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Gingling Hole Big Rift Route

Saturday May 2nd 2015

Members present: Adam Walmsley,  Catherine Moody,  Mark Sims,  Rachel Findlay,  Sarah Jefferys

Report by Adam Walmsley

The indisputable caving gem of Fountains Fell according to the Black Book. A cracking trip with loads of variation and just the right amount of challenge. Mark was keen to return to bottom Gingling after his first trip here last year (see Vicky's trip report).

The faff began when we arrived at the Dale Head car park and in completely un-forecast rain. Not wanting to get changed in the cold and wind and rain was thinly disguised as concern about water levels in the cave, resulting in nearly an hour of dilly dallying, with various people swapping places between the two cars.

After coming surprisingly close to bailing and going to the pub, Mark and I decided to stop being pansies and go caving, much to the disappointment of some. The weather was indeed foul and the walk across Fountains Fell was a chilly one. I came across a lapwing sheltering her two newly hatched chicks from the inclement weather. Finding the entrance shakehole, Mark entered first, rigging off the two rusty rails.

The first half of the cave was fairly easy going - a bit of watery stoopyness, some windy rift passage, a couple of short pitches and some clambering - after which we got to Stalactite Chamber. Not all too impressive in terms of prettiness, but a nice big chamber nevertheless. An improbable hole in the floor followed by a flat-out bedding lead to the beautiful Fool's Paradise - the loveliest part of the cave. After this, some harder caving including the thrutch and the canals brought us finally to the Big Rift itself.

Here, a series of three pitches leads down through the rift as it degenerates in both size and cleanliness. At the bottom is a chamber of the utmost muddiness and soon we were all clarted up to the max. From here, a steeply descending, narrow rift leads to the sump. We were in two minds about whether to bother with this, given the likely difficulty of getting back out, but decided to go for it. The sump was interesting - large and still, down a 3 drop at the end of the rift.

After some failed photo attempts we started back up the rift. This was indeed rather awkward, and several knees and shoulders were needed to get everyone up. I derigged, and with my battery running on empty, this was a challenge in itself. The canals cleaned off some of the mud on the way back and we were soon tackling the infamous thrutch. Here again, a variety of body parts were used as footholds in order to get everyone past the obstacle. We stopped at Stalactite Chamber for a picnic consisting of banana malt loaf and water. I declined the malt loaf.

As we approached the entrance, I found myself in the unfortunate position of being first up to the surface and was waiting round in the cold and wet for a good 40 minutes for the others to assemble. By the time we were all out, I was shivering violently and made a quick march back to the car in the dark. As we approached the cars, the storm really picked up and we were lashed with horizontal rain and hail. The poor lapwing mother was still in the same place, sitting tight on her chicks.

We got changed fairly rapid and then the faff began again. Will's car had a flat battery and wouldn't start. We contemplated trying to bump start it but decided it was best to get everyone back to Brackenbottom and come back to jump start it. Finally got back to the Dump at midnight for some supper.

Trip time: 9 hrs. Rating 4 for fun, hard, scum, faff and change.