Bar to Flood – I am aware that Jack has already written a report about this trip so I tried and keep it short but I’m not at all good at that so sorry (in my defence I drafted it on the monday afternoon)! So far I haven’t managed a GG trip without it turning into an epic and nearly missing call out. Never mind, third time lucky I thought.
The day started well with the hangover from hell – let’s just say I should stop trying to keep up with my past student self. The day got worse when I realised in my hurried packing after work that whilst I had packed my personal kit, pantin and personal tacklebag I had managed to forget my entire SRT kit. Now as you can imagine the thought of attempting GG with only a pantin and a personal tackle bag as pitch kit made me very apprehensive so I went on the hunt for a spare kit. Once again Benji came to SUSS‘s rescue (we would go on far fewer trips without him) and I was able to go underground.
There were a lot of us so we decided to have one massive cluster down GG. After all what could go wrong? With 19 of us at the hut and 17 of those down GG we decided to rig 4 entrances – Bar, Flood, Dihedral and Stream with exchanges planned at the bottom eg Bar group go out of Flood, some from Flood go out Dihedral etc.
I was with Issam, Botcherby and Jack and the plan was to head down Bar and out (accompanied by Corin) of Flood. To add to my own personal incompetence I had a rookie mistake and dropped my light on the walk up. This only realised at the cave entrance so in the face of a very disapproving Jack I ran off to find Helen to beg a spare light off her because I’ve been caving in the dark and the novelty wears off after a while. Armed with a Pixa I headed back towards Bar to find Issam on the pitch head of Bar with Jack. After I’d sorted my kit and the others had got off the rope I wandered towards to the pitch.
I normally use a simple but on the borrowed kit I had a stop. Now this is not a big issue normally however on a pitch as tight as Bar it meant I had to get my hands in very awkward positions to be able to descend a single millimetre from the top. After the slowest descent in history (I swear I could see moss growing as my hands grazed all the rock) I was at the bottom and quickly hurried towards the others to find Botch still rigging the traverse. At the bottom of the main pitch heading towards Flood, we could hear the Flood party at the top of the big pitch, yelled our greetings and set off through the crawl. The crawl was largely uneventful apart from the point where I tried to drop to my knees for a crawl, missed my knees entirely (how?) and hurt my wrists trying to not break my fall with my face.
As the Bar group reached the main chamber, we could see the waterfall which was really impressive as the last time I was there for Eurospeleo and the water was diverted to make way for the winch so I had forgotten how impressive it was. As we got closer we could see the rope from the Dihedral group and Issam said he wanted to stand in the waterfall as he’d never seen it before. The rest of us were less keen as we’d all done it before as we did not want to wait for the others freezing cold. This act of laziness proved to be a very good decision in the long run as soon huge boulders fell down the shaft making impressive banging noises and splashes at the bottom. We thought they were initially people throwing stuff down but the water flow kept increasing so we eventually concluded they were being carried by the river from the top and the decision was made for no parties to exit via Dihedral.
Alex (NUCC) and Rachael very kindly offered to go ahead out of Bar and then derig Dihedral from the top which would be relatively easy as due to the volume of water Alex had missed the rebelay half way down so it was rigged as a single hang. The rest of us were quickly joined by the Stream party and after a wait the Flood party eventually emerged. To prevent people from getting cold we all headed to Mud Hall to have a look as many of us had never seen it.
Mud hall is impressive and had a tiny toilet made out of mud.
We all decided to head out and as some people had a quick reshuffle between trips. Botch, Corin and I headed off towards Flood so we could stagger ascent with less waiting at the bottom while Jack waited for Issam. As I crawled off ahead of the other two I met a bemused Rachael and Alex who had gone down the wrong crawl for Bar. After a short chat with the two of them Botch and Corin appeared and Botch disappeared up the pitch. Issam followed after Botch as the main Bar lot appeared and began to sort their kits.
Corin then headed up the rope and had difficulty with the ascent. After Botch descended down to him and couldn’t get his Croll to cooperate in the strange set up, Jack prussicked up to help. Jack’s report mostly covers this as I only know what I could see from the bottom. Once Corin was off the rebelay I headed up and derigged below Corin and hung around below him like a demented shadow. Derigging on maillons was fun – I vote we do it for all trips in the future. It’s nice to really have to work to derig your rope especially on the way out when you’re definitely not trying to leave as fast as possible.
From then on the order was Me, Corin, Issam, Botch and then Jack so we could have someone to help at the top of every pitch and Jack could prussick up and help if needed. Corin managed the second pitch with very little issue as it’s a glorified waterfall climb. The third pitch was more difficult as whilst Jack and Botch had got Corin off the big pitch, they hadn’t been able to sort his kit set up out so he was struggling. Alongside kit set up his tiredness meant that he was struggling to stay vertical so for every three miniscule prusicks, he dropped an inch because of the way his croll was being pulled. Jack became increasingly concerned and decided he’d haul Corin when I had a brainwave to give him my pantin to see if it made a difference. I sent it down the rope to him and after a few misunderstandings Corin had the pantin on and everyone took a deep breath before his first prussick a la Pantin.
Everyone when the pantin worked and Corin started ascending.
I have never seen so much joy, wonder and amazement on one mans face as Corin’s as he shouted, ‘It works. I’ve actually gone up!’
At the top of the pitch I went with Botch and Issam to the exit as I knew the way to extend call out and ask for Rachael and Jethro to head up with supplies as people were tired and hungry. I then came back through the cave to find Jack and Corin slowly picking their way towards to the exit. Jack then beetled off ahead to go ahead up the pitch and in the crawl I and a very tired Corin had a nice moan about the state of our knees which was very therapeutic. I picked a poor day to forget my kneepad entirely. After some slow progress we reached the bottom of the pitch and after promising Corin it was definitely the last bit he determinedly set off up the pitch towards salvation. I saw nothing from the bottom of the pitch, all I could hear were encouragement from Jack and I and Corin’s now very efficient prussicking. The issue appeared to be more at the tight top section as Jack struggled to get Corin out of the corkscrew section when his pantin came off at exactly the wrong moment. But eventually after much ‘Pull on this’ ‘put your weight there’ ‘touch that’ and ‘bloody pantin’ Corin was free and emerged triumphant and immediately vowed not to go on his planned trip to Oxlow on the Monday. I followed out; pulling the rope up with me.
On the walk down we ran into Jethro and Rachael who were wonderful human beings and had brought water and Mars Bars for everyone and we all had a lovely chat on the way down. We were all freezing when we got back to the car and I struggled to make my hands bend enough to dress and undress myself which was interesting and I resolved to buy gloves (definitely this time – they are in the post). Back at the hut for midnight.
I went down Swinsto (due to popular demand – I was innocent on this occasion, m’lud) on an all girls trip with Rachael, Helen and Sioned. This was an excellent fun made slightly more exciting as whilst we packed the second rope, we did forget to take it with us which added a tone of apprehension to the split waterfall pitch but I was in Swinsto so I couldn’t have given a monkeys. We timed it perfectly and we appeared at the car at the same time as the Simpson’s lot to hear (and presumably most of the valley as well) Creg’s voice yelling in horror “You are not getting in my car like that! You’re muddy!”.