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Part One: They came from Planet Pisstake.
After a morning of packing rope, rigging & kit I headed through the winter snow to Manchester to meet up with the first of the wheezy fat boys with notes from Matron, Andy 'ow me ankle' Pettit. A curry, a good swilling of Hydes ale and a few hours kip later we headed off to join Ant at the awesome Walls climbing wall. Fantastic place, 23.5m high and about 200m away from where I used to live ( gggrrrrrrr fist shaking ). We managed to power up a fair few routes but had to make tracks to the Dales before we lost all light for the walk in to the cave.
Ant & I planned to do Swinstows on a pull through and Andy to limp up with us to the entrance for a few pics in the snow. We found the entrance with no bother but I was surprised by the amount of water going into the streamway. Still Ant was well prepared with a figure of 8 and a ratty old climbing harness so off we went. Luckily I had taken the precaution of wearing a pair of neoprene sallys with a TSA, mmm toasty warm in the cold Watter, Ant sported an old warmbac ( getting a bit tight these days Ant ! ) and a pair of women's tights so he was slightly less warm. Anyway the pitches were sporting and with only 2 in the party we blasted our way through the cave in double quick time.
Due to the shameful amount of daylight at this time of year we had elected to go straight to the entrance and not bother faffing round rigging the Valley Entrance Pitch ( wa, wa, wa, waa, waa waa ) Anyhow in next to no time we were into Kingsdale Master Cave and on to the VA pitch. Luckily divers had left an in situ rope so I used that to prussic up. Ant chose to climb and I then used the divers rope to assist him off the position he had got himself in ( AKA stuck... ). A short bumble through Valley entrance and we were soon out through the dustbin and into the starry starry night. Beautiful.
Back at Clapham bunkhouse we met Ranger Ron Cook who'd been swilling ale since 3pm. Gammy Leg Pettit had joined him so Ant & I snuck in a quick pint before heading for The New Inn.
At the Pub we were joined by Webbo (k-k-k-k-kWHO?)and Cold Watter Pete. I was keen to see what a crack team we had for Sundays trip down Tatty Wife and had high hopes of many hands making light tackle sacks. Gammy Pettit produced his note from matron, Ranger told me to Fook Off, Webbo was going to a Christmas Carol concert, Ant had seemed keen but unfortunately Ron had let the cat out of the bag and mentioned the Tatham Wife Duck, oh really ? I must forgotten to mentioned it Ant ;-)
Part Two: Tatty Wife and the attack of the guilty conscience.
After a night on the ale at the New Inn we all headed to the Brookhouse for a cavers grade breakfast. All present consumed a big feed without any guilty consciences. Shortly after breakfast Peg Leg Pettit headed back for a lay down in Didsbury. The worshipful Webb was already singing about little donkeys so that left CWP, Ant & myself for Tatham Wife Hole and the Ranger for a bumble up to the shakehole.
We parked up at the quarry lay-by and I produced the 3 tackle sacks of rope for the cave. At this point Ant announced that he was having a guilty conscience about going caving, having told his wife that he wouldn't be going underground for the weekend ( no better club to join than Pendle if you don't want to go underground ! ) As Ant had already been underground a few hours earlier I figured that he may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.
What had really occurred was a fear of the Yorkshire cold Watter lurking in the duck. Freud states that; “Conscience is the internal perception of the reaction of a particular wish operating within us”. Ant's internal perception was that the Tatty Wife duck would be tight, cold and full of gravel ( very perceptive that lad ! ) and his particular wish was to have nothing to do with it ! Forget Freud, Jim Royle sums it up better; ' Guilty conscience my arse...'
Long story short; Pete and I repacked 3 bags into 2 and tabbed up to the cave with Ranger and Ant out for the bumble. Actually Ant suffered another guilty conscience episode and offered to carry a tackle sack up ! Ron just carried a large breakfast......again.
Ingleborough was looking splendid in the snow, we had a cracking sunny day to walk up in and sweat out a few pints of ale. Soon we got to the shakehole, bid farewell to the bumblers and went caving. Swift progress through the passage and large chamber to the 1st short pitch, the split pitch 2 was pleasant enough although I wasn't quite sure if the deviation I put in was in the right place but it did the job. As a 2 man trip we were flying through the cave and were soon at pitch 3 & the ramp. Low passage followed which eventually led to the duck. I went in feet first to clear the plentiful gravel and then took it like a man ! Water level was high enough to give interest and necessitated a helmet off approach. CWP followed and we rushed through to the 4th pitch. We had a snack at the bottom of the pitch, but sadly my fruity flapjack purchased from Clapham store had disintegrated into it's constituent parts and resembled a porridge made of duck water.
A quick piss in the sump, well ok the canal leading to the sump and it was time for the out. CWP derigged and I got hauling heavy tackle sacks up the pitches. We were out at 4pm having left the bumblers at 11.30am. Our quick exit was rewarded with a magnificent winter sunset and superbly clear views of the Dales and the Lakes. Thankfully we used the last of the days light to make good progress down the steep icy decent path. Back at the cars for 1700 then a well earnt hot chocolate and slab of tiffin at the Thief. A fantastic end to the weekend and 2011's adventures.Thuggo
Link to some new fangled social networking site for photos
Other photos in the 2011 gallery. Check it out
I had a works trip to Oak Ridge in Tennessee, so took full advantage and arranged through a friend a caving trip. My contact was a local and was very accomodating, friendly and helpful, as were his muckers. I can't tell you who they were, or where we went to protect the fact that we were caving contrary to White-Nose-Syndrome cave closures, but we had a great time, the cave was great and much shite was talked. we didn't see any flipping bats either! I hope I can cave with them again in the future! Thanks lads!Weaner
Many were called to arms for the inaugural Pendle meet of 2011, but only the usual suspects volunteered for underground action. Thugs arrived from the deep south on a sunny Wednesday complaining bitterly about the cost of fuel and lack of drivers to drive him about, so being a top bloke I jammed myself into his new Kia and we were enroute to where That C**t Webbo was based. Much hilarity ensured as I repeatly kept turning on the windscreen wipers rather than the indicators due to some ass-about-tit designing by Kia. At the Webb household Matthew amused us with his terrifyingly fast balance-bike antics down the local lane, while Simon regaled us with stories of working 80% time with no boss telling you what to do. It sounded like he should have been put in charge of the Pendle website!
At the (nice) local pub, Matthew chose drinks for us all, the first of which hardly touched my throat being as it was the first decent pint of ale I’d had in two years. Jean joined the boys, instantly improving the conversation as she regaled us with stories of pissing off Prince Charles and his numerous sheep-loving landowner chums. Wild Boar sausage was the order of the day, until it was time for bed for the smallest of the group. Back at the Webb household, my sister arrived bearing goodies, all of which were consumed and enjoyed by all. With no excuse to leave and sleep at the YSS, we gratefully accepted Simon’s offer of a bed for the night (or a floor for me……) and slept soundly instead of being awoken by old men in grey pants, or the screaming ghosts of children past.
The Webbs were out of the house early doors (8am) before Thuggo awoke, so I chose the cave for the day, Lancaster Hole with an appetizer of Wilf Taylors Passage, a main course of the Main Drain and a dessert of Fall Pot boulder choke. Before we could go caving, a trip to the ‘Thief was in order for a spend-up as I’d not brought my ratty old caving suit with me and planned to buy a new one. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any PVC suits for sale, but were kind enough to lend me Alan’s old Warmbac PVC suit for my caving pleasure, bless their hearts! On the way to the Pit and YSS, we vectored through Dalesbridge to confirm our reservation for the following night and they kindly sold me a new Warmbac suit for 35 quid – score!
After some faffing at the YSS we headed to Casterton Fell. Nothing had changed since I’d last been there over four years ago. Lancaster Hole was also the same, including the same shitty rope on the slippery climb that avoids the Fall Pot pitch (which Andy rigged anyways). Wilf Taylors was as dry as a camels toe in the desert, the downstream sump still looked intimidating and splashing about in the Main Drain was highly enjoyable. We cracked on up to Stake Pot where we were overcome with a strange raging thirst. Enough caving, other than a brief deviation to the Colonades (also still the same) for a warm-up trip after not having caved for a year (or more for Thugs!).
Back at the YSS we availed ourselves of their newly cleaned showers and during tea drinking and hot-cross-bun eating duties we bumped into Kinky John and his missus. They explained the reason the YSS was almost spotlessly clean (honestly!), was that they’d stung the EU for $100k for building renovations and some council big-wig was coming in a few days for the official opening of the new extension. The dorm rooms still smelt of mold (which AP confirmed was hazardous to ones health), so not everything had changed…….
In the Pit that night we dined on sweetmeats and nightingales tongues on a bed of cous-cous, with a hearty fermented hoppy jus as an accompaniment. As the pleasant evening of trolling through Not For The Faint Hearted, Dicing with Des and The Times progressed, the gentile customers of the Pit turned slowly into rambling lunatics, all carefully choreographed by our old friend, Crazy Col. According to all accounts, Col was ‘expecting steam’ in the morning as his friend, The Fat Bastard of Old Cider-Town nursed his single can of Blackthorn cider and began simultaneously conducting the Last Night of the Prom whilst berating Thuggo and I for ignoring his mad antics and pretending to read the newspaper. It was quality Pit action all round!
In Inglesport in the morning, Pete looked quite chipper after his helicopter ride over from the Isle of Man. You see, Pete has gone up in the world and left us pions behind. He inspected the Inglethief breakfast and pronounced it to be crap. I had to agree with him as it had left a nasty taste in my mouth and an unduly large hole in my wallet. Still, today was Meregill, so off to pack ropes, complain, avoid getting changed for as long as possible, but eventually relent and get on with it.
The Mere was down after 6 weeks of no rain and a dry winter, so the first rope was hooked on and we were off! The second pitch succumbed to my top-notch rigging skills that I was surprised I hadn’t forgotten by now, as did the third. Thankfully I’d forgotten how horrible the traverse over the top of the third pitch was until I was stood over it, but with my wingman Thuggo and my other wingman Pete, I fucked about just enough to get down without too much trouble. Two more pitches followed in quick succession and soon we were ready to head into the Main Drain. Seems Meregill has gotten shorter since the last time I was down there……. The Main Drain was still superb and AP kindly hauled me up into the Black Shiver water, where we progressed upstream until we had to crawl, which was quite far. I hadn’t done this bit before so was quite pleased to have seen it.
AP kindly de-rigged, but due to a horrible clerical error, Pete was allowed to exit without his allotted quota of rope. Unfortunately, this clerical error led to me having a rope bag stuffed with so much rope I had to lash the last 20m around the outside of the damn thing, slowing my progress somewhat as I struggled to haul this monster sausage out of the flipping cave. Still, those tiger stripes don’t earn themselves! While Thugs de-rigged pitch #2 I poked around in the Mere and plodded down to see the lake at the bottom. Imagine my surprise after climbing down and down to find there was no lake, indeed, there was absolutely no standing water in the entire Mere, only massive mud banks and a small, flat area of rocks at the lowest point, with no passage anywhere. I had a piss for good measure and prussiked out, like, as a strange raging thirst took hold of me.
On the surface, Mike the Bike had arrived and was regaling Pete with stories of his biking antics. Pete told me we’d been underground for six hours. I was quite impressed with our speediness. I was hoping he’d carry my monster tackle sack back to the car, but he didn’t. Oh well. The Hill Inn beckoned for a pint of Dent, duly poured by a buxom beauty and duly scuppered by three cavers and one biker. Then, off to inspect our luxury cabin at Dalesbridge, noting the large amount of campers and lovers of chemical toilets in the surrounding fields. A ruby in Bentham beckoned, then the night was rounded off with vino tinto, chocolate fingers, a copy of the Westmoreland Gazette and some Marmite cashews. No-one could ever suggest that Pendle don’t know how to live it large!
The next day we four met Webbo, the Ranger and Andy Pettit at Bistro Brookhouse, where breakfast was served on square plates and the sausage contained meat, not just meat juice and sawdust. I was duly impressed, but concerned for my wallet. Some faffing, then rope packing and off to our next cave, Juniper Gulf. It seemed we had done this before relatively recently, but I was assured that we hadn’t (turned out we had, in 2001 – flip me where is time going!?!?). Pete took us a new way, which was the longest route I’d ever taken up there. It was especially pleasant due to the unseasonably hot weather, at least once I’d taken my oversuit off, and Simon led us up hill and down dale as he searched the hillside for a hammer he’d heard someone had left up there for him……like.
After much up hill and down dale we arrived at the cave, just in time for the rain to begin and for us to find another group had already descended ahead of us. Thugs suggested a tab over to do Meregill again, but Simon, ever impatient, pushed ahead and began rigging. Simon worked his magic, then Thugs took over and banged out a few dodgy looking knots, Tyrolean traverses and rub-points-of-doom until the other party met us at the top of a pitch and we let them go past. I was particularly amused as one of their party squeezed past me complaining bitterly that the cave wasn’t the right shape – I declined to point out the obvious, that the caver perhaps was not the right shape, or lacked the ability to make themselves fit the cave......
The team arrived at the top of the big pitch, where Thugs bravely banged out some more knitting before he, myself and Webbo descended into the depths. Pete decided he’d had enough for the day so elected to keep the hot chocolate company. I suspected he’d pull a Bloomster on us, but to his credit after our faffing about at the bottom the hot chocolate rations were duly cracked open and found to be intact! A rapid exit ensued (I’d particularly enjoyed all the bouncing on the 9mm rope on the big pitch), this time without horrible clerical errors in the area of rope packing and eventually we found ourselves stood on the surface impressed that we’d only taken four hours to get in and out, including at least 30 minutes waiting for the other team to pass.
Another strange raging thirst overcame us all, so we tramped back down hill and over dale back to the cars where we met some friends of Simons who’d arrived just in time to provide the Clapham Old Farts Choir with sausage rolls and cucumber sandwiches. None of these treats were offered to Pendle members, regardless of our tantalizingly delectable bare chests, glistening guns (arms) and helmet-hair. Seems some people don’t appreciate sweaty cavers in their midst!
Gear was dumped back at base, then off to the New Inn to enjoy good company, good ale and good food. I would have enjoyed the company more had I not had to spend the entire evening shouting over the flipping live band playing not 20 ft from me. It didn’t seem to put Ron nor Andy off their ale, both of which polished off a couple of barrels of Pippins Cock Gobbler between them. Eventually it was deemed time to leave the warm dry New Inn and venture out into the pissing rain for our stroll back to Dalesbridge. Amazingly we all made it back without mishap and set about tucking into the remaining Yorkshire tea and red wine to round off the evening. Ron had installed himself above my bunk, but the anesthetic qualities of the Black Sheep drowned out whatever raucous snoring he sent my way, just as well considering the big day we’d planned for tomorrow.
Tomorrow dawned bright and fresh, other than giant storm clouds gathering ominously over the Lune Estuary. Another Brookhouse breakfast was the order of the day, consumption of which caused the group to collectively agree that enough was enough and that heavy rain was likely very shortly, putting paid to our peak-bagging plans. Farewell songs were sung and the remains of the once glorious Pendle Caving Club dispersed again to the four winds (Cumbria, Lancashire/Greater Manchester, Sussex and California). A good trip was had by all. What’s on for 2012 then lads??? ;-)
There are even pictures to prove it!The crack team
A trip to Yorkshire was long overdue. With a 4 day pass stamped I hoped for a full and active weekend.
Faff and I made the 300 mile drive to the Dales, not cheap at £1.25 for a litre of diesel. We had decided to claw back costs by staying in the YSS for 3 nights, a decision that was sure to see the Ranger staying in Manchester for as long as possible. Arriving up North late afternoon we found time for 3 climbing limestone routes on Pot Scar, which was a pleasant walk from the YSS, but had to run back down in time to get our food orders in at the Pit by 9pm. We both had 16oz steaks which were superb - it's certainly gone up in the world since the days of Pig-Liver-Veg.
The next day we joined climbing monkey Ant at Crookrise, which provided us with a good day climbing gritstone in the sunshine. Ant came back to the Pit where we met up with Alarming Alice. Both Alice and Ant appeared to have learnt their lesson and avoided the Bombardier. Colin had a batch of hairy ale called " PROPER JOB " which did the trick. The hours flew by, as they tend to in the Pit and we finally headed back to the YSS for a few hours kip.
Next day we met up with the Ranger and CWP. Ron wasn't keen for a Meregill clean up and had suggested Flood Entrance. I was anxious as it was too close to bar Pot for comfort and I couldn't take the abuse from the Weaner and Webbo if we ended up in there again ! A good caver's breakfast at the Thief and we were off. Changing in the rain at Clapham brought it all flooding back. My kit seemed to have shrunk since the last trip and I was sorely missing my now retired TSA suit ( how dare they stop making them…)
Up at Flood Entrance we were alarmed to discover it was 12:30. Where had the morning gone ? We quickly sped through the cave up to the big pitch. Ron & Pete had aborted their last trip here when Ron couldn't find a deviation. Ron headed down and then puffed his way back up pronouncing the pitch uncaveable. I went down and found a flake suitable for the job. ( The actual flake/thread needed looks to be on the far wall and is well hidden from above. I could only see it on the prussik back up ) Pete and I waited on the bridge for the other two but there were no takers. Alice was apparently too cold to decent and thought she'd wait ( in the cold ) for our return….OK……
Pete and I made our way to the main chamber which was fantastically lit, due to either very little water or more probably the streamway having been diverted ready for the forthcoming BPC winch meet. We hurried back to the big pitch and soon met up with Ron & Alice. An uneventful exit and walk down saw us back to Clapham and ready for chicken dinners all round.
Sadly the Marton Arms; where we'd planned to meet up with Clan Webbo, had decided not to serve food all Bank Holiday weekend. Not the best business decision they could make I'm sure…. Webbo seemed unimpressed with plans B or C, being the Pit or the curry house at Bentham, so we'll have to meet baby Matthew another day. Faff said he couldn't endure another Pit meal – I guess 3 in a row is pushing it a bit, so we headed for the curry house which was rammed full. We retired to the New Inn for Black sheep and pork scratchings until the curry house had thinned out a bit.
The next day was to be a 2 man trip to Newby Moss Pot, while Faff and Ant climbed gritstone on Penyghent. CWP had agreed to NMP due to the fact he'd not heard of it or read the description ! When I did show him a page from Not for the Faint Hearted he realized what he'd let himself in for. Luckily the cave needed most of the ropes lengths from Flood, bar the 60. Unluckily Pete had eaten all the pies….
I'd been down Newby once before with WB and Misery Mason. I remembered Misery had sat at the bottom of the shake hole having not got very far. I couldn't remember how far WB and I had got into the cave but couldn't remember any epics. The Pendle website showed this trip was some time ago in pre BTP days so I also had my concerns:
20/3/99 PIST do Newby Moss Pot. What a wobbly place. Not for fatties either.
Pete and I managed to find the cave without too much fuss. The map in NFTFH helped and I hoped their cave description was as accurate. We got to the first 2 squeezes before the 1st pitch. Foolishly we'd kitted up on top and after realizing that it was impassible with SRT kit I dekitted down to a harness. The squeezes weren't too bad and should be no bother for anyone thin enough & who caves more regularly than the Pendle ! I waited in the small chamber whilst Pete thrashed about for a bit in the 1st squeeze. Pete declared the cave Not Fit For Purpose or Not Fit For Porpoises, I can't recall. So that was it - he could go no further. I went ahead and rigged to 1st pitch which has a narrow slot at the top. I was keen to see if I could get down OK for a return trip with a thin man. No great problem with the pitch so the cave will roll over for another day ( bit like our Pippikin Pull through, eh Weaner ? )
We exited the cave and joined Ant and Faff on Penyghent, which was covered in bumblies. Then the long drive back South where I plotted which trips from NFTFH I'd done, would like to do and most importantly which caves I will never ever go down !!!
Rushed up to the Dales to our new bunkhouse in Clapham. Luxury. Downstairs it had an honesty bar full of organic ale, posh bar snacks and a large wood burning stove.Upstairs it had a 12 bed dorm with decent bunks, comfy mattresses and a power shower with buckshee shower gel, shampoo and conditioner ( get us..) Popper Dog and I had a family room with duvets and our own shower.
Anyway there was no sign of horrid men with large grey beards wearing stained caving pants hanging about the place, no mould or rot growing high up the walls and the showers appeared to be cleaned daily as apposed to never. (Ed: Weird – never seemed to bother you before Andy – perhaps you’re becoming a bunkhouse snob in your old age…. Who did you have to talk to about digging on the Allotment in the ‘50’s?!?)
Well I found El Cooke and CWP sampling organic ale beside a roaring fire. We were soon joined by Ant, Webbo and Swamp Beast and decamped to the New Inn for much black sheep and copper dragon. The new inn has apparently changed hands but it seemed it was business as normal. Hope it stays that way.
Back at the bunkhouse bar it was more of the same ( talking sh*te ) Ant and Andy Pettit pretended they could both play the guitar and chess. Ron turned down the offer of the snorers room saying he could hear himself snore - yes, I think the point is EVERYONE else can Ron !!!
Next day it was a Cavers Breakfast, sadly Ant couldn’t face breakfast and sat and watched us eat. He has at least learnt not to order one first before finding out he’s not got the stomach for it. As Webbo commented “ IS THAT A SIGN OF MATURITY “ Possibly as far as Ant is concerned !...
Off to Leck Fell. It was a bitterly cold, icy and overcast. Best get down a nice warm cave then. Andy Pettit was the PCC’s neophyte member and was soon kitted out in some manky old gear. Swamp beast also turned up ( best be paying some subs soon Swamps ? ) Ron got a good sweat on doing the walk in, then it was off down the never ending building site entrance. It is a marvelous piece of work and a testament to how awful most of the diggers wives must be to make digging out a cave entrance preferable to staying at home of a evening.
We were all soon and off towards the streamway. I’d brought a ladder along to aid Swamps/Andy with the climb/pitch further along. No one could remember how bad it was but in the event we were soon in the main streamway so it can’t have been that bad for them. Down stream for a bit was a good walk but uneventful. On route back we found a dodgy homemade ladder which was free climbed for 15m ( eyyee eye…whah wah wah ) to a passage of pure gloop.
Up stream we started to see some of the formations that make the trip a cracking day out. Luckily most of the cave has remained unspoilt, possible due to the high roof space but surprising given the comparative ease of access.
A side passage saw of fantastic straws and other formations, before a shrine to Garnesh the caving elephantine God led us into a crawl passage of utter gloop. Pete and Ron decided to sit it out. Webbo ( who should know better ) Swamps & Andy ( who know no better ) followed on. The gloop was verging Otteresque. I finally reached a steep wall climb of slippy mud which Webbo clawed his way up. The rest of us followed the talk of tea shops and dancing girls. It was all a cover story to cascade gloop balls at the swamp beast ( not that the filthy creature needs more dirt in his hair…)
Sadly it descended from there into a mud wrestling match of which there was no clear winner. The definite loser was my TSA suit which sustained groin rippage of fatal proportions. This proved rather chilly as we pushed through ever deeper stretches of cold water. More pretties were seen and cold water waded through. Pete and I explored one more passage of gloop and straws before we turned around and headed back.
We quickly back tracked and were soon cascading concrete on each others heads as were climbed up to the entrance. A cold change saw us back to the Thief for tea and cakes. A good day out.
In February I pushed a few Diablo members to take me up to their other “secret” cave in Santa Cruz. It’s on private land (private = guns here remember), close to a major stoner conurbation and kept secret because of it’s “amazing” formations. After pushing for a bit, there were some vague promises, so I said I’d just go up there myself and do it. I know where the entrance is and bollocks to you feckers! Well, that got the response I needed (i.e. a guide) and a decent trip was had. The cave is small and complex (hence needing to go with someone who knows their way around), but very interesting and actually very pretty and fragile – not for the clumsy or loose-lipped. It needs to stay secret from the numpties, but next time you’re over we’ll all go and have a look (except Stevey of course!).
Flash to April – I’m back in the UK for two weeks, with four days set aside for caving adventures with the Pendle. Thuggo and myself did Aquamole Pot for a quick warm-up trip on Saturday, with his McDonalds “I like to move it, move it. I like to move it, move it” Happy Meal gadget encouraging our prussiking and afterwards headed to Inglesport for tea and cake. Very relaxing!
The following day, Thuggo, Webbo, Cold Watter Pete and myself did Black Shiver Pot. We beat the YSS slackers up there (better luck next time lads), and Webbo shimmied into the Pot to do battle with the beast. There are various tales out there concerning the death-or-glory nature of this cave, especially from Pete, who did the cave back in the ‘80’s. However, with the cold watter at a record low and Webbo on the sharp end (poor lad had wanted to do this cave for TEN years) we quickly got to the bottom. The Black Rift was very impressive, but half the fun (terror?) is taken out of these places when someone adds P-hangers that you just know cannot come out of the wall. Give me a rusty old bolt any day!
The trip out was uneventful and I enjoyed wasting some time with my muckers as we waited for the YSS to thrutch their way out, not being used to the big pitch (lads – it’s all about technique, honest!). Simon and I resolved to go caving more in deep nasty holes…..
Back on the surface, we enjoyed the typical hospitality of the New Inn in Clapham (this 24hr drinking law has ruined the whole ambience of that place!) and settled down into the YRC hut for a decent night sleep (sadly the YSS was full – why/how/who?). Inglesport breakfasts all round the following morning and a Pendle trip (sans Webbo) down jolly old Swinstos. I’ve nothing to say about that trip as I’ve done it at least 20 times, but it was pleasant enough and washed my kit nicely.
The following day found me poking around Whitbarrow with the Webbmeister. He’d found a couple of “caves” that he’d been digging and one of them needed the Weaner to poke his head in. Full of trepidation at what I’d find, I thrutched in slowly feet first, sliding past the bit that caught Webbo and flailed my legs around in space. Coming out was a bugger. It was tight and awkward, with a sideways slit that grasped at your suit. Webbo yanked me out and headed in to sort out the constriction with his square hands. Eventually he’d had enough and I assisted his resurfacing effort. Back in the hole, I dug out the offending rock and squeezed my much smaller shoulders through into the unknown. It was a pocket in a grike with no way on. I could have swung a cat if I’d have been a midget with a pigmy cat, but it wasn’t caverns measureless – better luck next time mate! That unfortunately was the end of my UK caving exploits for the time being, but more awaited me back in the Land of the Free.
Back in the Land of the Rude, I set up a trip during July to the infamous (for SF Bay Area cavers) Marble Mountain Wilderness – home to the deepest cave in California, the Big Foot Cave system. A heady 1200ft with very few pitches, most of the depth is gained on the contact with the basement rock (a la Couey Lodge, except nowhere near as hard). The bank holiday weekend of Independence Day (July 4th) gave us three caving days and two travel days (it’s a 6hr drive and a 3-4 hr hike depending on fitness), but we had a crack team (ish). At the car park we shouldered our backpacks (some much bigger than others) and headed up in the 30 degree C heat. John Morino having a bag at least twice as heavy as mine and I was carrying full Yorkshire uniform, plus camping gear and food for four days. We figured he had a wet suit as well as everything else, but all he actually had was a sack-load of C-cell batteries for his 1980’s lamp, tons of cotton clothes, but no food – what a loon!
The first trip was a beasting trip. I beasted my crack team of flaccid Bay Area cavers to the bottom of the cave via the easiest possible entrance, which required us to traverse the dreaded “Lurking Fear” crawl. It was the biggest talking point of the drive to the cave, to the hike up to the camp and around the camp fire. When we got there, it was just a 30-ft long flat-out crawl in half and inch of cold watter. My God – did they cry about getting wet! The rest of the cave was very pretty and all walking. Completely unlike California! It took five hours to get to the bottom, including a food-stop and/or photo stop every 20 minutes. Frick knows how much chocolate, jerky and string cheese (YUCK!) was consumed on the trip! The trip out was very long, what with all the stopping for food, photos and general rest stops. We descended about 600ft and traveled about half a mile underground. Total trip time was 12 hours! There were some very tired people and my sense of humour got lost somewhere in the cave. Still, I’d seen the bottom of the deepest cave in California and there is no need to go back!
The next day, three of us headed to Corkscrew Cave, a short hike away, to poke around in some open leads. With my keen sense of cave-smell, I walked straight to the cave (after having been there two years ago) and rigged the 80ft entrance in fine style with a single loop over the nearest tree! YE-HAAH!
John then said he’d forgotten his food, so headed back to camp to get it. I figured he’d be back by the time I rigged the next section and Celeste and I headed in. The cave has four pitches, no bolts and nowhere to rig off. Challenging stuff! Well, the ropes weren’t mine, so the monster rub points of death round all the cave passage corners were no problem! We got down to the low section on the survey, past which all the leads and juicy bits were. Unfortunately, the low section was a duck, a nasty duck with bugger-all air space and lots of cold watter following in to it. Having no wetsuit and no desire to immerse myself up to my ears, we opted for Plan B and headed upstream to the rest of the cave. Back at the entrance, we pondered on the fate of John who had not yet arrived, so we hiked back, finding the following days adventure on the way, and stumbled across John, wandering the trails looking for our cave. He’d been lost for the past four hours, only 20 minutes walk from both the cave and the camp! A Californian-Stevey Bloom!
The following day, three of us headed to another entrance to Big Foot. We arrived after 10 minutes walk (oh yes!) and started rigging from the surface (rope around the nearest tree – usual stuff!), and kitted up. I’d forgotten my furry, so headed back and bumped into a Marbles old-timer, probably the most boring individual I have ever met. He told us not to go down this entrance, saying it was his cave and we had no business down there, so I headed back to pass on the news to the others. Luckily they all agreed with me; he was a cunt; and so we went down the cave! It was a horrible loose beast, but got us into the far reaches of BF asap. We poked about and saw some sights, mostly mud, but some superb pristine formations and some pleasant and remote passages with very few footprints. Well worth the effort.
Back at base, he mythered us about going down there and then complained about me burning a tiny piece of plastic on our roaring campfire. He then proceeded to lecture us about persistent plastic pollution in the environment and how we (personally) were the cause of it all. I didn’t bother explaining that the plastics in the environment are the result of industrial operations in the US over the past 60 years and that they are present from Antarctica to the Arctic. Thankfully he was so annoyed he didn’t speak for the rest of the night, this was a true blessing! I wished I’d burnt some plastic the night before when he was ball-aching about ropes, lamps and 20-hour drills! Tosser!
My next adventure was to Utah. This was my third trip to the mad-state-of-the-Mormons in three years, each with the objective of a trip down Main Drain, a 1200ft deep alpine cave discovered in 2005. In 2005 the Mormons wouldn’t let us down there, in 2006 Mother Nature wouldn’t let us down there, so we were hopeful that 2007 was third time lucky! The caving season for mere mortals in two months long in Utah due to the cold weather. Lucky for us the gods smiled on us and our crack team (two Yorkshire cavers, two non-Californian cavers) saw us in and out of the beast in 18 hours. Yes, it took a fricking long time, but that was because we spent 8 hours surveying an ascending streamway that takes the cave up dip and I enjoyed poking around in some virgin passage – all walking sized passage beyond the current know extent of the cave, that ended in two waterfalls…… An honour indeed!
It was damn cold in there. Full Yorkshire, plus balaclava, surfing fleece, glove liners and regular stops for hot tea. We also feasted on dehydrated Mexican Curry and Chicken Teriyaki before the big prussik out; 1100ft of prussiking mate – not to be sniffed at when at 9000ft asl! We emerged as the sun rose over some distant Utah peak and I remembered why I love the deep, wet, cold caves – it’s all about getting out! Back at the campsite, in full sunshine, the four us slept for 4 hours before being overcome with the desire to stuff ourselves with bacon, eggs and other fatty goodness, which we duly did. Luxury!
Finally, I went on a canyonning trip in September. This was my first taste of this since the Ecouge canyon epic back in the early days. Being significantly older and wiser this time, I sought advice on the correct equipment – a wetsuit (check), canyon boots (check), ATC-XP for descending (check), two sets of prussik loops (check). All was set. Of course, this wasn’t to be a single day trip in the canyon, we’d be spending two nights in there, so bivi gear, food and other essential items were also packed into a single Daren Drum. It’s amazing what kit you actually don’t need when you know you have to drag it through a canyon for three days (like a sleeping bag – all I took was a sleeping bag liner and my caving emergency bag for warmth – thankfully this is California, so the weather is completely predictable!)
We ditched one truck, then drove for an hour to the next truck-ditching stop and kitted up, next to lots of fat tourists. They were very bemused! Bush-whacking for 30 minutes saw us down in one of the streams that feed into our target. In the process we chased a bear cub up a tree, so made haste lest the mother show up and want to eat one of us. A scary 5 minutes keeping an eye out for a pissed off mother bear!
The first day was pretty uneventful, mostly boulder hopping and scrambling, with a couple of short rappels on 9mm double ropes wearing a heavy pack and landing in deep water – no problem, everything floats! All very safe and enjoyable! We made good progress (about a mile) and bivied above a 30ft waterfall deep in the canyon. The bivi spot was on a granite slab and I’d snagged a half-length Thermarest from one of the others, which thankfully had dried out in time for me to sleep on it. The night was a little cold, but my Lyon Equipment emergency sack kept me toasty until it time to get back into my wetsuit and begin the fun stuff!
The day started with a 30ft jump – a very refreshing way to begin the day. My Warmbac wetsuit was the perfect thickness for this kind of early morning madness! Pretty soon the canyon became more like a real canyon, deep and foreboding with no escape routes each time you pulled the rope down the next pitch. We banged a bolt in on one pitch to back-up another previously installed bolt. Bolting in granite is hard work…..
Pitch after pitch after jump after pitch, with long enjoyable swims in crystal-clear water. It was an absolutely amazing day and really excised any lingering ghosts from the Ecouge episode. We reached our bivvy spot early, ditched our stuff and headed to the next vertical section to bang another bolt in. Thankfully the granite in this part of the canyon was softer and it only took the two of us 20 minutes to drill the hole. Back at the bivvy site before dark, we feasted (!) on dehydrated slop, warmed up around a fire and settled in for the night. No granite slab this time, we had the only sandy beach for 200 miles to sleep on! Luxury!
The final day arrived and we bypassed the pitch we’d just rigged by throwing ourselves down a necky waterslide, after tossing a few rocks over first to gauge the depth. A few more short pitches, some long swims and quite a lot of boulder hopping saw us at our exit point. The canyon continued on in great style and two more days are needed to get to the next exit point. It’ll have to be left for another time. 45 minutes of humping our huge bags up a barely visible trail through killer-scurf in 95 degree F heat saw us back at one of the trucks. We’d achieved the first ever through trip of this section of the Kaweah River canyon. I was keen for more!
I hear on the grapevine that some other Pendle members went down Otter Hole this year….
It was Pendle’s first outing away from the Dales for a while. Having had a previous years Otter trip washed out at the last minute we were keen for a return. John Hutchinson, the RFD’s top beard kindly arranged a permit for September, which we hoped would be dryer than 2007’s summer months…
Our permit allowed for only 4 hardened cavers. The call went out and a huge response was expected. What I actually got was a list of excuses roughly as follows:
Ranger Ron: Not Bar Pot or Lancaster Hole and therefore uncaveable.
Cold Watter Pete : Been there twice before in the 80’s, the 80’s…Weaner Boy: Bit too much of a drive from California
Bloomster: too fat
Paul the Stranger: Returned to molesting Angora Goats
Jan Langmead: washing her hair
Therefore it was back to the original team of Thuggo, Webbo and The Knitter. Otter Hole looked like a splendid trip. A big gloop fest of stinking tidal mud in the entrance series, the interest of the tidal sump to pass, plenty of caving passage consisting of stream way and bridging rift passage; then reaching the magnificent formations leading on to the Hall of 30 and beyond. Pictures were looked at, reports read & singing sumps viewed on You Tube. We were keen for it.
The big weekend soon came around. Sadly when trying to arrange a comfy post cave bed for the night it was discovered that PCC’s trip coincided with the Wales v Oz rugby game at Cardiff, the Abergaveny food festival and Monmouthshire’s prettiest sheep competition. The list of decent B&B’s & Pubs was exhausted, the list of Pi*s Poor B&B’s and pubs was also exhausted. Luckily John from RFD came to our aid and pointed us in the direction of a farmer (who had been baking his stony ground rock hard for the past few weeks) where we could camp overnight. The incentive was; there was a proper job hairy ale pub within walking distance which sold Buttcombe Gold and other monstrosities.
We all arrived on Saturday and pitched up, bending our tent pegs in the solid ground. I found to my dismay that the Welsh had yet to invent food shops in the area and was unable to source and pre cave lunch so had to rely on pickings from Webbos picnic hamper Jean had packed for him.
We then met up with our guide for the trip, RFD’s David “ cheap as chips “ Dickinson. David informed us that Otter Hole was a tad on the muddy side and then did a kit inspection to make sure that no Yorkshire carbide was being taken into his cave. I was sporting my new Weanski 24 hour lamp, which drew impressive looks ( probably ) ( WB: God 10 years later and I’m turning into Neil Turton…)
Finally all kitted up we made our way to the cave entrance via a down hill walk-in through some woods, a refreshing change from lugging heavy tackle sacks of rope uphill in the Dales. The cave entrance as a few metres above the level of the River Wye. David opened the entrance door and we were off.
The entrance series of the cave gave us a good taste of the legendary tidal mud; literally ! The stinking stuff was everywhere. We squirmed our way in, Alice finding that climbing on mud covered rocks was a new sport from clean washed Yorkshire limestone. We slipped and glooped through the mud fest finding an interesting blend of crawls, climbs and low passage. About 30 minutes caving brought us to the tidal sump. David advised us it was still fairly high and we would be better waiting for the water level to recede a touch more. So we sat around listening to the weird sump noises as it gradually lowered. A few rounds of mudballs also helped pass the time !
About 15 mins later we were all splashing through the sump. It was still plenty high enough for a good old fashioned Bollo*k soaking, and was plenty cold enough for all concerned, even those without bollo*ks, I expect…Once out of the sump the cave opened out much more, now becoming a mixture of stream way with plenty of scrambling over muddy rocks. We were soon at the emergency food dumps where we chilled out and socked up a bit more of David’s Otter Hole commentary. I can’t remember the full details but basically the whole cave system was formed by giant otters eons ago. The otters chiselled out the cave passage in order to lay their eggs in the chambers, which over time calcified into the formations we were soon to see.
Inspired by David’s talk we hurried off further into the cave. There were some interesting traverses of muddy rift passage, but nothing too taxing. The cave provided continuing entertainment with a variety of passage to progress through, the mud beginning to ease off as we got closer to the formations.
Our first taste of the formations was some impressive straws, these gave way to fantastic displays of curtains. The chambers and passage on route to The Hall of 30 (THO 30 ) was impressive enough in it’s own right and would fully justify any caving trip. As David remarked many of the anonymous formations would have been named in other caves, or would be the highlight of a trip, I’ve certainly been in many caves for a lot less.
However we were here to see THO 30 and we were not disappointed. It was easily the most impressive collection of formations I have ever seen in a UK cave. I can’t get anywhere close to describing what THO 30 actually looks like. It’s just one of those places you have to see for yourself ( WB ! )
Alice did try and photograph it’s splendour armed with her disposable camera. I fear her snaps may only show how dark the cave was and not the magnificence of the formations ! Sadly that was as far as we would be getting on our Otter trip. More time would be needed to push further into the cave, and we had a tidal sump to catch. A few swigs from Webbo’s as ever morale raising hot Ribina and we set off for the return journey.
The way back was fairly uneventful. Alice amused us with her spawning salmon antics as she tried to climb back up through parts of the glop fest. We had a few more rounds of mudballs, and discovered that the entrance series of crawls had bizarrely been lengthened.
Eventually we exited and examined the impact that Otter Hole had left on us. Alice was clearly the winner with her face and hair full of stinking tidal mud. Her post cave pictures will show the evidence ! A long slog in the dark uphill had us back to the cars. With no time for a shower or clean up Pendle’s finest retired to the Lion Inn at Treble, a fantastic pub with an excellent hairy ale selection and a superb menu. Alice sported her new hairstyle of slowly drying clumps of mud, giving her the look of a swampy at Glastonbury. A few beers later we all headed back to the tents to try and get some well deserved kip. An excellent day out having been had by all.
( Many thanks to John and David of the Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club for your time and effort spent assisting our trip. It was much appreciated.)
This trip report was received from one of our fading Tigers on January 22nd, 2007.
Back after a weekend of Yorkshire action. Walked up Penyghent with CWP and Andy on sat then popped into the Pit for a few pints of hairy ale.
Brookhouse was OK, still not the same without Sara. It's a bloke in his 30's running it now. His parents looked after it until he could move in. They were the ones who scared away all the cavers, bikers and local crazies, in fact all the sort of people who spend money on cold weekends in January. Result. No customers at all apart from us !!! CWP told him he wants to buy it if it's ever for sale which may be not too long if it's always empty. That would be a result. Maybe a muckas discount of 10p off !!!
New Inn - beer superb. Menu had gone a bit poncy. What is it with all these decent pubs that think they are London restaurants ? Spoke to old Peg leg Pot man who reckons it's being brought by a pub chain so it'll turn into a plastic pub with John Smiths smooth on tap. In fact by the time you come home the Pit maybe the only real pub left ! We had a good night though. Andy and Poppy fell asleep in the pub and Ron got tucked into the whiskey...
Sunday saw a big PCC turn out - well Alice joined us. Nice walk up to....Bar Pot. Yep it was there or Easegill System for El Cook ! Nice bumble about down there. GG was very impressive.
Not very impressive was getting back to Seaford at gone 1am then getting up at 6 am to be in work cos Tony Blair thought he'd let the train take the strain, but didn't want to meet any real people who had to be corralled away by lots of coppers....
Result. Now knackered and have to ace minging kit when I get home.
Me, Chuck and Jurgen (yep – not a Seppo, but a hardened German cave diver with a wry sense of humour(who knew??!)) set off to the town of Volcano about 2.5 hours drive away. En-route a typical US breakfast of coffee and grits we arrived in Volcano, a two-bit town where one of the bits had been shot and killed in a gun fight with the sheriff. Everyone came out to look as the strangers rolled in to town and headed towards the catholic cemetery (where the parking for the cave was).
A 150ft rope was packed, plus a 60ft handline and all our SRT kits – the talk was big and the bags were loaded. Jurgen even brought his sump-approved flash gun in anticipation of the massive caves that Chuck had talked us in to! We headed up into the hills bashing through the thick Californian jungle, Chuck regaling us with tales of yore. Apparently the town got it’s name from a local hill that *looked* like a volcano, but in fact wasn’t. Also, the ground we were trapsing across had been extensively mined using hydraulic mining (i.e. find a hill, spray millions and millions of gallons of water at it until it all washes down into some clever wooden contraption where you pick out the gold and ignore the rest. This spoil then proceeds to choke up all the rivers between the mine and the sea – hence the huge flooding in the Sacramento delta since days of yore!). The hydraulic mining had also created deep canyons, exposing the limestone and providing us with a treacherous route finding problem.
2 hours later we arrived up on a ridge. Luckily it was the right ridge and Chuck proceeded to throw his handline down a scrotty little hole in an attempt to entice me to go and have a look around. I invoked the Spirit of Thuggo and sat down on the only area of open rock to soak up the sun. Jurgen was however keen and 5 minutes later emerged saying it went on but he wasn’t keen on flat out crawling in mud (who could blame him!).
30 seconds later I stood over a cave entrance that actually was enticing, so donning my helmet I bravely dodged the poison oak and the rattlesnakes and punched my way through into a WALKING SIZED CHAMBER! Fricking hell – a walking sized chamber 2 seconds from the entrance to a cave in California. It was a miracle! You normally pay handsomely for walking sized passage like this. Anyway, the cave was called Santa Claus Cave due to the fat bastard wearing a red suit with a huge white beard stuck in a crawl at the bottom (apparently). I punched on, admiring the impressive formations to the lowest section in an attempt to see what I could rob off the bloke, but there were no fat men to be seen. Shame. Jurgen snapped of some photos of his beard, Chucks hiking boots and my new caving suit, then we were back out for 4 hours of hiking/serious full-on scurf bashing back to the car, via the canyon at the bottom of the valley (which apparently held another cave that we never saw – apparently this was *the* cave to see in the area, but we didn’t – oh well).
Back on the road we indulged in a Mexican dinner with some cold ones to quench our thirst. As usual – everything in this country is focused on the eating – I’ve finally realized and I’m giving in to it. Next time I fly I’ll be needing two seats! Awesome!
Less of the “Wean”, more of the “Fatboy” – ski.
Back in the Land of the Polite from the Land of the Rude it was time for some long overdue Yorkshire caving action. Thuggo and Webbo answered the call and the Pendle Tigers from days of yore quickly bottomed Lost Johns in a frenzy of sensible diameter ropes, thoughtful and safe rigging, carbide lights and without a rack in sight. We charged down the Master Cave pausing only to climb around the walls to keep out of the water, the damn cold water.
Back on the surface, the Pit and it’s delectable selection of finely kept ales was calling. Webbo made like the Swiss back to his love-nest and Thuggo and I made like the idiots we are and headed for a poisoning. Luckily Pete, Ant and Alice turned out to help us battle the Pit beasts and limit our hangovers. Nothing however could stop me imbibing vast quantities of salty bar snacks – deprived as I am here in the Land of the Rude. Salted and dry roasted peanuts, five flavours of Walkers crisps (wow! Walkers crisps) and the bar snack of the Gods; pork scratchings. Life doesn’t get any better!
An Inglesport breakfast started off the next day (mmm – brown sauce) and the Pendle masses, including the Ranger, headed up into the mist towards Marble Steps. Pete was just out for the walk (bad knee – hope it gets better Pete), but Alice had drunk too much beer and had to duck out of the trip. That left four cavers and five bags. Still, we’re heros in our own beer glasses and we punched through to the bottom of the cave despite the pissing cold water (I’d forgotten how cold they make the water in Yorkshire and how much there is!) via the 90 and the scrappy last pitch. Ant seemed particularly impressed by the cold watter, especially as he had a leaky Warmbac suit and Thuggo and I were in full Yorkshire Uniform. Thuggo had a hell of a time de-rigging the top of the 90, but eventually we were all safely back on the surface and keen for some Ingleton fish and chips. The mist even cleared to reveal the Lune valley in all her glory.
Was it worth the 11000 mile round trip from California? Hell yeah! Until April dudes (when there is talk of Otter Hole and Black Shiver Pot – top tales for the monthly bearding at the Diablo grotto (caving club to you and me) meetings).
1). California (The Golden State): 25th - 27th August
A long weekend, three caving trips. The first high up on the Sonora Pass, a granite talus pull-through cave with plenty of cold watter. Wetsuits recommended. Petzl Stops not recommended, so an ATC is thrust into action for hairy 11mm double rope descents. A 3.5 hour drive to get there – met up with two other cavers, hike in shorts and t-shirts at 6000ft in 70 degree heat for an hour up a streambed filled with giant boulders and a stream crashing tantalizingly underneath. Fun little cave, with no pretties but impressive rock formations ground out of granite by corrasion. Yorkshire wetsuit complete overkill (as usual). Plenty of splashing about, plus some scrambling and a couple of cheeky neck-deep pools to traverse over. Out in time for tea and medals. Drive over the Sonora Pass (9628ft) and up the Owens Valley to Reno stopping en-route at a Basque restaurant (chilled vino a specialty).
Night in a motel in Reno, then on our way to RV in the middle of nowhere for cave #2. This is a beginners trip, so there were plenty of bumbly-types wearing inappropriate hiking attire with inappropriate caving gear. Another hot hike starting at around 6000ft through extensive brush for ~30 minutes to a valley and a nice large entrance of a cave. Another fun little cave with nice formations. It appeared to be a re-invaded phreatic tube with some interesting cross rifts to climb. Attired in Warmbac suit with thin thermals underneath. Just the right temperature for sleeping in a quiet corner. Out in no time and a drive north to a campsite where those in the know dined in greatness and the others dined on dehydrated slop.
Cave #3. More driving north to a dirt road, where those in 4x4’s were forced to take those that weren’t. An hour of driving at ~15mph on dirt roads brought us to our parking area with a short (3/4 mile) hike to the cave up to the cave at 5800 ft. Amazing views over the Feather River Valley were to be had. I was nominated for rigging and was astonished to see a nice shiny bolt giving a free hang down to the first ledge about 30ft away (!). The pitch was about 120ft, but was all against the wall, over ledges and around boulders. No rebelays were deemed necessary, but the rope would have thanked us if there’d been some. The pitch entered a large rift, with a few hundred bats swarming around, gradually finding other perches away from the disturbance.
The next pitch required an easy climb over a 100ft drop to reach the belay. The trip “Leader” wasn’t keen, or even prepared to risk life and limb for the good of the trip, so I threaded his sling for him and tied a nice big figure 8. Down we went, through a window into a parallel set of pitches to a pristine part of the cave. It was at this point that the remaining beginners arrived and I decided to leave, knowing full well what was going to happen next ! Going down is easy, but getting out is hard. In his infinite wisdom the “Leader” has decreed that the cave was suitable for beginners with a single SRT practice session under their belts. This was not the case in my (significantly more experienced) opinion, and I was right.
Jammers were taken off mid-pitch, cows-tails (oddly required in this cave, generally most Californian cavers don’t bother) were missing, harnesses were poorly fitting and no-one knew the correct technique to overcome a pendulum without pain. It was a fiasco and a miracle that no-one was hurt. Out in time for Mexican dinners and a talking-up the trip.
Total time invested: 3 days, 15hrs driving and ~ 12hrs underground. Trip rating: 5/10.
2. Utah (Highway to the Danger Zone): 14th - 17th September
A long weekend, three caving trips. We (me, Bruce and Charlie) flew out to meet Willie and Pete Hartley. Pete is a hardened Yorkshire caver with decades of international caving expeditions under his belt. He’d recently returned from an expedition to Krubera – yes, that 2000m deep beast. The plan was to survey in two of Utah’s classic caves; Neilsons Cave and Main Drain Cave. Neilsons is 880ft deep at 8000ft up a 2hr hike and Main Drain is 1174ft deep at 9000ft up a 1hr hike.
We flew to Salt Lake City after work on a Thursday night, drove to Pete’s and got about 4hrs of restless sleep on his floor. Up on Friday morning at 0530 and drove 2 hrs to Brigham City, a small town (with big intentions) in the middle-of-nowhere north-west Utah. Stopped for a big fry up and then shopped in Walmart for supplies. At this point the pissing rain started and the temperature dropped from 70 to 45. We all hoped it would stop soon. At the parking for the cave the freezing rain lashed down, but Pete was already raring to go. He’d been up to Neilsons the previous weekend to rig the top section and take all his caving gear. We were weighed with the Yorkshire standard kit, plus an extra layer and more food than usual. Off we went in the pissing rain, still hoping it would stop. 2hrs later we were at the cave, soaked to the skin and dashed to get changed as the rain stopped for 2 minutes, then with a crash of thunder, turned to hailstones ! Ow !
Getting into the cave was a relief, although I was concerned with getting struck by lightning on the way down the open-air 100m-deep entrance pitch. The cave went through some tight spots, along some roped traverses, a couple of short pitches and then Fantasy Well, a 100m free hang on 9.5mm rope. Right after that was a scrappy 20m pitch over a ledge on archive 11mm, where the rope had rubbed so bad the sheath was showing and the rope could be flexed to an unnerving degree…..So much for Indestructible Rope Technique ! Down a couple more pitches into an old streamway which got bigger and bigger, with a couple more pitches and a few scrambles through breakdown to the bottom of the cave. It was pretty impressive, but then we had to get out.
It was every man for himself now and each vertical foot we had soared down had to be regained. Our lungs were burning with the altitude and I became dizzy at some points with the exertion and low oxygen. It became harder to force food down and I felt that Fantasy Well was never going to end. The crawls were thankfully easier on the way out and the 100m entrance pitch had been split into 4 with some perfectly sited rebelays (good British rigging – thanks Pete!). Eventually the top was gained and 6 inches of snow was found to have fallen in the past 8 hrs. Wellies were definitely the order of the day.
Back at the car the camping in snow at 8000ft was poo-pooed and we made our way to Logan to get a motel room for the night. All our muddy kit (mostly) dried and we slept like babies until 10am, when we went for another fried breakfast, marveled at the huge amounts of snow that had fallen overnight and slowly built up the desire to head back into the mountains to RV with Pete and some Colorado cavers who were heading to Main Drain at 0800 (madmen!). We had a hand drawn map of the route to MD from Pete and so Bruce and I got kitted up (Charlie was only up for the hike – all his stuff was still wet and rapidly freezing) and headed up into the snow covered mountains in winter mountaineering conditions looking for a hole in the ground, carrying our SRT kits and a mountain of food.
Despite our best efforts enduring foot-deep snow drifts and blizzard conditions we couldn’t find their tracks and spent 3hrs looking across this mountain for Main Drain. We gave up and headed back to the car to indulge in some handbrake turns on the snow. They hadn’t arrived back by 6pm so we headed back to Logan and another motel room. The following day we headed back up to RV with Pete, but he’d already set off with one of the Colorado cavers to de-rig Neilsons. The remaining Colorado caver regaled us with tales of adventures and illness in MD. He’d puked on the way out, poor lad, but they’d poked up some new sections towards the bottom of the cave, lucky buggers. They’d exited MD at midnight after a 10hr trip.
We decided to leave them to it and drove off into the Utah wilderness to see the sights. There were sights aplenty on the way back to SLC, some cold beers and our flight home. We’ll return – the weather beat us and we weren’t properly prepared. Utah’s an odd State.
Total time invested: 3 days, 3hrs flying 6hrs driving and ~ 8hrs underground. Trip rating: 8/10.
Bruce called late on Sunday night and asked “Do you want to go caving tomorrow”. I thought about it for about 5 seconds as I hadn’t been caving for a couple of months (due mostly to going skiing too much!) and Monday was a buck-shea day off (one of very few here in the Land of the Free – bastards), so it was on.
Bruce and Bri (his missus) arrived in Berkeley and we were off on our 4 hour drive to Millerton Caves, an (allegedly) fine set of granite caves containing a pirated stream. The caving chiefs of our area had called a trip off to these caves only a few weeks before citing high water and dates with badgers – but we were fully wetsuited (as suggested by said chiefs) and keen as mustard.
It was a damn long drive, about 250 miles, with only one diversion for minor faffing and glove-buying along the way. The views of the snow-covered Sierra Nevada on the way were superb. The hike to the cave was short, thankfully as it was getting hotter by the minute. It was a scorching 80F/26C, but I was cleverly carrying all my kit and wearing short shorts for the hike.
The caves were found easily, which made a change from the usual rambling across the hills looking for a hole and they were booming (the caves that is). We stuck our heads in and could see the first swirling pool of doom. I quickly donned my full body 5mm Warmbac wetsuit that I’d shipped from home and B&B donned their shortie wetsuits and protective rags. I immediately realised I had fallen into the trap of British versus Californian caving attire and I was going to boil to death.
San Francisco Bay Area cavers do not understand what cold caving is. Even caves they think are cold are actually pretty damn warm for the likes of a man brought up on Yorkshire caving – so, taking them at face value when they said I needed a wetsuit was madness. You’d have thought I’d have learnt by now ! B&B both looked amused at my choice of caving wetsuit. I didn’t need to explain, they’d seen this problem before in other circumstances with me. Dogs learn quicker………
The cave was actually pretty good – lots of tepid water for splashing around in, rocks to scramble over and ducks to duck under. We did the first section, then climbed out and searched for the upstream continuation. Bri retired due to illness and Bruce and I climbed down into a swirling foaming waterfall reminiscent of one of the minor falls in the Ecouges (maybe the very first fall), that neither of us could climb up due to the volume of water. It was lots of fun trying though!
Upstream was out of the question, so we headed off downstream where I found a monsterous volume of herring jizzum swirling in a pool waiting for Simon Webb and his friend Dr. BL Swampbeast to come along and lap it up. This signaled the end of the line and so it was back to the surface for more boulder-hopping and searching for more upstream entrances.
The boulder hopping was very pleasant, but the baking sun and lack of skin exposure to the fresh air was causing me to slowly start to boil (literally) in my wetsuit. I felt like Pearshape did that day he walked up to Penyghent Pot in his wetsuit in the middle of summer (what a madman I thought at the time – but here I was – doing the exact same thing, only 8 years later!). After 30 minutes we hadn’t found any other enterable entrances, but we’d heard plenty of roaring water. I started to get lightheaded during the brush-bashing and so finished Bruces water off (thanks mate!), so we headed back down and I found a refreshing pool of cold cave watter to douse myself in.
By this time we were all keen to call it a day, so we went back downstream through all the cave we’d traversed and headed downstream from the original entrance to the level of the lake at the bottom of the cave. It cooled me off nicely.
Struggling out of my wetsuit was unpleasant – like Ron my shoulders seemed to have grown since I bought that wetsuit (it was an 18th birthday present – I’m 30 this year, so it’s done ok!), but with the help of some herring jizzum it slid right off (into the poison oak – nice one!).
The drive back was monotonous, but that’s driving across the Californian Central Valley for you, much like the M40 between Birmingham and Oxford, only hotter, more humid and more strawberry fields. The highlight was the superb Mexican tucker at everyone’s favourite Mexican road-side shack in Los Banos – El Taco. $4 for more beans, rice, carne asada and guacamole than you know what to do with.
This trip broke my cardinal rule of CA caving – The time taken to travel to the cave must be less than the time spent underground. This was such a fun cave that I’ll make an exception this time. Time spent driving (7hrs), time spent caving (3 hrs). Well worth it in my opinion and worth a return.
Bit damp this weekend but the rain held off for the trip. Only Cold Watter Pete and the Ranger were up for this one.
Usual Inglethief breakfast with CWP tempted to spend his hard earned cash in the shop. Pity about the Brookhouse, seems to have frightened off the cavers and bikers with their high prices and curt service. Guess cavers and bikers aren't the desired clientele!! [Ed- which is weird as old grannies don’t eat half as much as the Pendle after a night in the Pit!]
Anyway off to Bull Pot Farm and park up in the mud on the lane heading towards Aygill. Saw Jim Newton on the way back from his "dig" Lady whatsists hole. Duck will remember that one.
Nice walk over the fell via Lancaster, Link etc. Not another soul about, excellent. County entrance has been "re-pointed" as it was coming a bit loose. Its OK now.
We had the usual bumble around County, looked in a lot of nooks and crannies. Pete went up Ignorance is Bliss heading towards Lower Pierces passage. Need to loose a pound or two myself!
Went down to Dismal Junction but it looked a bit damp especially with rain forecast. Still Northwest Passage and the Platypus Junction areas are still very pretty.
Checked out some passages over the main way on the way back, don't know where they were!! They were over the stream route not the Spout Hall route.
Ah well, we bumbled back outside to find sunshine (no rain) and the inevitable students. “Is this County Pot?”, one asked. Oh well, they have to start somewhere. Although it does make a change to see some cavers. Over the last few years cavers are becoming as rare as rocking horse shit.
PCC used to get out at least once a week, our President could be out 2 or 3 times. I have done more than you others this year, I have managed 3 trips this year so far!! It’s a sad tale!!
All being well I will be out on the 30th April, 'til then if you're keen
Well it should have been Rumbling Hole but the weather was crap. Rain all night, all morning.......... Plan B after the expensive Brookhouse breakfast was Notts II. Could be we will be using Inglethief for RV in future. Friendlier service and better value and you have the shop to use up some £££ (or $$ maybe!)
Off up to Leck Fell, Alice, Pete, a new recruit also called Pete (could be confusing) and me. Pete is a mate of the Horton Hippo and is also trying to get him out caving (Good luck with that ! -Ed).
Sat around on Leck for a while until the cloud lifted and the rain stopped.
Then we leapt into action, (well maybe not leapt) got changed and headed off to the entrance. Lifted the lid and not a sound, brilliant. Cold Watter Pete dived in and headed off down this wonderful scaffolded shaft, quickly followed by the Ranger, Alice and Pete (2). Nice and dry until near the bottom and then we encountered a small inlet, gave us a nice cool shower before we encountered the bottom pitch. The electron ladder has gone but we were going to rope it anyway, I remembered the rope and Pete(2) remembered a maillon! The inlet soon after the pitch was running freely unlike our last visit.
Down in the main stream is was quite wet. Gave us a sporting trip upstream, the currewnt being quite strong in the narrower sections. Further upstream where it was wider it was more sedate but with the odd deep pool to wake you up.Had a look at the pretties, still as impressive. We gave up the chase upstream when the swimming bit came apparent. Big decision then, unanimous, tea and cakes.
So it was another sporting trip down the streamway back to the entrance passage. Then the still interesting climb back up the entrance shaft to be greeted by a bit of sunshine. Inglesport beckoned for some tea and huge cake. Pete (2) even managed to get some custard for his cake. ( jealous Andy!)
Missed a good trip if you weren't with us, the extra water added a bit of excitement.
It seems that I am a member of a unique club; A Pendle member who has actually been underground more than 5 times in 2005 ! I base this entirely on the lack of trip reports, so if I am wrong, you know what to do !
On June 30th I drove 6 hrs north to Yreka, a town nestling deep in the Klamath mountains. On the morning of the 1st July, I shouldered my huge rucksack containing my full “Yorkshire uniform” and camping gear and food and headed off up into the Marble Mountains, complete with ringing bear bell and long dog-beating stick. I was set to meet up with the KMCTF, a rough bunch of Californian and Oregon cavers who like alpine-style caving and telling stories of people being mauled by bears.
A decent set of people turned out, some more competent than others. Of the competents, the aim was to bottom Bigfoot Cave, the deepest in California at around 400m. It was a bitch to find in the forest as every likely looking hole was full of snow and it became tiresome falling through thin snow bridges over holes, whilst looking for a particular hole. Eventually we were directed to the beast and our little team, me, Bruce White and his wife, Bri kitted up and looked brave.
Bruce was the first down through the snow plug and complained bitterly about the cold. It blew like Leck Fell in January. Nasty. A rope was rigged around some dodgy bolts and we boldly bade the accompanying old gits goodbye and set off. The first pitch was short and ended on a loose boulder/gravel slope that led directly onto the next pitch. Handily there was a new single bolt rebelay, so rigging was easy. The next pitch was around 20m and was against a gorgeously banded marble wall. The cave was also warming up and a nice echo could be heard down below.
We landed on a ledge and traversed around to another single-hang rebelay over a 35m borehole pitch. The nut on the bolt wasn’t tight, so Bruce and I took turns trying to do it up with our fingers, a crab, a maillon and his teeth. It wouldn’t tighten, so after 30 seconds deliberation we decided to use the in-situ 16mm rope (slooooooow on a Stop!) and trust the complicated 3-way hang. At the bottom we dumped our vertical gear and headed off downstream.
Now, being able to head downstream is mundane in Yorkshire, but very unusual in California. Usually there is no water, or hasn’t been for a very long time, or is standing water, but this was a reasonably size stream trundling down a reasonably sized passage in which I could stand up, but not quite swing my arms. I was in heaven !
After some route finding problems we popped into the main drain, a monsterous Lancaster Hole MD type affair. I ran off downstream whooping and swinging my arms ! It had been too long for sure. The passage had some interesting formations and the water was damn cold what with it being snowmelt, which eventually ran into an enormous room and flowed out via a nasty looking crawl called the “Lurking Fear”. Bruce balked at this and so it was time to head back out, happy and looking forward to the next trip to bottom this classic cave.
Back at camp I had dehydrated Louisiana beans and rice. It gave me evil farts.
The next day the old gits, Jim and Arly wanted to take us to see a cave in another area. We hiked for hours looking for the damn thing, but eventually we arrived and a rope got thrown down. Bruce was first man in again, but his rigging technique wasn’t up to the next two pitches so the Weaner Boy stepped up and showed him some classic “expedition” style (yes, cowboy!) rigging and we descended a couple of very pretty pitches in beautiful marble.
The rest of the cave was excellent, albeit short, or so we thought. It went through a hands and knees crawl in cold watter to a chamber where a waterfall and large passage came in about 10m above our heads. There was an old rope going up one side, but it had been in there since the cave was first explored 20 yrs ago, so I wasn’t keen ! The downstream went, but got lower and lower with mud all up the walls. It looked liked it sumped and Arley didn’t know how far it went (actually he didn’t know what day of the week it was, he was very funny, a Californian Stevey Bloom!), so not wanting to get cold and wet with a long hike back, I ditched it and followed the others who had already gone (strange approach to caving some of these seppos).
Arley attempted to climb the pitches using a Mitchell rig. This is a bizarre US arrangement of jammers, bungies and webbing that makes you look like a Morris dancer. It is also highly inefficient and coupled with his advancing age (60+) he took what seemed like forever to climb the three pitches. Still, he is still caving at 60 high up in the Californian mountains, so respect is due. The hike back took about 40 minutes as we knew where camp was and weren’t relying on an old man and his GPS (now, did I put the 4 in the right place, maybe it’s 864, not 468……….you get the idea). Back at base the survey showed that the damn thing went for shagging miles after a brief indignation of a crawl. I was pissed off.
I had dehydrated Katmandu curry for my tea. The farts lessened. It was a good day. Have a look at the photos when I get them up. The next day I got up early and hiked back to the car. It didn’t take me that long, but something in the woods growled at me and it wasn’t a hikers dog this time. The drive back was damn hot, and long.
This was a Diablo trip to visit two prime caves deep in the Arizona desert, 30 miles or so from the Mexican border. The cast of cavers was varied, from tough experienced types to the portly village butcher type. A vast assembly of kit arrived in Tucson International Airport to be greeted by an equally vast Ford Excursion, which, once full of our kit and food for the trip, was sadly lacking any space for people. Handily these things have a roof rack and we had plenty of rope to lash it all down !
Our first night was spent in luxury accommodation near the Airport, Motel 6 to be precise. I’m not sure what happened to Motels 1 through 5. It was a toilet, but sleep was needed so it did. We had dinner in a bizarre restaurant, which served all you can eat Tex-Mex for $5 a head. Nice ! Back at base, the talk turned to politics and which was better, American piss-water or British real ale. Guess who won that one !?!
On the final faffing session of the morning, I noticed that we had a 2inch nail poking out of the side of the tyre. There was crazy talk of changing the wheel ourselves, but European logic prevailed and we eventually ended up with a much large 12-seater bus instead thanks to Avis. Perfect. Finally there was room for our kit, our food and us in one vehicle, with extra room to spare. The drive to the cave was through vast deserts filled with tumbleweed, giant cactus and illegal immigrants riding bicycles in the 107 degree F heat. It was scorcio for sure ! Once we’d reached our turning-off point, the road disappeared and we were off-roading. Luckily the vehicle wasn’t ours as we crossed knarly riverbeds and scaled rocky slopes of doom. We were shaken, but not stirred, as we arrived at our campsite around 11am.
I say “campsite”, but actually it was an area amongst trees that was slightly less rocky than the area immediately adjacent to it. It was also devoid of facilities, which wasn’t really a surprise being 2 hrs from civilization in it’s most basic form. We were also at 5500ft, so the temperature had dropped to a pleasant 85 degrees F. Tents were erected, lunch was had, kit was slung on and we were off to Cave No.1, located somewhere up the hill to our left (or right, it depended on the way you were facing).
The hike to the cave was a bastard; hot, steep, altitude, rattlesnakes and a huge pack stuffed with vertical gear and 2 litres of water made for a very unpleasant midday stroll. The cave was located and kit was donned. I was sporting short shorts, a natty yellow cotton coverall and a pair of $15 disposable hiking boots. Not Yorkshire Uniform, but, I was glad as it was fricking hot (have I mentioned that yet?). Inside the cave, Charlie went first to check for rattlesnakes and scorpions. There was then some professional dawdling and being scared of your own shadow, which turned out to be the general approach that half of the group took to the cave.
The cave opened out into an impressive chamber filled with dry ancient flowstone down which an easy (for me) climb was necessary. There was then a climb up the other side (again easy for those with ability), through the old gate and into stomping passage. I stomped to where a tension traverse was required and waited for the others to catch up. Charlie rigged as he knew the cave and we pressed on. Then it was down another pitch to a lower level into an area festooned with some of the most amazing formations I have ever seen. Once back up we attempted a round trip.
Charlie and I were on point, pressing each passage, which was a lot as the cave is like a maze. It was pretty amazing doing this as around each corner, or through each squeeze was often an area that was well off the beaten track and more gloriously impressive formations. It was superb. Charlie dropped a pitch looking for the way on, but no luck. I then dropped a pitch and scouted out and about for some going passage. There was plenty, but not the stuff we wanted. The lower section was equally impressive as the rest, with giant columns, shields and monster helictites everywhere. I ended up the wrong side of a very tricky climb and had a bit of a moment, but skill and confidence saw me through and we were quickly reunited with our lazy bastard mates who had spent the time we were running around getting hot sitting on their arses eating jerky.
We didn’t find the way on, so sloped out as time was getting on, crawling out of the cave entrance as the sun was setting. I glanced up at the wall above the entrance to see a horrible looking yellow scorpion poised to strike at a passing caver. It was about 2 inches long, so didn’t look that dangerous……. Charlie was brave and volunteered to go back into lock the gate up. Brave boy !
It was “Italian Night” back at base where Chuck and I cooked up a feast of pasta, tomato sauce with turkey sausages, garlic bread and lashings of vino tinto. Just what you need after spending the entire day at altitude in suffocating heat and suffering from dehydration ! Everyone was slaughtered within 30 minutes!
Next day we were off to a different cave, Cave of the Bells, a 1km hike away from the campsite. Luckily we were up early and away, so the temperature was only hovering around 80 degrees. Nice ! Once we arrived at the cave, Charlie found that the key he had been given didn’t fit the lock. BASTARDS ! There was much cursing of the Bureau of Land Management, who I am sure cared, then we headed back to base to grab our SRT kits for another day in Cave No.1.
This time we were not alone. A group from the local Grotto were skulking about surveying, apparently. We got to our end-point from the day before and I found the way on. It was obvious really. They always are. Whilst the others caught up, I poked through a tight squeeze which took me through a well decorated section, down a cheeky climb, into another large room. At the top of the room I met a local caver who was busy examining bat shit. Each to their own I suppose. Eventually the group were ready to press on and I instructed Charlie in rigging pull-throughs European-style. Everyone was impressed, especially the talkative one, who had to be dodged as my ears were starting to bleed.
There was more caving, most of it open walking/scrambling (which makes such a nice change from California caves!) until we came to a large room which at one end had a small opening with the following words above it; “Danger. 175ft drop immediately beyond”. Well, I had to have a look, so I crawled through carefully, only to find a small chamber. This went via a lower crawl and I found myself in a chamber with a *big* pitch disappearing into the depths. Some rocks were thrown and Charlie crawled in to enjoy the booming. Soon though, we had to return to our charges, as there were some worried voices coming from the other side of the two squeezes. Next on the list of adventures was a cheeky climb. Simple for those with skill, but almost insurmountable for those without. Charlie provided the top assurance-giving belay and I was nominated to provide footholds and shoulder stands for the portly lame-o’s. Fun (ouch!). We were now back at the traverse and it was time to ditch our bags and go look at some more pretties. Charlie and I pressed on through a tight tricky squeeze to enter an area that was well off the beaten track and contained some of the most amazing formations I have ever seen. It was extremely impressive and next time I’ll take a camera I promise !
Back at the entrance we found all the scorpions had gone, but that the other group had kindly left a rope bag for us to carry down to them. I wasn’t keen, but the others were. Thankfully I didn’t have to carry the flipping thing. The other grotto members were waiting for us back at the camp, waiting for the cave key and, so it appeared later, a free feed and plenty of free alcohol. No effort was made by anybody except myself and Chuck to begin dinner, collect wood or start the mosquito-repelling fire. Instead, they sat around talking some of the most impressive shite I have ever heard with one of the other grotto members, lets call him Steve (I think that actually was his name, but who cares ?).
Anyway, Steve was a shite-talking obnoxious twat of biblical proportions. I have never heard such twaddle come from one mans mouth, and I have spent time in pubs with Andrew Philipson and Neil Turton (LUSS, explains it all eh ?). He even had the audacity to repeat many of his crap stories, which some of my caving companions lapped up like dirty Thai whores at a spunk-licking contest. It was obscene. Pretty soon I had tired of this spectacle and came up with the cunning plan of removing him from our campsite by drinking all the remaining cold beers (remember the others were all still v.v.v. hot after spending the day in a van in the sun and not even a Yank would drink warm beer) and burning rubbish on the fire, causing huge amounts of noxious smoke to swirl around our site as the wind had gotten up. Clever eh ?
Actually, he won and I retired to bed exhausted, drunk and with serious smoke inhalation-resulting coughing. Bastard. However, he left about 2 minutes after I did, so I think he was probably on to me. Nevermind. The next day was devoted to rest, so we visited a show cave in the 105 degree heat, a truck stop to get a shower (facilities were superb! – highly recommended) and a desert museum in the 107 degree heat. Back at the airport it was margaritas and tortilla chips all round, which was an excellent end to an excellent weekend in an excellent cave located in a very bizarre place, the southern Arizonan desert. Have a look at the pictures in the gallery, once I get them up there.
This cave, located on private property somewhere in California was a cracker ! The second decent caving trip I have been on since I got here nearly a year ago (I’ve been down far too many crap holes in the mean time I can tell you. Last month I went down four pits in one day – all were shite holes!).
Our team assembled early one Saturday morning for a typical breakfast of bagels, coffee, pancakes with syrup and bacon and a chewing tobacco side dish – nice. It was made clear that the cave was a secret and nobody was to be told of our trip. Also, we had to keep quiet on our approach to avoid alerting the irritable neighbours. All very different from a hike up to Bar Pot !
We approached in two teams. I was in Team B. Team A almost blew our cover when one of them jumped out of the car and shouted “Yeah ! Let’s go”, but no-one heard and they ran off down the track to hide out and wait for us. Team B was much better. We exited the car in double quick time, our rucksacks cunningly disguising the fact that we were cavers, jumped the fence and pegged it down to our waiting muckers. Our wheelman arrived a few minutes later after dumping the car in a handy lay by.
The hike to the cave was long, but pretty, all through a forest. The salamanders were out in force, bright orange and rampant. The changing area was located, sadly with some recent poison oak growth, but undeterred, it was tackle out and kit up time. Now, most of us were in standard caving kit, thermals, oversuit, knee pads, elbow pads etc, but one of our team, being a particularly macho-type from back East had on only a thermal top, a pair of leggings (nice!) and a pair of shorts. Considering that we had been told that the trip would include a long section of crawling, I felt that his attire was somewhat lacking !
Nevertheless, we got changed (as usual there was plenty of interest in my wellies, they all wear old hiking boots which constantly come undone etc….) and our intrepid leader pointed out the entrance, a pile of rocks ! The pile quickly became a pile somewhere else, revealing a cave ! Clever eh ? Onwards, into darkness.
The initial part of the cave was comfortable walking in well sculpted marble, absolutely gorgeous, but we were directed down a side loop where we spent well over an hour crawling, often uphill on sand and gravel, which was incredibly difficult. It was two steps (or thrutches) up and then slide back down. But, between the crawls there were wonderful little grottos with stacks of gypsum crystals and bizarre rock formations (this being a twisted, heated mass of marble, not limestone).
The crawl popped out into the main passage, just after a number of pristine fried-egg-type stals and a profusion of straws. The main passage, which was well over 10m tall in sections, was well sculpted with rock mills and plenty of formations. A superb cave for sure ! At the end of the main passage, there was even a sump, pretty rare in California caves because of the twisted marble they are in. But this sump was a classic, deep and blue and keen for some Pendle piss ! However, these cavers are puritans, so I had to hold my piss in or cart it about in a bottle (what if the bottle breaks ? Nasty and not worth thinking about!).
We had a bit of a thrutch down a couple of side passages, some more interesting than others and one with some particularly sharp projections (Ha ! The curses from the plonker without the elbow pads or oversuit!), then made our way out through some amusing squeezes, which reminded me I don’t get to go caving enough here. Sadly the trip was over all to soon and we were back where we had started. If only there had been a decent set of pitches to get into the cave I would have felt much better !
However, this secret cave, somewhere in California was excellent and I’m looking forward to the next secret trip I’m invited along on (silly eh ?). I’ll tell you all about it properly over a pint in Yorkshire sometime.
Well I was Billy Nomates this weekend. Had the usual fry up at Sarahs, she was amused by the tale of Thuggos suit! Called in at Inglethief for a couple of bits and was then off to solo Heron but Jonny told me a big group of students had just gone up there so I elected for a walk instead.
I went for a look at Gaping Gill via Clapdale for some peace and quiet. Followed Fell Beck up a ways past the Gill, never done that before funnily enough. Then cut across the Fell to pick up Long Lane to get back to Clapham. My navigation was good seeing as how I couldn't see very far because of low cloud.
Never saw a soul 'til I hit Long Lane then it was full of bumblies!
No evidence of cavers on the hill.
Noticed an active dig behind Bar Pot, opposite side to the path to the Gill from the stile.
Catch you next time guys
It had been a long time in coming (8 months in fact!), but here I was, back in the bosom of God’s Own Country, the Yorkshire Dales. To be precise, Andy and I were now sat enjoying (!) a pint of the Helwith Pit’s finest ale, Bombardier. I was also enjoying many bags of extremely salty bar snacks, having also been deprived of these in the Land of the Free. It was comforting to know, that despite being away for so long, absolutely nothing had changed in Yorkshire. The beer was still rank, the freaks were still Grade A, although Grey Beard was missing, and the YSS was still a stinking pit. .
In retrospect, eating three bags of dry roasted peanuts, two bags of hairy pork scratchings and drinking three pints of hairy ale was a bad idea on top of jet lag as I woke up at 4am with a raging thirst, a full bladder and was then unable to get back to sleep. Still, I’d do it again for the good of the club ! .
Andy and I thought of doing Pippikin, but then I sent him this link.
My first Brookhouse breakfast for 8 months was a beauty, perfectly formed and with a strong tea accompaniment, then off to spend vast sums of money (damn that $/£ rate!) in Ingleton before committing ourselves to adventures underground. We were keen for Marble Steps, so taking all the rope we had and our umbrellas (water levels were high, high, high) we bravely descended the Main Gully Route just as a hail shower descended upon us (welcome back!). There were no injuries, except to my nostrils from a rotting sheep, and eventually we found ourselves half way through the Intenstines route having run out of rope. It is interesting that water ever runs through here (it does, you can tell) as it would have to back up about 6 feet at a point at least 100ft above the sump. Nasty ! .
Luckily for us it wasn’t doing that, so we safely exited and battled our way across the fell through another hail flurry. Andy took a couple of dives into the bushes on the way. He said it was because he slipped on some mud, but I reckon he was chasing sheep to satisfy his sexual needs. Back at the new base for the evening, the Brookhouse, we freshened up before heading over to meet all our keen Pendle muckers, all two of them, Ron and Alice, who had been drinking hairy ale since 6pm. It was now 8pm and we were well overdue a few bevies. At least Andy thought he was, as he drank himself into oblivion and the now-familiar talk of dolphins, caving insurance and cars with large engines resurfaced along with his signature wild-eyed look. Ron was completely sober after 7 hours of drinking (we left at 1am). What a man ! .
After a well deserved shower and keeping well away from Herr Philipson who was rotting in his pit, I was very pleased to see the likes of “Cold Watter” Pete, Simon “Shrimper” Webb and Dr Mike “Don’t go near him, he’s a dirty bastard” Brownlove Swampy around a table gobbling a BH breakfast like there was no tomorrow. Ron looked disapprovingly as we were meant to be getting an early start, but what man likes to be rushed after a night on the ale ? Andy agrees I know ! .
Swamps and the Shrimper were keen for hiking on this fine day as there was snow atop Ingleborough and the Lakes could be seen in the distance. Everyone else wished they had a good excuse to ditch the caving, but it seemed like a good idea to get kitted up and freeze half to death on this fine bracing Yorkshire morning. The hike up warmed us up and Swamps and the Shrimper bade us farewell as we descended the frozen entrance of Tatham Wife Hole, a Yorkshire classic. There had been talk of Black Shiver the night before, but I won’t bore you with the list of excuses………….(has Dave Elliot finished p-hanging it yet ?) .
It was very enjoyable to be back in a stream-cave, with good rig points and passage I could walk down. These Californian caves are ok, but nothing is better than a good Yorkshire trip with your muckers. Eventually we found ourselves at the duck. Ron made noises but didn’t seem keen, Alice wasn’t keen at all, I thought I should do it for the good of the club, whilst Andy and Pete proceeded to swing over the top through the tricky bypass climb. The climb looked rather cheeky, so I plunged through the duck scraping out all the gravel and lowering the water level by 6 inches, then the three of us made a dash for the bottom. .
The last pitch was booming and my flapjack was lovely. The trip out was uneventful and we emerged into a freezing, crystal clear night. Andy, Pete and I were destined for a night at the YSS, so we bade our chums goodbye and headed for a ruby in Bentham. Back at the Pit we found the heating wasn’t working, again, so we made our sorry way to the Pit for more hairy ale and planning hikes for the following day. .
Instead of another gorgeous day with beaming sunshine, we were treated to snow shower after snow shower. Andy got a call from the south and was told to make his way home sooner rather than later, so all adventures were off. I bid the Yorkshire Dales goodbye for probably another 12 months and we sped off in his new shiny car down the M6. Me for shopping in Chester and him to more mythering about weddings I expect ! There was talk from Pete of rescuing mountains, but I reckon he went home to enjoy a slice of homemade cake and a nice cup of tea.
Huge group of fifteen split into three for the assault on these caves, the first to fall to the Weaner was Music Hall, complete with big spiders, dust and bad air. Nothing special, but it was good to have a climb about and a bit of a prussik. Second one, Hollywater Pit, was a random hole in the ground that was rigged by throwing the rope round a handy tree and making sure it went over every sharp rock edge on the way down. The hole went down for 4m at 45 degrees then dropped off into a nice, but dry and dusty shaft. Plenty of clambering around to find the way on, then somehow we managed to squueze another four people in this tiny hole ! Third one, Two Bit Pit was also rigged round the nearest tree and went through a tight bit into a circular pit that dropped for a glorious freehanging 60ft to a mud and bad smelling floor. Shame it went nowhere. Apparently there is a 200ft deep pit with a stream at the bottom somewhere..........a return is in order (but after some decent Yorkshire caving over Christmas!)
Big hike up steep hill, impressive entrance overlooking a gorgeous valley, 40ft pitch through dry and dusty formations, plenty of crawling, thrutching and dust one way, plenty of gloop, a lake and mud fights the other. Highlight was the group of half-naked students on the wrong side of a pitch and a lake without suitable lights, clothes or ascending gear! We left quickly and left them to it ! Post-caving pizza was very good, highly recommended.
Well we were nearly mob handed for this one. However with one thing and another it was just the dynamic duo Alice and the old Ranger.
Usual lard fest at Sarahs to start the day, blow me if the price has gone up to £4.50. Tony and Gordon keep telling us about low inflation!!!!!! Mortgage is up, Electric and gas, beer, council tax, Diesel, and now even breakfast!!!! Politicians, should all be shot. (Sorry needed a whinge)
Next stop Bull Pot Farm and get changed in the low cloud. Off to Lancaster Hole and rig the shaft. (still think there are too many anchors in there). Nice 30+ metre abseil and we are in.
Thought we'd have a look at some things I ain't seen in years. First stop the collonades. Still as impressive as before. Then off up Montague West Passage, up the little ladder and through the thrutch. What a great passage I'd forgotten how good it was. Eventually reaching Portcullis passage and on to Cross Passage. Plenty of pretty stuff on the way.
Next stop the climb down into Waterfall Passage, lovely streamway, quite wet today making the cascades sporting . Followed it all the way down to Waterfall Chamber. Very wet here but not backing up from the Master Cave. Rain was forecast so it was about turn at this point. Back to Cross Passage and then on to Wilf Taylors Passage. No water coming through the sump from Bull Pot of Witches.
On down Wilfs, lovely scoured clean passage. Very well scuptured, superb. We went down as far as Double Decker Pot. At this point 30 feet or so above us there is foam from recent flooding. Its quite spacious at this point, it needs a an awful lot of water to fill this. Sobering thought. Well thats that and off we go out, with a nice steady climb up the entrance pitch. Typically it pissed it down as we got back to get changed.
Unknown to us a young woman was killed in Notts Pot that same day apparently fell down a pitch. We were there just a few weeks ago.
Finally, a decent trip ! Four of Diablo’s finest drove across the still hot and desolate Central Valley to Kings Canyon, a drive of about 5 hrs, including a stop at our favourite greasy Mexican roadside café (no bacon butties, just burritos!).
The camp site at Convict Flats was still a swirling dust bowl, but my newly acquired Marmot tent kept the biting insects at bay. Chuck wisely kipped in his van whilst James and Jeff threw kip mats and sleeping bags on the ground and proceeded to sleep like babies as the snakes rustled in the undergrowth and the tarantulas crawled about, searching for succulent flesh to devour.
Early doors start and a fully loaded team struggled up Windy Gulch avoiding the poison oak. Thankfully the sun hadn’t risen fully over the edge of the canyon and we were still in shadow, however, it was still damn hot and I was sweating like a bastard as we tabbed up the hill.
Quick kit up then Chuck and James pushed on into the Creek entrance to unlock the gate for our escape later. I waiting up top with Jeff and we talked about his annual caving/rafting trip to Mexico every year. It sounded good, but I’m not overly keen for a 350m shaft straight up and down again (like). The team then pushed on into the Root entrance, separated from the Creek entrance by 2 minutes walk on the surface, but at least 8 hours caving underground. Such is caving in California’s rather perplexing marble.
5 minutes in and we were at the 30m pitch, which was actually very well rigged using naturals alone, all very safe and a three-way-pull to boot. The pitch is under a well used climb in the entrance series and spirals round for 5m or so before it bells out into a Bar Pot-esque pitch. It was also extremely well decorated and it felt good to finally get on a rope again after god-knows-how-long. There was pisstaking of racks versus Stops, but I knew I was right.
Whilst waiting for James to descend I climbed up a small inlet and found a nest of pristine cave pearls, very impressive indeed. This set the scene for the first section of the trip, the passage we were now in went all the way from the Root entrance to the very bottom of the cave, 220m-odd metres below us and was very well decorated all the way. It seems that someone decided to leave the passage off the survey, so no-one ever goes here (it didn’t surprise me as these Yanks follow rules all the time and it is such a pain to get to the cave anyway, that they all stick to the trade routes and don’t bother spending any time poking about in true caver fashion).
So, we pushed on down a narrow canyon festooned with pretties of all descriptions, it was a true caving pleasure and well overdue in my opinion. It also completely destroyed my opinion of Californian caving and shut me up for three hours as I soaked up the gorgeousness of the cave we were traversing. There were a couple of pitches that we rigged for pull-thru, the others using ATC’s or Fig-8’s and me on my Stop (always the way ahead IMO!), landing in gour pools or on pristine white flowstone. All too soon the pretty passage ended as we did another 15m pull-through pitch and we were at the bottom of the cave. All that was there were lots of gnarly formations and some small pools of water, no frothing sump pool, just peace and quiet. Apparently the room floods in the winter but only one person has ever seen it as the Park is closed in the winter due to snow and rock falls. They weren’t sure how this person had gotten there, but they were quite convinced he was mad enough to do so (it would require about 35 miles of skiing to get to the hike up to the cave as far as I can see………..)
Anyway, this was halfway and the character of the trip changed considerably after this. We climbed up some enormous flowstone into some rift passages and thrutched our way up many classic climbs of the Pyrenees (Thuggo and Webbo know what I mean!). Slippery climbs at 30-45 degrees that required an insane amount of effort to overcome, followed tight sections that were definitely not Ron-sized! It was a sharp contrast from the cave on the way down for sure ! It was also airless and hot, but I was in my new extra thin thermals, so I stayed reasonably comfortable. This was not the trip for a furry suit.
Onwards and upwards we went, with a short detour so I could look at “Formation Passage”, a sad little thing compared to what had been before. We crossed the Pendant room where the roof was comprised of a mass of anastomosis, the biggest and most extensive I have ever seen, then the Cathedral Room where the roof soared out of sight, then we climbed Torture Passage, a narrow upward climb where every single rock pointed in the wrong direction and either caught your clothes, helmet, tackle sack or twated you in the face, chest, arm, leg, head or eye (nice black eye Chuck!). It was hard work.
There was some Pit of Doom to cross on dodgy handmade rope, then some seemingly endless climbs up and through collapsed boulders until we finally made it out ! 9hrs underground and a cracking round trip. The prospects for my Californian caving career were looking up as we discussed some hard trips to be done in the spring time after all the snow has gone on the way down.
Back to Convict Flats where we tucked in to whatever we had brought and enjoyed Chucks homebrew wine, then to bed before our marathon journey back home. Up early again and we set off to have a quick look at a small cave on the other side of the Kings River. Now, Jeff is a keen rafter and so plunged in without much thought in all his clothes and a helmet whilst we looked on bemused from the side. He survived so I decided to cross and found that the Kings River, even in a dry summer, is bastard cold and also extremely powerful, not something you can swim, more like get swept along in. So, eventually all of us cross and we cross the rocks to the cave, a small opening at the base of the river. Jeff is in first and finds that most of the cave is filled with rotting tree trunks! Nice! We crawled 30m or so until it was completely blocked with trees and I made a rapid exit when I turned round to see a spider as big as my hand within stroking distance!
We headed back to where we had crossed the river and Chuck shouted he had found another promising cave entrance, so, as I was closest I headed after him, climbing between two large rocks about 50cm apart on the way. He didn’t get very far and as I turned around I saw a dark green snake with black markings curled up about 30cm from where I had just had my hand! It scared the shit out of me, especially when Chuck said, “Yep, that’s a rattlesnake, a cute small one. Those small ones are more dangerous as they don’t know yet not to inject all their poison when they bite you, don’t worry, most people don’t die from a rattlesnake bite!”.
Luckily it was early in the morning and the thing was still cold, so all it did was sit there and wiggle it’s tongue around. It was a shame I didn’t have my camera !
Adventures over we set off back to the Bay Area, stopping only for giant nectarines and authentic inedible Mexican food (it was disgusting, well, at least what I had was). Also, the serving wench didn’t understand my accent and we were the only non-Mexicans in there. Apparently the roasted goat in a chillie chocolate sauce is very good………..
A good weekend, although they could be considerably improved with a Brookhouse breakfast in the morning !