Saturday 24 December 2011

23rd December 2011 - bis Ihre Brustwarzen in kaltem Wasser

Mince pies and brandy at Groundsheet Junction

Lee's mellowing with age and he no longer needs pitches of Titanlike proportion to fly over from Germany to go caving with us. Thus we found ourselves on Leck fell with three bags of rope and a pile of maillons for a trip into Lost Johns'.

Despite it's accessability I realised recently that I'd never been to the bottom of the pitches, trips over the years having involved different exchanges but never going further than the cross over points, well above the master cave.

Water levels as we drove up the Lune valley were high and the entrance series was definitely "active". While traversing the first big hole in the floor of the entrance passage felt a little airy it at least separated us from the water and we found ourselves in near silence. Near silence in that while the noise of the water had abated, we were left with a low frequency, almost subsonic, ominous, beating rumble.

At the first short pitch, Dick was at once in his element. While my maillon tightening and knot tying speed are best measured on the same time scale as cave development, Dick fluently passed bolts, leaving a thin yellow line in his wake. All the more impressive considering a later, over a pint admission, that without his glasses, it's all done by feel!

I was looking forward to the Battleaxe traverse and wasn't disappointed. Back and footing along the top of the meandering rift, with occasional glances of the stream far below really is impressive and the Valhalla pitch at the end of it is no anticlimax. Reaquainted with the stream in the form of a fine waterfall, the volume of the cave once again increased and we headed quickly for the final pitch.

Here we found ourselves having to traverse above the p-hangered route down in the maelstrom, a couple of older Petzl bolts providing the security that then allowed us to rejoin the normal route a little further along the streamway.

A short section of meandering stream then finally brought us to the master cave at Groundsheet Junction. A stomp down railway tunnel size passageway always feels the right thing to do after so much verticality and we headed downstream. As Lee pointed out, 10 minutes of walking along a stream like this would soon cement where the deeper parts of a stream are found at bends for any budding GCSE geographer.

The water level slowly increased and the roof level slowly decreased until I began to fear for my car keys which don't like cold water. Dick and Lee looked almost disappointed at this and only reluctently turned around. Walking up stream is definitely harder than walking down, but mince pies and brandy set us up nicely for the return up the pitches.

Lee discovered that it's also much easier to prussik up pitches if you leave behind rope filled tackle sacks for the poor sod behind you!

Would you like a hand with carrying that rope?

Actually it's easier without it.