Saturday, 8 January 2022

6th January 2022 - Rediscovering a gem: Wilf Taylor's Passage

The first trip of 2022 saw us making our way along an icy path from Bull pot farm. Crossing the style by the gate the reflective posts lead, like runway lights, across the moor to Lancaster hole.  With Mike and Dick on the main hang, Tony began his descent to the first rebelay. He was just swapping over his descender as a grim hail storm hit and I wimped out, throwing myself into the concrete pipe.  Unfortunately I forgot I had a couple of tackle sacks dangling from me and the impromtu beating round the head probably didn't help Tony's change over.

Joining the others at the base of the pitch we headed off to Bridge hall and the scaffolded route through Kath's way.  Climbing over the awkward boulder towards the end of the passage I reminisced on my caving journey.  20 years ago on first aquaintance I found the step up and over this obstacle nearly impossible. How are you meant to stick to anything in wellies?  Now sometimes it's on arrival at the step across the chasm that I realise I've passed it.

As we approached Fall pot we met the owners of the rope down the entrance pitch, another set of "Thursday night" cavers! Coincidently they had just finished coming out of the Crap trap, our choice of descent for the evening. After a brief catch up we began our descent.  I don't know how many times I've walked over or passed under the Crap trap, but this was my first time down the pitch.  Don't be put off in anyway by the name, it's cracking. Unlike the rigging guide, after the first deviation and rebelay, we just used the following bolts as deviations (all had in situ tat). This gave a very satisfying and beautifully curving descent to the main drain.

A very short stomp brought us to the down stream sump. The height of some of the foam on the walls, as ever, most humbling. At this point Dick generously offered to derig the Crap trap allowing three of us to make our way back up to the high level via Wilf Taylor's passage. Dick rattled off the directions and Mike looked confident so off we set. It's a truly superb piece of passage. Not only is it visibly attractive, it's also a joy to move through. Ascending rather than descending requires a little more faith in some of the ropes and on reaching the belay, some were definitely in worse condition than others (on the second climb, with the undercut base, the yellow rope with footloops tied in it I personally didn't trust with my weight).

It was all going so well, flash backs to old memories keeping me on track until I decided to completely ignore a passage on the left with a well worn floor and lots of tape round formations and instead opt for the next crawl along.  As the roof lowered I quickly began to think it was the wrong way.  Mike though, a little way behind was "99% sure" it was right.  A few metres later I struggled to take my SRT gear off, but Mike was still at "98%". Another metre and I started to think about taking my helmet off and Mike's confidence in my route choice plummeted from 98% to "definitely not". While Tony and I began the turning around manoevers, Mike made a quick exit from the tube and by the time I had extracated myself he was sat by the obvious way on and the asscociated trappings of a trade route.

Motoring once more we made good progress, my final route finding wobble being quickly averted by the sound of Dick's voice from the bottom of possibly the shortest fixed ladder in a cave. Back then onto the well known path to Bridge hall and onwards to the bottom of the pitch.  Mike and I expected Tony and Dick to be well on the way back to the van as we emerged, but it had turned into a pleasant evening and they were still chatting at the entrance.  

The van made it up the one slippy bit from the farm and we were soon back in Kirkby. While the Royal Barn has always done a good pint, at the moment they're serving fantastic beer.  Just wish they'd put the real fire on a bit more, the silly TV "fire" by the door just reminding you what they're missing.   

 

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