Volume 45 Number 1 Article 8
Growling and it's Offerings
(Growling Virgins) 23rd October 2007
Simon Jobling and Mark Middleton
After many repeated onslaughts of 'Lets do Growling' I finally relented to Mark's persistence and the date was set. I desperately invited other willing victims but none seemed to take up my offer - I should have got an inkling at this stage.
Mark was as eager as ever and had even drawn a lovely picture of the final Fault Pitch (Jack Pickup thought it was very pretty but needed colouring). The walk through Braida Garth was wonderful, the sun shining on a sharp, crisp Autumn morning and life felt good. The entrance quickly smashed this glorious feeling being about the size of a postage stamp. It is awkward and someone had suggested laddering it but I can't see how this would help. Both of us squeezed through and I headed upstream through a very wet low crawl - the wrong way!
In the right direction the crawl is firstly over cobbles but quickly became low wet canal type misery, varying in height from low to very low. We decided to push bags forward and this soon got me cursing and weary. The passage became sharp and jagged and the tackle bag the real enemy. We eventually approached a sharp bend and life got better and bags were dragged - thankfully.
Continuing along easier passage our spirits rose and we reached a small drop (Pool Chamber) - feet first then we went under the opposite wall through another low crawl into bigger stuff. Time to get our SRT kit on, Waterfall Inlet Pitch was next and we both enjoyed the room to move.
After various ablutions we headed over the narrow rift to the 'triangular?' Scimitar Aven. I continued on from here round a bend to a likely looking downward squeeze but Mark insisted that the route went down from the aven. I came back, popped down the slot and rushed back up totally unimpressed with the squeeze I was faced with. After a feeble excuse ridden debate I elected to continue round the corner and drop down. I wormed my way into the streamway to be joined by a grinning Mark (not a pretty sight) laughing at my lack of squeezy bottle, after completing the squeeze I had run away from - will I ever live this down!
The streamway continued with tight sections and we soon reached Stemple Pitch. This was quickly rigged and after negotiating the awkward pitch head we descended. Now we were anticipating the Fault Pitch and soon reached the chamber, marked by the huge boss which was part of the rigging.
After all the efforts of Mark's drawing I felt it only fair he took over the rigging for this monster pitch. I didn't realize that Mark was a bolt/spit virgin - what a place to lose it - 77m of free fall! Initially Mark struggled finding the spits (perhaps the fluorescent green markers weren't big enough?), and in his searching managed to knock off great chunks of loose rock - it was getting scary. He eventually spotted them and a scream of delight came out of the gloom - 'shiney new spits!' From then on Mark rigged like the old pro' he is and I joined him at the bottom of this phenomenal pitch, buzzing with adrenalin and awe.
East Kingsdale is a place of impossibilities to me - Brownhill and Puits Ian Plant pitch for example. Growling hole with it's Fault Pitch topped this, it just shouldn't be here. Tight, tight, tight, enormous!
The exit seemed amazingly rapid. The Scimitar Pitch caused a few problems where I managed to retrieve a bit of self respect as Mark couldn't climb up the squeeze I had come down but he sailed along the 'proper route'.
We flew past all the other tight sections, sped through the canal misery and laughed our way out of the tight entrance. The day was still bright, the sky still blue and my previous feeling of bon hommie returned as we made our way back to Braida Garth buzzing with plans for our next trip - Rat Hole (does he ever stop?)
Growling Hole now shares top of my favourite list alongside Tatham Wife. If you have the girth of a stick insect and the mindset of the Marquis de Sade it is the place for you - but let me know when you are going because I would love to come along to revisit this wonderful, unlikely place again.