...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|
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|
|Dick about to swing out into the Arson shaft|
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.
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.
|At the top of the 35' pitch|
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.