Volume 39 Number 1 Article 3
A Quiet Day At Valley Entrance
Sunday 4th November 2001
Manchester YMCA : Pete & Julie Mohr, Dennis Bushell
RRCPC backup team : Alan Kerr and Andy Whitney
Manchester YMCA : Tony, Cliff, and 25 novices(!)
As Alan and I arrived at Valley Entrance things were pretty quiet. We sat in the car waiting for the others to arrive while a small group of cavers packed ropes for what was probably a Simpson's or Swinsto pull through. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the harmonious duet of two diesel minibuses! The cavers looked up from their bags of rope just in time to see the glorious sight of twenty-five YMCA novices, all clad in bright green oversuits piling out onto the road.
As the large green, chemical suit clad mass headed over to the oil drum, the poor pull through party could only watch on with mouths open in disbelief - it wasn't going to be a quite day after all! With the group assembled outside the entrance, Alan and I were assigned to follow on at the back, picking up anyone that collapsed along the way. Alan informed them that we had a good supply of body bags with us.
The bottleneck that we had envisioned being created by the oil drum didn't seem to materialise and we were soon well on our way towards the duck. Shrieks and groans from further ahead informed us that the first of the group had entered the water and Alan and I watched with delight as everyone proceeded to crawl through on their hands and knees, getting a refreshing soaking. We could have explained that it could be done with little more than wet feet, but who were we to spoil their fun.
Upon entering the Roof Tunnel, a brief stop was made beneath one of the Avens as Pete took on his tour guide roll and explained the fundamentals of cave formation. Pete's expertise and lecturing skills put any public show cave tour to shame. Moving on, at a surprisingly swift pace considering the numbers, we soon arrived at the top of the pitch down into the Master Cave. Dennis, Pete and Julie set about rigging no less than three ladder and lifeline systems, and then it was all hands on deck as the twenty five novices were safely moved down the pitch with stunning efficiency.
Everyone seemed to really enjoy stomping up the Master Cave, which was generously watered, but all too soon it ended as we arrived at the Master Junction. Now came the fun part; the wet crawl of East Entrance beckoned! Most were sensible enough to wait for the person ahead to get well in front before entering the crawl, but one or two ended up sat in the water while waiting for a bottleneck to clear. The climb up through the boulders at the end of the crawl was something that we had voiced some concerns about, due to the recent collapse, but everything seemed fine and no problems were encountered. Very soon we were all crammed into the small chamber at the bottom of Great Aven, with little room to spare.
The group was presented with a choice of either returning back the way they had come or via Philosophers Crawl. The unanimous decision to return along Philosophers was a little surprising, even after having described it to them. A few eager individuals stepped forward to be the first through, but some found the narrow boulder constriction would not yield to their proportions. Reluctantly they admitted defeat, and we set a benchmark that anyone equal to, or larger in size than them would be going back out of East Entrance! Pete, Julie and Alan volunteered to guide half of the group out of East Entrance, whilst Dennis, Cliff and Myself took the other half along Philosophers Crawl. Entering the low, wet crawl the half hearted groans and whimpers had developed into full bodied screams and yells, as the icy cold Kingsdale water found it's way into places where it really wasn't welcome. Thank God for Neoprene!
As we all re-converged at the Master Junction, those that hadn't been able to experience Philosopher's were told what they had missed out on by those that had been fortunate enough to be able to get through. I doubt many of them would be too eager to do it a second time though! With everyone suitably rested we set off back down the Master Cave, which all too soon came to an end as we arrived back at the pitch. We now set about the mammoth task of getting everybody quickly and safely back up again! Soon the ladder and lifeline system was in full swing and in about twenty minutes we had safely transported all 25 novices back up the pitch. It was quite an impressive spectacle, and would have made an entertaining picture. The only missing element, that would have really completed the scene was my camera, which I had neglected to bring.
With all members safely up the pitch and accounted for and the finish line nearly in sight, we proceeded along the muddy tube of the roof tunnel to arrive once again at the duck. It seemed to be a much quieter affair than on the way in - perhaps due to everybody being left speechless by the magnificence of the Master Cave streamway. Either that or they were so cold that they were numb to it!
We soon emerged back on the surface and within half an hour everyone was changed and heading for a well deserved drink. I think I speak for all concerned in saying that a brilliant time was had, for both those leading and the novices. Hopefully they will have enjoyed it so much that they will be eager to come back and experience more of what the world beneath us has to offer!