Friday 29 April 2022

28th April 2022 - No mere gill

Dick's photo of the fantastic third pitch. Mike on point.

Having spent years dangling off well maintained bolts, found using excellent topos and cave descriptions and more recently attending superb training at subsidised prices, it felt like it was time to try and give a tiny bit back to the CNCC. Signing up to their volunteer scheme was easy and it wasn't long before a request to remove some wire from the bottom of Meregill came through. Unlike building dry walls or stabilising cave entrances, this didn't sound like it required much skill so I volunteered and roped in Dick, Tony and Mike.

As well as a bit of Wombling, it also meant a trip to what has to be one of the finest pots in Yorkshire and one that I'm now pretty sure I'd never been to before. Unfortunately my head was focused on retrieving wire rather than the trip itself and I hadn't quite realised how big a trip it is...

Tony somehow caught wind that due to the number of bolts involved, Mike was planning on bringing a pile of maillons and so quickly planned an alternative trip to Heron, rigged with shiny krabs. So it was that Dick, Mike and I along with numerous tackle sacs headed along the well worn path up Ingleborough. A right at the style along a less well worn track, over a further style and we were approaching the first of many holes dropping down to the elusive mere. 

Dick quickly located the bolt to protect the approach to the belay tree, which while I was assured was not an ash, still didn't look particularly healthy in its horizontal rather than, the more usual for trees, vertical position. At the bottom of the pitch we had a look for the wire we had come to collect but to no avail and so we headed to the next pitch.

Mike, taking over rigging duties, climbed up the an in situ line higher in the rift and began the long traverse to the second pitch. I hate to imagine what the stream way can be like to necessitate the traverse being this high. Tony, it's worth noting that in low water like on this trip, there's a lower route which we might have enough krabs for!

The third pitch also requires a climb up to begin a traverse but, with no in situ tat, we ended up at an alternative set of bolts at the pitch head before retracing our steps. As Mike descended I tried shouting down, "Rehang at 10 m, rehang at 7 m". Instead of following my instructions though, he leaped like Super Mario this way and that across the shaft collecting quality gear from other bolts on the descent, I could almost hear the sound of coins falling into a jar! The description describes this pitch as, "...almost certainly amongst one of the finest and most dramatic pitches in Yorkshire." and I couldn't agree more. I'd love to return with a bigger team and some flashguns.

With his bags depleted, I leap frogged Mike for the fourth pitch and Dick, struggling without his glasses, began his return towards the surface. With a well rigged guideline in place, the descent from the y-hang to the first rebelay was nice and dry, again I can't imagine what this would be like in high water conditions. My concern about rigging the next rebelay was unfounded, older in situ tat making the job of rigging our sling around the chockstone straightforward.

At the foot of the final pitch I unclipped from the rope and udged to the side to allow Mike to descend, but not fancying the, at least waist deep, wetting that would ensue moving further away from the rope. On his arrival though he insisted that, as I hadn't been there before, the next 500 m or so of stream way really were worth a look, so we plunged into the pool. The rock turning almost black, whispering, "You're deep now", the sharp ridges emanating from it reminiscent of the lower sections of Pen-y-ghent pot, again adding to the sense that we were a long way from the surface, but what a stomp! Where the passage began to lower we stopped briefly, allowing me time to convince myself that grovelling for a further few hundred metres would not be in keeping with the trip. 

As I ascended the second pitch a light glimmered in the ceiling. Dick had been to explore where the mere normally resides, a dive line hanging in the air reminding him that he'd normally be metres under water. He'd also located the wire and while Mike derigged we bagged it up and Dick began hauling our now burgeoning tackle sacs to the surface.

The wire at the bottom of the first pitch

All bagged up

Dick hauling away and taking photos!

At the surface

9:30 pm! With the moor still to cross, getting changed and the drive back down the valley, there was a very good chance we were going to miss the pub. For the first time ever I'd also forgotten to tell my wife where we were going and though others did, I knew she'd be getting worried - we always make it to the pub.

Sure enough, by the time we were changed and the car loaded, there wasn't a hope of finding anywhere open. After such a cracking trip, it's always a bit of a disappointment for me to not be able to relive the adventure over a pint, parting company in a cold lay by a bit of an anticlimax.

Huge thanks to Dick and Mike for a quality adventure and if anyone would like a large bag of wire...

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