In view of the recent connection of Death’s Head Hole to the Death’s Head inlet in Lost Johns, Jeff and I were very keen on an attempt at the Head to Head traverse – Boxhead to Death Head. Neither of us had done the connection from Boxhead to Lost Johns before, but that didn’t stop Rachel being keen to join us.
With chilly temperatures on Leck Fell, we kitted up and headed off to locate Death Head hole – a fairly large hole on the opposite side of the wall to Gavel. I rigged down a fine entrance shaft and into the main chamber, where an impressively engineered dig drops through the floor and into the inlet. Another (non-CHECC) team of cavers had gone down for a through trip to Notts 2, and we met one of their party coming out, who said the Long Pool was open although very wet.
We headed over to Boxhead, and slid quickly down the fixed ropes to the crawl into the Kendal extensions. Using photos of the NFTFH description stored on Jeff’s phone we made reasonable progress into the hill, initially along crawling passage, then some traversing and a few slightly awkward climbs. A cold flat out crawl in water and then easier going. Around this point we got distracted by a small passage on the left which ‘nearly’ fitted the description. However, it not only proved no to be the way, but also to be bloody tight, muddy (and therefore sticky) and end in an awkward climb down into a rift chamber I had to de-kit in to get out. Knowing some of the people who have done the through trip I thought this an unlikely route, and we discovered a much more pleasant (and correct) passage a few metres further along.
This led to an ascending traverse, followed by a slightly exciting climb up a rocky tube, which pops out into the upper series of Lyle Cavern, This is much bigger and very well decorated. We passed the way off to Notts 2, and continued down a few short climbs to the pitch into Lyle Cavern proper – a fine hang into a large chamber, well decorated with calcite. At the bottom you rejoin the Boxhead/Lost Pot water, and we headed downstream, unfortunately passing close to some fresh human faeces (judging by the smell!). Downstream of Groundsheet junction (where the Lost Johns water joins) the master cave was rather wet, and looked progressively more aqueous as we continued. I was in a neofleece and quite warm, Jeff acceptable in a furry, and Rachel wishing she had invested in proper caving clothes rather than a Primark onsie. After a protracted section of chest/neck deep wading ending in a section where we would have to immerse half out heads to get through, we decided discretion was the better part of valour, and retreated. This was before the Rumbling Hole inlet, and well before the Long Pool which we were concnerned would be sumped.
We stormed up the streamway, before a bivvi and food break in Lyle Cavern. Who knew a Primark onsie would have all the insulating properties of a paper bag once wet? The way out was straightforward, although the interesting rope climb up was more of a freefall, and the entertaining climbs near Boxhead were a total git to reverse. We hit the surface after 6 1/2 hours, and headed back to Bullpot Farm.
The next day Jeff and I headed back to Deaths Head to derig, and have a poke around. The dig in the main chamber leads to a short crawl, a 5m fixed rigged pitch, and another short squeeze into the inlet. Downstream leads to a junction where the majority of the water joins, and this continues for 150m or so to a 4m pitch into the master cave. We had a quick look upstream at the Long Pool, which seemed open but very wet.
A cracking trip, if not quite what we had planned. We will certainly return to complete the traverse, although the Deaths-Notts 2 would also be a fine trip, and misses out a few of the tricky climbs.