A quiet Friday evening walk with my family to High Force found this special spot to deserted, so in an impulsive Alain Robert moment, sans Spiderman suit, I decided to climb the face adjacent to the fall in my trainers. Rapid progress up the juggy limestone bands ended at the soggy and blocky capping whinsill strata, where about 10 feet from the top, sanity prevailed and I downclimbed to become a tourist again! Walking back up the path, we met the warden coming to lock up for the night, exchanging pleasantries, whilst I breathed a silent sigh of relief! Some great lines to be climbed there though!
Anyway, back to caving and having enjoyed doing the Rowten sumps so much during the last dry spell, a return for the pull-through trip was on as soon as water levels fell again. On the hottest day of the year thus far, we had a late start, finding Kingsdale to be very quiet, save for a couple of noisy, discontented cows on the hillside above the gate. Walking up with wetsuits peeled down to the waist was still a chore in the heat, especially as we still had a fair bit of gear, including weights and 120m of rope to carry.
We elected to rig initially with a 20m 8mm rope for the entrance, using the 100m 9mm from the re-belay bolts over the lip, in order to minimise any rope snagging problems. With Simon rigging, I waited until he was over the bridge before dropping down to the re-belay, pulling the short rope down and dropping into the misty depths below, letting Simon pull the rope from the far wall before I cautiously shuffled over the slippery terrain to meet him. Again, the short rope was rigged down to the re-belay bolts before the big drop down the main pitch. With more water than on our previous trip, the final few feet were water-sprayed and we reached the streamway with a little rope to spare – but not much!
The smooth cascades were quickly descended and we free-climbed the penultimate pitch, dropping down the back of the watercourse for an exhilarating descent. Mind you, the rock was sufficiently sharp to slice my palm as if by a scalpel blade and we rigged a rope for the final short pitch to the sump pool.
Packing SRT kit into the tackle bag, which was tied mid-way on the 100m rope, I used the 8mm rope for an initial tow line. With hood, mask and weights sorted, I dived first, emerging in the large air bell to pull the gear through without a hitch. When Simon appeared, I continued on and the gear relay was again smoothly performed when we emerged in The Master Cave – fantastic! After packing the kit, we decided to do the sumps again, enjoying the clear, warm water to the maximum.
Back in The Master Cave, the free-climb up was dispatched, looking much shorter than I had recalled it to be and we were soon popping out of the pipe, eager for refreshment in The Marton.
A memorable couple of hours underground indeed!