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Notts Pot - 07 Mar 2009

Saturday March 7th 2009

Members present: Adrian Turner,  Alexander Stelfox,  Anna Barnard,  Catherine Moody,  Chad B,  George Bunyan,  Laura Bennett,  Luke Brownbridge,  Mark Sims,  Matt Gosling,  Mike Rippon,  Natasha Durham,  Thomas Blakey

Report by Alexander Stelfox

This trip was completely amazing, and easily one of my top 2 trips so far.

We set off first out of the teams (in the Mike-mobile) with the ultimate team for assaulting this monster cave, consisting of myself, Matt G, Chad, George and Mike, and were the first to arrive at Bernies. The standard giant Yorkshire pud breakfast was had then we gathered ropes, chose a route and set off to find the cave. Finding the cave was a bit tricky as all we had to go on was a very crappy description about a dry valley that was nowhere to be found, but with lots of intuition we made our way to the entrance.

The rigging guide for our route was a bit of a joke in places, but with Matt G at the helm, we couldn’t really fail. And thus we made our way to the point at which the cave diverges into 3 routes onwards. We did a bit of exploring then met up with the other 2 teams and had a bit of a chat while Matt rigged the centre route which we were taking. After some nice pitches we made our way down to the point at which the routes rejoined. Here I took the opportunity to eat the packet of crisps I had brought down, which was surprisingly intact.

We were now given the option of continuing down into the lower section of the cave, which no other team was willing to do, but, us being us, grabbed a tackle sack and proceeded. The rigging in this section became truly crazy, and the description even more vague, which was really not useful. We started out along a passage, bridging against opposite walls of a long gap that fell down to a pretty violent water flow, and followed it all the way to the end. We then realised that this route was not the way to go, as we should instead have been on the roof of the passage rigging a traverse line. We managed to find the P hangers eventually, and after a short free climb up were once again roped in. There were now some seriously ballsy reaches in the rigging, which caused lots of nervous laughing and lots of swearing, but we made it to the end of the traverse and to the top of the first pitch lower down into the cave.

Here we rigged a line running downwards off a P hanger, which when loaded made a horrible cracking sound (which could have been a number of things, but the hanger itself was the most obvious). This was re-assessed and it was found that there was another P hanger on the wall opposite so the line was re-rigged into a Y-hang, which removed all horrible noises. Down this line there was an even crazier traverse with one part of the rigging going up a slippery free climb, which blatantly should have had another anchor point somewhere. After this there was a reach out over a huge drop to rig the final line downwards, and I was seriously bricking it when I reached the edge, even with 3 points of protection, and at the bottom, a horrendous looking waterfall, and a very cool stream.

Here it was decided that Mike and George would lead the way out and once at the top, escape to the car for warmth (and to give us warmth once we arrived :P), Chad was to follow, but wait to take one of the 3 tackle sacks off Matt and myself, who were de-rigging. De-rigging this cave was awesome win, but in places, very very worrying. Especially the slippery free climb, where I had to remove an anchor above myself then go downwards, and the first long pitch in the lower section, which caused me to seriously swing out into the other side of the chamber. It was however great fun.

What worried me most on the way out was how dry pitches were now incredibly wet, that is to say, they were now waterfalls. This was most stressful once we started to think that the entrance might have sumped. Thankfully, the entrance had a nice bed of loose rocks beneath it so the water just vanished once it entered. Once we finally left the cave I ended up wishing we’d stayed down there. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, in a major way. Visibility was down to a couple of meters, there was horizontal sleet and it was seriously cold. We only managed to find our way back by me realising that the field had fence on one side and wall on the other three, thus to exit, all we had to was walk in a straight line, and if we met fence, go right, and if we met wall, go left. The plan worked perfectly, with us meeting fence then promptly exiting the field and returning to the car. The change was then very hellish, in conditions like that, a towel is useless, you get wet as soon as you dry yourself, so the correct approach was to throw off caving gear, then throw on dry clothes as quickly as possible. Now fairly dry, or at least, not too wet, we pumped up the Wenches and Mead and rolled on for some pizza, then back to York.

The experience was fantastic, and all caving trips should be more like this one. By the by, If I made it sound like no fun, it completely was not, it was the best fun you can have on a caving trip. Awesome rating 5/5, man rating 5/5, near death rating 5/5.