It was the umpteenth soaking of the year that made up my mind and since I hadn’t seen the sun in France either, I didn’t have any guilt about booking a flight to Joshua Tree.
A couple of days before the off, Simon and I had a nice trip down a very wet Notts II – my first venture down here and very fine it was too, although there was still a lot of water and we didn’t quite get down to the downstream sump. With Simon off ahead on an exploration of a dry upper level, I missed a climb up and wandered off alone, crossing a makeshift bridge over a hole and then deciding I was lost! Retracing my steps, I managed to find ‘the navigator’ again – good job, as I didn’t have a clue where I was. This was a fun, no-gear trip with a very impressive amount of work obvious in the construction of the entrance shaft, such that you get to see a lot of cave for little effort.
Now I’ve been to JT in California several times and I always take a philosophical view of the weather there. If it’s cool (sub 70), I’ll climb hard – if it’s hot, I’ll enjoy the sun. This trip was definitely in the latter category – over 85 most days – and after reminding myself that doing highball problems on small holds in such conditions may result in bruised heels at the very least (ouch!), I had to make do with 7 a.m. starts to climb, followed by hikes in the heat of the day. In Arizona it was even hotter and after ten days of this I was looking forward to getting wet underground!
Back in the dales, feeling a bit jet-lagged, Simon and I had a nice trip doing Dowbergill uphill again – this time with more water than I’d seen in there before and we had to do a lot of high level traversing, as well as recovering Simon’s rope from a section in between the normal routes that he had left a few weeks before on a solo exploration. This was somewhere below the normal high level traverse with the fixed handlines, but obviously travelled by a few people before, judging by the vintage sweet wrappers I picked up! It’s amazing how many ways one could traverse some sections of this cave. We emerged feeling a bit worked with the extra effort that the traversing route requires, but it still only took about 3 hours. Walking back to the cars past Hag Dike hostel in the wind and rain was such a blast that I realised I could never swap England for the US.
I’d been looking forward to the King Pot trip for ages, but sometimes you realise that things are not meant to be. I didn’t know whether to be surprised or not when nobody appeared to be interested and with Simon stuffing a cave diver into a drysuit in the morning, things were looking a bit grim. To cap it all, a bit of careless, footless bouldering during the week had left me unable to lift my right arm above my head – oh dear. Never mind, with nobody in Inglesport or in Kingsdale, I retired to Curlew Crafts for a decent cup of coffee, before heading off to Ribblehead and a solo trip down Roger Kirk Cave.
After just about managing to get my wetsuit on, I aimed for the low wall of rock that is Roger Kirk Scar, finding an entrance hole above it first try – without ‘the navigator’! This cave is a mini classic, small, but almost perfectly formed, with enough water and well-carved canyon passage to keep me entertained. Popping out of the bottom entrance, I surveyed the scenery and proceeded to reverse the trip. Going up I took the ‘crawling in water’ route through the canyon passage, taken as a roof traverse on the way down.
Emerging at the top, out of a tighter hole than I remembered, it occurred to me that I couldn’t find my stash of wetsuit hood and Northern Caves 2! Yes – it was another way in and walking to an adjacent shakehole, I found my kit. A nice, fun trip – thoroughly recommended.