A weekend at The Dump is always a winner, I enjoyed a fun and eventful New Year there just over a month ago and was more than happy to return. I decided to augment my weekend caving with a trip either side for good measure, and I now present to you a single report on all four trips.
Friday – Yordas Pullthrough
I was picked up at 3pm by Alex and Jacob from NUCC, we stopped briefly on the way up to the Dales to check out GUPA Sarah’s art exhibition in Bradford Cathedral “The Rhythm of The Dales” which was fantastic, and the Cathedral gave me a new outlook on Bradford; perhaps there is some beauty to it.
The three of us arrived at the Craven Cottage to pick up Sarah and take her caving, I thought I saw her in the Crown pub but it turned out to be Kristian Brook sat alone writing trip reports, it’s very easy to mix the two up… We left him to his writing and went to go fetch the right person, then headed to The Dump to pick up Stu, the final member of our mottled group consisting of SUSS, NUCC, CPC, GUPA and BPC members.
We pulled up in Kingsdale, kitted up and walked up to the Yordas Middle Entrance. I’ve only ever been in the bottom of Yordas, just for a peek during the massive floods at New Year 2015/16 – there was a lot less water this time. A LOT less. We climbed down the first slippy pitch and Stu rigged the pullthrough in an incredibly faffy and intricate spiderweb fashion that baffled the rest of us. I went ahead with the next rope rig the traverse, we had Alex at the back to derig the traverse and pull the rope down afterwards. I found the Yordas traverse to be an incredibly fun and relatively cerebral piece of rigging, with a couple of free-hanging bolts and some with footholds just beyond the pathetic reach of my stumpy Hobbit pins.
Once down at the bottom we had a good half-an-hour of playing around in the Yordas main chamber before Alex joined us; de-rigging the traverse as you go along is quite laborious as it requires several pull-throughs and long reaches. Stu delivered Jacob, Sarah and me a lecture on the formation of Yordas, we played hide and seek and had an explore around the various crawls off from the chamber, Sarah told us about how she’d tried to premiere her exhibition in Yordas itself but couldn’t get permission from the farmer, we regressed to childhood after discovering a muddy slide which we could play on and before long Alex popped out of the upstream passage and we were ready to go.
Saturday – Bar Pot to Flood (Wade’s) Entrance (via GG Main Chamber and Mud Hall)
If my memory serves me well, this trip goes down as my longest time spent on a trip at just under 11hrs. SUSS woke up early and despite the usual faff were packed and off in fairly good time. Our planned trip for the day was a huge clusterfuck down Gaping Gill – with 17 cavers covering 5 entrances in a massive exchange via the Main Chamber. Obviously this didn’t end up going to plan. It was too wet to do Disappointment Pot (what a disappointment huehuehue) and the group going down Dihedral missed the re-belay due to there being a tonne of water raining down on them – so that route became a 90m free-hang in the main GG fall and not a very good idea for a prussik out.
Nevertheless we all made it to the main chamber in a timely fashion. Several people asked to stand under the waterfall until it started raining boulders down from Fell Beck above and then they became less open to the idea. We took a wander to Mud Hall which is, if anything, more impressive than the Main Chamber because you can actually see things, it’s not cold and wet, and it’s not windy. We ambled our way down the assault course that constitutes the descent to the bottom of the Hall and perused the mud sculptures at the bottom. Nat lead the way out which made excellent viewing for the rest of us as we watched her attempt to clamber up the muddy slopes and over the boulders up the climb. We had 5 Scurions spotlighting her for maximum viewing pleasure as she slipped, slid and swung her limbs around violently.
Once she was out of sight and the entertainment was over we followed suit, though not much more gracefully. We were soon back in the Main Chamber and ready to head out. The 5 of us leaving via Flood (Nat, Botch, Corin, Issam and Myself) crawled and stooped through the passages leading back to Flood. We reached the bottom pitch, re-kitted and sent Botch up first, followed by Issam. Corin was next and, though showing signs of tiredness he got up to the re-belay at the top and started passing it. After 30mins of attempts Botch went down to lend a hand, to no avail. I decided to prussik up and assess the situation, Corin was simply tangled in the mass of rope and gear surrounding the free-hanging re-belay. From my vantage point (between his legs) I could untangle it if he took his weight off the rope – which was becoming a challenge for him at this stage, after a while struggling and fiddling we managed to get him untangled and moved his jammers across to the next pitch up. I passed him to offer assistance from above and scout out the rest of the rigging, which seemed to present little obstacle. Exhausted and defeated we managed to get Corin off the pitch-head and on terra firma once again.
We were really running behind schedule at this point and I was aware that there were still 4 pitches, including the tight entrance, yet to go. We scoffed down some food and drank some water – Corin opted for streamwater to quench his considerable thirst. The next pitch was a short clamber up a cascade and took no time at all. The next pitch, however, was a bit larger and Corin was really starting to show his fatigue. Attempting a prussik roughly once a minute and making an inch of progress each time was getting the group nowhere fast. I had been reluctant to haul him but it was seeming more and more like an inevitability at this point – until Natalie slid her Pantin down the rope to Corin explaining how to put it on and how it worked. The first prussik Corin did with the Pantin on was nothing short of a revitalisation; he let out an exclamation of sheer joy as he gained a foot of height in a single movement. His prussiking speed was increased tenfold and his morale shot through the roof, the mood of the group became as elated as the inevitable and unstoppable rise of Globalisation – we were heading out.
Once atop the pitch I sent Issam and Botch out to amend callout and send some food/water back. Nat, Corin and I made steady progress out of the cave to the bottom of the entrance pitch. I waited for Corin atop the tight slot that forms the pitch-head of the entrance, before too long he was up to the squeeze and we began to assess the best method of extraction; the exit squeeze involves a 180-degree corkscrew turn and an 90-degree bend, no easy feat with Cozza’s large frame and total lack of energy. I clipped a few slings into the bolts atop the pitch, as well as wrapping a sling around a natural flake so that he could pull sideways as well as upwards. Finally, I clipped my long cows-tail into his central maillon and we combined our heaving powers in a fantastic display of complete and utter contempt for the situation we were in; the desire to be out of the cave was so totally overwhelming we managed to birth him after 5 minutes of constant heaving. Praising our efforts, we waited for Nat and left the cave post-haste.
While wandering down off GG we bumped into Jethro and Rachael who had brought goodies thanks to Creg (ta, Creg!) and good company. We walked cheerfully back to the cars despite our late exit and were back at the hut just after midnight for Toad in The Hole (or “Rat in a Cave” as Adelaide calls it).
Sunday – Simpsons pull-through to Valley Entrance
After a good night’s sleep I was up for caving on Sunday, SUSS faffed a lot but we were still all set off before noon, good going for us on a Sunday! I was headed to Simpsons with Creg, Liam and Issam for a quick Sunday pull-through trip. We had an all-bloke trip going down Simpsons and another all-girl trip going down Swinsto (Rachael, Helen, Nat and Sioned). We headed up the Kingsdale valley side first and without too much wandering soon found the Simpsons entrance. Liam lead the way with the shorter pull-through rope. We handlined the cascades, passed over The Pit and descended the next series of pitches down to Storm Pot with little issue.
Up ahead we could hear two gentlemen we had seen leaving the car park just as we pulled up – we had somehow caught them up. Luckily we took a while going down Storm Pot, which gave them a chance to gain some ground on us. The other three in my group had never done Simpsons before and so didn’t know what to expect from the duck, despite me explaining how easy it was. Creg had even opted for a neoprene hood on the misunderstanding that he would end up totally submerged. Needless to say they all found the duck oddly disarming due to its relative ease of passage compared to how bad it looks. We kicked up the pace now we were totally wet, Liam rigged the next pitch and I leapfrogged him to rig the one after – which requires a sketchy approach in a high-level rift traverse. We leapfrogged each other pitch-after-pitch until we finally caught up with the two men, who turned out to be Rubber Duck cavers, at the top of Slit Pot.
We found a length of red 8.5mm rope already rigged as a pull-through, but unconvincingly so. The Rubber Ducks pulled the rope up and coiled it before rigging their own rope, after some tight squeezing through the Slit they were both down and trying to pull their rope after them, to no avail. Their efforts were in vain as they were clearly using rope fresh off the coil, there was a kink in the rope roughly every metre. The pull-through ropes had become completely entwined from bolt to floor, and as both the Ducks had descended it was down to us at the top to lift up the rope, coil the bastard and take it down to them. Creg went through the Slit first, we thought he’d struggle but his passage through the tight gap was achieved with very little intervention, Issam followed, then Liam – both of whom slid through with little resistance from the tight gap. The squeezed proved harder than I remembered, must have been the Rat In A Cave I ate the night before… Once we were gathered at the bottom we pulled the rope down with ease, certainly when compared to the previous pull-throughers.
Liam had already started rigging the next short cascade, so we nipped down it in good time. I spent a brief while scouting around for my krab that Nathan from ULSA dropped at Christmas but I wasn’t willing to get wet right under the waterfall so I decided to leave it for a drier trip down there.
We all headed out down through the boulders, crawled along the grim streamway and made it to the spacious Kingsdale Master Cave, we stomped gleefully down the streamway to the pitch out of Valley Entrance, prussiked up and were soon out of the cave, with the girls’ group hot on our tails. We got changed, being extra careful not to get Creg’s new car muddy, and sped off into the grim, foggy distance back to Sheffield.
Monday – Oxlow In-‘n’-out
As Obligatory Punishment for not going caving on Sunday, Jreg and I took Michael down Oxlow on Monday evening. After setting off early, Jreg missed the farmhouse on the drive past meaning we had to turn around to pay for entry. Michael got scared by the farmer’s cats; a rite of passage all freshers must go through. We got suited up in abysmal gales and drizzle, and headed across the quagmire of shite that is now the walk to Oxlow. The fence between the two fields you must walk through has now disintegrated beyond the point of being able to even be described as a fence, it is now a mere plank of wood separating two oceans of liquid effluence. Nevertheless we made it to our destination without falling into the grim pit of crap and Jreg got to rigging.
As we went through the cave Jreg rigged the whole way while I ‘supervised’ (didn’t have to do anything). It took us just an hour to make it to the bottom, with few errors from Jreg. After the usual storytelling and touristing around West Chamber I sent the two of them through the squeeze in the floor, which both of them succeeded at.
I made Michael de-rig, which is is impressively proficient at – I encourage all leaders to make him de-rig any trip he goes on because he loves it and it doesn’t slow the group down. We’ll make an equal of him yet. We got out just after half 10 to find Jreg sat alone in the dark in his car listening to meme music, a sad indicator of the current state of his life. #PrayForJreg.