Volume 35 Number 1 Article 4
Sunset Hole - Grade III (Mostly)
Sunday 8th February 1998
After the Notts Pot trip, feeling relaxed and pleased with myself, I retired to the notorious pleasures of The Hill Inn. The 'Four Aces' bikers club had organised a 'do' in the barn. I parked the van, had my dinner and retired for a quick pint. By the time I entered the 'den of iniquity the bikers had taken over and the place was in full swing. I hadn't been there long when in came Swanny. He had been derigging the centre route in Notts. He was up for a few beers and a good time.
As the evening progressed Swanny engaged himself in 'civilised' conversation with some of the biker's 'MOLLS'. This activity had more potential danger than anything he had tackled that day. The 'MOLLS' all had boyfriends who were six foot tall and built like brick s*@# houses. (Ten out of ten for effort Swanny.) He escaped unscathed. S*@# faced I staggered to my bed.
Breakfast the next morning was at eleven am. It had not stopped raining all night. A trip down Sunset had seemed like a good idea. However the enthusiasm seemed to have worn off over night. In the cold light of day, on my own, with a massive hangover, I had to force myself into my damp caving gear. ( Stupid bas**d.) Off I went and soon arrived at the entrance.
I poked my head into the dry route and could not believe the noise of the water. It sounded like thunder. On reaching the main streamway I had my first doubts. I hadn't ever seen the water in Sunset get to this level. Trying to keep dry I headed further down the passage. Eventually I reached the first climb. I stood there looking over the brink watching the water crashing down. I could feel my legs being pushed by the force of the water. The cascade hit the far wall. 'Here goes!' I pulled a sling out of my bag, attached it to the in-place ring hanger, and went for it. I managed to traverse above the water the first bit. Eventually my climbing skills deserted me, and I had to jump for it. Luckily I had cleared most of the water.
A few metres further down the passage I came to the second climb. My heart sank. I had intended to free climb this. It's normally dead easy even for me. I couldn't stand in the streamway safely. I had to bridge the passage with my feet above the water to stay upright. It didn't take long to make the decision to retreat. Even if I could have descended the waterfall, I might not have been able to get back up.
Cold and disheartened I returned to the foot of the first climb. I looked up to see my sling thrashing about in the deluge. I started the climb well back from the water, reached the sling and clumsily hoisted myself up. Gasping from the shock of the cold water, I hoped my baccy had stayed dry. I headed out. My exirtwas not to be.
In the low part of the streamway I met two young cavers coming in. They were both eager determined young men, wearing brand new gear. This worried me a little. Anyway they had plenty of rope and after a short discussion I followed them down the streamway.
Back at the first climb both were full of confidence. By the time the climb was negotiated, the confidence had waned somewhat. At the second climb their confidence had dropped down to the level of mine. (zero) The ring-hanger on the second climb was useless. It diverted the rope into the water. We had no hanger for the spit above it. One of the lads decided to stay and wait for me and his mate to return. A hand line was rigged which avoided the worst of the water. We had to traverse across the wall keeping tension on the rope. I knew we wouldn't have this luxury on the way out.
On we went to the third climb I had this well sussed in advance. We climbed and traversed over the top of the pitch and descended to the head of the main chamber. The fifty foot pitch was rigged from a backup anchor and twin P-hangers in the wall above the pitch. We were at the bottom of the main chamber in minutes. It was no place to stay for long. We were both lashed with spray and half frozen in seconds. My partner headed off up and I silently cursed him for being so slow. (He was probably quite quick really but it seemed to take ages).
A speedy de-rig and a couple of minor epics on the climbs, and we reappeared into the hazy light of a damp misty evening. Pats on the back all round and we headed back to the Hill Inn. If you were worrying about my baccy it stayed dry. There we faced the biggest disappointment of the day. The f<~@>ng place was shut. Definite a should have stayed in bed day.
In conclusion Sunset Hole is graded as '3'. Don't be fooled by this in wet weather the place can be a potential death trap. You would have to see it to believe it. If you take into consideration that the pub was shut I would grade my afternoon in excess of grade 5.