Friday, 5 February 2016

29th January 2016 - Discretion is the better part of Valhalla...

8th January 2016 - BPOW

January 2016 - Through the mountain with Sharon

26/7th November 2015 - That was the canal, this is the sea...

The more observant might notice that while there's plenty of cold water and darkness involved, this isn't a blog about a caving trip.
For a recent significant birthday, my wife bought me a kit for building a sea kayak (see here for the build blog and here for the launch) and after just a few trips away (see here, here and here.) in a borrowed kayak, Dick too is now the proud owner of a very shiny boat.
While it is fantastic to get away into the wilds, sometimes you need to find adventure on your own back door step and leafing through Jim Krawiecki's superb book (Northern England and IOM - Fifty great sea kayak voyages) opened my eyes to a great trip, possible without even putting the boats on the car.
As the saying goes, "Time and tide wait for no man", and so it was that a school night had to be chosen to allow us to catch the spring tide as it reached it's highest point at around 1 in the morning at Skerton weir.
Setting off from the Moor gate canal bridge we were soon paddling out through the outskirts of Lancaster and into the country side.  As we paddled a large moon rose over the fields meaning that our head torches would hardly see any use the whole night.
Only the occasional dog walker on the tow path disturbed our solitude as we wound our way to the first key point on the trip, the start of the Glasson branch in Galgate.  Immediately we had a set of lock gates in front of us and commenced the first of 6 portages round the locks that bring the canal down to the Glasson basin.
The landing stages before and after each lock are perfectly designed for narrow boats, but definitely less so for kayaks, our kit becoming ever blacker as we crawled over the rub strips on each quay.
Finally we were lifting our boats out of the canal for the last time and stopped for a break before carrying them over the car park and down to the river.
Recently we've been watching some of Sid Perou's fantastic films from back in the day (see here for example) and I've been staggered by just how hard people used to be.  My admiration for the previous generation was slightly dimmed though when Dick produced a flask of tea.  The restorative powers of a flask are truly incredible and I suddenly realised that in nearly every film we'd seen there was a ubiquitous flask (as well as multiple packs of fags!).  This was their secret!  While it appeared that they were suffering, waiting for hours at the bottom of some spray lashed ladder, actually they'd spent most of that time enjoying a nice cup of tea!
Vowing never to leave home without a flask again and feeling totally invigorated we texted the girls to say that we were now leaving the canal and heading out into the Lune estuary.  A pilot boat was manoeuvring a large vessel onto the quay at Glasson and we gave it a very wide berth as we headed straight for the huge pylons in the distance that carry the power lines across the river. 
Fortunately the tide gave us significant assistance as we paddled what is technically up river towards Lancaster.  Even though I've lived in the town for many years, seeing it from the river gives you a very different perspective, the Millennium bridge in particular looking fantastic from river level.
Though still in town , the river becomes darker as you approach Skerton weir, marked out by the herons standing on the submerged structure waiting for fish.  Dick slipped effortlessly across a low part of the weir, while I graunched across a slightly higher point.  It's times like this when you feel quite smug with your tidal calculations.
Silhouetted by the sodium glow of the town, our final obstacle now lay ahead. Nearly all the height we had lost going down the locks now had to be gained in one unpleasant portage.

Dick about to get back on the water having portaged up onto the aqua duct.

The hard work over, there was now just enough canal left to reminisce about a great trip before we arrived back at the Moor gate bridge from the opposite direction.
This really is a superb trip and highlights the adventures that are possible close to home.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

15th October 2015 - Something strange is afoot...

...given that it's before October half term and a Thursday night, the last place you'd expect to find 2 members of the TNC would be at the Devil's bridge burger van. But none the less, there they were.  Having had 2 weeks of near drought like weather, conditions seemed perfect for a trip around the Magic Roundabout Series in Easegill.

Despite delaying for a pre-cave brew (NB this makes for a very pleasant start to a trip), we were still earlier than the arranged 5pm rendezvous.  While we knew that we should wait for the other team members, we were too eager to get underground and headed off towards Bull Pot farm confident that they'd catch up while we rigged Lancaster.

Rigging in the light always seems a little unnatural
"WHEEE!", said Dick as he set off down the main pitch. "Yeah man", said Alistair as he joined him at the bottom.  "Please don't keep this up", said a poor reader.

There was still no sign of the others, but we knew that they knew the way to the Arson shaft and with us having to carry the ropes, we were confident that they'd catch us by the time we got there.

Whether it was the weather, or just the first trip of the season, I don't think I've ever sweated so much on the route past Fall pot.  I don't think I've ever slipped and slid so much either, the mud having the frictional qualities of verglas.  By the time we got to the entrance to the Arson shaft, we were both shattered.

Sweat filled our eyes by the time we got to the Arson shaft
It was even a real struggle to get the camera out of the box, I just wanted to lie down.  Oh the cruel hands of time, Dick was soon at the first rebelay and it was time for me to follow him up the rope.  Still no sign of the others, but they know the way on and the way I'm feeling they'll soon catch us up.

Dick about to swing out into the Arson shaft
Normally an ascent of the Arson shaft makes me incredibly nervous.  What state is the rope in?  What state are the hangers in?  The CNCC have done a truly superb job though and rebolted and rerigged the pitch with a shiny new rope, so for once I was able to enjoy the architectural magnificence of the shaft itself, it really is a great pitch.

At the top of the pitch the air seemed to be cooler and less humid than in the high level series, so we were soon along the Old Kent Road to the top of another nicely rerigged pitch.  While it was nice to be descending on a new rope, I think the descent was tinged with a little sadness for Dick as, up until recently, this pitch had been rigged with an old pink climbing rope that he'd put in at the end of the 1990s.

At the top of the 35' pitch
Next up was Aquarius.  I'd looked over this pitch once before in higher water conditions and I think it's definitely worth waiting till the water levels are very low, the only wetting coming when I slipped into a pool just below the bottom of the main pitch.  It was now decision time.  Pulling the ropes here would leave the others unable to complete the round trip.  Dick was convinced though that they'd be waiting, concealed in the main drain, to surprise us and so we pulled the ropes. 

Much to Dick's delight he found his old pink rope still protecting the couple of small cascades below, taking us down into Brass Monkey Passage and the final drop into the meandering passageway that leads back down to the main drain.  Only a few metres down this I remembered why I hate tackle bags, but before we knew it we popped out into huge passageway, just upstream of Stake Pot.  The others were doing a superb job of hiding as we didn't see them at all.

Absolutely knackered now, we made our way up the stemples and ropes back to the high level series and once again commenced an ice skating routine that would have gained us very few points.  It was  with real relief that I pulled over the concrete lip at the top of Lancaster once more.

Having lost so much liquid in sweat our Black Sheep bitter served solely as a chaser to the pint of water that was so desperately needed when we got to the Barbon Inn.

The pain from bruised knees and elbows, mingling with the aching of my muscles somehow added to feeling of contentment in having completed a trip that I'd been wanting to do for years and that had almost taken on a mythical status for me.  

Huge thanks to those that have worked really hard in replacing ropes and anchors in Fall Pot and the Magic Roundabout Series, making this a classic Easegill trip.

Time for bed.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

9th January 2015 - Return of the TNC

No conservation tape was crossed during the taking of this photo

An impassioned e-mail from Dick saw the largest turnout of the TNC for many a year and sharing a lift from Lancaster and meeting up at Devil's bridge did indeed give a flash back to the good old times.

The road up to Bull Pot Farm was a little wetter than usual and our plan of reacquainting ourselves with the bottom of the Aquarius series put on a back burner.

The path from the farm too was more like a stream than a path and the breeze blowing over the more made the light rain more wetting than usual.

Huge thanks to those that have put in the effort in creating the new Lancaster entrance, very nicely done.

The nice thing about a leisurely trip is that you have time to look round a corner and over an edge.  Fall pot really is worth a few minutes to take in properly and we discovered what, from the trench on the floor must be a real trade route, along the right hand wall of the pot with it's associated bolts, but somewhere we'd never been before.

With only a loose plan now of going to have a look at the Colonnades, we once again took our time getting back to Kath's way and so had a bit of a ratch around the Crater too.  

Up in the Colonnades we admired the work that has been put in cleaning up this area and had a bit of a look down the dig at the end, where a very talented mud sculptor had been at work.

The return up the pitch was really quite damp at the bottom and we huddled on the ledge waiting for everyone to be up the main pitch before once again making our way onto the moor.  Fortunately the breeze was blowing from behind us for most of the way back.

The fog had become thicker and the puddles deeper as we made our way to the Barbon Inn where a very warm welcome awaited us.  Unfortunately we felt it wasn't the done thing to squeeze three of us onto a single chair next to a couple of couples enjoying the fire, so we had to establish ourselves in the dining room.  The beer matched the atmosphere and was top quality.

Friday, 3 January 2014

January 2nd 2014. A New Years trip through a mountain

What trip involves headlights, caving gear and buoyancy aids?  The through trip of the Creosor -Rhosydd Mine.

This way to Sainsburys?

'Not sure about this one...'

'Oh my God I have split my trousers' said Kate.  

A fair way into the mine we were then faced with this bridge, little did we know that this was definitely one of the easier ones! Couldn't believe how clear the water was when crossing, amazing!

Steady as she goes...

From never having abseiled before and only having 3 seconds of expert instruction, I can't lie I was terrified.  As I plunged into the depths of the darkness, I found it fantastic.  Three abseils later, the last one  into a canoe, I had started to find abseiling easy!  The Bridge of Death brought back the fear as the return rope was wrapped around me on the second half and I had to be pulled back to unwrap it, all the time hanging on a thin wire for dear life.  Joe

Kate traversing around the third chamber and loving every second.

'Why is Sarah laughing so much'?   The team stop for lunch of traditional miner's fare - Welsh Pasties.

The end of the tricky bridge of death...

Joe with the first daylight since leaving Creosor at the West Twll in Rhosydd Mine having just enjoyed a whisky.

The team happy to be out in the daylight at Rhosydd entrance.  Only the walk back down the valley to the car left.