Saturday 17 October 2015

15th October 2015 - Something strange is afoot...

...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
"WHEEE!", said Dick as he set off down the main pitch. "Yeah man", said Alistair as he joined him at the bottom.  "Please don't keep this up", said a poor reader.

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
It was even a real struggle to get the camera out of the box, I just wanted to lie down.  Oh the cruel hands of time, Dick was soon at the first rebelay and it was time for me to follow him up the rope.  Still no sign of the others, but they know the way on and the way I'm feeling they'll soon catch us up.

Dick about to swing out into the Arson shaft
Normally an ascent of the Arson shaft makes me incredibly nervous.  What state is the rope in?  What state are the hangers in?  The CNCC have done a truly superb job though and rebolted and rerigged the pitch with a shiny new rope, so for once I was able to enjoy the architectural magnificence of the shaft itself, it really is a great pitch.

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.

At the top of the 35' pitch
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. 

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.

Saturday 10 January 2015

9th January 2015 - Return of the TNC

No conservation tape was crossed during the taking of this photo

An impassioned e-mail from Dick saw the largest turnout of the TNC for many a year and sharing a lift from Lancaster and meeting up at Devil's bridge did indeed give a flash back to the good old times.

The road up to Bull Pot Farm was a little wetter than usual and our plan of reacquainting ourselves with the bottom of the Aquarius series put on a back burner.

The path from the farm too was more like a stream than a path and the breeze blowing over the more made the light rain more wetting than usual.

Huge thanks to those that have put in the effort in creating the new Lancaster entrance, very nicely done.

The nice thing about a leisurely trip is that you have time to look round a corner and over an edge.  Fall pot really is worth a few minutes to take in properly and we discovered what, from the trench on the floor must be a real trade route, along the right hand wall of the pot with it's associated bolts, but somewhere we'd never been before.

With only a loose plan now of going to have a look at the Colonnades, we once again took our time getting back to Kath's way and so had a bit of a ratch around the Crater too.  

Up in the Colonnades we admired the work that has been put in cleaning up this area and had a bit of a look down the dig at the end, where a very talented mud sculptor had been at work.

The return up the pitch was really quite damp at the bottom and we huddled on the ledge waiting for everyone to be up the main pitch before once again making our way onto the moor.  Fortunately the breeze was blowing from behind us for most of the way back.

The fog had become thicker and the puddles deeper as we made our way to the Barbon Inn where a very warm welcome awaited us.  Unfortunately we felt it wasn't the done thing to squeeze three of us onto a single chair next to a couple of couples enjoying the fire, so we had to establish ourselves in the dining room.  The beer matched the atmosphere and was top quality.