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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 Jennie Hill

Team Centipede: Jennie, Marcus, Matt G and Maz.

We arrived at Leck Fell in high spirits, with our bellies full and the sun shining. The day's entertainment began with Matt emphasizing the luxury of having a warm, dry undersuit as he ran up and down the road in an attempt to thaw his.

The cave entrance is situated through a gate on the left, a short walk down the road. With Matt taking the lead we climbed down to the stream, entering the darkness with team Monastery close behind. Following the streamway we observed the unusual decor of tinted glass and plastic frames. Evidence that team Dome prefer not to cave in sunglasses!

After about 10mins or so it was time for us to part ways. Matt, Marcus, Maz and I began the traverse over the Monastery route entrance, watching the others' light fade beneath us. Before our first pitch we had to negotiate a series of short traverses. These are fairly easy with plenty of foot holds along the way. Maz, although perfectly capable, is not a huge fan of traversing without a rope. So for added peace of mind she linked cowstails with Marcus. Continuing along the traverse we soon reached Hammer. As Matt set about rigging, I took the opportunity to take some photos.

After a short descent, Mud pitch lay a few metres ahead, immediately followed by Centipede. From the foot of Centipede we continued along a narrow rift passage leading to Dome Junction. Candle and Shistol pitches awaited us, pre-rigged by team Dome. As we approached the notorious Battle-axe traverse we could hear the roar of water accompanied by the voices of the team ahead.

This was the part of Lost John's I was really looking forward to. Clipping my cowstails onto the rope, I began to climb between the rock. The limited number of foot holds (for little people anyway) meant a lot of bracing against the walls. The traverse had been rigged all the way to Valhalla, which meant a 50m descent awaited! Once I reached the bottom our team pressed onwards, descending Final pitch and entering the streamway.

After a quick look upstream we made our way to the downstream sump, receiving the occasional cold surprise of waist high water. Before we reached the sump, I spotted Mark's team lurking in the waters ahead. They told us the sump wasn't far ahead, but the roof gradually gets lower, so feeling uninspired we decided to head back. Before we set off trudging through the water filled passage we witnessed what can only be described as a hungry caver's torment as a piece of Matt's brownie took a dive into the murky waters!

After a few more photos our team took the lead and headed out of the streamway and back up Final pitch. Approaching the bottom of Valhalla, Matt called up to the pitch head before attempting his ascent. No reply meant that team Monastery had not caught up. I was second to ascend the pitch and thankful to be out of the cold draft caused by the waterfall. Approximately half way up the pitch Matt called down to say that Chad was on the traverse. I relayed the message to Maz and Marcus, informing them to wait for Chad's team to reached the bottom before coming up.

Chad was waiting at the pitch head as I approached the top of Valhalla. With some careful maneuvering, I traversed over him and found a comfortable position to wait as Sam appeared from around the corner. Both Sam and Tom had Matt and I as extra obstacles positioned between them and Valhalla. Despite this they moved fairly quickly, each arriving at the pitch head as it became free to descend. At this point Matt continued on along Battle-axe while I waited to see Maz off the pitch head.

Our ascent out of the cave was fairly efficient, exiting the same route we had entered, with Marcus de-rigging. At the bottom of Centipede, while Matt prussicked up the pitch, Maz and I decided to break into song. We started with our favourite number, 'Memory'. The acoustics here are fantastic and after hitting the high note Matt could be heard saying from above "that's beautiful".

I really enjoyed the diversity of this cave. Thanks to everyone who made it a great trip underground. I intend to return and explore the other routes, hopefully sometime soon!