When Dave plonked down his tray of extra sausages and hash browns from breakfast I thought nothing of it, apart from of course: ‘bang on I’m av’in a piece of that’. Little did I know my cheeky extra bangers would come back to bite.
Sometime later, Dave plonked down a few more greasy little sausages (Jack Dewison, Botch and myself) in a layby at the bottom of Simpson Pot, where we met with Tom, Jethro and Rachel and began that squelching, groaning, faff that comes with putting on caving gear. It was however a rather pleasant valley Sunday to quote some bugs with bad hair and so we changed with the sun to our backs.
Ah how I would come to hate that sun.
After getting ready and watching Dave search the layby for an AWOL wetsock it was time to ascend the valley to the entrance and it was decided that the two freshers (me and Bitch Botch) would be separated for the trip as we’d be going in two groups. Newly anointed leader Jethro was placed in charge of one group whilst Tom and Dave headed the other.
Now my knowledge of Dave and Tom is fairly sparse; I’m aware of Toms enthusiasm for camouflage trousers and Daves feelings towards vegetarians, but that’s about it. There is one piece of inside word among the freshers however that is fairly clear: a trip with two hard cavers like them will be an interesting one. So it was possibly rather foolish for me to volunteer myself as the fresh fresher tribute that would join them down the pot.
And so we started up the hill and I instantly became aware that this was not going to be a fun hike. That glorious sun that we’d be so grateful for was now baking like a hot jreg-potato in my oversuit and I was sweating like Jack when a good guest ale is on. I saw Tom and Dave swiftly begin to disappear ahead of me as we climbed and just as quickly it was dawning on me that I probably wasn’t in the best shape of my short life.
With the regrettable image of those extra sausages dancing in front of my bulging eyes and after many false peaks that were greeted every time by a grunting ‘bastard’ by me, we reached the top to find Dave and Tom chatting at the gate.
We walked the rest of the way to the entrance and with a last turn to the sun I slipped into the entrance after Tom, with good guy Dave watching my behind.
I soon discovered that not only had the Sunday sun boiled me, it had blinded me as well, and the next ten minutes were spent twatting my head, falling into puddles and scraping my knees as I followed Toms light through what felt like complete darkness.
We had planned to rig all the pitches on pull throughs but the SRT gods had been smiling on us that day and we found all of them pre-rigged! The only downside was it was all done on very thick, very wet, rope so some persuasion (a bit of jigging) was required to get ourselves down.
Anyone who read my first trip report will know, my feelings for heights but I can declare that I feel I’ve made progress and I’m much more confident in my ability and as an added bonus, the pitches in Simpson are all very nice, straight and short, so I thought I was moving through quite quickly. Regardless however, I was still chasing Tom through and down the pot and was again feeling a big unfit as I charged through after him.
Either way I was proper enjoying myself and we made it down the five steps and over the traverse (which later, after watching ‘What a way to spend a Sunday’, I learned went over the very long drop into storm pot, which I’m glad I didn’t know at the time!) and ended up at slip pot in no time.
Here, things got interesting. Slip pot is essentially a post box squeeze on its side that the rather more robust gentlemen like myself will grunt and strain through to pop out into… nothing. The slit is halfway up the chamber wall, about 27m from the ground over a small waterfall which, for me especially, doesn’t make the squeeze much easier.
Tom rigged the pitch and slipped himself through like he was buttered from head to heel; making it look easy. I was next and very quickly I found that the fit was a tad snug. The only way I would ever get through was to climb the slot to about chest height and drop myself diagonally through the widest part of the opening. Easier said than done.
Several times I found myself slipping into the narrower part below me and getting jammed, even with Dave tucking everything he could get a handful of through the slot. I can only imagine the sight Tom must have been able to see of my wellington-clad legs sticking straight out sideways halfway up the chamber wall.
After several attempts of Dave ‘posting’ me through the hole we decided to change tactics. In order to free room for my chest, we re-jigged my descender onto my cowstail so I could get through first, then pull it out after me.
With the new set up and the spur of being able to hear the others catching up with us, we tried one last time, and with me sucking in my hash browns from the morning and Dave pushing like a mother in labour I finally slipped through and was born into the new world.
At last I reached Tom at the bottom who I imagine was slightly chilly after waiting at the bottom of the damp chamber for Dave to make his ‘special delivery’.
Dave used his black magic powers and walked straight through the slit with enough room to twirl a cane and met us at the end of the descent.
After a quick incomprehensible shout to Jack, who had just reached slit pot, that we were fucking off and they could carry the rope we shot down the last pitch into the stream well.
Here I learnt about Tom and Daves little ‘tradition’ of running through the streamwell and also learnt another lesson about my stamina. There was no warm up lap and the two were off – with me trudging and stumbling along the passage behind like an overweight terrier.
As tough as the jog was it was bloody good fun and we all arrived at the last climb out with big grins emerging between each pant.
Dave and Tom raced each other up the prusik and I joined them at the tom. We then began the squat jog section to the finish.
I again fell behind and pushed the wobbly fibres of my body to keep up, but I eventually pushed my head out the plastic pipe in the valley bottom to find waiting a smiling Dave and an even smiley-er Tom; I realised seconds later that this was because of the welly full of water he was holding.
As welcome as the cooling shower would have been, I was grateful that he must have seen my puffing face and decided upon mercy. And thus we headed to the cars.
Simpson on pull throughs is a quality trip in my book; you’ve got all the fun bits of abseiling and steamways and then that’s it, no trudging back up, just straight out at the bottom right by the cars.
So despite being made very aware that my cardio isn’t all that up to scratch, it was a damn good way to spend a Sunday.