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Simpson's Pot - Valley Entrance

Sunday December 18th 2011

Members present: Andy Hurlbatt,  Sophie Hentschel

Report by Sophie Hentschel

Getting up at 6:45am is surely one of the most unpleasant things you could possibly do on a Sunday morning, especially if it’s the first weekend of your well-deserved Christmas holidays. When the alarm rang on that 18th December, I was cursing the person – oh, it was me – who had set the alarm on such an early hour. But then I remembered the reason why: caving with two of my closest friends from ULSA, Kristian and John (who had come all the way from the South), and with Andrew, the hardcore fresher! Whilst trying to cycle through the dark with a ton of gear on my back, I was thinking that this was actually far worse than getting up early...

I made it to the station just in time, where Andrew had already been waiting for a while. Soon enough we arrived at Leeds, and decided to walk the mile or so to the car rental rather than waiting for the bus in the cold. John had told me the night before to bring my ID and driving licence, just in case. And luckily I did bring mine as when he joined us at the car rental, it turned out that he had forgotten his and I was supposed to be the primary driver!

After having paid far too much for the deposit (£500!!!!), I took place behind the steering wheel, looking very worried. I hadn’t driven since my driving test four years ago, and that was in France where people have common sense and drive on the right side of the road – literally. For ten minutes I tried to argue with John and talk him into swapping places, but he was right: only I was allowed to drive the car... Meanwhile my hesitation caught one of the security guys’ attention, who, believing that I had trouble reversing on the parking, started making ridiculous gestures. Just because I’m a woman?! Anyway, I tried to smile, reverse and leave without breaking the car. And miraculously managed to do so correctly – after initially stalling the engine, oops - , and off we went, me exploding into mad giggles, terrified screams and cries of joy. Luckily there was no traffic all the way to the university, because, as John put it politely, my “accelerations and braking were not so subtle”.

Arriving at the university, Supergingeman aka Kristian was already preparing the club gear, and after a minimum of faff and a little tour around the chapel aka tackle store for Andy, we drove off towards the Dales. Obviously we changed drivers at that point. I think the others preferred living rather than getting killed by my driving skills.
After a huge breakfast at Bearnie’s, we just had to sort out our call out. Being friends with the guy from Bernie’s, Kristian tried to convince him but failed. He then tried with his dad, whose only comment was, “Back in the days we never had call outs. Just don’t fuck up and don’t die, and you’ll be fine.” In the end he agreed.

The drive to the cave was very pleasant, as the sun was shining bright and everything was covered in a thin glittering layer of snow. Changing, faffing, taking some pictures, and eventually we set off for Valley Entrance, where John and Kristian planned to put up the ladders for the exit. However, having waited for more than half an hour, Andy and I started to worry. A group of cavers emerging from the exit told us that Kristian was sitting alone at the pitch, swearing and cursing John for having got lost. We questioned them about the exact way to get to that pitch and any other useful information, and although you shouldn’t go after people who got lost because you might get lost, too, Andy and I entered Valley Entrance and soon enough came to the junction the other cavers had mentioned; that’s the point where John most certainly had gone the wrong way. However, Kristian had left a sling that pointed into the right direction, but even without that aid we would have seen where to go due to numerous foot prints. After a while we could hear both guys’ voices and then met them at the pitch. John was cursing himself for having gone the wrong way: midway through an apparently squeezy crawl with the ladders and the tackle bag, he had remembered that on the correct passage there had never been such a crawl. When he had joint Kristian at the pitch, he had to suffer some moaning and complaining. But, all’s well that ends well.

So eventually we left Valley Entrance at nearly 3pm, when the sun was already setting. The way up the hill was a bit tedious because of the frozen mud and sheep poop covered in snow... Simpson’s Pot was so much fun, as it was just pull-through after pull-through, constantly going down. John taught us how to rig pull-throughs, and as there were many, each of us had the chance to do a few. I lost count after a while. I really enjoyed the cave as it alternated climbs, crawls and pitches. It was reasonably dry and I wasn’t cold at all.

At some point we went down a pitch and it was John’s turn to de-rig, so he told us just to continue and pass the duck and then wait for him. So we climbed down the big boulder and stood in knee-deep muddy water, staring with unease at a sump. No airspace. And the murky water didn’t look too inviting either. Kristian sacrificed himself and attempted to dive, but came back immediately, trembling uncontrollably and looking even paler than usually. “No, no, no, I’m not going there, no way!! Jooooohn, there’s no airspace in that f***ing duck!” John’s reply was just, “Of course there is, there’s always air in that duck. It’s just on the right.” But there was no air. We started to get a little bit uncomfortable about the thought of having to dive through a sump the length of which was unknown to us. Just when John arrived where we were waiting, Andy turned around and... “There’s the duck!” Indeed it was, just behind the boulder we had climbed down on. Stupid us. After all, that tiny duck was a lot of fun, nothing compared to that dodgy sump.
We then arrived at slit pot, where someone from ULSA got stuck in spring hahahaha. Knowing this, we took extra precautions such as putting our descenders on cows’ tails to get rid of anything around our waists. Andy (skinny) passed easily, and so did I (not so skinny). We had to wait a bit for the others and started to think that someone got stuck. But all was fine; they were only struggling to pull down the rope.

At another pitch it was my turn to rig the pull-through, but I decided to have a look if free-climbing it would be an option. It was just a matter of about four meters, and the wall had plenty of ledges and holds. But there was quite a lot of water, which would have made it difficult to see where we put our feet, and also it would have knocked the light-weights John and Andy off their feet. So Andy rigged it and went down first, I followed, but despite my attempts to stay out of the – small – waterfall, I swung directly into it, missed the boulder I wanted to land on, and the water brought back bad memories from Rowten three weeks ago. Waiting for the other two, Andy was already getting really cold. The prospect of a wet crawl ahead didn’t really inspire any of us, and the only person wearing a wetsuit, John, was quite cold now... The crawl actually warmed me up quite a lot, as I had to push the tackle bag through the crawl, but I absolutely enjoyed it!
Finally we made it into Kingsdale Mastercave, which was breathtakingly beautiful. When we emerged from Valley Entrance it was pitch black outside and a cold wind was blowing. But, while the guys were complaining about being frozen, I was standing in my underwear, “Guys, I’m boiling!” hahaa. So much for the “weaker sex”. We actually just made it out of the cave half an hour before call out time, and called Kristian’s dad straight away, but couldn’t get through to him. So Kristian called the CRO – where he’s friends with some people – telling them that we were safe, and if his dad called later, to tell him we’d called. Sorted. After a short visit at the pub – ahhh nooo food! – we returned to Leeds, where I had to take over the steering wheel yet again before driving onto the car rental’s parking...

Andy and I made it to the station and at half past midnight eventually arrived at York, where each of us still had about two miles to cycle home. My backpack seemed to have tripled in weight, so that it took ages to go home, the seat digging into my bum... All in all one of the most pleasant trips so far! And it was great to see that the inter-club relations worked out really well.