Monday 21 March 2022

17th March 2022 - Held up by Sylvester

Almost 12 years to the day that Phil and I had made a visit to Sylvester pot to go and see Newton's Wonder, Mike, Tony and I headed off across the moor to enjoy a quiet round trip. It's probably best not to think too much about the entrance. Not only does it have a definite u-bend in a drainage system feel to it, it also looks like it's held up by, what in other places would count as, balanced rock art.

Unusually, the first pitch of Sylvester also still requires the use of spits. I'm always a little disturbed by how far these don't go into the rock and it's definitely mind opening about how little material you need to dangle off.

At the bottom of the first pitch we went on a minor diversion to go and see Newton's Wonder before retracing our steps to the second pitch. I was now in new cave too. The "small spike at the pitchead", looked awfully like a little nubbin of rock, but a barrel knotted loop seemed to grip it sufficiently to allow a protected descent, though I did try and keep my weight on the rock rather than on the rope.

From the main chamber we located the 2m drop into a loose, wet rift and sure enough 8m ahead, below a cascade of (very cold and wet) water, the rift enlarged. 3 1/2m above us we could see what looked like the entrance to a crawl, but "awkward" isn't the adjective I'd use for the climb. While I succeeded in getting very wet in the cascade of water, Mike actually made progress up towards the hole, approaching from the left with a lassoed tape offering some protection. I have no doubt he'd have made the last move or two, but I was definitely feeling a lack of motivation and Tony seemed in agreement.

Not wanting to get into an argument over fixed aids in caves, it does seem a bit bizarre that elsewhere in Ease Gill bits of tat and ladders abound for what seem like much more trivial obstacles. It's also the first time I've ever disagreed with a description in NFTFH. Have things changed since it was written?

I don't like unfinished business so I've a feeling we'll be back, once I dig the step ladder out of the garage...

Friday 11 March 2022

10th March 2022 - Quick nip through Pip

Mike's thoughts:

Pippikin Pot – Type 1 caving fun

At first thought or acquaintance Pippikin Pot can be somewhat intimidating; a series of tight squeezes, some awkward pitch heads, srt gear to don and remove numerous times and a return upward struggle to consider; a reputation for occasional rescues adds to a serious atmosphere and if done at the end of an Easegill Traverse expect to be more than a little fatigued. 

However, a minimalist evening approach can lighten the experience. With a little familiarity the squeezes lessen in intimidation; relax, stay high and let gravity do the work. If it’s prerigged (I’ve never known it not) then little kit is needed to be carried and if confident with route finding then just a sling and krab allow a lightweight approach, easily carried, popped on at the top of each pitch and off again for the next squeeze. A stroll through the lower passages and an exit from Mistral avoids the return journey and ensures a gravity assisted trip. An excellent short excursion, doable in all but the wettest conditions and guaranteed to bring out a smile. 

The traditionalist will of curse deplore such an approach, but early evening beers assuaged our guilt!

My waffling:

With my brain numbed by work I was struggling for inspiration for a trip so asked the others if there was something they wanted to do. Mike wrote back that he'd like to do something in East Easegill and suggested a Pippikin-Mistral pull through.

The last time I'd been through Pip was coming up it at the end of an Easegill traverse so initially I was slightly perturbed, how can a fun, evening trip ever involve Pippikin? Someone once came up with the life advice of doing something that scares you everyday so, as 4:45 pm on Thursday rolled round, I was waiting for Mike at Devil's Bridge.

Being late in the season it was a daylight wander across the moor from the Leck fell carpark and despite the haziness of my memory, it wasn't long before we were at the entrance, the tell tale orange Euro speleo rope now bleached after years under a hot Yorkshire sun.

Donning my sling and krab, I noted that Mike was spoiling us as he'd brought not just one figure of 8, but one each! Still pondering where the best place to attach the tackle sack was, I set off into the dark. I'd forgotten how smooth a ride a figure of eight gives, but not the superman dive at the end of the first crawl. Unfortunately, in the intervening 5 years (almost to the day) since I first went through on a trip with Tony, my arms seem to have shrunk a bit and I was at full stretch to allow a controlled descent.

The routine of pitch/squeeze, SRT kit on/off, was made much faster and easier with the sling/krab set up and we were soon down the pitches and making our way along the streamway to the Hall of the Ten. Clean washed rift was soon exchanged for slippy mud as we passed the decaying remnants of once great mud sculptures.

With only one small navigational hiccup (hiccough!) just before Dusty junction, we made our way through the Hobbit and to the bottom of the final climb. Here the strong cool draft that had accompanied us through the final crawls was joined by the last rays of daylight filtering down the shaft. 

Mike's homing skills proved to be well honed and while we were hoping to bump into either the wall or road to handrail us back to the layby, we managed to arrive directly back at the car. As ever the Royal Barn in Kirkby served up a superb post trip pint and I was even home in time to see eldest heading to bed.

Thanks Mike for a superb trip.