Tuesday 12 March 2024

Mostly Mudlust

The Dudley were back at OFD, with their sights set on the Northern Lights (the subterranean version). Through the entrance series we went, into Gnome Passage where we picked up the start of Edward's Shortcut. Here Jonny went first, slithering down the polished climb with ease and aplomb, before I followed somewhat less gracefully. We made quick progress over the traversy bit before taking a detour into Frozen River, which has some very impressive formations, including a copper pillar - very beautiful.
Having ooed and ahhed sufficiently, we made quick progress towards Cross Rift where we took Midnight Passage and followed it up to the Skyhook. Being new to this part of the cave (and having forgotten a copy of the survey), I guessed most of the key navigational decisions, and got them consistently wrong. I was consistently put right by Loz, however, and before long we had found the wet grovel followed by a vertical climb up through a boulder choke which leads to the start of Lavender Way.

Having squeezed and crawled through this, we arrived at the tight squeeze through into the Vault. This was a bit of a struggle, as it was stepped upwards and had to be entered on one's side. Getting my hips over the steps necessitated pushing my torso up vertically; of course the passage got thinner the higher it got, making this somewhat of a challenge. Nonetheless, after 5 minutes or so, it was challenge met and I was through. Jonny was next; he too found the same problem as me and decided he wouldn’t defeat the squeeze. No bother: he and Loz went to find the bypass while Anne and I pushed on.

The next obstacle was the chimney climb with handline. I had heard this was awkward, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was simply a case of easy (but thrutchy) chimneying, with a good sideways push off the wall to force my body weight over the top of the climb. We waited for a few minutes in Mudlust Hall for Loz and Jonny to catch us up, however we quickly began to feel cold and pushed on, figuring that they would catch us up sooner or later.

The second section of Mudlust Hall has the most impressive moonmilk tide mark; this was definitely the highlight of the trip for me! Next we followed a crawl at the end of the chamber over some amusing slippy mud, to arrive at a sump. Back we tracked, and found the wet crawl that's the way on into the rest of Northern Lights. However, not wanting to get too far ahead, we went back to Mudlust Hall to see if Loz and Jonny had arrived.

We found Loz, who said that Jonny was waiting for us back at the squeeze. They had found the bypass, but after some deft climbing had decided not to push on. I thought this wise: looking at the traverse from above the squeeze, it involved a big stretch over a big hole with a big drop but without big footholds! Not a great combination.

Having all met back up, it was time to reverse our route, but this time at the Cross Rift we went out via Shatter Pillar and navigated the standard “tourist route” to the entrance. Having learnt this route recently with Caver Keith ( aka the Wily Cave Wizard), I'm pleased to report that Anne and I were able to follow it without error, and we all emerged after several hours underground.
Overall, this was a great trip, and some of the best bits of Northern Lights still remain to be explored on a future trip!

Cavers: Loz, Jonny, Anne & Dave
Trip Report: Dave B
Photos: Jonny B

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