For three years now Bill has been trying to get me on the Gaping Gill winch trip. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t want to go, but for some reason every time we tried to make arrangements something happened that got in the way. It was as if it was just not meant to be. Still, never say never…. This year Bill emailed those in charge at the Bradford Club and arranged for us to go prior to the great Joe Public invasion and I’m pleased to say – success at last.
So how was it for a novice caver to see the biggest chamber in the country? Well, let me say, impressive barely fits the bill! And what a superb effort is made by Bradford to organise everything; not just the winch down, but all the rigging of various other entrances. The main chamber had flood lights and information boards, which were very interesting for a first-time visitor. It is a thoroughly unique and adventurous peek into the mysterious underground world, revealed to us over many a long year by those crazy folk who squeeze into tight holes and drop hundreds of feet into the earth, wade through underground river beds and climb over mud slides to admire geological formations and natural wonders, simply because they are there to be explored.
After a good smooch round the main chamber, I watched one Bradford member, (who said he needed to clear his head after last night’s beer drinking,) descend via the Dihedral route, have a quick chat with his mate at the bottom of the winch, then prussic back up the same route in what seemed no time at all, except for a slight pause at the changeover….some feat with a hangover! He must be one fit guy!
I was really quite enjoying myself, and didn’t feel ready to leave the cave and go back up on the winch, so Bill said we could have a little rummage round and have a look at Sand Caverns, a short trip away, that only involved a bit of crawling and scrambling, and mostly walking with full head height. I smiled, cos for a shorty like me, crawling mostly means just bending down, unless the passage gets really low. Bill on the other hand, at nearly six foot, does a lot more crawling than I do! I think he regretted letting me wear the one set of knee pads we had with us. (He’s quite the gentleman really!)
I was having a great time marching through the passage enjoying the wonderful reverb effect of my imitation of a trombone playing the ‘Floral Dance’ at full pelt, when the sight of lights up ahead brought the song to an abrupt embarrassing-moment ending. We crossed paths with a couple of cavers who had entered via Bar Pot…a trip I would like to make at a future winch meet. (It’s on my list!)
Embarrassment forgotten, I was soon tra-la-la-ing my way down more passage, and trying rather unsuccessfully to take pics with my phone…ah well, you can’t win ‘em all!
We reached Sand caverns and sat for a while and exchanged a few words with another couple of cavers who had arranged to meet up with their friends there, before heading back to the main chamber. We spent a good couple of hours in all and it was well worth it.
The trip back up the winch seemed to be over in seconds and I wished it could have lasted longer, but there’s always another time.
Thanks to Bill for finally getting me down Gaping Gill. Loved it !