Diary of an Easegill Traverse.

Arriving late for the AGM (I was on my Claude Butler and it was pissing down) I Opened my mouth to ask for a towel to dry out with and found myself being listed to lead an Easegill traverse. On reflection I decided that it would be a nice piece of endurance practice prior to the summer Berger trip with the YSS, and Pete Seed had told me that the Berger was about as hard as four Easegill traverses.

Four weekends before the traverse weekend things got a bit more serious as we sat down and tried to work out an equipment list for the traverse. How many hangers do we need for the Maple Leaf pitch? How many hangers for Echo Aven, and what about the belays in Pippikin Pot — and how many hangers does the club have - easy - none, So I decided to use my own as they were all stamped with my initials. The weekend before the traverse Jim, Frank Hardy, and Keith Wright made a trip into the Earby series to rig the Maple Leaf pitch. Frank drew the short straw, so I showed him how to tie a bowline on the bight, gave him some hangers, a spanner, and a rope. I put the first hanger in and pointed Frank off along the pitch Traverse. Some hours later Keith went off to explore the Maple Leaf area and I got colder. Eventually Keith came back and Frank reappeared. He’d rigged the pitch and descended to the bottom to have a look around and to tie up the rope to keep it out of the pool. He also had an interesting time getting off the V-hang and along the traverse, he’d also missed a bolt out along the traverse. So we made our way out knowing that the central pitch of the traverse was hung.

Friday: Jim and Keith Wright went in to rig Pippikin, I forgot that Keith hadn’t been down Pip before which explained why he kept asking about the squeezes, so I told him “There all long, vertical, tight and dry” which seemed to fascinate him no end so I explained to him the advantages of putting a smear of Vaseline over his Troll suit.
We went across to Link Pot first to drop a ladder down and to make sure that dead sheep hadn’t been re-dumped down the shaft - and then over the top to Pip entrance.
The first pitch was easy and gave Keith lots of confidence. Cellar Pot was also interesting as the traverse poles had been part dropped down Cellar pot. So Keith hung onto me as I retrieved the poles and reinstalled them.

The exit from Cellar Pot is easy for tall people, you stand on the poles and dive into the squeeze head first and reach across with your right hand and catch yourself before you drop out of the squeeze, miss this and it’s a head first slide down a l5ft. hole. Us short people cannot make the arm stretch. My personal method is to get some tall bugger to go first and then get him to catch me as I come through. Keith had never been through before so it was going to be Jim first. Using my number two technique I stand on the cross poles and go in head first, then “summersault” round so that I am acing back towards Cellar Pot. Next I take my helmet strap off Cit can get caught in the drop) and it’s feet first into the dark drop and whoosh (it beats carbide sniffing any day) (Ah but have you tried snuff? Ed.) and I’m through so I can talk Keith through and let him drop onto my shoulder.

And so the intrepid duo push and. squeeze their way down into Pippikin with Keith projecting an incredible look of apprehension ahead of him and a trial of Vaseline slime behind him. And so the mainstream is eventually met, with a mighty splash as Jim jumps into it knowing that the squeezes are over, we run along the main stream to the boulder choke and climb into the great big Hall of Ten and along t’ Dusty Junction and - and - and - the Link crawl - I’d sort of forgotten about this bit but it’s all coming back as we snorkel through the wallows. and on and on and on, standing up at the cross rifts arid then head down for the next bits. Then a run to the right and a drop down into Hilton Hall and up the ladder to the surface knowing that Pip is well ‘and truly rigged.

Saturday and Jim and Keith are at the farm wondering how to tackle the next rigging problem when Chris and Doug Naylor show up. So Keith, Chris, arid Doug go off to drop down Link and rig Echo Aven and then go through the wormway to Maple Leaf and check the rope.

That leaves Top Sink to be rigged when Stewart (and) Bob Johnston arrive to check ‘the beer’for the party that night. Stu pronounces that the beer is doing OK and then enquires about the Easegill traverse (what a sense of priorities). OK I say, just take these ropes, hangers, and a spanner and rig Top Sink and go through that way. Knowing that the rigging is now underway Jim (in a para-Vegan mood) watches Keith Lewis disecting chicken bits for the party. Deciding that if you cannot join them then leave them, goes home for a roast nut tea.

8.30 Sunday morning Jim arrives at the farm expecting a smoldering burnt out ruin smelling of carbide with apache arrows embedded in the doors. But all is quite, too quite.
Lol ambles out of the door with a face like a pumpkin - moving slowly – very slowly. Keith is in his big red bus cooking  “ready Keith?” “Yeah, great lets go”. With nobody else visible Keith and Jim chalk themselves on the board for 9.00 - Pip/Top Sink - 2 off.
And to the strains of the Dam Busters march the intrepid duo are chocks away.

‘I’ts me to do a big trip and not to carry tackle. At Link we drop down our SRT kits and a parcel of food and drink. Then up to Pip. Ab down the first pitch and across Cellar pot, summersault round and through the squeeze and drop feet first and turn and catch Keith as he drops through the squeeze and down the left, pitch, another squeeze and a 50ft. pitch. Into stemple squeeze and drop down from the stemple. A loft. pitch and round a corner and down a knotted rope into the pool. Along the traverse - round the traverse bend - more traverse to another knotted rope decent into the stream - we are down Pip.
Along the stream and into the boulder choke and up into the Hall of Ten (it all seems so easy so far). Along to Dusty Junction then button up and along the Link crawl (again!). Drop into the bypass and it’s into Hilton Hall where we retrieve our gear and have our elevenses.
SRT in hand it’s down through the boulders to Echo Aven. SRT kit on and traverse out and down the 90ft. pitch (Oh what a lovely aven). De-kitting at the bottom Chaz arrives - leading the post barbeque Link to Lancaster multitude. “Hello Chaz”, “Hello Jim” and it’s on our way through the Wormway to Maple Leaf Pitch. Up the 90ft to the V-hang at the end of the traverse. Struggle along the traverse and up the rift into Rat Pit chamber and a de-kitting session.

 

Half a Mars bar each and it’s quite literally bombing through the Earby series to Canuck climb and down the chain ladder to Thirsty Junction and there’s no running water.
Along the stream bed and up Stake Pot. Turn right here and past Bobs Boss and on to the painters palette. Stop for a rest and admire the calcite. On now and past Scylla and Charydbis and on to the oxbow corner, on through the caverns, find the slot and down to the Minarets. Through and into the rest of the caverns. Sweating we arrive at the Main Line Terminus. Rest and wipe the sweat off and on to Stop Pot. Down the ladder and across to Holbeck Junction. Into the stream and up to Easter grotto climb up (which gets very .interesting when you are wet and tired). Rest at Easter Grotto and have a drink. Traverse across the hole in the floor and up into the roof of the Cat Walk. Roof of the Cat Walk! No we have got it wrong, so traverse back and down to the floor of Cat Walk.
On to Nagasaki - Rock of Ages and round the corner. Up and Down and on to Limerick Junction and up and on till; “I don’t remember this “. So have a big think - lost? and so close to the end.

Then I remember Frank Hardy getting lost here - we are in the CRG extension. Climb on down and have a think. No we cannot find the route on - lost half an hour at this point.
Down into the stream and try and follow it upstream and pop my head through a little hole and I recognise the passage. On now to the bottom of Bradshaw’s Passage, the relief at being here as there are no more route finding problems. Up the passage cools us of f, up the 60ft. pitch and into Pi r Squared and along to the 60ft. pitch - where’s the rope! NO ROPE! PANIC! But the rope is just hiding. Up the pitch and into the sentry box. Wait for Keith to climb up. Then help each other round the corner and de-kit. Pack it away and along the passage to the stal duck and through. Up the scaffolding to push the lid off - through.

Elated we walk back to the farm. Rub ourselves off the board and have a word with Ron Bliss. It’s a 9.00am. to 10.00pm. farm to farm trip or eight and a half hours caving.
Feeling my age, Pete Seed again tells me that the Berger is about four times the Easegill traverse.

N.B. After all that organization only six people completed the full traverse.
Jim Birchall, Keith Wright, G. Barstow, Mick Pears, Frank Hardy, and Nick Tanner.


Jim Birchall and Keith Wright.

 … and 

A DIY (pull out)  -   Yours to keep    Jim Birchall travel guide.

THE EASEGILL TRAVERSE / The Basic Route

In at Pippikin Pot
Down a 35ft pitch
Traverse across Cellar Pot.
Two squeezes and drops followed by a long squeeze
Down a 16ft pitch
Along a long squeeze
Down a 50ft. pitch
Along Stemple squeeze and swing out on the stemple and drop down
Down a 16ft pitch
Down a knotted rope climb into a pool
Traverse passage with squeeze bend and more traverse
Down a knotted rope into the stream
Follow stream down to boulder choke
Through boulder choke and up to Hall of Ten
Follow passage to Dusty Junction
Into Link Crawl and the Wallows to Hilton Hall
Down boulder strewn passage to top of pitch
Down 90ft pitch.
Walk, stoop, and crawl along Wormway to Maple Leaf
Up 90ft. pitch
Traverse to Rat Bag Chamber

Make your way through the Earby series up Dripple climb and through to the chain ladder at Canuck climb and down to Thirsty Junction Follow stream and then traverse up to emerge behind a boulder at Stake Pot high level

Along the caverns via Bobs Boss, Scylla and Charydbis, and Oxbow Corner to the Minaret’s
Through the Minarets and the caverns to the fixed ladder at Stop Pot
Down the ladder and upstream to Easter Grotto
Up to Easter Grotto and traverse across Assembly Hall
Follow the caverns to Nagasaki and Rock of Ages
Through the maze of passages at Limerick Junction
Follow the stream up Bradshaws Passage
Up a l6ft pitch
Follow twisty passage to next pitch
Up a 60ft pitch
Follow passage - and -
OUT at Top Sink

Jim Birchall.

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