Saturday 30 April 2016

Ireby Fell Cavern: Ireby 2

Having been given a long weekend off work Jess and I decided to make the most of it and head up to Yorkshire. We had been told that diggers had rigged Ireby Fell Cavern and that if we wanted to use their ropes we'd be more than welcome and so that was made our plan for the Friday.

We walked over from Mason Gill in the usual snow flurries and hail (It is spring after all!) and made short work of the entrance series and were soon making our way through Duke Street. We had been told the connection through to Ireby 2 was a 180m hands and knees crawl, but soon found out that hands and knees is subjective and spent a good 1/3 flat out on the grippy mud until we reached a rope climb down in to waist deep water. Fortunately this doesn't last for long and we were soon in the large passage of Ireby 2.

We spent a little time searching up the various dig ropes before retreating to take a couple of photos and head back out, grateful that we weren't having to de-rig as we went.

Jess in the entrance tube 
Bell Pitch
Ireby 2
Ireby 2

Present: Mark & Jess

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Was it all a dream?

Brendan and Mark have been threatening to take me caving for some time but it's only a few weeks since my pelvic scaffolding was surgically removed and so far too early to contemplate a return to the underworld.

Last weekend it was forecast to be a sunny, if a little cold, so I decided to mosey on down to South Wales for some gentle therapeutic walking.
Here I am strolling along minding my own business. After this my memories are very vague but I'll try to piece together what may have happened.

I seem to recall hearing a diesel vehicle, possibly a van approaching at great speed from behind.

Who are these two suspicious looking characters? They look like they might be up to no good. Could they be hatching a cunning plan?
After this everything went dark and it is as if the rest of the weekend has been wiped from my memory, but over the last couple of days I've kept having vivid dreams in which I'm caving again. It's all really rather distressing.

These dreams always seem to feature me in exposed locations and they invariably end with maniacal laughter. I know they are just dreams but they are so authentic they could easily be real.

In one particular dream I'm making my way along narrow ledges with nothing below me and only my crutches for support. I wake up in a cold sweat, but then a thought strikes me. Perhaps crutches are the ideal caving aid for those cavers who do not like traverses.

In another dream I'm falling down a deep hole, deep enough to cause massive injuries, (and I dread having to go back to hospital) but I'm saved from this by my crutch jamming across the hole.

And then my dreams get even more bizarre. Falling is a recurring theme. Falling, falling, falling ... forever falling.
A bit like this.

And then suddenly I'm in the company of Brendan and Mark. I've no idea where they came from. They wish me well and they say they hope I'll be caving again in the not too distant future. I thank them and they drive off.

A lost weekend!


Sunday 17 April 2016

OFD to Cwm Dwr Through Trip

For Sunday we were joined by Ian who had requested a through trip. Jess and I were feeling somewhat better rested after a good meal and nights sleep.
We were in good spirits as we sauntered down the hill and in to the bottom entrance. We set an easy pace to ensure Ian enjoyed rather than endured his trip and even made time for a couple of photo's as we made our way through.
At the letter box Ian was pleased to find the climb and manoeuvre in to the slot was easier than he feared and again at the divers pitch he had worried it would be tougher than it was.
Infact at 70 this year Ian did a sterling job tackling each obstacle and even shot through the exit crawls at such speed that I had trouble keeping up with him!

Chloe traversing the stream way.
Ian and Mark just after the sump
Ian Admires the formations in the connection
Mark at the letterbox

Present: Ian Millward, Mark Burgess, Jess Burkey, Chloe Burney & Mark Burkey

Saturday 16 April 2016

Dan Yr Ogof, The Far North

Although not really feeling well rested after a rather busy week we had promised Chloe and Mark a trip to the Far North in Dan Yr Ogof, and so we dragged ourselves out of bed and headed to South Wales hoping the weather would be kind.
Upon arriving at the show cave we were pleased to find water levels quite low and the sun even popped out as we changed.
We made our way in through the entrance series with no problems to the green canal, only stopping off for a quick photo of cloud chamber. The others elected to do the chilly swim whilst I popped over the top.
The caving stayed fairly easy going as we made our way up the rising and down the various pitches until we arrived at the mostest. Here Chloe took a look at the rift climb and wasn't over enthusiastic about continuing, which suited me, and so we went to look at the pretties before continuing back over the high level route to Pinnacle Chamber.
At the pitch out of the Great North Road we again paused for photographs before continuing out.
Back at the SWCC we feasted on lasagne and garlic bread compliments of Jess before heading for a good nights sleep before our Sunday adventures.

Cloud Chamber
Great North Road Pitch

Present: Chloe Burney, Jess Burkey, Mark Burgess & Mark Burkey

Monday 11 April 2016

That Sinking Feeling once again

On the Monday, the return trip to Top Sink to retrieve the ropes did not seem anywhere near as attractive as it did when we thought of it on the Saturday. Luckily we had managed to attract another member to our little group for this final trip of the long weekend. Jane, from UKCaving, offered to come along and be our model for the pitch shot.

As the three Dudley cavers slouched along through the boggy ground on the long trip to Top Sink, Jane was skipping along happily praising the lovely scenery.  With trepidation we approached the entrance – even without tons of kit the rifts would be hard going. Jane however still didn’t seem worried, and it soon became clear that at the various ‘pinch points’ in the rift where we three had to crawl and thrutch, being rather smaller she was waltzing  through upright, swinging her arms!

Once we reached Walrus Pot I went down first and set off along the second rift to de-rig Penknife pitch while Brendan started setting up lighting at the foot of the pot. After he got so cold in Long Churn, we had thought ahead, and he was wearing a waterproof jacket, which despite being wet through, did make a difference to body temperature.

When I got back to the bottom of the pot with the second rope, the photo shoot was nearly finished, with Jane on the rope, Mark hanging over the top of the pitch with his camera and Brendan jumping in and out of the waterfall with various flash guns and bulbs.

I viewed the climb back up with trepidation – the bottom half of the pitch would all be through water and I wished I’d remembered my pantin. However, it didn’t prove to be as bad as I feared; in fact Brendan and I both agreed that the water was quite refreshing!

The ‘crabwalk’ back to the entrance was not at all refreshing, but Jane ran through the rift with a bag and camera box and then came back for more!

A windy walk back to the van and a nice cup of tea at Jane’s was a good end to an excellent long weekend in Yorkshire.

Walrus Pot

Present: Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey, Brendan Marris & Jane Allen

Sunday 10 April 2016

Joining the dots for an Easegill through trip

After a tiring trip on the Saturday, we were all quite achy when we set off once again to Bull Pot Farm on Sunday, with the aim of completing the last leg of our through trip route-finding; Lancaster Hole to Wretched Rabbit. It was a beautiful morning, with sun in the sky and snow on the hills.

Taking some lessons from the amount of kit we carried the day before, we left two SRT kits tied to the end of the rope at the foot of Lancaster Hole and left the tripods in the van! The route finding went well and we made good progress.

We stopped for a quick photo at Bob’s Boss and Painter’s Palette, then passed Fall Pot, Montague East and West and Stake Pot, following descriptions we had printed out.

The highlight of today’s trip was a section of passage called The Minarets; a beautifully shaped and decorated tunnel where we stopped and took a few photos. Brendan however found that his camera lens had developed condensation on the inside from its dunking the day before, so again his photographic plans were foiled.

There seemed to be a lot of awkward climbs up and down, some with bits of muddy rope to help us. The longest of these had a long, muddy rope downwards which led to an even muddier rope upwards where I managed to get my cowstail caught on a knot and had to be rescued by Mark.

Eventually we were into passage that the boys recognized from previous trips and they romped off into the distance, leaving me to stumble my way over greasy boulders. After pointing out to them delicately and with hardly any swear words that I couldn’t learn the route if all I was looking at was my feet, they let me go ahead and soon I too recognized the way we were going.

Taking a shortcut to Wretched Rabbit we climbed out of the now far too familiar entrance. All the snow had gone and we were even out in time to join some local friends for dinner at a nearby pub. 

Bob's Boss (Photo Brendan Marris)
The Minarets (Photo Mark Burkey)

Present: Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey, Brendan Marris

Saturday 9 April 2016

New Toys, Tears and Tantrums in Easegill

With a long weekend in Yorkshire on the cards, we had two objectives – to link up the parts of the Easegill through trip and for Brendan to try out his new flashguns and electronic controller, which promised to revolutionize photoshoots.

The plan was to go in via Top Sink and either work our way through to County Pot, which Brendan assured us would be pre-rigged, or go back out of Top Sink to retrieve the ropes. Mark and Brendan were hoping to take photos at Easter Grotto, a beautifully decorated part of the cave.  We got changed in bright sunshine and joked about avoiding sunburn by getting underground.

None of us had ever been into Top Sink but it was easy to find. A rusty scaffolded entrance led shortly into a narrow ‘crabwalk’ type rift which at points proved a bit too snug for any of us to stay upright. We had with us two ropes, three SRT kits, two camera boxes and a bag full of tripods and other accessories, and found this rift hard going to say the least! We were relieved to reach the first pitch, Walrus Pot, where there was only room for one at a time to put on their SRT kits.

Once down the pitch we found ourselves back in the same kind of rift. Struggling with all our baggage, our spirits fell as we contemplated either returning the same way or coming out of County Pot and doing the long walk overland (plus the two rifts) at the end of the trip to get the ropes. I came up with the idea of having an ‘easy Monday trip’ - leaving the ropes in situ until then, using it as an ideal excuse for a pitch photo while we retrieved the ropes, and this suggestion was happily accepted.

Once we were down Penknife pitch we made good progress following the various descriptions which we had printed out. With no major problems we arrived at Easter Grotto, which has a roof absolutely covered with straws, and many strange ‘wasps nest’ formations. The boys opened their camera boxes. Disaster! Brendan’s camera box was full of water, and all his new flashguns were swimming. With one of the objectives of our trip foiled already, we still had to see if we could find our way through to County Pot.

We investigated a flat out crawl leading to the Palace, but decided against it as we were not sure how tight it would get, and the seams on Mark’s oversuit had already decided to part company. He spent the rest of the trip trying to hold the front of his suit together as it had come apart where I had taken the zip out. Deciding to take the route through the Assembly Hall, we eventually made our way via Stop Pot to the stream way, which we then followed.

En route to County Pot, Brendan pointed out the turning off to Wretched Rabbit. “Good job we’re not going that way with all this kit!” he said. “County Pot will be a lot easier”.  Well it didn’t seem overly easy, and when we finally arrived at the foot of the pitch, Brendan looked like he was ready to give up. “It’s not rigged!’ he exclaimed, ‘There’s no rope!”  He stared up the pitch, waving his arms around as if he expected a rope to miraculously appear from above, but to no avail.

With no choice now, we had to retrace our steps and go out of Wretched Rabbit. Wriggling through the tight passages and up the various climbs, we passed bags and boxes from one to another until at last the end was in sight. As I approached the entrance opening I was surprised how light it was outside, considering the time of day. Little did we expect to find snow falling!

A long, slow walk back to the van was alleviated by a few snowballs but it was three tired, hungry, cold cavers that eventually got back to the Bradford hut for a late dinner. 

Easter Grotto
Easter Grotto

Present: Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey, Brendan Marris

Friday 8 April 2016

Brendan feels a bit Blue in Long Churn

After a rather manic couple of weeks at work our boss asked if we fancied a couple of extra days off to make a long weekend. Jess and I contacted Brendan and so a plan was hatched to finish off our route finding in Ease Gill of the main routes. After a bit of faff Friday morning we eventually left late and arrived at Inglesport gone 11am.

As we hadn’t managed a lot of sleep in the last week, and we had some new toys to play with, it was decided we would just start the weekend off gently with a trip into Long Churn to have a play with the new flash guns and bulbs.

This culminated in a shot being taken from the top of Dr. Bannisters hand basin.

Looking down from the top we needed a little more reflection coming off the walls and Brendan began using his boot as a bucket to throw the water. After one successful go he slipped and nearly fell so I told him I would continue. Filling a welly I went to toss the boot full over the wall , slipped and tossed the whole lot over Brendan’s head. His response was to curse me loudly, turn, slip and fall in to the pool behind him! 

Once we had all stopped laughing, Jess climbed up onto the water chute so that I could get the shot, while Brendan waded into the pool with flash bulbs. One shot led to another, as these things do, and a few bulbs went off prematurely, so by the time I was fairly happy with the camera angle and lighting, Brendan had been in and out of the pool so many times his teeth were chattering.

With a bigger trip on the cards for the next day, we were quite happy to leave the water behind and set off to the Bradford hut to eat and relax.

Upper Long Churn (Photo Brendan Marris)
Upper Long Churn (Photo Brendan Marris)
Upper Long Churn (Photo Mark Burkey)
Dr. Bannisters Hand Basin (Photo Mark Burkey)

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Brendan Marris

Thursday 7 April 2016

Doing things the Wet Way in Swildons

It’s a little known fact that Wells Museum has an excellent Caving Exhibition, and each summer a photographic competition of Mendip caves is held. Mark and Brendan have both been placed highly in previous years, so Mark and I headed down to the Mendips to see if he could get any decent shots of Swildons Hole for this year’s competition.

Within feet of the entrance Mark had me climbing up and down through the water to position flashguns  (“Well there’s no point in both of us getting wet!”)  until one of the guns took on some water and blew up.  With some of the older flashguns also refusing to work, Mark’s original plan of taking photos of me lying in Sump 1 was abandoned, (Yay!) and we decided to try for a pitch shot on The Twenty.

We followed our noses along the dry high-level passages until we came to the stream way. When we got to the pitch we were surprised to find a group of young military personnel practicing their SRT, so while we waited for them to finish Mark sussed out a vantage point for the camera.

Whilst rigging the ladder pitch Mark tossed me the end of a rope to hold, and called something out, but I couldn’t make out what he said. To my surprise, he then pulled the rope out of my hands and threw the whole thing down the pitch! Apparently he’d asked me to attach my end to the P bolt… Good job we had another rope with us, and once we had retrieved the first one we were ready to start the photoshoot.

While Mark hung around with the camera I was Up the ladder, Down the ladder, Along the passage, Up the rift, Under the water, Up the ladder, Down the ladder.. . Smile! My worries about getting cold as I was already wet through were completely unfounded.

With time moving on and the mill to get back to, we derigged and made our way back out of Swildons along the Wet Way.

Swildons Hole Entrance Series

Swildons 20ft pitch

Present: Jessica Burkey, Mark Burkey

Sunday 3 April 2016

Bags and bags of fun in OFD

Sunday dawned and the realization that we were committed to going back to Splash Inlet and Marble Showers seemed a little less exciting, especially as we had been unable to coerce anyone to join us, we were taking even more camera kit in with us, and we were all tired and sore from our exertions the day before.

However, we made good time and soon were heading up the Skyhook pitch again. Taking the rope, SRT kits and bag of camera stuff with us, we again struggled through the tight rifty and crawly bits to make our way again to Splash Inlet and the passages beyond.

Taking a short detour to show Mark the crystals from the day before, we went to take some photos in a nicely decorated dry passage before heading to the much wetter Marble Showers. But alas! The water conditions were much lower than the day before, and where there had been a myriad of waterfalls and a good height to the stream itself on the Saturday, there was much less water flowing on the Sunday and it was far less spectacular. Mark and Brendan somehow still managed to make sure we were all completely soaked by the time they’d finished taking photos!

Heading back to the pitches we stopped for one more ‘quick’ photo and then we began our return journey. Once the second pitch had been derigged, we had 2 camera boxes, one large tackle bag, one smaller bag of camera equipment and 3 SRT kits to take through the awkward passages that we had struggled through earlier. Bags and bags of fun!

Once down the Skyhook pitch we made our slow and weary way back to the entrance, feeling tired but triumphant. This is a trip that is definitely worth a revisit (hopefully with more ‘mules’!) and would even make a great SRT exchange if there was a big enough group.

Jess at Marble Showers (Photo Brendan Marris)

Passage south of splash inlet (Photo Brendan Marris)

Marble Showers Series (Photo Mark Burkey)

Upper Marble Showers (Photo Mark Burkey)

Present: Mark, Jess & Brendan

Trip report Jess

Saturday 2 April 2016

Flood conditions cause a Splash or two

Saturday saw Mark, Brendan and I heading up to OFD Top Entrance with camera gear, SRT kits and rope. We planned to visit a little-visited part of the cave called Splash Inlet, which involves 3 pitches and some route finding, with the promise of quite a bit of passage to be found.

We made good time to the Skyhook pitch, pulled the rope up after us, and from the top we made our way past the formations to the top of the first pitch down towards Splash Inlet. Struggling through tight, rifty traverses and along crawls with all the tackle quickly lost its appeal, and we wished we had a few more friends along to share the load.

Once down the pitch we rigged the second pitch from natural anchors and were soon at the start of Splash Inlet. Following the inlet itself was less than inviting as it involved a squeeze in water, so we decided to explore the other passages.

Heading right led us to some interesting passages, but it was when we explored the passage on the left that we really found some treasures. Brendan and I found some beautiful crystal formations up a tight rifty passage, but when we went to get Mark to show him, he had disappeared up some knarly horrible passage. When he came back, he was full of enthusiasm for what he had found, and insisted we follow him.

The passage turned out to be not as bad as it seemed, and after a few twists and turns we came upon the cause of Mark’s excitement – we were standing above the main stream way, at Marble Showers! Not only that, but as the stream was in flood conditions, the water looked absolutely amazing, pouring down from all directions.

Excitedly, the boys started planning camera angles, but as time was running away from us and they had left their camera boxes a few junctions back, we decided that we would leave all the tackle and camera gear where it was, and return the next day for a decent photoshoot, hopefully with more people to help carry the kit!

Aven Near Mutiny Junction (Photo Mark Burkey)
Aven Near Mutiny Junction (Photo Brendan Marris)

Present: Mark, Jess & Brendan

Trip Report Jess