Jib Tunnel – Stream Passage

 (My humble apologies Chris, Your article should have been published in the last newsletter. It became mislaid in my filing system.)

Jack and Lol German, Chris B, Eddie, and myself assembled at Clapham, it was Monday 28th. December. It was drizzling, but was not too cold, the continuous rain during the night had caused the water level to rise considerably. We decided though, that we would have a look anyway.

Eddie and I arrived at Stream Passage to see the stream flowing down the entrance oil drums. ‘If you can’t go down Jib, catch us up.”; was the last thing I had said to Jack and Co. I was thinking if it’s like this here, what must it be like at the bottom of the first pitch where you meet the stream proper.

The narrow exit onto the first pitch was hideous, it was ear in the water stuff. The pitch itself was just a solid white mass of raging water. Oh sod it, and down we go was the answer. The roar of the water on the second 90ft. pitch could be heard from miles away.
After a good traverse the pitch could be descended with the aid of one deviation onto a platform from which you begin the traverse for the third 110ft, pitch.
A difficult traverse and then two wayout deviations all on my extra fast 9mm Edilrid really added to the excitement. An excellent pitch using the two deviations; but I wouldn’t like to do it in that water without them.

A dry third pitch, with one re-belay and the bottom is reached.
Meanwhile Jack had descended 10ft. down Jib only to be hit by the water shooting out of Jib Tunnel. Back up, and a deviation was needed. This one plus another three and the first 180ft. pitch was bearable onto the ledge. Three re-belays later and you are onto the last free hanging 9Oft. onto the floor of the main chamber. Here they met some other Bar Pot cavers who couldn’t believe that they had come down ‘that bloody thing’. They gave Jack and Co. a flask of coffee, but this was soon snatched back when Lol nearly finished it off. Chris B was meant to follow, but somewhere on the way down, his light failed, so he turned back.
We met in the Sand Caverns, exchanged stories and set off out to de-rig each others route. The passages to the main chamber were as muddy as I remembered them. It was about 200ft. until the main chamber and the noise could be heard. That was when Eddie asked me how to pass a re-belay when going up! I looked at him and thought what a pitch to learn on.  The main chamber was black; there was almost no light visible until you stood under the shaft. Our rope hung in between the massive main waterfall and the water from Rat Hole.. Eddie set off and after about fifteen minutes shouted ‘rope free’. I was only just able to hear him, I waited a minute to see him clear and then set off. 9Oft later I reached the re-belay, looking up I could see that he’d passed the next one, so I could change over, pull up the bag, pack it, and then he would be up onto the ledge. He wasn’t so I had a good look about, just then three people came into the main chamber, only then can you tell, in real terms, just how far it is to the other side of that immense black box. Rope free, and I set off quickly to get warmed up, stopping again , mid-rope to pull up the bag and pack it, so that I knew it couldn’t get trapped lower down, then off again. A deviation and then onto the ledge to

see Eddie there, 1ooking worried: the rope wasn’t feeding properly ead he wasn’t moving. The fact that you couldn’t hear yourself screaming, the immense amount of water visible, and the size of that shaft disappearing below you as you swing out didn’t help him either. I just shouted and pointed up and he soon got the message, worked out what was wrong. and got his backside into gear.

After about twenty minutes it was my turn, there was no way that I could have heard him shouting ‘rope free’, so I decided to say ‘sod it, either he’s off the rope or I will catch him up mid—rope.

This was it, climbing down a bit and then slowly letting myself out, off the ledge was the idea. With a full tackle bag fastened to you, its a bit different. The bag just rolled off, dragging me with it into one of the best - and most frightening pendulums I’ve ever done! Up and up, spinning and swinging in the lateral shaft of Gaping Gill is exciting to say the least. Two deviations later and I suddenly became aware of a wall of water descending about eighteen inches away from me, putting an arm out and into this water, you could feel the force and power behind it. Up into the parallel shaft and the final two deviations to the main hang, and an exciting de-rig and out into the open with solid ground beneath your feet.
We walked over to Stream Passage to meet Lol and Jack who weren’t long, and who were able to exit through the oil drums without getting too wet as the water had dropped a bit.
A great exchange trip was had by all, and I, personally think that Jib Shaft in wet conditions is the most exciting pitch that I have ever done.

Chris Naylor.

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