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Rumbling Hole - 9th Jan 2010

Saturday January 9th 2010

Members present: Chad B,  Chuck Holder,  Jennie Hill,  Matt Gosling,  Mike Rippon,  Rose Wilson,  Toby Buxton

Report by Matt Gosling

A jovial bunch of lunatics arrived in Bernie’s Café and Caving shop, eight in total including in the line up such colourful personalities as “Always Swash-buckles” Captain Chuckles and Toby “One Bar” Finbarr Buxton, so with banter like that flying around was it any wonder that this trip turned out to be absolutely banging? I had personally been allocated onto Team 1 with Chad, Rippon and The One Bar Ranger. As the road up to Leck Fell was covered in a large amount of snow we had to park much further down the hill with the intention of walking up to the cave, luckily for our team though the farmer who owns the farm at the top of the hill pulled in and offered us a lift and well, what a sound guy we had just met! He loved cavers and said that if we are ever on the fell we could always drop in and have a cup of tea. He also reckoned that the caving close season on Leck Fell was ridiculous because he never has any problems arising from the presence of cavers and they never bring dogs. His land rover was off the charts and it could have probably climbed Everest if it found the right gear. We steamed up the hill in high spirits and soon unravelled into the lay-by close to Rumbling. I donned my SRT gear and we ploughed down the hill in snow that was above knee-deep in many places at times stumbling and getting a mouthful of it. We soon arrived at the characteristic entrance with its sprawling Yew tree.

The cave was almost unrecognisable from last time I did it, Icicles, some considerably taller than me towards the waterfall side, hung precariously from opportune locations around the pothole and packed in snow covered many of the ledges. I threw a sling around the fence-post, cutting my finger on the sharp wire to the left of the belay. The warm red of the blood droplets on my hand provided stark contrast to the brilliant white snow that I grasped and clawed at as I made my way down the slope. I re-belayed off the tree and abbed down to the first eco-hanger. The snap-back response of the gates on my cows-tails was noticeably inhibited by the frost that had infiltrated to the spring inside.

I stared into the abyss, my hands pressing on the walls of the rift I found myself in. I could see the bolts that I needed to reach out for but a row of large icicles marred my pathway. I leant out over the shaft, the rope taking my weight, and punched the icicles away, their shattered remnants disappearing into the dark void below me. After these had been cleared I retreated into the rift and put in the knots and krabs for the Y-hang. The traverse looked nasty as I reached across it to load the hang, covered in slippery snow and ice. I could see a bolt to my right to rig a deviation off so rather than fully cross the ice traverse I loaded my rack and clipped a cows-tail into my hand-jammer executing a pendulum over the shaft. It turned out that the deviation was harder to reach than I had anticipated so instead I rebelayed from two hangers on the under-hang of the traverse. My hands were so cold they had become numb and as I put in the knots I couldn’t feel the rope against my skin. I was glad to soon be abseiling into the better insulated depths of the shaft. The abseil was incredible. I landed on a ledge two-thirds of the way down the fifty meter shaft and began to rig the traverse for the next section. As I was putting in the knots a hail of snow and ice debris crashed to the floor across the way making an almighty bang that sent chills down my spine, thank God I hadn’t been under that then! My isolation was broken as I transferred to the hang for the final abseil by Chad landing on the ledge. After throwing in a ranged deviation I landed at the bottom of the shaft.

Chad took over the rigging for the rest of the cave and we tore down pitch after pitch. The SRT down there is really good fun. We finally reached the bottom of the cave and had quite a well earned rest in the relatively warm belly of the subterranean chamber that marks the end. After about 25 minutes we heard the voices of the other team. It turned out to be just Rose and Chuck as the others from Team 2 had been overcome with the cold and returned to the car. I joined Rose and Chuck in order to help them carry gear whilst the rest of Team 1 blasted out towards the surface. Eventually we reached the bottom of the entrance pitch. On the way out the view from the rope on the main section was quite something. The moon lit up the snowy deposits and icicles around the mouth of the chasm and through the top I could see the stars in the sky twinkling in the cold night air. The silence here was deafening! I took my time on the traverse at the top but was soon on the safe side of the fence shortly followed by Rose and Chuck who complained that he had been hit on his hand on the way up by falling debris. The walk off the hill was bitterly cold and my cut out cycling gloves no longer provided adequate protection for my hands that were beginning to hurt. Chuck kindly leant me some gloves and as we walked down the road we each slipped fully over a variety of times. Chuck took the worst wipe-out, in a fall on his arse that looked unreasonably painful. After changing at the car it was off to the pub for warming Guinness, Whisky, food and more banter to end a great days caving. Thanks to everyone who came, it was a great day out.

M.G. in the chill of January 2010.

“So am I…Still waiting…For this world to stop hating?” – Sum 41