Recent reports

Valley Entrance - In Flood

Sunday December 9th 2018

Members present: Jean-luc Heath,  Joseph Smith

Report by Joseph Smith

“This is quite uncivilised,” Jean-Luc text while I, showered, suited and drinking my second cup of tea, felt very civilised. “I propose that you, as a better and much more attractive caver, replace me as president.”
I paraphrase slightly, but after the effort that had been put into convincing me to cave in the first place, “I propose sleeping for much longer” was as good a justification as any for a vote of no confidence.
The trip had been planned like any other that term: Jean-Luc asking me when I was next caving, me confirming I would not be, and being told that I would be caving the next day - the charismatic calling-card of all great YUCPC presidents or, as I decided in this instance, dickheads. But the damage had been done and now, suddenly keen for caving as a way of hiding from my responsibilities, we decided on a miniature epic to tackle Bull Pot, Aquamole and a Simpson’s pull-through: a truly gourmet subterranean agenda!
So, now, at 06:12, and very unimpressed by Heath’s excuses that he’d been too excited to sleep, I promised to bring lots of coffee, perhaps made some very artistic threats, and caving was back on the menu.
In the store, somehow still on schedule, I was told that we had to have a furiously efficient day with “zero faff” to prove that we were effective, competent members of the club. It was with this challenge, I think, that our fate was sealed.
The plan was to be out of York by 07:00. Naturally, we finished packing ropes and complaining at each other by 07:45. This, it is my most unfortunate duty to report, was the most successful part of the day.
But the delusion of success followed us blindly, and the drive to Ingleton was as drives to Ingleton should be - which is to say a delightful combination of smooth jazz, the orange glow of the sunrise cutting long and low shadows over the Dales, and attempts by Jean-Luc to convince me to stay in York for a Masters researching the archaeology of the Sex Pistols.
It was only when conversation moved to discussions of the Bull Pot deviations that the mood turned sour.
“Um,” I said, very tentatively and admittedly a little scared, my eyes drifting over the flooded fields below us, “did we actually pack any slings?”
My driver’s expression grew silent and dark, but I wasn’t finished.
“And, um... did we actually pack any krabs?”
Now his hands fell limply from the steering wheel into his lap, like a man who has given up and would be quite willing to let Duke Ellington’s piano chime us out of existence as we tore through a dry stone wall in a flipping tangle of metal and concrete doltishness.
Needless to say, a great deal of choice vocabulary was shouted for the next mile or so.
But hope was not lost! We collected our half wits into a fantastically slow whole wit, and made plans for how we could fix this mess. I asked Josh to be our Renault Megane shaped saviour, and Jean-Luc even convinced me to let him cave with us if he did, but Josh refused to be swayed by our excellent company.
I was hastily brandishing mental spreadsheets and dreaming of all the delicious club credit I could earn by haemorrhaging money on 25 krabs at Inglesport when Heath decided to shatter even that fleeting fantasy of becoming YUCPC’s enigmatic financier: for the second time in as many weeks, he’d left his wellies in the store.
The car witnessed another round of foul language.
By this point, I was finding the entire mess to be quite entertaining. Our president, however, who was apparently much less accustomed to being an incompetent mess, seemed to be getting quite depressed as the trip that had kept him awake in excitement floundered and died.
We stopped at the Ingleton bakery to cheer ourselves up with a selection of the finest baked goods in all the land, and were eating breakfast in Inglesport by 09:50, much to early for what had devolved into a plan to pull-through Simpson’s and be home in time for a Sunday roast.
And so, undaunted by ineptitude, we pushed ever onwards: me with my magic bags of treats (and far too many calories for the new trip), and Jean-Luc clomping up the hill in the boots he’d be driving back in later that afternoon with incredibly wet and “numb yet also burning” feet.
But spirits were once again high, and so we delved into the underground ready for quality caving, fine conversation and perhaps even a little cheesecake. After sloshing through a great deal of water, however, we decided to take a quick pause at the bottom of the first pull-through, recognising that we stood at the brink of no return, and that we couldn’t confidently say that the cave wasn’t in flood.
We sat for a while, entertaining the possibility that the duck would be completely underwater, and that although pushing a free dive would be possible, ‘possible’ wasn’t exactly synonymous with ‘pleasant’. It was clear that we were both a little unsure but, equally keen for more caving, were both desperately waiting for the other person to pull the rope through and force us to man up and get on with the trip.
I was just about ready to cry “fuck it!” and pull, when I suddenly remembered the last time I’d soldiered through a cave with that explosive rallying-cry, and promptly suggested we bail. I didn’t enjoy being an inexperienced voice of reason, but was much less eager to risk getting reacquainted with cave rescue so soon.
On the surface, the sun was still warm enough for a quick break to eat flapjack and mope about just how quickly downhill the day had gone. Dark clouds were peeking over the horizon, but the day remained pleasant and dry and so, still hungry for our caving fix, we decided to check out valley entrance in the hope that the master cave would be flooded to the roof and our wounded egos would be assuaged.
The master cave, while not flooded to the roof, was indeed very wet, and an excellent hour of shenanigans ensued, climaxing with the final Simpson’s pitch turning out to be quite significantly unappealing in the alarming degree of its roaring wetness. It was enough to convince us that the duck (exciting though it would have been) would have certainly involved much more free diving than initially planned, and that we had made the right call.
And thus, feeling rather responsible, we lay down in the streamway for a much quicker return to the master cave in the sweeping waters, and set about our evacuation of the underground.
Back in daylight and fearing our wetsuits had been under-utilised, we successfully negotiated a campaign for cheesecake in the Kingsdale beck. Alas, outside of delicious academic theory, what followed was a great deal of wailing about just how viciously cold cheesecake in the Kingsdale beck turned out to be.
Before leaving Kingsdale to its own devices, we made a fleeting visit to the Marton Arms and, rather by accident, found a lovely corner full of caving paraphernalia to retreat into. Huddled anti-socially here, Jean-Luc explained how, if he owned a pub, he would hide spits in random walls and invent a promotion called ‘Spot the Spit’. As he explored the process in which anyone who managed to - yes, you’ve guessed it - spot the spit would get a free dessert, I silently nodded and clenched my jaw, trying hard not to criticise the financial sustainability of his proposed business model.
After a quick peruse of the local graveyard, and an unfortunately compulsory lecture on the time-period of the church’s construction, and the quality of the brickwork, we were back in the road for some very overdue (though not, I fear, mutually appreciated) Kate Bush.
Objectively a catastrophic failure of a day but, much more subjectively, a fine day out with fine stream cheesecake and yet finer company.