Volume 32 Number 2 Article 7
Saturday 25th March 1995
ULSA Rigging Team: Beardy, Dangerous Dennis (CPC) and couple of
lightweight student faggots.
RRCPC Derigging Team: Pete Hall, Neil Pacey, Dalek, Chaz Frankland, Stan Halstead, Mike Cooper.
Freeloader: Johnny Braindead
Non-Starters: Fran & Sarah
This meet was well organized from the start. Beardy set the date a couple of months ahead, contacted the team personally and turned up with the tackle at the farm on Friday night. An exemplary effort, to be followed by meets coordinators everywhere. Planning was the order of the day and we sat in the changing room on Friday night pooling our knowledge of the pothole in question and ended up with fourteen ladders and a large bag of lifelines as well as associated belays, bits and pieces.
Beardy and the students were up at 5:30am in order to meet Dangerous Dennis at Chapel-le-Dale at 6:30am sharp. It was notable that there were no Red Rose members in the rigging team. We'd all opted for the late option.
As the RRCPC were stirring, ULSA were just rigging the third pitch and as we were stuffing a hearty breakfast into our faces, they were just being extruded through the Crux. On hearing their intrepid leader Beardy screaming, groaning and grunting, the lightweight student faggots quietly sneaked off out of the pothole and went to Bernies for the day. Beardy and Dennis were unperturbed and carried on through the hardest part of the cave, festooned with ladders. Meanwhile the RRCPC were just kicking Charlie and Fran out of bed and embarking on the endless rounds of tea which must precede every caving trip.
After an extended stop in Ingleton for caving gear, chocolate and more tea, Fran and Sarah gibbed and at about Midday we finally got to Chapel-le-Dale. Beardy and Dennis were already at the bottom and starting on their way out.
At the entrance we made final preparations such as squeezing all the shit out of Dalek to avoid any unpleasant accidents such as those which have occurred at other narrow pots. The first and second pitches are fairly easy but on the way to the third pitch there is the opportunity to go through the impossible stream route, which Stan strayed into, forfeiting his second place. Even the correct route is fairly tortuous requiring some unusual wriggling and gyration of the hips. It took a while to get everyone down the 90-foot third pitch so Charlie and I headed on down to the fourth pitch. The going was fairly easy when you have plenty of strength and nothing to carry and soon we were steaming along the walking passage towards the Crux. Skydiver was passed with no problems and I teamed up with our first-timer Charlie who hadn't been past this point before. He followed on close behind watching what I did and making a note of the things I did wrong.
The Crux can be very confusing: the difference between the bits which are too tight and the bit that isn't is almost indistinguishable and you can easily end up going the wrong way. Indeed half way through you have to change from going head-first on your side to going feet first down through a tight squeeze. It is tempting to drop your legs down too soon. I made exactly this mistake and ended up getting stuck. I'm pleased to say that most of the others did too. Once through the crux, a short crawl at stream level led to a crawling traverse in a roof tube as the stream canyon dropped away. Here we met Beardy and Dennis and stopped for a quick chat with them before moving on. We went on to the fifth pitch without waiting for the others and climbed down the in-situ handline. Then we rigged the sixth pitch and waited at the bottom.
We could hear Neil and his mate Beardy gassing like a pair of old women. They went on for hours and we were quite chilly by the time they arrived. Of course Neil pretended he had to wait for the others to get through the Crux but we knew they were just gossiping. When we had all assembled, Chaz and I continued down the easy 40ft sixth pitch. The last of the horrors was upon us: the "Wet W-Bends". This is a squeeze down followed by a crawl round a sharp W bend tube half full of water. It's not too difficult but it seems worse because the rest of the trip is fairly dry. The way on is a climb up to Fly Crawl just beyond, but the cold water must have affected my memory because I continued straight on to the top of the eighth pitch ten minutes further on. Charlie had followed me but he was very understanding.
Fly crawl is a low hands and knees crawl with the odd pool. At the end is a 50ft pitch into a fault chamber, with an old Texolex helmet in it (how do people leave their helmet behind on a caving trip?) Unfortunately one of the lightweight student faggots had left a ladder behind so we had to climb the lower half on a tatty, in-situ rope. The last of the crawling was now behind us as we climbed down the fault climbs, the second one of which was muddy and slippery. Then just a short walk to the last pitch into Gormenghast Chamber.
Dalek and Mike derigged back to the sixth pitch. Once we were all up, the slow process of getting everyone through the Crux began. It took about two hours what with pulling all the tackle through. Everybody got at least a bit stuck or wasn't sure of the correct route. The funniest one was Mike: He was crawling along the stream route below the Crux lying flat out in the rushing water pushing the tackle through to Dalek on the far side. What he didn't realise was that this route is too tight for all but Wilkinsons and tackle and he couldn't actually go that way himself. He had to reverse back downstream and then go through the Crux.
To add to the excitement, the pothole started to flood. The flooding didn't present any real problems until we got to the 90-foot pitch. The water was pouring straight down the ladder all the way, and we cursed Beardy for not using a rope. The rope and ladder kept on getting caught and by the time we were at the top we were thoroughly soaked and shivering. But all the obstacles were now out of the way. We found out later that Dangerous Dennis had had a bit of a nasty moment on this pitch, even without the flood: The ladder had caught at the top and when Dennis got up the first section it freed itself off. What with the sudden five-foot drop and no lifeline, he ended up falling 20ft to the bottom. Fortunately he landed in a pool and wasn't hurt.
We gathered at the second pitch, where the water was thundering in through the tackle lowering pot, glad to be out of the wet bit. In another few minutes we were all out of the pothole on the fell in the most heinous weather. The wind was howling and the rain was pouring down through the fog. Dalek and Chaz had gone out early and were staggering around on the White Scar saying things like "I'm sure I don't remember this from earlier!" Eventually they found their way to Crina Bottom house where the hypothermic Charlie was given tea and bickies and some dry clothes. They even got a lift to Chapel-le-Dale. The rest of us were a bit more fortunate and managed to find our way to Tatham Wife Hole, along the Green Edge and down to the car park without incident in spite of the poor visibility. We had made good time (eight and a half hours) and retired to the New Inn to meet Beardy.
It was a very successful trip in spite of the extra challenges, with everyone in the team pulling their weight and no passengers or liabilities. Classic 'ard potholing at its finest.