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Lost John's Cave - 7th Mar 2010

Sunday March 7th 2010

Members present: Caitlin Brumby,  Chad B,  George Bunyan,  Jennie Hill,  Marcus Roby,  Marion Holloway,  Mark Sims,  Matt Gosling,  Mike Rippon,  Sam Briscoe,  Thomas Blakey

Report by Chad B

Awesome caving weekend Part two:

Lost John Cave Team Monastery: Chad, Tom and Sam

Having done a Dome – Centipede Lost John’s exchange a few months back I was rather glad to be going down Monastery route, described as the wet route, which the other two are not. Team Dome was ahead of the other two teams rigging to the bottom as well as Shale Cavern and Sink Chamber for us to go through.

Our team followed Team Centipede down the entrance to Lost Johns, which is conveniently located next to the road.

It is about 200 m of stream passage before you reach the cascades, as which point we were on our way down, with Team Centipede traversing over us. After dropping down the cascade there are some more pleasant stream passages and some epic traversing to follow until you reach the head of the Hampstead Heath pitch. Thereafter it was just a case of following the stream passage once again, and realising that the rigging guide isn’t to scale. Initially the traverse to the top of the Monastery pitch was a little confusing, so we just choose a convenient point to climb up. It turned out to be quite a nice traverse with all the foot holds. Also we had popped up about a metre of so before the first p-hanger, where there was a natural to start rigging a thread around. Tom said there were some more naturals behind which would have followed the rigging guide but were not necessary, hence for any future teams you don’t need to take any slings for the Monastery traverse. It turned out to be a little awkward to rig at the top of Monastery, but I was soon down and swing into a window, which confused Sam above me. The penduluming was good fun, the pitch head was a little bizarre as there was a natural to rig off where the rope then goes around the corner to a single p-hanger, so I treated it like a single bolt rebelay. I did faff about a little with the rigging of the natural as I saw the potential of ending up with a side loaded Krab. Once happy it was off down Monastery pitch, probably my favourite pitch in the whole cave, the waterfall on the opposite wall was pretty impressive and explains why it is necessary to swing into the window above. The bottom here is a very cold place to stay. It was also here that I started to think that length wise that is was kind of similar to the other routes, so I was starting to wonder if we would reach the bottom on this trip.

We again followed the stream way, off to Piscine pitch, where I abandoned the rigging guide and tried to be inventive using a sling, seemed to work ok. More stomping followed going through a bit of a duck (Portcullis pool) to Pinnacle pitch. Seemed simple on the rigging guide, traverse, down, traverse and down, however when I went down, I went down a bit too far and completely missed the p-hangers, I locked off and decided to just miss the first. However just doing this involved some interesting acrobatics and having to do the splits much to Sam’s amusement. Beyond this are two rebelays which are really good fun to rig what with having to swing across to them. From the last one down it was a little bit of a surprise to find that you still go in the waterfall, I thought I has missed something, but no…. I can see why this route is not done in the wet.

We were now in Sink chamber, again another cold place to wait, but fortunately the Dome team had successfully rigged the rope into Sink Chamber which leads up to Shale Cavern. Beyond Shale Cavern you end up at the bottom of the Dome pitch, there was a free hanging rope pre-rigged for us to go up and changeover onto the normal rope that takes you off to Dome Junction. This was an interesting point in the trip for all of us, changing over ropes and realising that after all the caving we had done on the trip so far we were now half way up Dome pitch with only Cathedral and Vestry above us – going to be a long trip! I’d be very interested in trying out Zig Zag passage at some point to get to this point. From here we swiftly carried on down the Dome Junction pitch, which the others were coming down I quickly went ahead to make sure where the top of Bob’s pit and the bottom pitches were.

I knew that from here we had to get a move on because it had been a much longer route than I had anticipated and I knew that the other would start de-rigging if we were not down in time. So after going down Candle and Shistol pitches we were at the Battle-axe Traverse, I could here voices ahead of us, I couldn’t tell if people were going down or coming up, I suspected the latter. I quickly negotiated most of the traverse and met Matt G whose team were coming up followed by Mark. At this point Jennie was just getting off the pitch head. It had seemed like the others had all had their explore of the Master cave at the bottom. Matt shouted down to stop the others coming up. Once I had traversed passed Matt and Jennie had traversed past me I told Matt that I was going to race down to the bottom and told him to tell Tom and Sam just to follow.

At the bottom of the Valhalla Pitch (pretty damn good!) I passed Maz and Marcus waiting off to the final pitch where I encountered Mike and Mark just coming off the final pitch – who once again stopped anyone else coming up. Realising the length of the Monastery route compared to the other, Marks team decided to go out this route and we would de-rig the bottom section and Dome route. We were lucky as Caitlin and George were waiting at the bottom about to start de-rigging. Once Tom and Sam were down, Caitlin and George went up and out. We decided to go down stream for half an hour, which was a good decision as once again we were encountering some nice stream passages. It’s an interesting thing to note that these passages clearly flood to the roof!!! We then found a convenient place to stop and have our sustenance before we headed off back to the bottom of the final pitch. By this time Marks team must have been about an hour and a half ahead of us so we thought that it would be touch and go as to who would get out first.

Tom redeeming himself after his fail on the Brown Hill Massive did a fine job of de-rigging, we worked quite well as a team by helping packing all the ropes, especially having two ropes to pack on the Dome pitch. The Battle-axe Traverse seemed harder going on the out, with the footholds being less convenient on the way out. Carrying two tacklsacks out for most of the cave wasn’t actually that bad. After Vestry, Sam seemed pretty determined at giving two tacklsacks ago, so he went out with two from the New Roof Traverse. Marks team had indeed got out ahead of us! What a trip though with all that rope work and everything went to plan, probably next time the Monastery team could head down at the same time as the early team.

The end to an awesome weekend.