|1977 - 79|
While relaxing over the usual sausage chips'n'beans, a reckless novice attempts to force the Mitre Squeeze... before individuals troop off to collect the weekend provisions, ranging from bottles of wine, peppers, onions etc. (for the cordon bleu spaghetti bolognaise) to the home-made muesli.
(The characters and incidents described in this story are real in almost
every detail, although they may occasionally be exaggerated, and the events
have been assembled into a single meet.)
At intervals the vehicles set off via the seemingly endless A1
1st Wave: Slowest vehicle (Yellow GPO Van) - highest mpg (beer)
2nd Wave: Bit quicker (Team Renault/Henhouse) - lowest mpg (do.)
3rd Wave: Well some people have to work on Friday afternoons - (Dirty Blue Van/Clean Green Machine).
150 miles later we abandon the reassuring monotony (A1) to plunge into the surrounding countryside in search of the inevitable Chippy. In the face of all adversity, we eventually congregate at the pub rendezvous in time to knock back a few swift pints, in order to propagate the myth upon which the club T-shirt is based:
..... through the homely haze of alcohol fumes and ciggy smoke, Nick steps forward to announce that despite the tireless efforts of your secretary, this week's accomodation problem has not been entirely resolved; that is to say a 'lucky few' will be able to join Ben (as Meet Leader) in the back of a Dormobile for the night.
Battling through the exaggeratedly deep snow drifts, the 'priveleged ones' pile into the conveniently parked van, armed with a 'wee bottle o' malt whisky' (just to keep the chill off, you understand). Unfortunately, the near suicidal desire of a senior official to relieve himself in the middle of a blizzard leads to a particularly nasty case of frostbite. Oblivious to any such discomfort, the rest of us settle down to a good night's sleep... except of course for Dave who had one drink too many, then several more too many, etc.
Having dug our way out of the van, we head for breakfast at the cafe. There, following the irrefutable maxim 'never go underground without having a good meal first 'sausage'n'bacon'n'eggs'n'beans' etc. are rigorously forced down reluctant gullets. Thus fortified we set off for... no, not the pub... the CAVE!
(Repeat the Castleguard Film Soundtrack to yourself at this point)
On arrival the process of changing into wetsuits follows the usual
... meanwhile the advance party moves up to the entrance.
Skirwith may once have been a show cave, but route-finding can still be a severe test, as we were soon to find out. Having followed the sign...
... Fingers and Glam arrived at a huge snow drift.
Thwarted but not defeated we searched about until we came across a small
opening in the nearby cliff face. Intrepidly, we plunged into a thrutohy
passage where sharp rock tore hungrily at our well-worn suits defeating the
protection of even the most efficient knee pads, causing blood to seep freely
into the parched rock.. oops! sorry - got a bit carried away there. We were,
admittedly, surprised to find empty coke-cans and second-hand toilet paper in
what was surely an unexplored cave (see Appendix I); but assuming it was
obviously flood detritus, we pressed on eagerly. Arriving at the brink of a
plummeting 2.038 metre (6ft 9ins) pitch, Dave the Cave (sic), leading at this
point to demonstrate the advantages of his new multi-purpose lighting-system,
stepped into his latest revolutionary abseiling gear (see Appendix II) and
dropped head first down the 'pitch' to within 0.3m (1ft 0in) of the floor.
Leaving the expert to disentangle himself the rest of us swarmed past, and blatted through to the disappointing termination of the cave a few metres (rather more feet) further along. Had a quick Mars Bar gonk, while Simon paced anxiously back and forth, deeply disturbed at the thought of missing some drinking time, then exited pretty sharpish, rescuing Dave on the way. Naturally the Henhouse wouldn't start and, due to the slight lack of compression resulting from thousands of miles of service to the club, had to be push-started in reverse.
Back in the warmth of the pub, replenished in the traditional manner with
pie and peas, reality set in leading to doubts about the find being a major
breakthrough in Yorkshire caving, which even the invigorating effects of the
odd pint of Theakston's failed to dispel. As the fire died in the grate and
the toll of that inevitable bell loomed ever more threateningly, pints were
downed more hurriedly, amidst visions of the previous night's
débâcle and this, combined with a certain deference towards the
adverse meteorological conditions, forced us to jack on the remainder of the
meet. The return journey was almost completely uneventful apart, that is,
from the occasional car being written off by meandering dry stone walls. In
comparison with such events the mysterious case of the self-ejecting spark
plug in the Henhouse was a mere hiccup in a distinctly sedate return to base.
Appendix I This cave entrance is not fictitious, but does not appear to be mentioned in the relevant guidebook (Northern Caves, Vol. 3 - Ingleborough) despite a length of some 300' !
Appendix II The equipment described here is an extension of an original idea (courtesy Dave the Cave), and should not be regarded as practical - unless anyone wishes to develop the obvious advantages of combining the power cable from mains supply to helmet, necessary for this lighting system, with a method of tackling pitches by single-cable technique (SCT); incidentally although route finding is made easier, through trips would not be very practicable.