Wednesday 31 March 2010

26th March 2010 - The Christmas Party

They say that history is written by the victor.

If however the victors' grammar is truly atrocious and they rely on made up words, then it's probably better if the losers do it...

The going forward of the clocks signals the end of the official TNC season and also the time for our Christmas party. A cave, campsite and pub or two in fairly close proximity are therefore required and 4:30 on Friday afternoon saw the team assembling at Mr Suttcliffe's campsite in Horton in Ribblesdale.

It's a very long "kilometre" slog up the Pennine way from Horton. There has to be a better way than walking. At least the entrances of Sell Gill Holes aren't far from the track. The wet or Goblin entrance was living up to its name so rather than the hope for exchange trip, the whole team set off down the dry entrance. With Tom rigging and two members of the team already fired from photographic duties, the camera passed to Dick as he had recently attended one or two lessons of a photography course.

The only difficulties with the pitches came from choosing which of the many rigging alternatives to use, Tom in the end choosing a minimalist approach to see us quickly to the bottom. The impressively sized chamber narrows and lowers till the stream only has a crawling sized hole to flow through and flood debris can be found high up the chamber walls. The exit passage from the main chamber soon reaches a sump and we returned to photograph the main chamber. The temperature of the water and associated wind coming down from the wet route convincing us we'd made the right route choice.

The sky was still light as we made our way back up to the surface. The long trog back to the village was made a bit easier by the couple of cans Tom had stashed close to the entrance. 

Phil having made the sensible decision to take some clean clothes with him was left in The Crown as we passed to secure a table, while the rest of us returned to the camp site to change. Phil did us proud and we were soon digging into a fine supper.

Moving on, we found ourselves in the "Brass Cat" with probably the worst pint of beer we've had all season. Spirits were low, but were soon raised as Phil produced an immaculate blue folder containing the Christmas quiz. Teams were decided and a (impartial) referee appointed.

While John and I graciously conceded that Tom and Dick may just have edged the first round, in the second and final round we were robbed, "zwerving" is not a word!

At least on the final question, to remain and drink awful beer or to head back to the Crown, we were unanimous.


Saturday 20 March 2010

19th March 2010 - Jockey Hole

A short, vertical objective was required for this evening and Jockey Hole is exactly that, a relatively deep pot with almost no horizontal development.

The absence of deep snow made the walk up onto the allotment easier than of late and Tom's cave detecting, GPS watch led us straight to entrance. The main shaft is vertical virtually from the surface with steep grassy banks leading down to it. Fortunately a smaller hole a few metres away allows easier access to the pitches.
If you go to Jockey Hole looking for pristine, white, calcite formations you would initially be disappointed but the architecture, even of the entrance tunnel, soon overcomes any such dissatisfaction.

On the way up to the Allotment we'd worried that our 6 bolts may not be sufficient for a complete descent, but Tom was soon having to choose between the numerous bolts of different ages as he lead down the inclined tunnel leading to the main vertical shaft.
9 metres below me, Tom had landed on a small ledge before commencing out on a traverse to gain a free hang to continue his descent. The shout of "Rope free", saw Dick descend to the ledge as Tom left it before an enormous crash resonated around the rift.

First pitch - note the block jammed in the rift at the bottom of the photo - this is the one that slipped

Looking down from my vantage point above I was relieved to see two headtorches still on the ledge. What I didn't realise is that the ledge was now about a foot further below me than it had been a second or two before. The "ledge" turned out to be a large chock stone, partially held in place by smaller stones down one side. The movement of these had allowed the block to fall, before once again becoming jammed.

Coming close to the end of the rope, Tom made the most of the ubiquitous bolts and rebelayed.
Decsending the excellent main pitch

His progress down to the bone strewn boulder slope at the bottom of the pot was made with the accompaniment of small stones still falling from the repositioned chock stone.
A short distance down the slope any further progress is blocked by a vertical wall of conglomerate. Above a faint glimmer of light could still be seen at the top of the shaft. A pair of old boots testament to much earlier exploration.

At the bottom - nowhere to go

These boots were made for caving

On the return up the pitches, Tom took the time to retake the pictures I'd taken in a more conventional "in focus" style and as quickly as we had entered the vertical world we were once more in the horizontal one.

Entrance passage

For the last few months the ground has either been frozen solid or under a layer of snow. The return to warmer conditions with the first rain of the year seemed to have brought forth a vast number of worms. As we walked back down to the cars, the ground flickered as they shot back down into their burrows.
Perhaps birds would be better off staying up late to catch the worms.

Sunday 14 March 2010

12th March 2010 - Sylvester Pot

Prologue - A chance meeting.

Making the most of the stunning weather and to break up the journey home, Dick and Mat were taking a stroll from Bull Pot Farm over to Sylvester pot, the team's objective for the evening, hoping to bump into us.

Seeing two cavers, they waved and went over to speak them. The two old timers had been digging and were puzzling over why their dig had filled with water, as there hadn't been any water in it before they'd started. Asking Dick where he was off to, "Sylvester pot" came the reply. "We found Sylvester", said the old timers explaining how it had got its name from the jack they had used to haul out boulders from the entrance crawl, "not many people go down there anymore, what are you off to see?". Dick mentioned that we hoped to go and see the formation of Newton's Wonder, "That's named after me!", replied one of the pair.

Sylvester pot.

Having met Dick at Devil's bridge, just Phil and myself headed back up to Bull Pot farm, with the Sun just starting to set over Morecambe bay in the distance. A solitary hare ran across the road as we caught our first view of Ease Gill and the last remaining patches of snow coloured with the rays from the setting Sun.
A fantastic set of instructions allowed us to locate the entrance without difficulty and the promised crawl through a pool of water fortunately failed to materialize. Leaving a small chamber via a sandy passage that soon lowered to a crawl, we could soon hear a stream somewhere ahead. A large hole in the floor gave us our first glimpse of the streamway, though we continued traversing above it for a few metres until it became just a short climb down into the water.
Turning back on ourselves we followed the stream over a couple of small cascades and arrived at the pitch head. In a first for me, we rigged the pitch from a couple of spits backed up to a natural thread, before I made the slightly wetter than expected descent of the pitch.
Landing in a wet, spray lashed chamber, high above Phil tried to improve the rigging of the pitch to make it slightly drier. With us both down, we found the way on and rather than continuing further towards the main chamber and the eventual way on into the main Ease Gill system, we took a sharp right and headed down Route 880.

 Newton's Wonder

The low crawls brought us out into quite a large chamber which, on its far side, revealed a beautiful gour pool with a stunningly decorated aven above, Newton's Wonder. Pictures taken, we decided that the delights of the loose main chamber and the Rocky Horror show beyond would have to wait for another day and headed back to the surface.

Our thanks to Jim and Lionel for digging out the pot, not once but twice!

Thursday 4 March 2010

3rd March 2010 - Notts II

There may be snow drops in the hedgerows and daffs out for St David's day, but it felt very wintery as we changed on Leck Fell lane just below the snowline on the surrounding hills.
One of the beauties of caving on Leck Fell is the proximity of the caves to the road, though this advantage is somewhat negated if, as a couple of the members of the party did, you go on a yomp to view the vista of Ireby fell and Marble steps.
Team re-united, we headed off to explore another of the Notts II inlets, which in keeping with many of the others was muddy, aqueous and due to most of the water in the system at present being from snow melt, quite chilly. 

A couple of nice formations though made it all worthwhile.

Returning to the surface there seemed to be groups of head torches dotted around each of the entrances on Leck Fell and the lane resembled an Ikea car park at the start of a sale. Fortunately the CRO were only involved in an exercise rather than a real call out.
After another chilly change, the team were soon well ensconsed in the Snooty Fox with pints of Timmy Taylor's Landlord and Cheese and Onion crisps all round.