Pendle Caving Club

Archive Material from 2004


Index:

County Pot Hellot Hole and Gale Garth Pot Lost Johns Wet Route Boggarts Roaring Holes County Pot - again
Aygill Caverns Hurnell Moss Pot Boggarts Roaring Holes - again New Goyden Pot Gingling Pot
Sunset Holes Church Cavern, USA IXL, USA County Pot Bull Pot

11th January 2004: County Pot - Land of the Bumblies

Nice trip on sunday

Lots of people in County but we managed to avoid them most of the time by going into Trident.

Started with the usual lard fest in Brookhouse. Young Bloomster pointed out that Thuggo had a fat belly but he was too scared to comment on his Dads physique!!

Quick trip to Inglethief and then Bull Pot Farm and the nice walk up the beck to County Pot.

Pete, Thuggo, the Horton Hippo and me. Alice is saving her pennies for a new car.

PLenty of water in the stream passages making things more interesting. I guess we checked every passage off in lower Trident and then into Pierces Passage. Bumped into the bumblies again but this didn't stop the nook and cranny hunt. We checked out the main drain, wet but not too wet. Although there was foam on the passage roof!! Stevie managed to avoid carrying a bag, obviously not fit like the Ranger!! Uneventful exit although Pete found another passage and with a bit of Thuggos rigging they managed a very muddy (and short) additional bit over the streamway.

Rushed back over the fell and off to Inglethief just in time for tea and cakes.

'til the next time

Ranger

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8th February 2004: Hellot Hole and Gale Garth Pot - Off the Elliott Merry-go-round

I guess the weather was a bit cold for most people. Only the Stranger and I turned up for the obligatory lard feast. In fact we were the only people in the cafe at all!! Anyway off to Bull Pot Farm and park up in the mud. Its blowing a gale and its bloody cold. Undeterred by all this we get kitted up and head off in search of Hellot Hole. Difficult to find but we spotted the copious amount of boards covering the entrance which gave it away.

Someones been busy, plenty of concrete around the entrance, nice and stable. Off we go couple of spits and a sling and down the shaft, nice and dribbly in this wet weather, dry normally I guess. A squeezy bit in the middle and then it opens out. A few flakes and a ledge for a rebelay. AB down the rest of this 20m shaft avoiding a few big flakes to the bottom. 2 ways off, one into a chamber with 2 short digs and the other through a nice puddle Paul was eager to crawl through into another dig with a chamber and an aven. An interesting cave but not much horizontal development, yet, maybe the dig will make it much bigger in a year or 2.

Back out we go Paul clearing a loose bit of flake off the pitch on the way up, sounded like a big bit! Next stop Gale Garth cave. The entrance looks a bit suspect, some of the shakehole bottom is supported by a pallet and some timbers! The shaft is supported by rotten looking timbers and bits of scrap. Its not too deep though and its surprisingly stable apart from the rickety ladder and a few tin trays. Paul dives down and I follow only to get stuck in a squeeze leading out from the shaft bottom. Its a clever one with water running down the back of your neck! Back out I go and get the SRT kit off, don't need it anyaway. This time I fit through and away we go. Soon after there is a a squeeze and climb down followed by a flat out crawl in a cobbled passage. The stranger took off the SRT kit to negotiate this so I guessed it was a bit squeezy for this old geezer after all that xmas excess. A while later the stranger returned with stories of caverns measureless to man, chambers, avens a climb down to a stream and plenty of formations. Seems this cave is very understated and doesn't see a lot of traffic, maybe for the sake of the cave thats a good thing. Anyway Pauls light was fading, (battery chargers are good for that). So we gave Bull Pot a miss, seemed like there was a few folks in there anyway.

I have some spits in the back of the Ranger for the Inlet series of Aygill but that too will have to wait for another day.

'til the next time

Ranger

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12th February 2004: Lost Johns Wet Route - Back on the Elliot Roundabout

It started well, I had driven up special like to take advantage of Andys remaining rest day on the way to a wedding. The plan was to see if we could fit in Big Meanie, the top three meters being tight and awkward. I knew I would fit, but whilst in the employment of the BTP, Andy had developed a BTP-issue belly and was keen to see if it would stop him getting down the beast.

I had been keen for the cave for a while after having a quick look to the top of the first pitch with the infamous Pete Haywood back in the last century. It had been newly p-hung by ULSA and looked somewhat cheeky, even in my then emaciated student state. So, would the passage of 5 years stop us getting down? We were keen, but would too much good living be the end of the mission?

At the shakehole we found no cave entrance, only a big pile of stones. We were sure we had found it, but there was no cave. After ditching the kit we had a closer look and I found that the entrance had been covered over with boulders, under which, the cave was blocked by rotting sheep ! Nice. We resolved to write a strong letter to Descent and so packed our (only) tackle sack with the 80m 9mm rope we were carrying (it already had 45m 9mm in it!) and headed to Lost Johns Wet Route.

On the way we pissed in Rough Pot and commented that it looked like a giant boulder pile that might collapse at any time (which it was before you could see quite how huge a boulder pile was being held up by the first pile) and pushed on to Lost Johns.

There was foam everywhere along with plenty of fresh flood debris to remind us quite how wet it did get and Andy jumped down a pitch to his exuberance at not having to force his porquine frame down Big Meanie. There was unfortunately not enough rope to descend the last pitch, so back up we came, bouncing like good-uns on the big pitch !

Andy kindly derigged and carried the 125m of rope, while I struggled out with his make-up bag and the 10m rope.

A good trip but not the one we expected.

Weaner Boy

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15th February 2004: Bimbling on Crina Bottom

Just the dynamic duo for this one, Cold Watter Pete and the old geezer Ranger.

Managed the Lard feast at Brookhouse Cafe. Got in just before 2 breakfasts the giant biker so there was bacon and eggs for us!! Managed to avoid Fay and the 4 Irons who seemed to have had a disagreement with that nice Mr. Sykes.

Anyway off over to Ingleton and park up at Storrs Common. The track over to Crina Bottom is a right bloody mess. It is being "renovated" with hard core but the dumper trucks seemed to be making it worse than it was before!! Up to Boggarts, getting a bit steep now, good job Pete was taking it easy!

After a poke around we decide which is the middle hole and off I go, belay to a huge rock and head for the drop, no anchors, they are up here says Pete, sat on the rock above me. Ah well start again and rig off a couple of spits and down a nice 40 footer on to a mud heap. Down comes Pete and we look for a way on. Two options, one down a loose slope to a pitch and one through a small slot onto another pitch. No anchors either way, bugger, thats that. Apparently the way on is through the slot and down and down. The loose slope is where the fill was dumped from the dig beyond the slot. The pitch beyond the loose slope didn't go. Anyway, job for another day to put some anchors in and carry on, good place for a wet day. Up we go and back out into the sunshine.

Gritstone sink now, found Gritstone Pot and then up to the sink. Here we have a large pivoting rock for Pete to play with. Trouble is its blocking the entrance, it rocks but doesn't move out of the way.

Checked out a few other holes up here, looks like there are a few things unseen for years or ever seen at all.

Time for some cake at Inglesport, 3ks or so down the hill and we are in business.

'til the next time

Ranger

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28/29th February 2004: The Saga of the Last Trip – Pendle Tigers End of Days

Arriving early at Ron’s for what was likely to be the last trip in the Dales for Tiger No.1 before his Californian adventure kicked off, I felt smug to see that Tiger No.2 was late, again. Yes! The lazy bastard had finally shown his true colours and I might actually leave not being thought of as the habitually late one.

But no, Ron saw through my cunningly plan and Andy convinced him further when he arrived. They duly took the piss out of my newly-grown hair and we all took the piss out of Andy’s job – the lucky fecker, although not for much longer before a move down south took him into the heart of bandit country. Not Bulgaria, but Croyden South Central. The Tiger Team was being reduced in numbers by relocation brought on by a mixture of greed, girlfriends and opportunity.

A comfy ride up in the Ranger ensued where we met Tiger No.4 (Pete) in the Brookhouse, our accommodation for the night. We told Sarah that Andy was the noisy one and she promised to pour a fried breakfast onto him whilst he slept if he woke her up when we all came back after closing. After much discussion we finally decided to go to the Marton Arms where we indulged in various beers and sweetmeats. Pete kindly drove us back and we headed to the New Inn for more drinks.

To my surprise some long-ago Welsh outdoor-type muckers were taking up a section of the pub, talking shite and drinking. It was nice to see them, but they seemed to be completely oblivious to the fact that there are more caves in Yorkshire than Alum Pot, even after 10 years. Madness. We drank some beer, some drank more than others and I witnessed Andy not finish a pint of Copper Kettle from Copperville. It smelt bad and tasted worse. Must have come over on special from the Pit !

Back at the Brookhouse Andy devoured all the biscuits in each room and stole every single sachet of tea, coffee, sugar and milk citing travelling necessity whilst ranting about shooting porpoises in China and big engine cars in California, before passing out with the cat shoved down his duvet. He was somewhat inebriated.

Breakfast was very welcoming as was the shower in our plush accommodation. Swamps and That C*** Webbo (Tiger No.3) had turned out to join us so once we had devoured our lot, we shot off for a quick faff in Inglesport. Eventually we were up at Bull Pot Farm, raring to go, mad keen, only it was chuffing freezing ! Quick, on with the Chuffy Hats !

On our way up the Beck, some “English Nature” officers stopped us and told us not to disturb any bats on pain of death. They told us that our lamps could wake sleeping bats up, thus causing them to die and that they, as the (SS)EN representatives in the area would beat us into a pulp and report our actions to the nearest tree-hugger. We should turn our lamps off when we suspected there might be bats around apparently. We pointed out that their lamps were larger than ours and that if they were serious about counting bats they would need some kit to actually get down Link Pot to see the hordes that are down there and that we had two English Nature Conservation Officers with us, one of which was directly responsible for the very land we were currently stood on. Simon Webb promised a full investigation.

Anyhow, the Trident Series in County Pot beckoned and soon we were tangling with the beast. Deep in it’s bowels we crawled and climbed and thrutched and wandered and wiggled and jumped and ducked and wove until we had seen pretty much all there was to see. It is a very confusing area indeed and there are many levels of development. I climbed up a very insignificant hole in the passage we were traversing to find a well decorated passage that went over the pitch we had just been stopped by and ended in another pitch of similar proportions, which led goodness knows where. An adventure for sure!

The CNCC Assistant Secretary and our two EN beards declared the Black Route to be healing well and made the rest of us walk the long way round (in their heads) and we arrived back at the Farm in double quick time.

Everyone else shot off and Ron, T1 and T2 enjoyed a sumptuous banquet of fish and chips in Settle. A short ride and a long sleep back in the Ranger ensured I was refreshed for my final journey down the M6 from Old Bank Close – God rest it’s soul.

Hereth endeth the sorry tale of the last meeting of the Ranger, Tigers No.1, 2, 3 and 4 and the Swamp Beast until at least Christmas 2004 (hopefully).

Until next time,

Long Live the Pendle!

Weaner Boy, aka Tiger No. 1.

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21st March 2004: The Saga of Aygill Caverns – Part Cinq

Pete, Alice and our new mate from the army Lee joined me for the usual lard feast at the Brookhouse, Sarah was her usual self.

Bit windy up at Bull Pot Farm but not too cold. This trip was looking at the inlet series again, so after some shuffling and wriggling we made the top of the pitch. Pete and Lee found a good belay point up the crawl whilst I layed into the pitch head with an 8mm rock drill. Pete could see I was getting bored so he finished off the last 10mm or so and then passed him a wedge and he belted the spit in. I rigged the pitch even put in a great deviation, that nobody wanted to use! (Hmm, remember a cracking deviation in Christmas that nobody liked!-DK). Well we explored umpteen ways on from the passage but none went, for us. We really needed a thin team, Dave where were you!! Well that was that so we checked out a few more dead ends on the way out. Rigged the pitch on the main route just for a bit of SRT fun. There was a ladder already in, we had a few comments about how that was rigged!!

Trip over and its off to Inglethief for tea and cakes. Big slice of chocolate cake in my case.

Jonny was dressed as a leprachaun for some reason, green suit, tall hat and a big red beard!! He promised to get a cap lamp on the hat in future. Even got an order for 45 Rigging Guides as well, that'll help the anchor placement cause.

Bumped into Jim Sloane, he was telling me about Hidden Earth in October. It's in Kendal this time and Andy Eavis is doing a presentation on China Caves and there are about 50 chinese cavers coming over this time.

Lee fancied some retail therapy so we left him bartering with the leprachaun and set off home.

'Til next time

Ranger Ron

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28th March 2004: The Saga of Hurnell Moss Pot - Twos Company

Well the team was a bit thin on the ground for this one. Guess the long walk put them off!!! Looked like the Stranger was going to join us but it finished up just Pete and the Ranger.

Dropped some Rigging Guides off at Inglesport (gotta keep the anchor programme going!), then off to Brookhouse for a Sarah special. Clapham seemed pretty quiet, guess there was no sun to encourage the bumblies! Still we like the fells to ourselves when we can get it.

Oh well, we kitted up and then debated how we carry 3 tackle bags and all the other bit and pieces. Soon solved with a bit of restuffing and off we go via Clapdale with 170 odd metres of rope and loads of other things we might need. Very quiet on the tops, with a nice cold breeze and the odd bit of drizzle for company. After peering in all the shakeholes on the way we arrive at Hurnell Moss.

We kit up and I dive in the entrance crawl for a bit of knitting. The slump by the entrance is still slumping, the collapse is getting wider and might reach the stream in a few years. Off we go, nice one to rig, needs about 20 maillons to get to the bottom. I like the top traverse, it was more fiddly when it had the old 8mm spits. Pete thought he would make it more interesting and made a 3rd cows tail whilst traversing. Cracking shaft, 2 nice abseils of 100ft plus.

Notice someone is putting anchors in on the far side of the shaft, guess its time someone found the full potential of this big hole. (There is a route you haven't done Dave - yet) Down at the bottom and after a rummage around its time for the long climb out. 2nd half was interesting lugging up 80m of rope as well!! Pete derigged, looked like he was playing Tarzan I think.

Just the walk down hill in the cold wind and drizzle and jobs a good 'un.

Back in Clapham and the Tea Shop near the CRO was empty but still open for a brew and some more cholestrol.

'Til next time

Ranger Ron

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25th April 2004: The Saga of Crina Bottoms - Boggarts Roaring Holes and other pots

This was a hot day!!!

The 3 Musketeers met up at Brookhouse for a good lard feast from Sarah. Alice, Pete and the Ranger, everyone else had some weak excuse or other, off to America, off to Vietnam you can imagine.......

Anyway, breakfast done and then over to Storrs Common to get things together. Didn't fancy wearing the plastic suit so Pete and I walked up in the baby grow but Alice was a hero and put all her kit on!

The sun was bearing down all day, (I had a red face when I got home), it made the walk up to Boggarts above Crina Bottom hard work, (unless your name is Pete). Pete disappeared over the hill so Alice and I thought that was the signal for a sit down to cool off!! Feeling guilty we set off again and found Pete up by Boggarts Roaring Hole.

After a lie down to cool off we got kitted up and down the middle hole I go, its about 50ft and out of that sun. Once we are all down Pete decides it was my turn to stick an anchor in to provide some safety to get through the squeeze (it is if you are my size) to get on the Bone Pitch. Out come the hammer and spit and I get stuck in and get an 8mm fitted. Through the squeeze and its not too bad, plenty of small ledges to stand on and a convenient flake at head height for a sling. Rig the bone pitch and down I go, (passing all the bone fragments behind the scaff bars).

Aha, a crawl off at the bottom, in I go for about 6 feet, until I can just see over the next pitch, but no further, its not Ron sized! By this time Pete is down the Bone Pitch and eager for a look. Pete has a look, muttering something about my proportions, but soon returns as he won't fit all the way through the crawl with all his SRT kit on either. Need the thin team(Dave) for this one.

Alice has heard enough so up we go back into the sun. Plenty of time so we set off to find some of the entrances we saw last time we were up here.

Loose Pot, was bloody loose at the top of the 50ft entrance, fractured rocks and loose bits all over the place. Kicked a lot of it down but still not keen so we moved on. (Didn't know at the time there is a sort of back entrance with an alternative way down!!)

Lever Pot, used a big rock and an old spit to get down to jammed rocks part way down, followed by a deviation to get to the bottom of this 30 footer. No dramas here apart from a giant spider, gaint fern and a spikey bush barring the entrance!! Quite a nice chamber with a (very) thin rift leading off, oh and an old frog sitting around watching us pass by.

Well tea and cakes at Inglesport was beckoning so we trecked back via Crina Bottom, a bit overdressed compared to the bumblies we passed.

Interesting day but more walking than caving, 7 or 8 klicks perhaps.

'Til next time

Ranger Ron

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9th May 2004: The Saga of New Goyden Pot - Highway to the Stranger-zone

New Goyden - one heart wrenching moment of fear to the next - have they opened the reservoir? Will I get wet, cold feet? (no wetsocks).

Paul the Stranger got his own back upon us in Goyden - we went in one of the newer entrances. A good description would be - slippery, to wet and narrow, to dry and very narrow, then we had to negotiate a hosepipe at full bore - and Paul lost his way! Needless to say all was well when years of caving experience was applied i.e. follow the stream!

(Not to mention the sponsored walk!)

Have a nice day.

Pete

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6th June 2004: The Saga of Gingling Pot - Chuffer Style

Ye Naked Man makes a mean bacon and egg butty whilst Red Ron did full justice to his full breakfast.

Handing in the permit at Rainscar House, we were warned to be careful, but was she referring to the farm dogs? The sun was out and so were the under-suits. A pleasant walk – gear on – that looks a bit tight! Where are the railway lines? - who’s moved the hole? There it was, hiding up from the beck – those bits of rail do look very rusty – are we on a false floor? (what - no backup belay?)

Anyway, rigged it was and in we slid. Temperature soon dropped in the cold watter canal. Pretty cave. Traverse up, traverse round, climb down, climb up. Second pitch – wedged in a narrow rift over the pitch whilst rigging to a good old natural belay (memories of Aygill!).

Third pitch, need matchstick men – sandy crawl (my arse!) approached it from the rear – nice easy take off – good pitch. Then……thinner, younger men step forward……Ron decides he needs a few lean months before returning. And out. A good trip.

Over the fell to look for Gingling Sink dry entrance – found a sink – tiny slab? – can’t be it – comb entire moor – back to tiny slab – bugger! We shall have to return with scaffold bar anyway – the rustiest ladder hangers you have ever seen! Under-suits again – back in the sun.

And home.

Pete

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4th July 2004: The Saga of Sunset Holes - A Midsummer Trip in the Dales

Well it pissed it down all week, not a good start. Everyone had other plans except me and our 2 new recruits Clint and Russ.

On the way up to Brookhouse I nearly had to stop, Cloudburst!! I could hardly see to drive.

Our 2 new heroes decided to camp overnight so they were a bit damp to say the least. But they were at Brookhouse ready for breakfast by 0830. After one of Saras lard feasts off we go to Chapel Le Dale. Sunset Hole I thought, as it should be sporting.

It certainly was, the water was howling down so we went as far as the first climb and gave up after that. Never knew there were so many cascades in this cave!! Next we walked over to Meregill just for a look. The streamway was a boiling mass of brown water about 15ft wide, thundering into the Mere. Couldn't see much in the Mere for the huge waterfall and the mass of spray. Sobering when you think of the times we have been down there.

Sightseeing over we went over to Great Douk to let our new boys practice some SRT off a tree. Had some realism, it absolutely pissed it down whilst we did this! Should be OK for short pitches next trip but need further experience for rebelays etc.

'til the next time

Ranger

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26th June 2004: The Saga of Church Cavern, Kings Canyon, California - Californian Style

There was big talk from Chuck Lee, the Diablo Grotto (Caving Club to you and I) Secretary, a born and bred Californian, about a decent cave called Church Cavern in a far away place called Kings Canyon. It was worth a trip and as it happened there was a trip going is weekend.

However, there was a price to pay. The cave in is a National Park, Kings Canyon NP, and access is by key and with a leader. This trip was all about the re-survey project that had been going on for some time already and we were going along on that.

Chuck’s email about the trip went something like this: “Hi David, No drinking water so bring a couple of 2.5 gallon purified water from the store or if you have a big bottle you can fill it at home. I usually just bring oatmeal for breakfast and freeze dried food for hot meals. Need cave food and water for the cave (no water inside in the areas that we normally go to and even if there was some it would need purifying). Plan for 12 hrs or so. Cave is about 53 and dry- again with some exceptions. You need a ground tarp, pad, sleeping bag (light weight), bug screen type tent, mosquito repellant (DEET type). Hiking pack (its about 45 min hike to the entrances-2/3 up windy gulch which is very steep and requires climbing up-if it rains it can be treacherous), cave pack, hiking boots/caving boots, caving gloves, three sources of light- 2 helmet mounted, extra batteries(I don't know if we are going in once or twice), nylon suit, polypro type underwear, balaclava, fleece (we are surveying so it can get cold). Clothes for the hike up should be cool type as it can be hot...poison oak can be a problem so lightweight long pants and lightweight long sleeve shirts are best.” Basically it wasn’t your average jaunt to Yorkshire staying at the Pit and having a lardy breakfast every morning the Brookhouse Café.

So, having had a spend-up for new kit, sorted out borrowing a tent and arranging food I was set, only I could barely lift my bag and I was still yet to get any water! Helen very kindly helped me down to the Bart (like our tube, only no strikes allowed!) where I spent a pleasant 45 minutes out of the blistering sun traveling south of Berkeley to Union City where Chuck was due to pick me up. Union City is bad, very bad. Don’t look people in the eye and try to be inconspicuous – a bit difficult with a huge TNF bag loaded with caving kit !

Chuck arrived in his cave-mobile, I loaded up the kit and we sped off to do battle with the traffic. 6 million people exit the Bay Area every Friday and there are only three places in the hills where freeways can cross, hence there are some monster traffic jams. It wasn’t too bad and 5 and a half hours and 250 miles later we arrived at our luxury campsite, having almost crossed California, complete with voracious mosquitoes and rattlesnakes (probably!). The canyon looked pretty impressive in the darkness, but it was gone midnight and the last pub I had seen was at least 50 miles away, so to bed.

Up at 0730 for a breakfast of hot water and a handful of tepid gravel, strike camp and down the road for a couple of miles to our meeting place with the rest of the group, a show cave called Boyden Cavern, located at the bottom of the canyon next to the roaring Kings River. At 0900 it was already hot enough to be wearing shorts and t-shirts and the wait was ok. The canyon was quite narrow at this point and very very high. The geology of the canyon is very bizarre, the caves and the area we were waiting in were in marble, which had been heated and crushed and twisted and thrust back up, along with a maelstrom of other rocks to form the Sierra Nevada mountains, hence the peaks and rock towers surrounding me were small, but perfectly formed classic karst features in a sea of much larger peaks of granite and other stuff.

1000 arrived and our other team members didn’t. The show cave opened and we treated ourselves to an ice-cream. I read a book entitled “Dangerous Wildlife of California” that ran to 220 pages in full colour, very scary! 1100 arrived, our team didn’t, but a group of nubile young Cal girls did, which improved the view during the wait for the next cave tour. 1200 came and we decided to drive to the nearest phone to call the trip leader. 10 miles later and we are at the Kings Canyon Lodge, unchanged since 1932 according to the gravity feed petrol pumps (bizarre!), Chuck phoned home, but no messages. A plan B unfolds, we’ll climb up the hill to the cave and go on a bit further to explore a small, but very pretty cave called Beauty Cave.

Back down at meeting place we sorted our kit as the rest of the team arrived, bright and early at 1230! Piss taking feckers! There were now eight of us and the trip was back on. Survey kit was divided up and a crack team of five portly Californians, two fit young East coast cavers and a hot and sweaty English caver tabbed their way up Windy Gulch to the cave. Windy Gulch was actually completely windless, which was a shame as it was fecking hot. It was also a decent scramble up a long slab of marble, which in wet weather would be completely impassable. I was quite impressed with the big cactus-type things the grew all over the place, but less impressed with the poison oak that also grew all over the place.

We finally arrived at the cave and we took turns to stand over the entrance and enjoy the cold air blasting out of the entrance. I kitted up and there was much interest in my wellies and knee pads. I then tried out my headlight as it was to be my main light. No carbide allowed except as an emergency backup. I was very surprised when the light died after 10 seconds, but I attached my new and newly charged backup battery and that also died after 10 seconds. Oh dear! I wish I had some carbide! So, my emergency backup lamp came out, which I had bought only days ago, a little Petzl Tikka! God bless Tikkas. Simon Webb came out of the Couey Lodge from minus 200m on one, so I can easily do some surveying with one! I have since found out that 240V chargers won’t draw the correct current through a 110V adaptor and I will be getting a new charger for next time.

Finally we got underground at 1330 and pushed down to where we were surveying. The cave was quite interesting, the section we were in went down at about 30 degrees in places then flattened out, then started sloping off again. There were also loads of wobbly boulders, but then they get earthquakes quite regularly………… After 20 minutes from the entrance we were at the first survey station and I was put in charge of finding the survey stations, definitely the best job as you can dash off ahead and scout out the passage. None of our group had been down this passage before and someone in the other group who had said, “It just gets tighter”, so I was hopeful this madness would soon end.

The passage wasn’t Ron-sized and so it took some time to survey the first 40ft. It then turned into Brown Hill Pot’s entrance series, with survey shots of less than 1ft. There was talk of jacking it in and so I struck out on a look-see. It opened up, but continued as a narrow windy canyon no wider than a couple of feet at any point, not somewhere you want to waste your valuable life surveying, but worth a trip to find out where it goes, so I came back and pronounced it utter madness to continue. It had taken us 4 hours to survey 45 feet of passage. Utter insanity if you ask me.

We then went to look for the other team and by this time I was bursting for a piss. Now, this cave is dry and there are no handy streams to piss in, so the MO for this trip was to carry a bottle and piss in that. So, I duly retrieved my piss bottle and filled it up, but still had a full bladder, so finding some tiny crack I emptied my bottle deep into the bowels of the cave and filled the bottle again! Remember, we had been underground for nearly five hours by now and I had been thirsty after my walk/scramble/hike up to the entrance. I kept quiet to the puritanical yanks that I had deposited nearly half a litre of finest English piss into their cave, but I felt much better.

The other team were nowhere to be found so we had a poke about and wandered about in some nice passages clambering about looking for the way on through this little manhole, but Chuck couldn’t remember where it was and I didn’t really care, so we headed out. At the entrance the others had left us a note to say they had gone out hours ago, despite being within shouting distance at all times, they had gone out without letting us know. Very rude I thought. Despite it being 2230, it was still blisteringly hot and giant spiders stalked the emergent cavers. Oh, and there are mountain lions as well!

Back down at the show cave we met up with some of the other team who said they had done even less surveying due to sickness and general ineptitude. I felt quite proud of our 45 feet in 11 survey stations.

Everyone else fucked off back to the Bay area (it was 2300 and it takes five hours to drive), but Chuck and I went back to our luxury campsite where I scoffed my precooked chilli and Chuck pulled out a bottle of excellent home made vino tinto, a good way to round off a day of mostly sitting on my arse in the blistering heat with a small amount of caving thrown in. Chuck promised me a decent trip to actually see the cave, which is about 6 miles long and 200m deep with a 80m pitch in there somewhere, I’ll be back, but not with any survey kit.

As a little footnote on the general madness in this here country, we stopped at this restaurant on the way back in a small one-donkey town for lunch. It was run (allegedly) by someone of Portuguese descent and there were pictures of Catholic madness in Fatima, the Pope visiting Lisbon and giant cockring factories in the boonies. I ordered a sandwich and went for a well needed Tom Tit.

The lavatory was small with one shitter and one urinal. Once I had finished my business and was washing my hands, a man wearing a cowboy hat who had been having a piss whilst I filled the room with noxious fumes, approached and instead of using the wash basin next to me, engaged me in conversation about something I couldn’t understand as he was talking in a foreign tongue (American). I just stood there aghast and very confused at this fella’s madness. I then returned to enjoy my lunch and tucked into my sandwich. I thought it was a bit odd that the bread was soggy and finally realised that they had deep fat fried the ciabatta bread I had asked them to make my sandwich from! WHY ?!?!?!?! The madness!

It ain't Yorkshire, but then at least it isn't Devon!

Dave

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17th July 2004: The Saga of IXL Cave, Santa Cruz, California – Salamander-a-rama.

The day dawned early, 0600 to be precise and the pasty English Boy shouldered his kit and tabbed across the sunny wastelands of Berkeley to the train station with his tanned girlf by his side. 45 minutes later we were at Union City, which, as before, was a complete shithole full of scary people, even early on a Saturday morning.

Chuck’s cave-wagon appeared round the corner, a big blue beast with 245,000 miles on the clock and no air conditioning. The pasty English Boy climbed aboard and was met with a veritable cornucopia of California’s hardest cavers from the Diablo Grotto. The target was Santa Cruz and as Chuck wound the elastic band extra tight for the freeway ahead I swore I heard a gun shot in the distance.

Sitting in the back of the van was luxury on the move, but once we were driving the back streets of Santa Cruz looking for the beach, it was starting to get a tad warm and sticky. We dropped Helen at the beach (sensible girl!) and then headed off towards the parking spot on the University of Santa Cruz campus. By this time it had gotten blisteringly hot and the ticks were out in force. I had forgotten to bring any trousers for hiking so I DEET’ed myself up good and proper to keep the stingers off on the short romp to the cave.

Getting changed to go into the cave almost turned into a nightmare when I stood on a wasps nest, but I ran away, which seemed to calm them down. The order of the day was thin polypro thermals with a cotton coverall, hence I felt somewhat overdressed (again) wearing a full furry suit and a Warmbac oversuit. Also, it was bastard hot, (did I mention that ?) so I was sweating like Pearshape just getting kitted up.

The cave was welcome relief, but we were a group of 6 and the cave wasn’t Ron-sized as it went down a corkscrew, then a low crawl heading down at 45 degrees on highly polished marble. There is more limestone in my liver than in California, hence a lot of the caves are formed in marble, which polishes nicely, hence it’s use in kitchen work tops. So, it makes for interesting caving!

There was a small chamber with some broken stal and a strong smell of weed. Apparently the local students come down the cave and get completely fucked on dope all the time. The evidence was all around so we pressed on through another squeeze and some more previously-well-decorated passage to the pitch.

This was a 100ft vertical rift, full of mud and rocks and free climbable by the foolhardy, which I did as Big Chuck made his descent, but then quickly clipped on to the 11mm monster Stop-killing tow-rope when it got a bit cheeky towards the bottom.

I quickly de-kitted on touch-down and pushed on through to a chamber where the others were waiting before, I thought, pushing on to caverns measureless, but they were just sat there, eating and lamenting the sorry state of the end of the cave, a tiny crack, 100ft above the base of the marble. Chuck arrived from somewhere (I could have sworn he’d gone down before me) and complained he’d dropped his spare battery ($200 dollars worth), so a search ensued in which we found some mud sculptures of cocks and a rucksack with someone’s car keys in, but no battery. As it was dropping below 25 degrees centigrade I was getting a little chilly, so I began the freeclimb out, using the rope where it got a bit cheeky.

The remainder of the group was camped at the top of the pitch and as they were slow types, I punched on out with one of the others, hauling their kit as they were hauling the rope. You could tell the entrance was getting closer because it got hotter and the prevalence of wildlife got bigger. About 10m before the exit I was very surprised to come face-to-face with a 20cm-long salamander, staring me straight in the eye. It’s mucker was just round the corner and they seemed to enjoy having their photo taken, which was lucky as I had my camera with me.

It was still bastard hot outside and it was luxury to get into my shorts, except when I brushed against some poison oak on the walk back to the car, ouch! Back at the Santa Cruz boardwalk by the beach, Helen seemed pleased to leave the bronzed masses and the cooling sea behind and climbed into the baking hot car full of stinking cavers. It sounded like she’d had a hard day, sunning herself and jumping in the sea. I know what I’ll be doing next time !

Weaner Boy

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18th July 2004: The on-going saga of County Pot, Bumblies-south-central (no body bags please)

Our 2 new heroes Clint and Russ, joined Alice and me for a trip around County Pot.

We went to County 'cause the weather had been crap. Of course on the day it was nice and sunny!!! We did the full round trip in County, seeing the pretty stuff around platypus junction and northwest passage. At Spout Hall we took a detour into the Trident Series to white line chamber. Nice shaky ladder and a couple of rope climbs and off to eureka junction. No trouble to our new boys who thought it all great fun.

Bit worrying, our new boys must be 10st wet through and just bound along. Still they are happy to carry a bag (Stevie!)

Ranger

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1st August 2004: Bull Pot, Kingsdale.

Next trip was just me and the new guys. Alice's email seems to have packed up at the moment and Pete was due to surface but is still holidaying I guess. Thought I'd give Clint and Russ some SRT practice as we have Notts coming up so we did Bull Pot on Kingsdale.

Nice fry up at Sarahs and then off to INglesport to drop off some Rigging Guides and get the goss off Jonny. It was hot on the hill with the sun glaring down as we approached the cave. It was bone dry with no water running at all. I rigged as for water to give the guys practice on the deviations and rebelay. Again it was an uneventfull trip with our new recruits more than up to it. They even did the entrance pitch several time just for the hell of it. (New tiger team members ??? - Ed)

Ranger