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Simpson's Pot - Swinsto Hole - 23rd May 2009

Saturday May 23rd 2009

Members present: Andrew Vick,  Anna Barnard,  Catherine Moody,  Chuck Holder,  Jonathan Booth,  Josh Vale,  Luke Brownbridge,  Mark Sims

Report by Catherine Moody

This turned out to be a relatively faffy trip. It took a while to find the hole for Swinsto and confirm it was the right one – there are quite a few in that field! There was also lots of faff from the other team – Mark’s helmet was locked in Chucks car and Josh’s hire light had failed. Eventually though we all got undergound.

Chuck rigged the first 2 pitches then I did the rest. The third (my first) had a rather awkward lean out over the pitch head to reach the hangers for the y-hang – a nice start to my first rigging in about a month. The next was a bit odd, with the water cascading over the edge and a p-hanger in place, but the way on was up to the right through a small boulder climb. I didn’t like the idea of someone falling down the climb and then straight down the pitch, so although it wasn’t on the rigging guide I opted for putting in a traverse line up the climb. This meant I couldn’t do the usual threaded fig 8 round the natural so had a bizarre set-up of a sling round the thread, clipped into a butterfly, leading onto the Y-hang. Not your standard rigging but it did the job!

The big pitch also confused me slightly – the rigging guide showed a rebelay off a shelf – I just didn’t realise the “shelf” was so big and was actually what Chuck and I had originally assumed to be the floor! There was so much water at the shelf that it took me ages to find the p-hangers – they were over on the opposite wall past the torrent of water. The placing seemed a bit odd as it looked like there was going to be some rope rub, and the rope was hanging in the water – but I couldn’t see any other alternative. (I was later told by the other team after we got out that there were another set of hangers round the corner that I hadn’t spotted, oops!) The joys of rigging a cave you’ve never done before!

One more pitch and we were at the bottom… as we made our way through the cascades I heard a “hello?” – it was Mark! Turned out he’d only just got to the bottom, hows that for timing? He led us back the way he’d come to the bottom of Simpsons where we waited for the rest of his team.

After all the others were down and we’d had a round of high-fives, Chuck went first up Slit Pot. It was a while waiting for a “rope free”… and we never got one! Instead we saw Chuck come back down telling us he physically couldn’t fit through the “slit”. After a bit of debate about what to do, it was decided he would go back up Swinsto and Mark would come back out of Simpsons with us. Having already negotiated the pitch-head on the way down, he was sent up first.

All the pitches in Swinsto had been rather wet, and after the Swinsto long crawl near the beginning (very wet!) we were all pretty soaked and quite cold. Anna was particularly cold, so although she wanted to de-rig I told her to go next to get warmed up – I would de-rig the first pitch then we could swap back again. The other team decided to wait til we were all up before heading off incase there were any more problems. At the top I could see why Chuck had problems – it was a bit of a bastard of a pitch head, with a narrow slit (hence the name!) to get through before reaching the ledge. It took a few attempts to get through. The horrible narrowness wasn’t over though... Immediately following was a step up to a rift that I could only just get through, in one particular spot, with quite a bit of contortionism.

Simpsons Pot consisted mainly of several short pitches and lots of narrow rifts and high traverses. After Slit Pot, Anna derigged the next 2 or 3 pitches then started to get really tired from the cold so I swapped over. I was also getting quite tired from all the nasty rifts. Men don’t seem to realise that having hips is a huge hindrance when trying to squeeze through rocks! It also didn’t help that I’m not particularly strong and struggled to lift my weight (plus the tackle sack!) up to find the wider sections. This was the first time I’d claimed to hate caving, and there was a lot of foul language coming from my mouth – aimed at both the tackle sack which kept pulling me down and getting stuck, and at Mark for telling me there were no more horrible rifts when in fact there were! (I didn’t mean it though Mark – I love you really! :p )

Luke kindly took the tackle sack off me, and at Bob’s Pit, Mark took over the de-rigging. Next followed the cascades which were all p-hangered so Mark went up first and rigged a short hand line which helped a bit. They seemed to get easier as we went along though. Finally was a longish crawl through water, which I was told to follow, only to then be told I was going the wrong way when I reached a dead end – cheers! I was glad Mark had come back this way with us though or I think we may have struggled a lot more on the way out.

On exiting, I don’t think I’d ever been so happy to see the sky. At 10 hours underground it was my longest trip to date, and was pretty hard going! A few minutes later though and it all didn’t seem so bad anymore. Hooray for caving!