Christmas -- Grange Rigg Exchange.

A-HAA! me hearties. Them who stopped at home was the unlucky ones.  A through trip, not for the lily-livered: I was as stiff as a board the next day, probably due to the sting in the tail of IT.

Only seven showed up, so Chaz Frankland and his two mates went down Christmas and Frank Hardy, Neil, Simon and I staggered across to Grange Rigg. It was a long walk, with a lot of gear from Clapham car Park via Clapham Bottoms to the hole and we were all sweating profusely by the time we arrived.

Entering Grange Rigg we traversed up to find the belay on good ledge, for the first pitch, then motored on steadily, although I must confess, having trouble on the second chute as I tried to get down feet first. It might have been alright for those skeletons, but me! No way! Neil and Simon said they had heard of a way past the top of the 40ft. pitch which missed out a lot of the wet crawl, and so it proved. We were just setting up the ladder, when we heard boulders rumbling below. Simon, who had just reached the bottom, shouted up that the exchange party had arrived. A good job we met there, as the ladder was not obvious and they could have missed it.

We carried on through Battleship Passage, where I lost the rest of my knee pads, which meant I had to “bum” myself along the crawl. Then into Christmas and the fantastic formations, which we all admired. a quick trip to the bottom, or as far as the Drainpipe, which has collapsed, then a struggle through the “Keyhole” into Christmas and on to the 100ft entrance pitch, which was a bit damp. After spreading ourselves out on the ledges to de-ladder the hole, the water started to rise, and speaking for myself, an the climb through the narrow bit at the top, it was Like climbing up a plughole. It’s the only time I’ve been gargling on a 100ft. pitch.

We came out to pouring rain, and the farmers gripping was diverting all the water into the oil drum. We staggered back down to Clapham, wet, knackered, but happy. A good trip.

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