The proposed meet was to be (on consecutive days) Penyghent Pot, Magnetometer/Washfold, Stream Passage Pot, and Simpson's-Swinsto-Valley Entrance exchange. However, the luxuries of a pub within a mile, and a caving hut which was warmer inside than out somewhat dampened the pre-vac enthusiasm. (Some of this article is an edited account from the club's log book).
About five of us arrived on 29th Dec., so that we could spend the 30th poking in shake holes above Douk Gill, to see if any were worth digging. In fact two were, so after obtaining permission, Mike Ferraro and Pete Bowler spent 1st and 2nd January removing rock and soil in an attempt to break into the elusive Master Cave. In fact they got about 15ft down before coming to a tight rift which needed banging, so they filled it in again. Perhaps having a dig gave some an excuse to pull out of trips, which is why the meet folded up so early. A pity as Mike, Pete, Noël and I wanted to do the Kingsdale trip.
Bottoming Party: Martin Smith, Phil Shields, Phil Shuttleworth, Pete Bowler, Steve Smith and Noël Williams.
Top of 3rd: John Lees, Chris Garland, Will Jones, Vic Brown and Chris Wickham (Oxford University)
Those who have had to pay £1 for being escorted from a hole in which they have spent nearly 17 hours might understand why this trip just HAD to be done before I could hang up my wetsuit. And what better day to do it than New Year's Eve?
By the night before the trip a large party of would-be speleos had assembled at Brackenbottom despite the previous week's festivities and a massive snow drift over East Yorkshire. We were rather sorry that Joe and Gareth could not make it though, because then our revenge on the hole would have been more complete. However, after sorting out the tackle, premorteming and patching wet suits, we retired, to prepare for battle.
Awakening next morning I somehow managed to pull a muscle in my neck which made looking right or upwards extremely painful for me. This was to cause agony in the canal and made me incapable of looking for high belays. The Yorkshire voodoo had struck again.
The weather, however, was perfect. The snow was about two inches deep, but the air was crisp and the sky clear. We had to walk to the hole from Brackenbottom, but it was no hardship on such a day, and driving to the shooting hut saves very little walking anyway. The pitch 3 party were made to "sherpa" most of the tackle to the hole, so saving the energy of the bottoming party. We found the entrance without any trouble and sat for a while admiring "Old man Penyghent clothed in white wisdom". But we had come for a "cave-in" and not to gape so we squeezed ourselves one by one into the underworld.
The water in the canal was freezing cold as can only be expected with snow on the ground. The level was low compared with the last time and at the first pitch not much water joined from the other stream. There was much twitting about at the second pitch. First we couldn't find the belay point (a piton) and then we used too short a belay, which meant that the short (17½ft) ladder was too short. Then the belay was too long; if only we had used a 20ft ladder here.
We found the beam for the third pitch on a ledge and soon had it rigged. There is no really satisfactory belay for a lifeline here, and it is probably best to stand on a tiny ledge in the rift with a long belay back to where the rift seals up. I didn't remember the fourth pitch properly and had to climb the ladder for the third to belay to the huge rocking boulder. There was then a very long wait while 220ft of knotted rope was untangled.
After that we speeded up and the tackle was flowing along smoothly. The head of the fifth brought back memories of six miserable hours in March. (see last Journal). I wasn't certain about the seventh pitch and several people caught up here. Some found the top of the ninth a bit tight and moved the belay about a yard along the rift for an easier climb.
I was extremely cautious about climbing round a pool just after nine. Gareth had told me "whatever you do don't fall in there- it's deep". Well, maybe it was last time, but on this occasion it was only knee deep. We all reached boulder chamber and had a nosh.
It was amusing finding a belay for the tenth. I had to ask people in the party if there was anything suitable in the roof as I couldn't look myself. However, the belay is back just above water level in the pool, on your left when looking down the pitch. The tenth looks really wet from the top, but in fact the water shoots right out and the climb is dry.
I could hardly believe my eyes at the bottom. There was acres of air space in the passage just around the corner. So it wasn't just a rumour: the passage does continue. In fact it is a very awkward passage to walk along as cross joints make the floor uneven. The eleventh is rigged on the left and is quite dry. The twelfth is reached by going to the left - not following the water. It requires a long belay and a twenty foot ladder, and not the thirty foot we had expected. You then make a dash under the great curtain waterfall to the passage leading to the sump. Several of us tripped whilst dashing under here as there is a small hole followed by an obstacle just about under the middle.
We charged eagerly for the sump. Reaching it is a moment in my caving life I will never forget. I was hot on Martin's heels as we tore along the passage. Martin stepped on a small rock bridge and jumped into what he thought would be about six foot of water. It was the sump. He disappeared completely from sight, only a few bubbles and a faint glow of light suggesting that he hadn't disappeared altogether. I remember thinking "Well, I hope he comes up again alright, because I can't save him" - he did! - and then began shouting with glee and swam along the passage as far as he could saying that he still couldn't touch the bottom. I think it was fortunate that he was in front of me. So impressed was I by Martin's antics that I felt I had to be baptised by immersion in a similar fashion. I gently lowered myself completely under water, but all the time taking a firm hold on an underwater projection. What a splendid way of bottoming a pot. All seven of us reached the bottom.
The journey out proved quite uneventful. We had originally planned to have a small bottle of champagne at the bottom, but this would have been too bulky for an ammo box. Instead we took down a small bottle of whiskey and had a round or two of this with cave water at the top of the seventh. The group who took the tackle out from the bottom half of the pot made their way out rapidly. There was a delay at the fourth, and then after derigging the second we had to go back to the top of the third for a pulley, but this didn't take long. Some people were incredibly spastic in the crawl and canal, taking nearly an hour longer than the faster ones.
The entrance/exit is rather tight and cannot be negotiated with a rope and ladders attached to oneself. Martin, thinking he was entombed for life, made a desperate final attempt to free himself, so causing a large tear in the front of his wet suit. We emerged into the silence of a magnificently beautiful moonlit evening.
Although we took much too long for the trip in such good conditions (10-12 hours) I think it is still worth notice as being the first time a 100% CUCC party has reached the bottom, having laddered in AND out.
Due to the festivities of the night and early morning everyone was rather late up, so that when some of us came back from the pub at 2.30pm others were still having breakfast. By the this time the idea of doing Magnetometer and Washfold was rapidly losing favour, especially as there had been an overnight thaw, so that a party decided to do Sell Gill. Vic Brown takes up the tale.
Party: John, Will, Vic, Steve, Phil Shuttleworth, Judy Bradshaw, Cherry Child and Chris Wickham (Oxford)
"Pitch two was somewhat damp, so Phil sacrificed his chance of a descent by chivalrously escorting Judy and Cherry along the small passage at the foot of pitch one. (Cherry subsequently discovered she was claustrophobic, so they didn't stay long).
Five of us carried on the to the main chamber, which then got steamed up, and then proceeded to the downstream passage. At the end we found an extension which looks very wet, but we didn't try it as our non-wet-suited members were waiting. We then proceeded out of the pot and down the track, which resembled a glacier, back to Brackenbottom."
The venue for the next day was Stream Passage Pot. There were seven in the party: Phil Shields, Noël Williams, Martin Smith, Phill Shuttlworth, Chris Garland and John Lees, and the write up in the log is by Phil Shields:
"As I did nothing towards a) finding the hole, b) rigging the pitches (do I hear muffled guffaws from the reader?), c) finding the way at the bottom, I must point out that the title of leader which I was given was purely an honorary one.
An incredible amount of twitting about on the slopes of that magnificent hill Ingleborough was terminated by the discovery of the requisite hole by our noble and venerable secretary. There, a fond farewell was wished by those more sane individuals Steve Smith, Will Jones and Chris Wickham, who had driven up so far with us and were going for a pleasant walk to the top.
With some trepidation our would-be leader (self, that is) rigged and descended, on a line, the first pitch. Breathing a sigh of relief. (To the naïve reader, see Club History in this Journal). Was followed down by various odds, sods and tackle.
Proceeded then to second pitch - rigged after some delay by our most sublime and exalted secretary, but descended first by one Martin Smith. After a few minutes on the ladder said Martin gave an "up" signal and duly clambered to the top announcing that the end of the ladder disappeared in a cloud of spray. Somehow the buffoon concluded from this that the ladder was too short, and proceeded to haul it up and clip on the spare ladder (thought- fully provided by none other than myself). Being quite clapped out, Martin had give up the honour of being first down, and Noël shinned down quickly, followed gradually by the rest. (Note to future leaders: the pitch can be rigged virtually dry by traversing out about ten feet and using a belay high up on the left. Lifelining is tricky and should be done from a sort of oxbow in the passage just before the pitch.)
Third and fourth pitches passed uneventfully: the pitch lengths as we rigged them were 25', 85', 100', 90'. DL's were left on the last three. The last two were dry.
Entry into the G.G. system was dramatic - Stream chamber is huge - how wonderful to cave in an upright position. Some delay occurred in Stal Chambers - while our secretary nobly fought to find the way on, we gonked. On noticing some remarkable stals I reached for my camera only to be informed that they had been planted in the mud and were not indigenous. When the exalted one returned to announce that no way on lay in that direction, a general move back out was hindered somewhat by the obstruction of a low part of a body. Closer inspection revealed that this body revealed by one Chris Garland, who was told to move it - apparently he was recuperating from the effects of three big pitches (much better to gonk while you can than on ladders. eh!).
General halt at the Sand Cavern for picture taking. A little further on we emerged dramatically into the main chamber. This place is absolutely colossal, so vast that a good NiFe cell failed to penetrate across it. What must have been a very small Fell Beck made a very good waterfall - must be tremendous in flood. Short exploration of main chamber was followed by a speedy return to Sand Caverns, led, of course, by our illustrious secretary. Here we discovered that the last bus to the surface had left some time earlier, so six weary grots set our on the long drag to the surface.
The outward journey was notable for excessive twitting about and excessive gonking (yes, myself included). Much trouble was had in hauling up the ladders on pitches 3 and 4, which have many projecting spikes. The last man up must clip the bottom of the ladder to himself and climb with it.
The water had risen a little and emerging at the surface it was apparent that it had rained a bit. Our arrival at the doss house (apologies to BPC) was met with the astonishing, breathtaking news that the time had somehow proceeded to 1 am!
This sad news knocked the spirit (metaphorically) out of everyone, so the meet folded up, and Noël's Kingsdale exchange wasn't done.