Friday 16 December 2016

15th December 2016 - Stylolite City

“I'd really like to see one of these stylolite things”, said Tony as we shivered our way back to the vans. I didn't have the heart to tell him that at nearly every hang, as my chilled fingers fumbled with the maillons, I’d been looking at stunning examples. There was also no way I was going back, my ears still ringing with the continuous crashing of waterfalls, my core still numbed from too much time on spray lashed ledges.

So it was the following week we found ourselves walking back up the lane towards Alum pot. There would be no return to Diccan though. We were hoping for a much more comfortable descent of the main pot. Unfortunately Tony had been unable to join us, but we might still be able to get him a nice photo.

It's all too easy to become reliant on perfectly placed hangers in this part of the world and so it's always a little unnerving when you're choosing which exposed tree root to belay from before stepping over into the vastness of the open pot.

Reassuringly a pair of p-hangers lie not too far below, allowing an airy free hanging descent onto a wide ledge. The braille trail of bolts leads across to the foot of the natural, fallen block bridge that spans the pot and from under which a further pitch leads to the stream below.

The final pitch we found pre rigged, courtesy of Newcastle University. Had we looked at the forum before the trip, we would have known to bring this out with us. As it was though we thought we should leave it be, as it could well have been there for a reason. A better read Langcliffe kindly brought it out the following day.

The final drop to the sump looks like a precarious down climb, but Dick as always with his vastly superior memory of systems, saw us safely following the oxbow that bypsses it. Just like reaching the top of a mountain, it's always great when a trip takes you to the final sump, but I always find it amazing sitting at this particular one, imagining the incredible journey the water must take to rise, not at the bottom of the valley, but up, on the other side of it.

As we returned from the sump, we humbly watched the water pouring down from Diccan, the noise resulting in flashbacks to the previous week’s trip.

Heading back up the pitches we found a stylolite conveniently placed for a photo, though I think we need to find one in a drier, more horizontal location so we can get the flashes out for better lighting. The cardiogram trace, left by insoluble material when two layers of rock have been squeezed together, reminded me of my own heart beat a week ago as I tried to pendulum to a deviation in Diccan’s roof.

Returning up the main pitch one of the disadvantages of caving in an open pot became very apparent as it started to rain. Despite this, I still felt considerably warmer and drier than on other trips of late.

We don't normally cave this far East and so we thought we'd explore a different pub, The Station Inn at Ribblehead providing a warm welcome and a quality pint. Tony we will find you a nice example of a stylolite too, but I'm not going back to Diccan. For a while at least.

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