Volume 39 Number 1 Article 1
26th August 2001
Members present: Andy Whitney, Alan Kerr, Duncan Jones, Pete Dale, Rob Kenning, Catherine Cockroft
The weather was perfect. The elusive Meregill trip that had been called off so many times due to rain was finally on! We assembled all our available rope, slings, hangers and krabs in a large mound on the ground and set about the task of organising it into a more useful form. Three quarters of an hour later and after much faffing, six tackle bags lay neatly on the ground, and we were finally ready to set off.
Upon arrival we found water levels were still too high to permit access via The Mere entrance, so we headed over to Aven entrance, which is a much nicer option than the very tight, and aptly named Little Meregill! Meregill has not yet had Eco-Hangers (P-Hangers) installed, meaning that the ageing and rather dodgy spits have to be used. However, this did not put off Pete who volunteered to do all the rigging today. After about ten minutes and lots of complaining, Pete declared the first pitch rigged and we eagerly formed a queue at the low entrance.
Immediately inside, the flat out crawl makes a ninety-degree bend, with the first pitch just a few feet after. The take-off is rather awkward as you arrive headfirst over the drop, but once on the pitch it is a pleasant 14m abseil into the streamway, landing a few metres downstream of the sumped Mere Entrance. Water levels seemed very low in the streamway, which was a welcome sight, so we continued on in the deepening trench to the head of the second pitch. By climbing up and traversing out over the drop with the assistance of a conveniently jammed piece of wood, a stance is reached on a small alcove overlooking the twenty-metre drop.
Duncan and I watched Pete swinging back and forth in the shaft below as he attempted to reach a rebelay, which he soon managed without too much drama. Whilst clipped into the hanger with his cowstail as he commenced the rigging, we were shocked to see him suddenly catapult across the shaft and crash into the far wall! Pete's choice of spit had been poor, and the hanger had pulled out without warning. Luckily it had only been keeping him in position, and not supporting his entire bodyweight, otherwise the consequences could have been much more severe. Quickly recovering, Pete made a better choice of spit, and rigged the rebelay without any further heart-stopping performances!
At the bottom of the pitch the winding streamway continues down to the third pitch of thirty-five metres and the aptly named, and hugely impressive 'Canyon'. Taking a high-level route from further back in the passage we gained a vantage point directly above the drop, where a floor of jammed blocks in a cramped alcove allowed us to sit and wait while Pete rigged the drop. Forty minutes later, and we were still there as Pete strived to tie the perfect Y-Hang. We would have told him to stop buggering about and get on with it, but by now our jaws were chattering uncontrollably as we all slowly turned to ice. Just as we were drifting into a sort of semi-conscious dream state Pete declared the pitch rigged and disappeared off down the rope. Movement at last! As Pete progressed down into the Canyon rigging the various rebelays, the queue slowly started to move, and as I reached the bottom of the canyon just behind Pete and Duncan I looked back up the pitch to see a spectacular sight: Alan, Rob and Cath all on the rope together separated by rebelays. It would have made a fantastic photo, but Sod's Law dictates that you never have your camera at such events.
The fourth pitch is only small at eight metres, but nevertheless provided other problems in the form of finding a suitable anchor. Our combined efforts soon came up with goods, and one by one we negotiated the drop, regaining the stream trench. By following this a series of deep pools are encountered, all of which can be crossed with little more than wet feet if you are determined. I was, and managed to stay dry, but Cath decided to take the easier option; cautiously wading through the neck deep water. Just beyond, some climbable cascades lead to the fifth pitch, which drops into a spray lashed chamber some thirty metres below. Two rebelay's keep the rope clear of the water in this superbly sculpted shaft, one of which is from a dubious looking chockstone in the roof of a rift that opens into the side of the shaft.
Downstream from the bottom of the shaft, two high avens are passed and the final pitch is reached. This is actually two pitches in succession, each of approximately six metres, and both landing in deep pools. The pools can be avoided by swinging across to the far sides, with the reward being the start of the fantastic Meregill Main Drain. Duncan and I decided to have a look, but Alan, Pete and Cath declined. The five hundred metres of meandering streamway, which passes 'The Torrent' inlet from Black Shiver, made no attempt at disguising the fact that it floods catastrophically and completely, and as such we didn't hang about. Upon reaching the end section of low beddings we turned tail and beat a hasty retreat!
Returning to the bottom of the fifth pitch we found Alan and Rob waiting as Cath made her ascent. Pete was already well on his way out! Alan and Rob handled the de-rigging, with Duncan and myself lending a hand carrying out the bags. Ascending the numerous pitches gave me time to reflect on what a magnificent trip this was. Meregill is truly a classic. All the ingredients are there: sporting clean-washed streamways, big spray-lashed shafts, airy traverses, and that superb Main Drain to finish it all off. It is the epitome of Dales Caving, and is sporting vertical caving at its very best.