Volume 32 Number 3 Article 3
Neil, Beardy, Chas, Fran, Pete, Roy, and a diver named Phil.
I was asked by Neil if I wanted to go caving with him down Langcliffe, not knowing the cave, I readily agreed. As the night wore on Beardy, Neil and Phil explained what the plan of attack was to be... Basically a diving party Phil and a friend (Bryan) not yet present, were to dive. The remainder were sherpas. Having not been on a cave diving trip I was well chuffed. An early start was called for so we had an early night - early by my standards anyway.
Gear sorted, breakfast eaten by some, all before 8:30 am, Phil and Beardy then left to meet Bryan. Pete, Neil and I went to Bernies for a brew, and a new suit for Pete. I was talked into buying a pair of knee pads, (good job I did). After arguing with Steve Round he assured me he would refund or replace my knee pads if the plastic peeled off. Money changed hands. Another 'Netto' special offer to Mug Caving Type. Off to Settle in Petes speleomobile for caving lights. Met up at Langcliffe Cafe about 10 am, more tea and hello to Bryan and Ben, another sherpa.
The Team - Phil, Bryan (divers) Neil, Pete, Beardy, Ben, Keith (Sherpas). We changed into furry suits in the car park to strange glances from old ladies. A brisk walk over the fells saw us at the entrance in good time. Suits were donned and gear distributed, Neil, Pete, Ben, and Beardy would rig the three ladders on the first pitch. They had a bottle and a tackle sack each. Phil, Bryan and I would follow with one bottle and a sack between us. We took a slower pace to conserve energy for the dive. We caught up to Pete's mob at Nemesis pitch.
The entrance was different to any cave I have yet visited and with a depth of water ranging from 2-3 inches to 3-4 feet deep we were constantly wet. The passage varies in height from about 10 inches to a modest rift about 8 feet high which is usually too tight to stand up in accompanied by sharp turns and twists every 15-20 feet of passageway. Conserving energy was a priority and to say I was surprised by this was true.
At Nemesis we met up with the other wet sherpas and had a brief rest, while Pete rigged and checked pitch. Neil informed me that I was on a false boulder floor, whatever that is, so I had to be careful. Secure in my innocence I wandered about. Phil explained what a false boulder floor was, I took a bit more care, then tried to find a hole in the floor to look through. Nemesis was conquered by all, then began the infamous collapsed boulder choke crawls. Progress was obviously a lot slower now. We wriggled and thrutched our way along the stream as carefully as we could, passing bottles and sacks between each other as if they were new born babies. Team effort is essential (well done lads). Phil was well pleased!
After a torturous stream passage dodging water and loose rocks we arrived at the sump. Phil changed into the Monster from the Black Lagoon. "Have you seen a cave diver before", I was asked? "Yeah, but only on the telly." "It doesn't exactly inspire you to be a cave diver" said Neil. The sump was like a slurry pond and the visibility was about 1 foot.
Phil struggled to find the way on at first. When he did he was gone about 10 minutes. He laid a line and secured it. Having not been dived since 1976 this was quite an achievement, with possibilities of finding dry passage ahead. Bryan dived next, and confirmed Phil's way on. It was too bad visibility to go on any more. Another diving trip was planned for future.
Seven cold cavers set off back out. The return journey was arduous, reversal of entrance, only worse 'cos your tired. Over all an enjoyable experience? I have decided to get fitter so I can carry more gear for longer, as I struggled with bottle on the way out. An enjoyable pint in Langcliffe bought by Phil in gratitude to sherpas was gratefully received by all. We all agreed to another trip if asked. Not for the fainthearted though!.