Volume 34 Number 3 Article 2
Big Meanie - Death's Head Exchange
5th October 1997
Dave Edland, Samuel Carradice, Ben Shaw, Roger Watkinson
Although advertised well in advance, there seemed to be limited enthusiasm for this excursion! Discounting those who wouldn't fit, and those who knew better, the possible number of team members varied between two and four throughout the morning and into the afternoon. After much prevarication, the matter was eventually settled by a secret ballot, and our fate was determined by a result of three in favour with one abstention.
Dave (who knew the way) and I descended Big Meanie, while Ben and Roger waited for us to pass the squeeze before starting down Death's Head Hole. On the third arrangement of tackle and body parts, I managed to drop through the infamous squeeze at the top of the impressive 50 metre pitch.
The route to Death's Head Main Chamber starts in a large passage, but then encounters a back-breaking contortion with one ear in the mud, followed by a hands-and-knees crawl through pools with a delightful sloppy mud base. The passage ends at a 20 metre pitch down the wall of the Main Chamber. With the precision expected from any trip co-ordinated by Dave, both parties arrived simultaneously at the bottom of the chamber, and set off almost immediately upon their respective exit routes.
Despite searching, Ben had been unable to locate a deviation on the 64 metre pitch of Death's Head, and the rope was rubbing at several points. Dave found it, (it's always easier on the way up), making my ascent slightly less anxious. Only one and half hours after starting the trip, I arrived at the surface just as Roger appeared from Big Meanie shakehole about 100 metres across the fell.
Our prediction of a two hour trip looked certain to be correct - but we were wrong! Ben had been advised to haul the tackle bag from below the squeeze to prevent it getting stuck, but failed to get through himself. Although he would have succeeded eventually, it took the combined efforts of Roger and Dave to affect a more timely extraction.
Despite this minor inconvenience, and inevitable subsequent vilification, a grand time was had by all. If you like tight spots and lots of mud, then it is highly recommended.