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

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