Disclaimer: I really did enjoy this trip. Just ignore the tone and content of this report and you’ll be able to believe me.
‘twas the night of freshers dales, and as always I was itchin’ for a Notts 2 trip. I have done the in-and-out trip more than a couple of times now and (un)fortunately there wasn’t an enormous number of freshers, so I plotted and schemed to do a more exotic journey through Lost John’s. The plan fell apart fast due to lack of knowledge and ropes, so we switched to Voldemort’s – a trip that came highly recommended and with the advice of “stay up in the tight rift, or you’ll get stuck” from Nat. We sorted out our pull through plan and set off in a new addition to the SUSS Fleet – Hal was driving Louise, Michael and me. We even crashed a trucker wedding en route, which was nice.
We hadn’t booked access in advance, but thanks to the fantastic new CNCC online booking system™, we were able to get a permit on the morning of the trip with zero hassle! Well done to everyone involved.
Now, although we had brought enough rope (about 100m for a pullthrough), we only had one enormous tacklesack to carry it in. It was comically big and was a mighty burden for whoever carried it. We took turns through the trip, but it was still an absolute fuckin nightmare in parts.
It was a while before we made it into the cave, but once in I knew it probably wasn’t the ideal fresher trip. There was already indecision on going face or feet first, as the entrance was a thin tube that twisted and turned with the occasional vertical drop. This popped out into the first pitch, which then descended us right next to the Haymarket, a seriously impressive collection of calcite straws. Having anything swing around your body would wreck the formations, so we took the kits off and explored. Louise even had a go at cave photography (see it all on the SUSStagram, @shefunicavers…).
Out of the muddy market, we scrambled down a slope and found the next pitch (also pre-rigged). The path diverged, but a quick reccy from Louise showed the way on was away from the enormous chamber to our left, and around a corner on a cool little traverse. Here we had the first pullthrough, down into a rift that soon shrank down to a wet and muddy crawl; it was very reminiscent of the pitches in Winnat’s Head. To make sure it was the way on, Louise and Hal continued while Michael and I held down the fort and looked after the coffin sized bag. After a while Hal returned and shouted to pull the rope down, which we did, and I led the way on into the crawl. It was at this point Michael left his tacklesack on the ground like a fool.
I had stupidly entered the crawl feet first because I thought it was only a few metres long. I was sorely mistaken and was forced to twist around at the first corner. My guess at the distance was horrendously off, I was instead doomed to spend the next 12 hours of my life crawling through a tunnel of filth, grumbling to myself that I should’ve taken the bag earlier in the cave and forced it upon Michael.
Alright I have no idea how long it actually was, but the bag was wrapped around my legs and I was crawling, slightly submerged, through damp gravel, with barely enough space to turn around and complain to Michael about how the tunnel still hadn’t ended, so it could’ve only been 10 minutes for all I know.
We had to tag team the bag with me dragging from just crawling, and Michael pushing it. I don’t know which is better, but I do know when I occasionally unclipped it to get through more awkward bits I felt like I could fly. So, thank you to Michael for sacrificing his arms. Like a fool, I only realised at the end of the crawl that there was water in the bag, so I probably made it worse for myself.
When we eventually caught up with the other two, we came across the rift that Nat had mentioned – “stay up, it’s wider at the top”. In my most humble opinion, and with the utmost respect, that was less than stellar advice. I briefly tried to do so, but there are zero handholds and the walls are a lot closer to parallel than I am able to stick to, so I slithered through the bottom and only climbed up when absolutely necessary. The rift was actually alright to navigate aside from some standard moments of SRT kits screaming in pain as they fall awkwardly between my pelvis and the wall. The last section before the pitch was a bit of a drop where I elected to do just that. I started climbing down but gave up and just let myself fall (in a controlled manner, I promise) so I got to the footholds faster. There was half a second of castrative pain and swift breathing out, but then I was free.
We were finally at the top of an enormous pit, and out of the crawl. As I said, I had assumed this section lasted a long time, but even with the visit to the Haymarket it had only been a couple of hours since getting into the cave. Louise rigged up the pullthrough and we descended one by one. There’s a deviation at the very top and I very nearly got past it without getting soaked, but alas, I was moist. It’s pretty all or nothing with deviations, if you nearly grab the karabiner and still miss, then your momentum is probably gonna take you right back into the thing it’s trying to deviate you away from – in this case it was a juicy waterfall.
We had finally reached the almighty Notts 2. Sending some quick thoughts and prayers to Creamy Ben in an effort to help him deal with his withdrawal symptoms (and some murderous ones to Max, he will soon perish), I was soon in the streamway and heading back to the surface. According to Hal there was another group from Liverpool uni just in front of us, but I couldn’t see from the back. They had taken a huge group down at the same time as our fresher trip, so Notts 2 was pretty damn busy on that day, and we were only just behind them. The climbing was a welcome change from the crawling in Voldemort’s, and I was pleased to see the weather was actually good when we got out. Notts 2 is great not just for the cave but also because the entrance is on the side of the road, and you can see the sea on a good day.
A great through trip, and an unexpected challenge for freshers dales. To anyone who hasn’t gone in Notts 2 – sort your life out and get down there.