Volume 39 Number 2 Article 3
Swinsto / Simpson's Exchange
19th May 2002
The day started with loud thunder ringing in my ears and sheet lightning flashes before by eyes. Outside the weather was cloudy but fine! After only a few hours kip, courtesy of Rowena and Sam's do, I was at Bernies, drinking coffee and vowing never to get in this state again.
A short drive to Kingsdale to meet up with the rest of our motley crew, a quick change, and off it was to do Simpson's / Swinsto exchange. Paul Wilkinson et al went to rig Swinsto whilst Neil Tanya, Ray, Alan, Andy, Richard (mew member) and myself were to go to Simpson's.
"Don't forget he who laughs last" said Ray, referring to an incident a week prior in the Marton Arms where I got wrongly accused of putting a banger under his tobacco, (it was Andy Whitney), and off he went taking the last tackle sack with him. I timed that well! After walking for what seemed twenty minutes I stopped in line with the Valley Entrance and lit a fag that I'd carefully concealed in my helmet. I carried on up, every footstep shaking my brain as a major hangover was rapidly approaching.
A short search later we caught up with Neil and Tanya just as they were entering the cave, each with a bag of ropes. The rest of us sat, or in my case lay, outside talking and smoking. "Do you think he'll have the first pitch rigged yet?" asked someone. "Nah, give him five more minutes." "Here you are, you scouse git" said Ray, handing me the bag of rope for the last pitch. "I'm having a tourist trip with no lugging of tackle." As hung over as I was, I still remembered his words by the car and checked the tackle sack for any unwanted rocks!
I can't remember much of the trip down, (surprise surprise), apart from feeling severely ill in the crawl and thinking what the hell am I doing here. I got to the duck and heard Ray's monotonous tones on the other side. Is it here he will seek his revenge? Sod it! I went through head first and suddenly thought where's the floor gone as my hands started doing the doggy paddle to keep my face out of the water. A howl of laughter came from Andy as he saw me nigh on submerged, sinking head first into the cold water and trying my damndest to get my feet through so as I could stand up. To say I got wet is an understatement! It was at this point, however, that I sobered up!!
We continued down and by Slit Pot Neil asked for the tackle sack I was carrying. "You could have had it from the entrance" I replied truthfully. Neil and Tanya went off to rig Great Aven while Ray proceeded to rig Slit Pot. After two attempts, Ray was through and on his way down. (I could have sworn I heard him say "Eat your heart out Chris Kinghorn" but I may have been mistaken!) Andy was next after two tries to get through and, only because I didn't want to appear a smart arse, I took two attempts as well. The pitch was quite wet but refreshing as by now I had dried off quite a bit from my impromptu swim. At the bottom it stopped being refreshing and quickly became cold as wet met Paul and the others who had been waiting twenty minutes for us. Soon Richard and Alan were down, so it was a question of onwards and upwards as we set off to de-rig Swinsto.
At the first pitch on the upward journey Ray went first and took a while at the re-belay. Andy followed, "Bloody hell it's wet" I heard, as he was half way up. A few minutes at the rebelay, then "rope free", it's my turn. Prussicking up, head down to stop the water hitting my face, I was soon at the rebelay only to find that there wasn't enough slack in the rope to be able to put by chest jammer on. A good few minutes ensued until I sussed out what to do and I was hoping that the rest of the rigging wasn't as awkward as that. I joined Andy and Ray in the chamber at the top of the pitch as Richard was coming up. My light was failing slightly so I turned it off and sat alone in my thoughts until after a long wait a shout came from Richard at the rebelay. He was having problems with his cows tails. Alan couldn't come up because he would have been in full flow of the water, so gallant Ray went down to the rescue. (I was under the impression that he only went to the aid of female members so I have been proved wrong.) After talking Richard through the rebelay we continued up until we arrived at the split pitch. Andy was first, pulling a face that could have won him first prize in a gurning competition, as a torrent a water crashed down on him. I was next and on reaching the ledge Ray shouted for me to wait to help Richard off the rope. It wasn't long until I started shivering on the spray-lashed ledge. I looked back down the pitch and Ray shouted that he was going to take Richard out of Valley Entrance. I carried on up and waited with Andy for the rest of our group to arrive. The pair of us were in agreement that it was the wettest SRT trip we had done. Alan soon appeared and started to de-rig, (Neil and Tanya having decided to accompany Ray and Richard).
On we trundled towards the pool pitch hoping that it would be rigged out of the water. "That's better" said Andy, as we saw the rope hanging dry. Up he went with me in hot pursuit. At the pitch head my helmet suddenly decided to become a beret listing on my head at a forty-five degree angle with the straps coming away. I took my helmet off to try and fix it when my hidden stash of fags and lighter fell into the water and disappeared down the pitch. Cursing my misfortune I thought nothing else could go wrong so, on putting my helmet back on, I turned around to see total darkness, my lamp having finally given up the ghost. Never mind, always prepared, over to my backup. I quickly learnt the practical disadvantages of not checking if your batteries are working in your backup light before venturing underground! I was resigned to finishing the trip in Braille until Andy lent me the smallest light I had ever seen. Still it's better than nothing and it will get me out of the de-rigging so happy days!
Up we went and for the first time in my life I was pleased when we got to the wet crawl, knowing that there was only one more pitch then out. On reaching the last pitch the rigging left a lot to be desired. I for one desired to know how you got from the Y hang to the relative safety of the pitch head! Fortunately the pitch has been left pre-rigged for a while so by clipping cows-tails and jammer to both sets of rope I was able to Tarzan my way across. Alan came up and de-rigged (as usual). After a while of cursing he joined us and as we were stuffing the tackle sacks told us of the "fun" he had having to climb well above the traverse line to retrieve a sling from a boulder. So after a little amble we were out and back on terra firma instead of under it. Andy and I told Alan that it was probably our wettest trip. "Huh," he replied, "You should have been down Meregill with me and Dave Edland when it flooded". A walk down (without a fag) and we met the rest of our group coming out of Valley Entrance, good timing or what?
A thoroughly enjoyable sporting trip with great company only spoilt by too much alcohol, not enough light and a burning desire for performance enhancing drugs.