The day’s objective for our 3 man team was to head to valentines sump and access the condition of the syphon.
Firstly I was late (enough said already) After speaking with Mark on the phone it was agreed that Carl and Mark would head into Giants and play in the upper series above base camp chamber while I dragged my lazy ass to the car park and meet them at the head of Garlands around 11ish.
At garlands Pot I found a comfy spot, rested on the kit bags and turned off my light waiting in eagerness to start the days caving. I didn’t wait long. Mark and Carl greeted me, Carl with the obligatory array of swear words before informing me that my punishment for holding up the team was to carry the rope bag for the entire trip. I thought this fair and got on with it.
In minutes we were down Garlands and into crab walk. Mark had told Carl to lead as he was suffering a bout of man flu and could set his own pace. It didn’t take long to reach the vice and then down the bit that hurts any man…..razors edge. From there we spent a little while looking for the correct way to valentines Sump getting very damp in the process!
At the sump Mark explained how the syphon worked and then asked ‘’do you understand that’’ and I said yes (not really having a clue) his reply was ‘’good, because your off down there to get it working’’. Carl was now feeling quite cold and was looking like he needed a Horlicks. I got in the water with a certain amount of gusto that soon turned to hate and loathing for Mark as the water got deeper! We spent around 15 minutes trying to get the syphon started. We thought at one point we had cracked it only it was short lived as any suction I had felt at the pipe end soon stopped, so it was back out of the water and bailing commenced. Mark had mentioned earlier that he thought the water backed up and within 5 or 6 buckets and that’s exactly what happened. Carl regained some colour at this point realising he wasn’t going to be going in the water I had just come out of!
It was decided we would head to the filthy five and look at the state of play of the sump from the other side. We retraced our steps to the kit which we had left a short while away before heading to Geology Pot. There were a few sporting bits of passage before reaching the abseil which I rigged. Mark went down first, Carl and I close behind. I was impressed with Geology having failed to find it on a previous trip. From here my memory doesn’t serve to well until we reached a small duck,.Carls reaction though was very memorable and frankly hilarious but he was through within seconds, although this ice cold soaking rendered him mute. We were soon at the East Canal. Mark traversed around easily and I followed with not so much ease. The sight of water had woken Carl up again and the swearing also commenced. Mark had said they don’t call this the filthy five for nothing and he was right. As I wadded through the mud to the first pitch I heard a almighty splash which echoed in the passage but was soon replaced with fits of laughter as we realised Carl had fell in whilst trying to stay dry traversing. Very funny. Mark was soon up the first pitch, wedging himself in whilst ascending as the bolts and rigging looked suspect, I followed and Carl was also soon up. The way onwards was a left turn over a small traverse to the next pitch but we were all in agreement that the rigging and state of the metalwork was at best dodgy and as we would be ascending the pitches without having the luxury of accessing the rigging and bolting or using our own pull through we decided to leave the climbs for a return trip.
After deciding we would now be heading out Carl who had put in a sterling effort so far looked somewhat relieved. It wasn’t quite over yet though. We all carefully descended the pitch back into the canal, Carl this time mastered the traverse whilst I had decided to wade. It was at this point Carl asked which way out we intended to go, Mark informing him the same way past the duck then finish the round trip over the top of crab walk and out. The duck was done with ease and we were soon at the Oxlow connection (Start of the Chamber of Horrors). Carl had opted to wait a little further back while Mark and I went to check out this tight passage. I stood there laughing at Mark, thinking how abnormal this was squeezing into the tight entrance passage arms stretched out in front as he went on his front, feet first. I followed behind with the same technique but it wasn’t long before Mark hit the water. I told him I was more than happy to explore further, BUT on another day. We backtracked out and it was only the Windpipe and Garlands left to negotiate before we could taste fresh air once more. Carl looked like he was ready to commit murder at the entrance to the Devils Wind pipe but the water was relatively low considering it can sump.
Mark had been vague with his exit strategy to Carl so the traverses were an unwelcomed surprise to him. It didn’t take us long though to get to Garlands and before we knew it we were out in the fresh air me refusing to ‘’have a go’’ at the tight Oxbow pointed out by Mark and Carl on the way out.
We were met by Andy and the others at the car park where we got changed and hijacked Wal’s food. We the all headed to the pub for drinks whilst Carl go off home for a lemsip!! A very enjoyable day, Cheers guys
Present: Mark Burkey, Carl Knott, Ben Marklew
Trip report by Ben Marklew