Saturday 21 April 2012

20th April 2012 - Bull Pot Kingsdale

Growing up, it was all about reaching the top of things: the top of climbs; the top of mountains. Geological pedantry aside, these are fixed points. A mountain will be as high one week as it is the next. Later in life I was introduced to caving. While I now realise that it's normally the journey that's more important than the destination, one of the quirks of caving is that a cave, down to a sump, may be deeper one day than the next.

Top of the entrance pitch

Normally our caving season would have finished by now, but with it still being cold and wet outside, it seems natural to carry on. The only real difference is that as we met up in Kingsdale and began heading up to the cave, it was still broad daylight. Dick's satellite imagery inspired direction finding soon found us at the impressive entrance and not quite as slickly as usual (I was rigging) we made our way down the daylight shaft.

A short piece of passage then brought us to the second short pitch before a choice of routes. While the rain hasn't been continuous, there have been some pretty heavy showers and the water that's around is cold. We therefore opted for the "fossil" route rather than the "slot".

Rigging the deviation on the "fossil" route

Descending the "fossil" route

At the foot of the pitch a ledge intervenes allowing a sneak around the cascade from the joining water before a short climb, maybe just a couple of metres or so, takes you down to a slot cut by the stream. While only short, the volume of water and the possibility of more made us think twice about this obstacle. Though there was a Petzl bolt, it wasn't positioned quite far enough over to allow a dry hang, so we made a retreat back up the pitch.
Back at the junction we set off down the "slot" route, arriving after a dry hang just down stream from where we had been previously. We were soon traversing above the stream again to the head of the third pitch. The first deviation took us further from the crashing water but the second looked out of reach for a short person with limited climbing skills. A Petzl bolted deviation was closer so I took this option and carried on down.

There must be a moral about taking the easier option, for the chilling water was soon on top of me again and jamming myself in a corner out of the main current I swapped over my gear and reascended. A different approach to a problem, often makes it seem easier and from below I managed to reach the P-bolt deviation. Even so we were in for a bit of a lashing at the bottom of the pitch.
A great bit of passage then led to the narrow rift down which the final pitch makes its way. While initially this looked a bit daunting, initially once again we'd be very close to a lot of water, in the end it was a really enjoyable pitch.

From the foot of the pitch, two small passages led off, one flowing with no possible way on and the other a static sump, again with no way on. The guide led us to believe there was more cave beyond, but not on this day.

I was asked the other day what my favourite colour was and I'd replied that it was the inky blue of the sky after sunset, before it goes fully dark. As Dick unclipped the deviation at the top of the entrance pitch, he was silhouetted against the sky of this very colour. What a great trip.

Saturday 14 April 2012

14th April 2012 - Simpson pot

With Lee over from Germany and having just completed a walk across the Lakeland skyline, a caving trip in keeping with his hiking adventure was required. A through trip in Simpson with a guarantee of a soaking in its (currently) very cold water would fit the bill perfectly.

"Yellow suit, wellies, what else?"

Though the sun was shining the chilly wind ensured a brisk change and for Lee, a quick reacquaintance with putting on SRT gear. Not normally caving on a weekend the hoards changing next to the road came as a bit of a shock. Fortunately of the groups there, two were going into Valley entrance and the other into Swinsto. Kitted up, it was then of up the hill to find the entrance to Simpson.

Another classic Simpson pitch

Having negotiated the entrance crawl, the pitches soon began and as usual Dick was in his element, efficiently rigging them while Lee and myself bumbled along behind. Strangely the way on departs from the water's route but it's departure would not be long lived.

"I'm sure that's got deeper"

While the duck is only short, the dark peaty water doesn't look overly inviting and the temperature of the water we'd already gone through didn't make it's negotiation any more appealing either. Going through first in order to take pictures of the others resurfacing, I found the driest bit of ground to put my camera cases on, before gingerly getting out a camera and flash. It was only when Dick came through last that he noticed that my careful stacking had produced a rather fine dam, reducing the airspace for him and Lee by a good 6 inches.

Camera box "dam"

The slot pitch could not be better described, but with a pre-rigged deviation over the top of it, we opted for the easier option.

Going up and down the slot pitch

At the junction with Swinsto we met the couple just finishing their through trip and we set off down the final pitch. Unfortunately a slip for Lee left him in the full force of the water, the torrent bouncing of his chest into his face while he tried to descend the last few feet. I imagined the roaring of the water, but Lee said the only thing he'd been able to hear was Dick wetting himself laughing.

All the time in the water was now beginning to take it's toll and the final crawl through to the main streamway certainly didn't help matters. Ever the professional, once we were through, Dick happily returned to lay in the water to allow a photo or two to be taken.

Joining the main streamway

A warming stomp down the main streamway then soon brought us to the pitch up into Valley entrance.

The pitch up into Valley entrance

Despite being in easier cave it was once again back into the water, before popping out of the plastic pipe into warming sunlight.

It's great that the Marton Arms is back as it provided a handy stop for a post cave pint and Lee's worries about his dress (pyjamas - long story) were soon allayed by the person stood at the bar dressed as Bananaman.