaller tube until it stuck. So Pete came back, the bag came back. Pete went in, got stuck, came out, took of his SRT kit, went in, got stuck…….. I was sure that King wasn’t meant to be this tight. It was around this time that I realised that Pete hadn’t actually been following Hil at all and therefore sent Chris back to locate the real way on.

Eventually we were all extracted and heading on down the cave. Earlier in the day I had remarked that I was happy to carry all the rope up the hill as long as I didn’t have to carry it through the T-shaped rift. Ben was ahead with the said tackle when we reached a junction. The bag was put down as I checked right and he checked left. It was left so I picked up the back and followed on downstream into a crawl then a rift. Hmmmm, this rift was getting increasingly T-shaped. As Ben shot off ahead along the rift and I was left to enjoy my very own birthday T party as I wrestled the big bag ahead of me. Luckily Chris caught me up after a bit and a more of a team effort got us to the end.

By this time Hil had run out of rope and come back to find out what the hell had happened to us. Then we merrily trundled onwards, enjoying Queensway and the following pitches before arriving at the fine Elizabeth Pitch. Here Ben attempted to put 10m of 8mm (instead of 35m of 11mm) onto the pitch as it emerged that we somehow were one rope out of sync. From the base of Elizabeth Pitch, Hil and I left the others to go and explore the main drain. Nice as it is, I’ve seen it before and as a hydrophobic didn’t fancy 15 minutes of crawling to visit a flood prone passage on a day when it was meant to be raining. Due to some rare competence, Hil and I managed to exit the cave in half the time of the descent and were soon walking off down Kingsdale for the Marton Arms. Here we had to wait for 2 hours watching other people’s meals come out of the kitchen before the de-riggers joined us. It turned out that Pete too had been keen to make sure of the Club Presidency. We had all found the exit to the T-shaped rift a little challenging on the way in. On the way out, it was a little harder and Pete, after a minor cursing, was just celebrating having squeezed his broader shoulders through, when some really major cursing filled the air. He had left all his SRT kit on the wrong side. Ben won himself a free lamb shank in the Marton by its retrieval.

After enjoying the classic of King Pot we were all a little tired on Sunday and went for a shorter amble. I had suggested Hagg Gill Pot in Langstrothdale. It’s very pretty, too short for a Saturday trip and too far a drive for a Sunday trip, so a bank holiday Sunday seemed perfect. Here again we found the entrance easily, but Pete and Ben were again competing for the Spackhead crown. Firstly Pete went for outdoing the equipment problems of the previous day by leaving his oversuit at the farm. Then Ben, who had now purchased some wellies of the correct size and orientation, failed to mention this to Chris until we were already underground and Chris was moaning loudly about how sore his left foot was.

Leaving aside the bickering of Chris and Ben for the rest of the trip, it was a fantastic little cave. First we went upstream to admire the straw chamber. Then we went downstream, where the cave intersects a larger streamway. Downstream here led to a sump. A climb up just back from the sump led to a really squalid muddy crawl which for some reason Chris felt the need to explore. He subsequently washed himself off in the sump pool, not realising it was a container for Ben’s diluted piss. Upstream from here, eventually led to a lovely classic meandering dales rift with lots of helictites and straws before finally terminating at an aven. Hagg Gill is a fantastic little cave, very pretty, which we spent about 3 hours exploring before going for tea and cake in Hawes on the way back to the Farm.

Now there was just the waiting game as we eagerly listened for the phone call from the Ireby and Rift Pot teams. Finally it came around 10pm and Becca announced that the connection had been made and that the Misty Mountain Mud Miners were all in the pub celebrating. Another late night followed as we heard the tales of the diggers and the natural border controls in place at the Yorkshire-Lancashire subterranean frontier. Well done to Neil and the team, and thanks to everyone who contributed to an excellent birthday weekend.