The day started off slowly for our little group of four. Nat and Benji both had spent the entire previous night having Adventures With Gin, and so neither of them seemed inclined to actually imitate life till nearly midday. Nevertheless, we ignored Nat’s bruising (she’d tried to fit through a coat hanger at some point), found the car keys, and by noonish were on our way to Ireby Fell. Gamble drove us, as we had unanimously decided that whether Benji and Nat were still half drunk or half-hungover, they really shouldn’t be behind the wheel.
We arrived in the allotted parking space and found ULSA there as well, preparing to go down the same cave. I feel like it should be noted here I don’t know a single thing about ULSA, (still don’t tbh, they’re from Leeds, right?) and I’m pretty certain I had never met a single member before that moment, but there they were, ULSA exists. Pretty sure I still haven’t actually spoken to any of them. Gamble, Nat, and Benji did know them however, and after talking it out we agreed that we would let them go ahead of us, rigging the cave, and we would follow later and de-rig on our way out. This allowed us to sit around, admiring the sheep and the sky for about 40 minutes or so and listen to Benji’s pained exclamations of “I will never drink again”.
A little while later, to the tune of Nat’s classic battle cry “I hate caving” we suited up and began the walk to the cave. It was a long walk. Uphill. I passionately hate walking uphill and my damn wellies were two damn sizes too small. Natalie, of course, took great delight in my misery. (Though to her credit she did offer to trade boots with me. Her boots were the same size though).
Benji took the lead going into the cave, down a short ladder, and we began to descend, making progress in a decently timely fashion. The first part of the cave mainly consisted of a few short pitches and a little bit of traversing. As this was only my second cave trip to involve SRT, I had a good bit of fun swinging through some of the parts. Once we had finished with the ropes bit, we began walking/crawling, following the stream through its tiny underground canyon. Nat serenaded us with all manner of singing as we trundled through. Overall a pleasant, if pretty wet, experience. My feet eventually adjusted to the too small boots, or maybe they just went numb from circulation loss, but either way I got used to it.
Much to our surprise, we eventually caught up with none other than ULSA, again. We met at a junction, where apparently, if I understood correctly, their man who knew the way through the cave had somehow gotten ahead and not told the rest of his party behind him which way to take. Benji knew the way though and was still with us, so our smaller party darted past them into the correct passage and carried on. We ran into the ULSA leader a short bit later (just out of earshot from the junction), who had been waiting for his group to catch up. He had built a little ineffective dam in the meanwhile, and asked us where everyone was. We advised him to go back and get them.
We eventually reached the end of non-divable cave, and took a short rest in the final chamber, staring at a sump. Then it was back out again, passing ULSA again on the way. We realized much to our delight that we wouldn’t even have to de-rig the cave now, as ULSA would be the last ones out.
The prusik out marked the first time I had properly gone up a length of rope in a cave, but with only some small snafus of Nat dropping a tackle sack down a pitch, Nat’s foot jammer breaking, and my chest strap coming undone midway through a prusik, we made it out of the cave in a good amount of time. I heartily enjoyed the swingy bits again, and thankfully, the walk from the cave to the car was all downhill now. Unthankfully, it was muddy and slippery and it was less walking and more sliding and tripping downhill (gravity is a painful law to follow sometimes). Gamble and Benji had no trouble with it and had a good laugh at Nat and I sliding everywhich way in the dark.
We unsuited with great haste as the weather was less then ideal at that point, and we may or may not have moved the ULSA vehicle from it’s original parking spot and into a bush, but we had plenty time to stop for curry (and more alcohol for Benji) on the way back and all was warm again because the BPC hut has under-floor heating.