Monday 27 May 2024

Fairy - Hillier's Through Trip

After finding myself with a spare bank holiday, I put the call out to Dudley members to see whether anyone wanted to join me for a quick caving trip. A lot of folk seemed to be helping with a project in Yorkshire, but Jonny was free, so the two of us toddled off for some Mendipian fun. I'd been wanting to do Longwood Swallet for some time, having been enticed by the streamway. Unfortunately, predicted thunderstorms put paid to that idea, so we opted for the Fairy / Hilliers through trip instead.
This trip started very pleasantly, with simple clambering over boulders and a short flat out squeeze into a small chamber. Easy caving led to a diversion off the main route, up through a loose choke to Disappointment Chamber. Here Jonny's time in the gym scuppered him from getting his chest through one of the squeezes, so I continued alone through the slightly unnerving choke (it was loose and poorly travelled), so that - as Jonny put it - I wouldn't be disappointed at avoiding disappointment. On reaching Disappointment chamber, I could see why it was given this name: a couple of uninspiring decorations make negotiating the choke not very worthwhile.
Next on the list was the wet crawl connecting Fairy and Hilliers. This was quite unpleasant, and involved getting a rather wet ear when ducking through the lowest point. A tight-ish squeeze followed, and having popped through this, we started down a descending tube. This lead to a narrow crawl which looked very tight to me. Jonny reassured me that it wasn't that bad, so off I went, not entirely convinced that it was the way on. To make matters worse, Mark and Jess had warned me of bad air in this part of the cave. After a few metres of crawling, I was a bit spooked; I was breathing hard, but told myself this wasn't due to bad air, but physical exertion. In any case, it was obvious it wasn't the way on as I turned a corner and it closed down.
Back out of the crawl, we retraced our steps and found the way on. Once in Hilliers, the different character of the two caves became obvious. Hilliers had a lot more boulder chokes with tight contortions and squeezes to complete. Following the polish was easy, though, and before long we were in Cambridge Grotto which was beautifully decorated. Shortly after this we turned around, and retraced our steps, before passing the connection and heading out to the exit rift where we’d rigged a handline before going into Fairy. This was a really fun, sporting trip, and I've that I'm glad I've finally got round to completing it.

Trip Report: Dave B
Cavers: Dave & Jonny
Photos: Jonny B

Monday 20 May 2024

Mendips - Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink

Being in Bristol on Saturday for Rope Rescue Event with work team, we though that it would be a shame not visit Mendips once we are so close.

Our option was an easy-ish Sunday trip and we decided to visit Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink. The cave entrance is very conveniently positioned in a car ark of Hunters' Lodge. As we arrived the night before we though it would be sensible to arrange the key straight away since the pub doesn't open until mid day next day. Having arranged the key we also tasted the produce of a local brewery.  

Paulina in the entrance crawl

On Sunday morning, after a drive from Priddy to Hunters' Lodge via Wookey Hole (due to the road closure) we were ready to cave at about 9.30am and we opted for a photo trip. The idea was to explore it all the way to the end and take pictures on the return. Not knowing the way we managed to poke into all the dead ends and eventually found the correct way on. We decided to go full SRT as we were planning to get to the bottom of 18m pitch - Pewter Pot. Even though the cave is grabby in places we managed to keep our gear on throughout most the of it, but left the rope and harnesses by the pitch head and went on to see the end with the camera. The cave surprised us pleasantly with few decorated chambers and water features. 

Returning from Barmaid's Bedrooms

Happy Hour Highway

Cavers: Bartek & Paulina

Saturday 18 May 2024

OFD 1: Round Trip

Fairly mellow, quick & easy enough trip, is the best way I’d describe this one. However, is that because I’ve already experienced so much? Who knows! One thing I couldn’t have probably done sooner is the rigged traverse. As frightening as it was, I knew there was a drop but it was confusing because I knew I couldn’t fall. Think i need to do this one again. I did enjoy it, very good beginners trip I’d say and thoroughly enjoyed being the only ones in there (thanks to the weather 🤓). Loz is a great leader and i will look forward to her trips again!
Trip Report: Rebecca Guy
Cavers: Loz, Rebecca
Photos: Rebecca

Monday 6 May 2024

Jingling Pot

The final trip of the Yorkshire club weekend was Jingling Pot. On the team this time were Paulina, Bartek, Dino, Roo, Dave and myself. After two days of caving the steep slog up to the pot seemed excessive, but it was interesting, as we quickly detoured to see Rowten and also had a quick look at the entrance shaft to Aquamole.

Dave was trainee rigger (under Bartek’s watchful supervision). While he was rigging the traverse to the Lateral Cleft Route, Dino sorted the Direct Descent, providing a nice round trip. This was great SRT practice, providing ample opportunity to have a go at a traverse, as well as some rebelays, deviations, and a good long prussik back up the main shaft.

Bartek choose to poke his nose into the dig after descending the rift at the bottom of main shaft. After going for a little way, he found himself under a very large block held up by very rotten timbers, and therefore beat a very sensible retreat.
I also had the opportunity to take part in my first cave rescue. The casualty was a very skinny frog who I hope appreciated the lift he was given up the main shaft to a nice pool; what's more, he was even brought dinner in the shape of a nice fat slug. After this rescue, we attempted to rescue Bartek and Paulina’s Volvo after it slid down a muddy bank when Bartek reversed onto the road. While our little Panda valiantly stopped it sliding any further, there was no way Bartek could reverse off, necessitating a call to a caver friend with a large 4x4. Overall, this was the end to a fantastic weekend, and I'm looking forward to another Yorkshire adventure soon.

Cavers: Paulina, Bartek, Dino, Roo, Dave & Anne
Trip Report: Anne Bell
Photo: Bartek

Sunday 5 May 2024

Lancaster Hole & Cow Pot

We had decided the night before that we will be splitting into 2 teams to do a transfer trip between Cow pot and Lancaster hole. We have looked at the rigging maps for both and realised that there is difference between the rigging maps we had for Cow pot. A 20m extra pitch appears on one of the maps. We decided to take a 20m rope in case we needed it. I have not been personally there before, nor have I seen the description of the cave. Last minute that morning we decided to switch teams so team 1 Bartek, Ann and Dave will go to Lancaster hole, while team 2 Dino, Paulina and I will rig the cow pot. Which means the 2 people who have properly looked at the 2 caves were now in one team. Paulina has been before long time ago at Eurospealeo where everything was pre rigged.

We started our trip with all off us walking for the Red Rose hut. All dressed up ready to go down. Aggi and Zeina were not caving that day, so they walked with us, a bit behind, until the track started going a bit inclined and muddy. Said our goodbyes and carried on till the stile. After the stile, Bartek had to call the three ahead to come back as we are going left beside the wall. Following the wall took us to cows pot first. Team 2 opened a gate on the wall to heading to Cow Pot. Team 1 went right at this point and heading to Lancaster hole which was few hundred meters away. As part of team 2, we followed the path around the bushes and trees where we suspected the pot would be. We reached the top of a big rock, clearly there was a long way down at the edge.

We could see the anchor points at the surface of the rock where we stood, which matched the rigging map we had. Dino and I started rigging. Then I took the rope and start the decent. there was a reply just few inches from the edge of the rock. Rigging this, i carried down looking for the deviation point which was on the opposite side of the big rock i was on. Threading a sling in the steel anchor and putting the deviation on the rope, after that it was a 20+ meters vertical drop in the middle of the shaft. I reached the bottom where it was properly lit with day light. Dino followed and when arrived, he directly followed the natural passage trying to find the way forward from there.

Paulina got down next. When she arrived, we started looking around for the other passage which she has used long time ago. In my mind I was looking for that 20m up and down passage on the rigging map that i have seen the day before, which was not with us that day. We saw a narrow passage on the floor going up and away from where we landed. It seemed the wrong way as it was too tight and we could not see any landing at the end of it, also it looked tricky if you get stuck there as there is no way you can pull yourself up.

There was a small climb opposite to that hole, which a thought it was the 20 m passage on the map. Anyway, we decided to follow Dino to see what he has found. Walking down that passage following the natural way the cave goes, reach a low celling chamber with a natural duct over, i went in the chamber where dino was looking down a hole with scaffolding, trying to access it. Paulina went up into that duct and came back as there is nothing up there. At that stage, we said that didn’t looked like the right way, so we thought we go back and this time with Dino to see if we can find the other way especially as Paulina thought that’s not the way she previously used.

Back at the landing area, we started looking again around, not much there except the hole on the ground level and that climb. I went up the climb and look around, nothing there except a very tight squeeze. Dino tried going down that tight hole, after naturally fixing the rope and using his hand jammer to slide down and threw a rock, we could hear it went down quite a drop. Then Paulina gave a go. Also, they both agreed it would be a risk if we go in and it was not the right passage, we could easily get stuck. I tried to give it a final go but had a similar conclusion.

So at that point, we thought we have spent more than an hour so far and it is too late to carry on, as Bartek was expecting us at 2 on the main chamber in Lancaster hole on the 60m rope. He was hopping to capture this mid celling 60m drop. It was 20 to 2pm already, so we decided if we go back now, derigging and try to follow them in Lancaster hole, to let them know what happens as they will be worried by then. Dino went up first, saying that don’t take the bag as he will pull it from the top. He reminded us few times and up he went. I followed, then Paulina. Paulina reached the deviation; a thought came to mind whether the rope was attached to the bag as i have not seen dino doing it an also I didn’t.

Dino asked Paulina if she tied the rope to the bag, she replied confidently that she thought Dino did, reaching the belay at this stage, she was double checking with Dino who was on top of the pitch at the edge looking worried and annoyed. Paulina at this stage starter to switch onto her descender as we will have to go down again for the bag. Dino did have a bit if shock until Pauling switched back and went up. Dino then started pulling the bag and us laughing. The bag finally at the top, we packed and started heading to Lancaster hole.

We reached the top of the hole, where we could see three ropes going down, its a busy cave. Dino went first, and then Paulina. While Paulina was midway, we heard voices, it seems Bartek has come back to the entrance as he was worried. I followed Paulina on our rope, it was tricky to get on the correct rope with 2 rebelays, especially the ropes were twisted over each other. Mid way down, I checked if I needed to carry on if they are coming up. Bartek said to carry on.

Reached the bottom of the first 30-4 drop, Bartek was there, while Paulina and Dino have gone ahead. There were three other cavers faffing around, waiting for me to get off the pitch to go up. I followed Bartek quickly as you need to with Bartek. He vanished and i had to call him back as i was not sure on the way, it was my first time in this place.

Walked for 10 minutes going in a stream at one point and going up muddy slops, over boulders and under till we reached a huge chamber, where we were supposed to emerge from the ceiling (the 60m pitch). Dino and Paulina waiting for us in the chamber, Dave and Ann were at the bottom of the chamber. There were few ropes already rigged at different placed to get to the bottom. Our ropes were rigged at the right-hand side wall of that chamber with a traverse to start with then a straight drop down. Bartek tried to see if he can take a good photo from that spot but after decided not to, and wanted to get to the incline opposite you where that starts from the bottom of the chamber all the way to the top of the ceiling for the chamber. I decided to wait there while the three of them went down on the ropes that Dave had rigged.

They all went up the incline, Bartek looking for photo spots, but then canned the whole way idea. I was not feeling great, so i said i will wait for them in the chamber and they can carry on from the top of the incline. After an hour of the gone, another team of four showed up from the same spot they banished from. When they reached the bottom of the chamber, one of them came up a rope that was rigged in the middle and the other three scrambler their way under the boulder then up two small pitches with ropes to emerge behind me near the entrance to that big chamber. They did stay long and vanished as well heading back to surface.

Still no sign of the team, I had couple of chocolate bars as i started feeling a bit cold, waited for another our, then thought they are late, they supposed to be back an hour ago. So, i decided to head out as if i stayed here i might be a liability. I was concerned if I will remember my way back, I started going back trying to trace my route, a lost my way once just for few meters and then found the way. When I reached the bottom of the entrance pitch i could see daylight. Wait a bit then stated prusiking up the rope. I reached the top, it was sunny and warm, I laid down on the grass and waited, at least now I’m warm and enjoying the sunshine. After 30 minutes, I heard some noise at the bottom of the pitch, it was Dino. When he reached the top, he suggested we go back to the hut and pass by the entrance of the Cow pot to collect the bag of ropes on the way.

We reached the hut and got changed, had a shower and sat down with Aggi and Zeina. The rest of the team then arrived. Waited for them to change then headed to the Kirkby village to get dinner.

Cavers: Paulina, Bartek, Dino, Firas, Dave & Anne
Trip Report by: Firas
Photo by: Bartek

Saturday 4 May 2024

Notts II

Our first trip of the Yorkshire weekend away, was to be Notts II. The seven of us lowered ourselves one by one into the entrance shaft, which really is an engineering marvel. The amount of effort, time, and sheer determination to shore it up with scaffold bars, wooden slats, bricks, breeze blocks, expanding foam and various other materials must have been huge. I'm glad the original diggers made this effort, though, as corkscrewing down (and later back up) the shaft was great fun.
Before long we joined the Notts II streamway, where a trip to the downstream sump was in order. This involved a couple of photos, with Zeina being the model par excellence. After that, it was up the streamway, with Bartek pointing out a few navigational markers en route. Before long we arrived at a junction, where we went left. This took us into a most beautifully decorated section of passage, where we met two cavers with clean suits that smelled of Febreeze (I don't know how either of those things is possible.) This passage quickly ended with a crawl and a sump, so it was back to the junction where we again went left (though it was right on the way in).

This passage led us to a canal section, where Anne didn't want to swim and get wet. She took up the offer of a shoulder lift, making it through the canal with her top half completely dry. This was quite lucky, really, as the water at the deepest part was between my mouth and nose; any deeper and she would have ended up experiencing a very cold bath. The canal quickly ended in another sump (a very attractive, clear, deep blue one), so it was time for Anne to have another shoulder lift back to the junction. After that, a quick stomp down the streamway (with a suitable photo opportunity, of course), led us to the main shaft and a climb up to daylight. Overall, a great start to the caving weekend.

Cavers: Bartek, Paulina, Zenia, Firas, Dino, Dave & Anne
Trip Report by: Dave B
Photos: Bartek Biela