Saturday 22 November 2008

21st November 2008 - Where there's a worm, there's a way

Ray en-route to 88' pitch

In preparation for a traverse of the Easegill system later on in the season, this evening we made a return to Link pot.

There's something I like about snow flurries lit by the beam from your headtorch. It's possibly as it reminds me of when the Millenium Falcon makes its jump to hyperspace, the stars flying past at unimaginable speed. Soon though the real stars crept through the clouds and we made our way across the fell under a nothern winter sky, Orion just rising over the horizon.
While half the resident bat population of Hilton hall has decided to settle in for the winter, the other half was still very active, navigating its way at high speed around the complicated nooks and crannies of the chamber.

We dropped down through boulders into an awkwardly sized vadose rift, before another skwirm through boulders brought us to more solid streamway and the pitch in Echo aven. While the pitch seems to be permantly rigged for those completing the traverse, Tom thought he recognised the rope from when he had done the trip 15 years previously and so we rigged our rope too. Some of the older bolts and the karabiner on the deviation are certainly showing signs of having been underground for a good number of years.

As Tom arrived at the bottom of the pitch, the warm, soft glow of Ray's carbide lamp appeared at the top. Caving with LEDs is a bit like central heating; efficient and economical, but it does make you miss the glow and crackle of a real fire.

The way on lies under a shelf in an innocuous little streamway that Dick was quick to remind us, "fills to the roof in even moderate rain". There are signs of flooding everywhere, foam in the roof and every surface covered in mud deposits in which the eponymous worms of the Wormway live. An aven gives brief respite from the streamway. The colours in the formations a stark contrast to the omnipresent mud of the tunnel. Tatters of bang wire evidence of possible further exploration and clawed scratch marks on the walls evidence of more sinister activities?

In the Wormway

Back in the sewer a right and then a left brings you to another aven, which in turn leads to the bottom of the 88' pitch, our goal for the evening. Once again we found this rigged and though it held Dick and Ray's combined weight, we're probably going to have a trip to see what it's attached to at the top.

The 88' Pitch

The return took Ray in search of a waterfall down one of the previously unexplored passageways only for him to find himself at a sump, the sound of falling water being the sound of him crawling through the passage!

Once again Tom, our directeur de photographie managed to convince members of our party to lay in cooling pools of mud in his continuous search for the shot to epitomise the sheer joy of caving (it will have to have John in it).

Dick enjoying the Wormway

Throughout the whole of the return journey I was thinking about the last few awkward meanders and weaving the tackle bag back through them. It came as a very pleasant surprise therefore to be moving easily through a high bedding plane, looking down on the trench that had previously caused such grief.

On the way out

Out on the moors once again, the skies had cleared and we made our way back to Bull Pot farm under a stunning array of constilations and a lone shooting star, streaking its way across the sky.


Tom Phillips said...

very poetic description alistair. you almost make it sound pleasant/enjoyable. any ideas for trips next week? is it a lycra trip?

Gerrish family said...

I think that your description is 'beautiful'. In years to come it will rank alongside Bronte.