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Sell Gill Holes -Wet/Dry Exchange (Did you know letterboxes are horizontal?)

Sunday June 27th 2021

Members present: Amber Mitchell,  Jacob Podesta,  Liam B,  Oliver Forbes-shaw,  Paulina Poterlowicz,  Rosie Marshall

Report by Paulina Poterlowicz

With my housemate taking the printer and the store annoyingly inaccessible, a description dilemma occurred before the trip even began. Fortunately mine and Rosies artistic capabilities managed to produce two one of a kind descriptions- one of the wet route and one of the dry route, handmade and ready to go. I packed some rope as Rosie cooked a restaurant level dinner and sleeps were had. This meant we were ready and organised for a fairly efficient start, being picked up by Jacob at 8:30, Liam and Amber were procured then a relaxing trip to the Dales followed with coffee being acquired.
It was decided that I would rig the wet route (with Rosie doing the first traverse) and take Amber with us. Leaving Jacob to rig the dry route along with Liam- and Forbes who we met on arrival at the car park.
Forbes had just acquired new gear, it was shiny. Too shiny. Such a crime had to rectified and this became my goal for the day.
Efficiently changed we embarked on the walk up to Sell gill. A more obviously cave entrance I have not seen as the walking path quite directly cuts between the two route entrances.
Goodbyes were said and caving began. The first thing i noticed was that it was dry. Very very dry. Non of the stream/waterfalls mentioned by the description where present meaning my earlier paranoia about it being too wet was entirely unfounded! Oops. The route began with a short climb down a handhold (really quite optional) into a walking passage where the traverse began. This was rigged by Rosie who was soon occupied by a serious battle with some butterfly knots. Multiple "why" and "I dont understand" laters victory was had and a traverse smoothly appeared. We didn't quite realise the traverse followed the oxbow so some improvised rigging occurred but it worked so ah well. Next the rigging passed onto me for the first Y hang which led to the letterbox crawl.
Now i had spent the previous night quite stressed about the letterbox. Knowing my challenged brain i knew I would miss it. I was told "no its obvious, you won't miss it" of course.....I did. The worst part was I was looking for it all the way down. Weeks later when thoroughly questioning by Rosie I realised my mistake was that my brain convinced itself that letterboxes are vertical...they are not. So I completly dismissed the horizontal crawl in favour of trying to wedge myself in the far walls slit. This is made more ridiculous by the fact that I noticed when reading the description the night before that it mentioned crawling in the slit. Instead of thinking oh its horizontal I pondered how it was possible to crawl vertically? Did you do it sideways? It was only when I ran out of rope half way down the pitch i thought to read the description no just the topo and realised. It mentioned the slit being 5m this point I was about 20m. Well mid rope change over practice i guess. It was on my way up that I finally spotted the bolt shining off my light. Now I should mentioned this entire process involved a lot of vocalisation and interesting noises a human probably should not make, to quote Amber "it was scary" and when I was saw the bolt a final scream of rage and relief was had. Crawling into the slit tangled in rope i called for Rosie, who seeing the state I was in just gave me ~the look~ Dejected I rolled onwards through the letterbox coming out at the other side by the next pitch. This was much more smoothly rigged and two rebelays later I was at the bottom and reunited with Jacob, Forbes and Liam, who fortunately had not waited long.
They instead had their own adventure as poor Liam was bullied by a random man and told his "gear was shit" before having his picture taken to serve as a future bad reference....nevermind the fact that Liam probably caves better than him. Not to worry he got his revenge with a sassy remark about never getting stuck on rebelays. Yaahs Liam. SRT done we went on for a bit of an explore to reach the dug out pitch. This involved a nice walk through a large chamber and then- a duck. We really didn't have to go through, there was little to see past this point but ducks are a somewhat masochistic obsession of mine recently. i hate them, therefore they must be done. After that some crawling occured which turned rather flat and at this point we lost Amber and Forbes. Onwards we entered the dug out section and found a mystery ladder. Crawling further we reached the final pitch which was not to be descended for its instability rather simply stared at intensely. With that done we turned around swapped routes and started exiting.
Amber derigged with efficiency and I got to run of first. The dry route was a lot speedier and I got to appreciate Jacobs stylish rigging (I've never seen such a beautiful traverse) cave compete we waited for the others. Finally we set of for the car where a nice craven man gave us tea- a great end to surprisingly eventful trip.