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Juniper Gulf

Sunday May 12th 2019

Members present: Christopher Edgar,  Hannah Gotheridge,  Jean-luc Heath,  Joshua Young,  Miles Armstrong,  Sam Dennison

Report by Joshua Young

Our team of 6 rocked up at Horton somewhere around midday, and after some problems finding parking we started getting ready. It was the first hot day in a while, so naturally every man woman and child in the north of England was out and about, making for some not-so-private changing. We had big plans for a trip down Juniper Gulf, and as it was Sam's birthday we were going to have a party at the bottom with some chocolate cake!

We soon got underway, with guidance from some hastily laminated OS maps for guidance. It was hot work, requiring frequent water stops. A few people were getting blisters too, causing Jean-Luc to walk much of the way "au naturale," with wellies stashed under his arms.

Once at the entrance, we kitted up and sorted out the tackkesacks. "1, 2, 3... are we missing one?" Miles had indeed somehow managed to lose his bag on the way up, forgetting to collect it after a rest. If it was where we thought I was, a return trip would take the better part of an hour. Bummer.

We re-packed the ropes so we could at least get to the top of the big pitch, and Jean-Luc started rigging, before shouting up that he couldn't reach the floor and needed me to tighten it all up. Great start! As he and Mikes scurried off to start rigging the traverses, I tried to take some photos of those on their way down with my new camera, but was stopped by a big low battery warning, as I later discovered I had recorded about 90 mins footage of my car boot.

Juniper's infamous traverses quicky began, and we all performed various gymnastics to get across the first widening of the rift, some more gracefully than -Chris- others. After the second pitch, we were progressing along the rift when there was an almighty bang somewhere below us. "Is everyone alright?" "Yeah, but I've dropped the tacklesack." Sam had dropped the bag with all the water and, more importantly, the cake down the rift. It was a good 5m below us, with not good climbing routed back up, so any rescue would require finding a decent natural to rig off. We decided to save the rescue attempt for the way out.

The rest of the trip passed without incident, with the bad step proving a little tricky to prussik up due to the slippery rock underfoot but was otherwise ok. Thankfully we'd all practiced umbrellas at training. We all had a gaze down the final shaft before beginning the trip out. Chris would help me derig, while the other 4 would head back to begin the Cake rescue operation. The bad step was rather scary to derig, but was ok once I found the right balance.

Once we reached the other team, we were updated on their situation. They had found a natural for Jean-Luc to abseil down, but that part of the rift proved too narrow for him to prussik back out of. So when we arrived he was trying to organise his own rescue by shouting instructions from the bottom of the rift! Once another chockstone was located, we headed to the bottom of the next pitch and sat down for our long-awaited birthday partywhere we feasted on water and caterpillar cake.

Once complete, we headed out. Chris once again had a bit of a mare where the rift widens, but we were soon across and back on the surface. We even managed to do some good, as Sam rescued a lizard by carrying it out in a plastic bottle.

Then began the long walk back to the cars. Unsurprisingly, this went almost twice as fast as on the way up. There was no sign of the abandoned tacklesack, so we (correctly) assumed some kind caver had noticed it and taken it in the hopes it could be returned to us. The day ended with a quick change, the usual takeaway in Skipton and a long drive home.