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May Eve Mayhem in Gaping Gill

Saturday April 30th 2016

Members present: Adam Walmsley,  Joseph Smith,  Joshua Young,  Mark Sims

Report by Adam Walmsley

It's been a while since I've done a nice long proper caving trip so was looking forward to this. I've also been wanting to do the Whitsun Series for ages. Walking up through the nature trail, wood anemones were out, bluebells were just coming into bloom and ramsons perfumed the air with its garlicky whiff. At Trow Gill, a merlin swooped overhead, full of the joys of spring. Accompanying us were Findles, Hurlblurt, Lakesha and Peter, with whom we were doing the exchange.

Small Mammal was a lovely entrance, much more pleasant than I'd envisaged, save for the ration pack gash some noobs had left in the entrance. I rigged, and with some helpful tips from Sims we were soon at the bottom of Bar big pitch and making our way through to GG main chamber. We stared up the waterfall for several minutes looking for any sign of the other team, before finally seeing a tiny light descending out of the dark. We waited for Findles to make it to the bottom, had a quick chat about the nature of the Font, then headed off to the Whitsun Series.

We passed through the Font with ease, getting only our arms and legs wet as expected, then squirmed over a muddy bank to... what's this?! Another duck, which looked considerably less inviting! This must be the real Font. Rachel's astonishingly poor memory strikes again. Sims had a half-hearted attempt at bailing the duck with the buckets provided, before declaring "You've got to be in it to win it" and sliding into the water like a slippery eel. Jo promptly followed, his enthusiastic entry being reminiscent of a porpoise, whereas Josh flapped about like a flounder.

The Whitsun Series provided some delightfully decorated passage interspersed with strenuous crawling sections and ending in the resplendent Farrer Hall. Mark had a rummage up a rubbley crawl at the end, while I ferreted around in a bouldery dig. Sims had brought all his camera gubbins and took a couple of snaps on the way back through the Whitsun Series. I acted as choreographer to our novice cave models, directing the heroic pose we see here demonstrated by Jo. You are very welcome Jo. We were surprised not to encounter the other team at any point, as they had planned to follow us to Farrer Hall. Just before the Font, we found an abandoned balaclava which we hadn't noticed on the way in - could this be theirs?

Back in the main chamber, the waterfall was now noticeably fiercer than it was 3 hrs previously. We set off up the rope, climbing the spray-lashed pitch towards Jib Tunnel. At the first rebelay, I found Jo dancing about on a tiny ledge, trying to extricate his footloop from his croll. Lololololol. Some combination of cold, fatigue, the magnificently exposed route and not having done a huge amount of SRT recently made for a slightly unnerving experience as I derigged, though I could still appreciate the awesomeness of it all.

At Wingfield's Ledge, I looked back to the chamber floor and was flabbergasted to see the lights of what I could only assume was the other team. What on earth had they been doing and why were they back in the Main Chamber? Had they failed to find Small Mammal and now needed to come back out of Dihedral? Our attempt at communication over that distance was never going to work, but as I detected no distress in Andy's shout, I continued to derig. As it turned out, this ill-fated team had not made it past Avalanche Pot in their search for the Whitsun Series, and had decided to go for a foray into Sand Caverns instead. Oh dear, oh dear!

Back on the surface, the sun was out and we basked in its feeble rays while washing off our kit in Fell Beck. Ingleborough, which had been covered in snow on our walk up, was now back to its usual moody grey tones. Mark asked Josh what he thought of the Whitsun Series, to which the reply was "a bit pointless". Oh well - you win some, you lose some. We popped across to Small Mammal to look for signs of the other team, but with their ropes still there, and us feeling the chill, we left them to it and headed down to Clapham.

Back at the NPC that evening, the most memorable part of the day was yet to come - an exquisite banquet of stuffed peppers, tomato, mozzarella and avocado salad, expertly prepared by Matt, followed by a decadent lemon gateau. Heaven!