Depth through thought

OUCC News 22nd February 2012

Volume 22, Number 5

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

Upcoming trips/events:

Yorkshire - 10-12 February 2012 (Part 1, Lost John's)

Olaf Kahler

Attended by: Olaf Kahler, Ewa Bigaj, Juan Mendoza, Tom Nicholls, Tom Ka Leung, Tom Sprigg (TSG)

Evil omens foreshadowed a horrible weekend, but despite the small number of cavers signing up it turned out to become a fabulous weekend at Bull Pot Farm. Originally, we had hoped to meet up with the Cambridge University Caving Club, but after some fresh snow on Thursday night, they cancelled their trip "due to weather concerns",and we expected the worst for the Dales.

After thousands of mails with last minute changes, we had eventually sorted out most of our plans. On Friday evening, Ben unlocked the hut for us, Olaf and Tom started sorting out rope while Tom organised the minivan to drive us north. Juan went shopping and got lots of milk, and finally also Ewa turned up. At 7pm we headed northwards out of Oxford.

Due to planning incompetence, we had to take a short detour and pick up our Leck Fell permit in Preston - just one of the many things that almost went wrong that weekend. We didn't have a TomTom, but after a scenic tour of Preston at night, we still managed to find Jim Sloane's home and got the precious bit of paper at around half past ten.

With no further faff, Tom drove us to the farm. There was actually no snow at all in the Dales, just a few patches of ice. One of them was at the top of the hill up the farm track. We lost traction, stalled the engine and had to give the patch of ice another go. Tom cursed, as just when he wanted to gain some momentum on the ice-free road further down the hill, another car came from behind with Tom in it. Nevertheless, after a bit more skidding and sliding, both Toms got their vehicles up the hill, unlike Emma's abandoned blue Skoda sitting in one of the laybys further down the hill.

While the three Toms unloaded our food and carried it across the iced car park in front of the farm, I made contact with Tom and Emma, who were sitting at the fireplace discussing their digging plans for tomorrow. We also had to come up with plans for ourselves. Unfortunately, Juan had not had a chance to get any SRT training, so we decided to make up for that tomorrow in the morning, and then wanted to head off and play around a bit in Lost Johns.

The weather looked promising the next morning, cloudy, dry and icy. Olaf and Tom rigged the tree in front of the farm to teach Juan the ropes, while Tom, Tom, and Ewa prepared the fry up. The first steps at SRT are always tricky, so we saved such subtleties as deviations and rebelays for later, eventually got packed in Tom's car and Tom's rented minivan, and left the farm at around noon. During a short stop at Inglesport, we got some new shinies and some grit for the car park in front of the farm.

We finally arrived at the Leck Fell car park at quarter to two. It took another while to get changed, adjust the harnesses, buckles, belts and other stuff. At just about half past two we crossed the road to get to the entrance of Lost Johns. A late start.

Olaf and Tom went ahead, followed by Tom and Ewa, and Juan and Tom were at the back. We passed the dead end junction to the left, avoided the trickles from the ceiling and started traversing up across the pitch down to Monastery. Apart from Tom, who got lost and almost walked down the waterfall. The water level was generally very low that day, and the rumbling of the waterfalls further down was not very impressive.

We decided not to need a handline at the downwards junction to Dome and went straight on to the short 5m Hammer pitch along the way to Centipede. Olaf rigged and went ahead to rig Centipede as well, while the three Toms helped Ewa and Juan down the pitch. This general procedure was repeated at the 10m Mud and the 25m Centipede pitches. However, at the bottom we reshuffled the teams a bit. While the others were still far behind, Tom went ahead to rig Candle and Shistol pitch, and he also took the rope for Battle-Axe and Valhalla along. Later on, Olaf guided Tom and Ewa along to follow Tom, while Tom was helping Juan getting safely to the bottom of his first major pitch series.

The two Toms and Ewa headed off, while Olaf went back to fetch Tom and Juan to have a look around the mid-level section of Lost Johns. As the next pitch had a rebelay and Juan got tired anyway, he went back to Centipede with Tom, while Olaf waited a few more minutes for Ewa. She had been to the legendary Battle-Axe traverse with Tom and Tom, but while the two Toms wanted to go down Valhalla, Ewa rather turned around.

Olaf and Ewa just about reached Centipede, when Tom was at the top. So Ewa slowly went next, not having been underground for two years. Then Juan followed, equally slow, as he had only seen jammers for the first time in his life that morning. Yet, they all got up fine and without any problems. Tom helped them off the pitches while Olaf tried hard to catch up with them. Just when Tom, Juan and Ewa were at the top of the second pitch (Mud), Tom turned up at the bottom of Centipede and reported, that Tom was still behind derigging everything. As these two Toms had three tackle sacks of rope to carry, Olaf decided to help them and waited between Mud and Centipede. Meanwhile Tom, Juan and Ewa proceeded to the Hammer pitch and eventually out of the cave.

Tom and Olaf had to wait quite a while for Tom to finish derigging, so finally Tom decided to have a quick look and search for Tom. It didn't take long for the two to reappear at the bottom of Centipede pitch. Tom started carrying the first bag of rope up to Olaf, who took it and went out of the cave. When Tom was up, he gave the next bag to Tom, and while Tom headed out with it, Tom started derigging the rest.

Back at the surface, we had to wait a bit for the two lost Toms, who were still busy derigging. When they were out, Tom decided to go on a short detour to the YSS hut to return some rope to the York Club. They had left that rope in Easegill since CHECC. Tom also promised to get some pudding on the way back. Meanwhile, Tom drove Tom, Juan, Ewa and Olaf back to the farm. Back there, Tom and Juan prepared some food while Olaf, Ewa and Tom sat down in the common room chatting with Emma about her and Tom's digging trip. Tom came back from the YSS hut just in time for dinner, and all six of us had our pasta with chilli. We also enjoyed the pudding, that Tom had brought along. Towards the end of the evening, the six of us sat down with Tom and Emma in the common room and started thinking about plans for tomorrow.