CHECC was fun wasn’t it? Well I guess it was, it was a long time ago now and the bit that I was actually there for consisted mainly of getting head-butted and helping very drunk people remember how to walk (remember freshers one foot, THEN the other). Do you know what wasn’t much fun? The subsequent de-rigging.
Until recently I hadn’t been to Nettle Pot and though I’m not aware that’s its one of those infamous caves its been 3 months and I’m not honestly in any hurry to return. I think some of that is probably my fault, but I’m a bitter, repressed sort of a man-child so I’m going to take this opportunity to vent my anger anyway. So pull up a chair and grab some popcorn, people tell me this is amusing, presumably in the same way as a clumsy zoo animal, or a drunk man attempting to dance. But I of all people should take compliments where I can get them.
Being a de-rigging trip spirits weren’t at their highest, the trip being more necessary than recreational. But myself, Jethro, Gamble and Rachael persevered as we chucked the kit into Jeff’s car having roped Gamble’s dad into driving us as far as Castleton. Jeff wanted his rigging kit back and he was sure as hell going to get it, the pseudonym Evil Jeff seems increasingly appropriate. On the way up we decided to split into two teams to cover the de-rigging faster. Myself and Gamble would cover Elizabeth and Crumble Pot, whilst Jeff, Jethro and Rachael would head the other way and de-rig whatever the other bit of the cave is called (cut me some slack it was months ago and I don’t have a rigging guide on me at 1:00AM). Now Nettle has something of a tight entrance so getting in can be a little awkward, but the lovely thing about descending is the companionship of gravity. At the bottom of the entrance pitch we split up and headed our separate ways.
Elizabeth doesn’t need much de-rigging, you can just pull it up from the top, so myself and Gamble skipped over it towards Crumble Pot. Not wanting the trip to be all work we both went all the way down for the heck of it. We didn’t go any further than the bottom of the pitches but it made the descent a little less tedious. Let me repeat that; it made the DESCENT a little less tedious. And there was still plenty of spinning around necessary to make it anything like a smooth ride.
My feelings on the subsequent ascent could be succinctly summarised with a series of asterisks and other incongruous punctuation. E.g. *(($*@*$%** **!!?**. But you didn’t come here to read succinct and I sure as hell didn’t come here to write it. The pitch is essentially 50 metres straight down. Its fairly tight, but not horrendously so. The problem arises from the combination of the above with the fact that its all rigged on deviations. Now let me explain the upshot of this little mixture. 50 metres of rope is about 5 metres of stretch, without any re-belays. Now that amount of stretch won’t all come out at the bottom, a good amount of it will follow you up the rope. So then you get a little wedged and can’t really pull up on your hand jammer in a narrow part but think to yourself “no matter I’ll just push off the rock with my feet, the rope will feed through my croll and then I’ll be above the squeeze.”
WRONG!!! Wrongwrongwrongwrongwrong…wrong. What actually happens is you push off with your feet and let out the slack in the rope, your croll goes precisely nowhere. For a brief, shining, happy moment you find yourself above the squeeze. Then you sit back down…into the squeeze…that you just tried to get out of…yaaaaaaay……..So now’s time to pull the rope through your croll manually. Instructions for this are as follows. Ram your hand in the vague direction of your undercarriage, get hand stuck between chest and wall, breathe out a bit so it will fit in the tiny space, grab the rope coming out of your croll, if you’re a bloke make sure its definitely the rope, stand up and yank the rope downwards (again the ROPE, you’ll thank me for that advice), relax, look up, see another narrower squeeze, swear violently, rinse, repeat, leave cave, drive home, turn on computer, buy Pantin, never go caving again.
So yeah, there were a couple of those moments. “But Mark!” I hear you cry “At least deviations are easy to get past in a narrow pitch because they’re right next to you.” Well sure. That is if you can manoeuvre yourself into a decent position to do so, which can be difficult if you’re an easily frustrated moron. Equally it helps if you don’t somehow jam the karabiner from the deviation onto your bloody hand jammer. I remain confused as to precisely how I achieved this, but I did. I also couldn’t get it off, and I discovered that in order to do so I would have to rotate 180 degrees to face the jammer from the opposite side. Of course I couldn’t just spin the jammer a bit because it was now attached to the wall. Again, narrow pitch, so managing this feat required much foul language and unpleasant grunting. Having detached myself from the wall I continued to the top of the pitch in much the same manner as I had begun i.e. slowly. I can only presume from the bottom that Gamble thought I had stumbled across a gorilla colony halfway up from the noises I made, though notably a gorilla colony with an eloquent grasp of language you wouldn’t use in front of your mother and judging from the speed of ascent a below average capacity to understand and use basic tools.
Upon reaching the top I set off to pull up the rope in Elizabeth, leaving Gamble to manoeuvre and de-rig the hellhole I’d dragged my sorry carcass from. I passed the time with a little mental arithmetic and Jethro came from the other shaft to see how I was doing just as I was in the middle of a particularly interesting little sum involving the total volume of Nettle Pot and the average price of fresh concrete. He asked how I was doing and I shot him a withering look, before describing my titanic ascent in terms that befit my mood. I finished up the rope packing as Rachael and Jeff arrived and we waited a few more minutes for Gamble before heading out.
I stated earlier that gravity helped us a tad on the awkward entrance pitch. Now don’t get me wrong the laws of physics are great, couldn’t live without them, but every once in a while I’d happily watch them burn on a fire fuelled by a bundle of magnets where all the north poles stick to each other that made rainbows instead of smoke and got bigger when you throw water on it for an easy life. Getting out was a faff, and gravity was about as useful to me as it was to Sandra Bullock. I was tired and angry and wanted to go home.
For those of you who have been to Nettle Pot I say; yes I’m overblowing it, it can be annoying, but I was being pretty amateurish that day. To those of you yet to go; I’m sure it’s a good trip with nicer circumstances, don’t be put off by me, I hate everything anyway. To Jeff; stick your rigging kit where the sun don’t shine. And to myself; concrete costs about £152 per cubic metre…start saving.