I first met ‘living legend’ Denis a couple of years back on our ‘lost in Great Douk’ epic, when we became involved in a conversation regarding Dale Head, where I attempted to convince him that the pothole was in fact accessible, whilst he seemed to be measuring up my body fat index and biceps to understand my climbing performance! Anyway, my write up of the trip apparently had Phil Ryder reaching for his dictionary to understand the meaning of loquacious, as well as making him wonder to whom I was referring!
More than 2 years on and having been caving with Denis’ long-term caving partner Brian all summer, I had obtained another permit for Dale Head to get Denis down the pot – one of the few dales holes he hadn’t been down.
I had assumed that the permit was for Saturday and upon finally reading it properly on Friday evening at 10 pm I noticed it was for Sunday and had to do some last-minute re-arrangement, but the end result was that we managed to meet up in the Penyghent café at the civilised hour of noon.
With my usual tackle sack being underground in Wharfedale with my diving kit, I had the unpleasant task of getting a big bag through Heartburn Crawl, but steady progress was made to the head of the first pitch, where the YSS ropes still hung and being tied off below we couldn’t get them out of the way and promptly zipped down them – rigged a bit tight though chaps!
Water levels were rather low, but I still took the Crow’s Nest down the main pitch and curiously found myself on the ledge above the floor of the pitch with no rope left – must have been a bit generous with the re-belays this time and I had to wait for a bit more rope to come down with Denis to reach the bottom.
We found the lower sections to be rather mucky, perhaps due to a few more people getting down the pot recently and I was glad of a wash in the pool above the last pitch on the way down and under the main fall on the way out.
With a bit of combined tactics to shift my big bag through the entrance crawls, I was soon up the scaffolded climb and tracking down the large frog from the base of the entrance pitch to be carried to the surface inside Denis’ helmet.
Denis celebrated the end of a 34-year wait with a few words directed towards the entrance of the pot and we trudged off to a chilly change in the last of the light.