With my dissertation finally handed in, I suddenly found myself with an excess of spare time on my hands, and what better way to fill it than by going caving. Since everyone else was busy with such frivolous pastimes as revision and moving house, I took up Rostam’s offer of a lift up to the dales for the Gaping Gill Winch Meet. The happenings of Friday night and Saturday are already well documented in a thrilling tale of ropes, rodents and Rostam’s lack of kit. So we rejoin our dynamic team back at the BPC on Saturday evening….
When we got back from Pen y Ghent, we found that reinforcements from the north had arrived, in the way of Derek and Ross from the GSG. The evening proceeded with a surprisingly small amount of confusion between Ross, Tam, and Rostam. This was mainly since Rostam was busy discussing the relative merits of Greek philosophers in one room, whilst the rest of us were discussing how feasible it would be to distil Tesco Value Bitter in the other.
The next morning, in a crazy break from recent tradition, I actually decided to go caving on the Sunday of a weekend. Rostam, however, was not terribly keen to go caving in a boiler suit again and decided to just go visit a friend nearby instead. I latched on to the GSG group, of Chris, Tam, Derek and Ross, and we set about deciding where we would go.
After discussing the relative merits of what felt like every entry in ‘Northern Caves’, we decided that since we were ostensibly here for the GG meet, we should probably actually go to GG. This had the additional bonus of us not needing to pilfer ropes from Leeds again or indeed make a decision about which entrances we would do, although somehow this did not reduce the amount of faffing involved. We eventually set off to Clapham at about noon and got changed. It was at this point that Ross realized that his descender was still at the hut. Him and Derek headed back to retrieve it, claiming that they would see us later.
The three us us set off on the long walk up to the cave, although in the glorious sunshine, and pleasantly unencumbered by baggage it was really quite enjoyable. Tam impressed us with his knowledge of every edible plant near the path, and provided us with some delicious(ish) snacks for the road. Soon enough, we reached the top of the main shaft.
The Gaping Gill winch meet, at first glance, resembles primarily a miniature version of Glastonbury, lots of tents, flags and water (admittedly this last one is significantly more under control here than at Worthy Farm). We wandered down and found MUSCy Ben (Bradford-y Ben just doesn’t roll off the tongue in the same way) looking very official in his hi-vis vest. As we still hadn’t decided on a trip, Ben suggested that we went down Corky’s, one of the newer and less well used entrances to the system.
The entrance to Corky’s is really very close to the main shaft, and consists of a shakehole with a really-not-very-well-attached-at-all ladder heading down. This leads into a fairly tight crawl, a frequent feature of this trip. We soon came to the first pitch, and very quickly realised that we should have done the previous section of crawl feet first. But, with another group approaching behind us, and quite a distance to the last place with space to turn round, we decided to just roll with it. Literally. Getting onto the pitch then involved the interesting manoeuvre of clipping your cowstails in, then basically forward rolling out of the crawl and onto your cowstails at the pitch-head.
Descending this short pitch leads to another crawling section, which leads to another tight and awkward pitch, which leads to another crawl… You get the picture. Its actually quite fun, and none of the sections are long enough to get too annoying. I’m not sure I’d have the same opinion of it if I’d been going out though.
Eventually, the passage expands slightly, and becomes quite pretty. This soon becomes a fairly loose slope to the head of the final pitch. Ben had warned us about this, as the final pitch of this route drops from right in the ceiling of Mud Hall, and anything dislodged from this slope would result in a very bad day for all concerned. We gingerly approached the top of the very impressive pitch. It is a very good view, especially with several groups of cavers pottering around in Mud Hall below you.
After looking at the sculptures in Mud Hall we headed towards the main chamber, which, being all floodlit, made for a fairly impressive sight. The fact that the waterfall was diverted down to the far end of the chamber made the east slope a very pleasantly warm place to stop for a snack and a spot of people watching, not a pastime usually associated with being in a cave. After pottering around for a while, we decided to head out, and set off to Flood Pot.
We found something of a queue when we reached the rope, so quickly changed our plans and continued on to the bottom of Bar, which also had a queue. So again we continued and came to the base of S.E. Aven, which was pleasantly deserted. I must say I did enjoy the whole ‘everything’s rigged, do whichever’ thing.
As we got to the top of the main pitch, another group approached the bottom. To our surprise, it was Derek and Ross, who had managed to catch up with us. We continued along a slightly terrifying traverse to rejoin the main Bar Pot route, and headed up the entrance pitch and back onto the surface. We said our goodbyes to the people at the winch and headed down into the glorious afternoon sun.