Sunday 25 May 2014

In and out of Gaping Gill through lots of 'oles

On the Sunday of the Yorkshire weekend we all met up (after several breakfasts and some shopping) at the car park in Inglebrough, ready to take on Gaping Gill. Not everyone was aware of the long walk up, and in full caving gear including wetsocks and wellies Mark was soon hobbling with blisters. Finally at the main entrance we found out that there would be at least a 3 hour wait for the winch. Brendan, Rob and Tony agreed to wait but Keith and Rich had to drive back fairly early so decided to explore other small caves in the vicinity.

Brendan had already informed us that the Bradford club rig all the other entrances into Gaping Gill, so with an ambitious plan to enter and exit various entrances in the system, Mark, Andy K., Loz and I set off to the first entrance; Corky’s. Following GPS coordinates we soon found an oildrum entrance with a fixed ladder inside, so we kitted up and Mark led the way. We soon entered a tight, awkward phreatic passage which made wriggling through in SRT kit very interesting! On arrival at an unpleasant duck Keith (who had decided to accompany us to the first pitch) chose to turn back, and shortly afterwards the passage got even tighter, but there was a shout from Mark: “I’m at the head of the pitch! And there’s no rope!!) With a grumble we all found somewhere wide enough to turn round, and struggled our way back through the passage to climb back out. After chatting to one of the Bradford guys we discovered that we had not found the Corky’s entrance, but had instead gone into an entrance called Hensler’s Pot. “It’s not rigged” he said “and you wouldn’t want to go in with SRT kit, it’s too tight and awkward!” He also informed us that the Corky’s entrance was being rebolted, so we had to revise plans.

Brendan then led us to Stream entrance, to make sure we got in the right one this time, and the trip began in earnest. As Andy K is SRT competent but it was Loz’s first proper SRT trip we wedged her between me and Mark and headed off down the pitches. Every pitch was interesting, some with quite awkward deviations but straightforward routefinding. We had to wait at one point for a party which was coming up the other way, and I made use of this by asking each one for directions to Flood Passage, our destination, so that I could impress the others with my routefinding. With a very vague idea of the way I asked directions from a very muddy caver who said he would take us part of the way. Trotting along through muddy, mud-filled chambers, I lost sight of our guide, but we continued along until Mark decided to stop and have a look at the survey. While he was doing so, a caver who had been following us at a distance came up and asked him for directions – it was our muddy guide who had gotten lost and wound up behind us!

With the survey and as a team effort we made our way to Sand Cavern, and from there to the main chamber, just in time to see Brendan, Rob and Tony arrive on the winch – talk about timing! We decided to team up and all do the short round trip that Brendan had planned for the guys, which gave us the chance to see a bit more of the system and gave Tony and Rob the chance to carry some kit for us, which I’m sure they appreciated.

After a climb up out of the main chamber and a rope traverse in Mud Hall we followed Brendan into Hensler’s Mud Crawls. The name says it all, though Mark thinks there should have been more mud and less water! There was certainly plenty of crawling…

Brendan skilfully found his route back towards the main chamber, but took time on the way to point us in the right direction for Flood Passage. Mark took a small detour to go through the Blowhole and found that getting through was easy; coming back not so much. While lying with his face in a puddle, blowing the water out of his mouth (hence blowhole) and trying to contort his knees backwards, he wondered if any of us would actually come back for him if he didn’t return!

The way back up to Flood entrance was really interesting, with a variety of pitches joined by little tunnels, crawls and bedding planes. Loz coped well with the various rebelays and long pitches and we arrived at the foot of the last pitch to hear Brendan’s “Cooeeee” from above. The head of the last pitch was designed to catch us out, a really awkward squeeze, but gave us the opportunity to laugh at each other before we popped out.

Andy K volunteered to return the winch tags and we all made our way down to the car park and from there to the YSS hut, where we had a very late but very delicious chilli courtesy of Brendan. A very good day!!

Swinsto Classic Pull Through

On the Monday Mark and Brendan seemed fairly ambivalent about caving at all, Andy K, Carl, and the Telford Twins had gone home and it was up to Loz and me to demand a trip. “How about the Swinsto Pull Through?” I asked, as everyone had said what fun it was last Yorkshire trip. Mark agreed it was a classic, and Brendan said he would go for a walk and meet us in about 3 hours.

3 hours sounds like a nice bumbling Sunday afternoon trip, so Loz and I dressed in thin furries and we all ran (I puffed!) up the hill to the small entrance to start the trip. We were carrying a rope to rig the pull throughs and a backup rope, which I really enjoyed pulling through the long crawl. Already regretting the thin furry and the fact I had lent my new kneepads to Mark, we arrived at pitch after wet pitch after even wetter pitch, which left Loz and and I cold and shivering and wondering what we had let ourselves in for!

The highlight for me was watching Loz swinging wildly into the full flow of the water at one point, where she learnt quickly to abseil with eyes closed but mouth still squealing loudly!

Mark did well rigging all the pitches safely and finding his way through to the Kingsdale Master Cave, where we exited to sunshine, Brendan and cake. Definitely a classic trip, definitely a lot wetter than I expected!

Keith proves Hensler's Pot is indeed a crap hole!

Jess abseiling Flood Entrances Pitches

Loz in Stream Chamber

Andy K in Stream Chamber

Present: Carl Knot, Keith Edwards, Rich Gibbons, Andy Kempster, Loz Appleby, Brendan Marris, Tony Ferran, Rob Campbell, Jess Burkey & Mark Burkey

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