Friday 30 November 2018

29th December 2018 - But smart old blue, he took the Milky Way

With the tail end of storm Diane passing over the country it was wet.  One of the descriptions I'd read of where I wanted to go for this evening's trip read, "You might not drown in wet conditions". I prefer better odds than that so a change of plans was in order.  I'd like to say that Tony turning up in a brand new, blue caving suit was the inspiration for the choice, but unfortunately it was purely chance.

First stop was Valley Entrance.  The comparative warmth inside the entrance was short lived as we soon found ourselves stooping in bottom edge of boxers deep, not warm, water.  My memory must be very selective as, what as I remember as a quick stomp along the roof passage, is actually quite awkward stooping for much of its length.

The very aqueous entrance to the Milky Way didn't look overly enticing so we left our harnesses and carried on down the tunnel with the hope that we might feel more inspired on the return.  Looking down into the master cave we were quite pleased that this wasn't our way on, as there was quite a lot of water running through it.

Trying to put off the inevitable even further we stopped to set up a photo of one of the prettier bits of the roof tunnel, but were still soon back at our bags and the inevitable wet crawl.  Fortunately the cold water numbed the pain in my knees from crawling over cobbles and the white deposits that give the Milky Way its name also provided further distraction from the cooling effects of the water.  Occasional avens provided brief respite from the crawling, but the standing up almost made it worse when the crawling commenced again.

At a T-junction a rope, just visible through the waterfall filled rift on the right, finally signalled the end of the crawling.  It didn't though end my struggles.  While the first part of the climb up was lovely, the narrower rift with its in situ rope proved my nemesis.  I opted to try climbing the knotted rope with my jammers, conducting half a dozen or so "passing a knot" procedures and getting myself in a proper tangle, which only putting on my pantin alleviated. Tony though climbed the rift stylishly, using his cows tails in the knotted loops only for protection.   

Tony making his way up the Toyland climb
Emerging from the climb into a small chamber, two ways on seemed possible. The one at ground level looked tight and while the one 'over the top' looked more spacious a rope signalled a further pitch ahead.  From what I had read prior to the trip I felt this meant that we were in Toyland, our destination for the evening.  The sound of rushing water from beyond definitely didn't feel enticing and so we descended back down to the Milky Way.  Tony kindly took the camera case and my only excuse for my poor performance on the climb up away from me and I proceeded to show that it really was just my lack of skill that had caused such issue, adding in some extra bumbling on the descent.

Now knowing how long the crawl was, it seemed to pass much more quickly on the way out and sopping wet through now, even the return to Valley Entrance along the roof tunnel didn't seem so long either.  This really is road side caving at its very best and seconds later we were back at the van, pouring wellyfulls of water onto the road.

As well as Valley Entrance being convenient for the road, Kingsdale is also very convenient for the Marton Arms which, with its new owners, has been a bit of a hit this season.  Straying from our usual "packet of salt and vinegar and a packet of cheese and onion", Tony went for the wasabi nuts and spicy bar mix, which turned out to be a master stroke. As we sat, huddled over our pints in our grubby duvet jackets and with our mucky faces, it's great to know you're made to feel just as welcome as the other clientele, dressed to the nines and drinking gin cocktails.  

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