Top Sink to Pippikin


De-Laddering Party:- W. Holden, J. Wilkinson, A, Burke, P. Saville, J. Sheldon.

Since I was in Cyprus serving Queen & Country when Link Pot was discovered, all I could do was read the N.P.C. report and covet the chance to do. one of the possible through trips. My chance came with the club trip. Of all the alternative trips, Top Sink to Pippikin struck me as being the hardest & best option so I fixed up with Andy & Hugh to go with them. It did not quite work out like that. “Where were you when the ladders were being rolled up, lads?’. “Ah yes, but we rigged it the day before.” Well I warmed up with a Black Shiver trip with Johnny on the Saturday, and in a well known phrase, .“If yer weren’t ’ard, yer shudtn’t a come.” In the event, 5 or 6 people is about right for an exit from Pip. There’s plenty for everyone to do, but no hanging around.

Anyway, back To Sunday at 10 a.m. Thirty people on the fell by 10 a.m? This must be a record. Avoiding coils of wire & old bedsteads outside Top Sink, we sped to the head of Walrus pitch & queued like a lot of tramps waiting for a jumble sale to open. Much faffing around ensued as our pathfinders did the hokey-kokey with the ladder and the waterfall only Jim wasn’t shouting “In, out, in out, shake it all about..., just. “Get a bloody move on and put it in the water. It’ll freshen’em up on the way out.” So if you want to know who to blame for a 60 foot wet climb, lads, don’t look any further....

Back to the action. Before you could say Πr2Andy, Hugh, etc. had Πr2ed off and we next saw them at the farm. Eventually we all got going and under Jim’s expert lead headed for Stake Pot via Limerick Junction, Bridge of Sighs, Nagasaki, Thackery’s Passage, Holbeck Junction & Stop Pot - a fantastic roll call from the past, and yet this time being passed like bus stops on a familiar road. One bit of fun on the way as I failed to find the Fire Escape at Easter Grotto and ended up trying a descent down something like a rabbit hole.

On we went, making good time through Main Line Passage to Carries Cavern & a welcome short break. Suddenly the peace was shattered by the dramatic appearance of a perspiring & hacked off Frank, who had done a solo trip from Walrus pitch, where we had done an Andy on him. After a frank. (no pun intended.) exchange of views we pushed on, amicably I hope, to the Minarets & Oxbow Corner for the always exhilarating section of master cave to Stake Pot. A delicate little climb up and we were on our way down Barlick New Road and the Earby stuff proper.

The great exchange took place, unfortunately at the muddy  pitch down the rift, and due to numbers it was a bit like an underground station in the rush hour with only one escalator working. I have mixed feelings about this part of the trip as far as Echo Aven. Much of it reminds me of the far end of Gaping Gill, and I agree with Jim that psychologically the lower stream passages at least seem to be totally separate from the magnificence of Lancaster Hole. Perhaps it is just the transition to gravelly passages that does it.

Anyway we pleaded the de-rigging of Pip and were not held up, pushing on past Sausage Junction to emerge elated in the superb Echo Aven - a just reward for the earlier low crawls. The climb is undoubtedly the best of the trip - easy but magnificently situated. I climbed it second and pushed straight on to Hilton Hall. I hadn’t realized the boulder section was so extensive, but I enjoyed ferreting my way up through it, and I had a wander along Hilton Hall while I waited for the others. Shortly those of us with tickets for the terminus pushed off up Bypus Pybass & the grovel to Dusty Junction. This was fun for Johnny whose carbide kept going out, but since he associates carbides with general ‘ardness, he just gave us a repetition of his “Men of Carbide-we can take it” slogan and pushed on.

Actually, I’ve been in grottier crawls than this one. - Surveyors Junction to India Chamber in G.G. springs to mind - nevertheless it was nice to get to Dusty Junction and to slither somewhat stickily to the Hall of the Ten. Down we dropped into the streamway, where we could have done with a bit more water for washing down. I am sure the bottom of Pip is becoming ever muddier with the passage of cavers, and the traverse above the sixth pitch is now a lot more awkward than I remember, due to this build up. Mind you, we weren’t helped by collecting a soggy rope from this pitch. Who puts a rope on that thing?. Well, Andy does for one.

As always the sporting entrance series of Pip claimed our full attention and was the source of much grunting. My heavy weight “Wimpey Wellies” are not the best thrutch aids in the upward squeezes, and I was glad of assistance in their placement on the vital footholds from Bi1l.  I wouldn’t call this part the “sting in the tail” of the trip, but for sustained awkwardness it still holds its place in the top league. There is no doubt that at the end of this trip no one is as fresh as when they started and things like the Window are the source of much interesting gymnastics.

We were quite glad to pass Cellar Pot and enjoyed the pleasant entrance climb through the unusual *bog-patinized limestone, to emerge into a warm evening after a great eight hour trip. Walking back to the farm, I asked the “Man of Carbide”, what he thought of it, “I don’t rate it,” he replied, “I’m a pitch man myself”. “But there are 13 on that trip, Johnny.” “I know, I know, but I like them one after another.” Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I’ve got to disagree with him. It lived up to my expectations. It’s got everything from wet pitches & free-hangs to massive chambers, streamway & sporting squeezes. It is Dales caving in microcosm and a worthy challenge. No Johnny, it was a great trip on a great day for a great club.

J. Sheldon.

*bog-patinized from Bog Patina- that shiny effect on rock due to the chemical composition of the stream.

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