Ian, Jeff, Chris and Matt (almost!)
I must have been dreaming, or maybe not, as I made my way down Forest Passage, I wondered where the fine white slab bypassing Pitch 6 had gone! Having been down here once before a couple of years ago with ‘The Navigator’, this feature had stuck in my memory as being special in a cave full of surprises. I didn’t see it on the way back either and checking both Mike’s book and NC1 when I got back home, both mentioned its presence, so I wasn’t going bonkers after all and must have found another way down, having taken a body-sized hole just after Pitch 5 and climbed down a jagged wall – most odd.
The day hadn’t started too well, with the Dudman team being reduced in both number and vigour due to Matt peeling off his Mountain bike the previous day, Chris pulling various muscles at work and Jeff suffering from post-Low Douk-insertion stress trauma. I was under no greater handicap than the usual snotty nose and lack of a decent breakfast, but coffee and a Penguin had to suffice.
Chris managed to get his suit on and decided to give it a go, whilst I called in at the farm before getting into my wetsuit and slogging up the hill. Unlike last time, there was a fair bit of water flowing down the entrance and the boom of the main streamway soon became apparent, with a fine flow running in the clean trench before the big pitch. Chris was in too much discomfort to go on but Jeff was keen to get to grips with the pitch and I rigged using the 1 decent spit and a tape over a boss, noticing that the fine nut crack by the bolt would take a solid Rock 7, should you have one in your possession!
Down, down in the super-impressive situation to land on the draughty boulder slope, before seeking refuge in the confines of the Near Rift, removing my kit for the nasty bits to follow. Jeff appeared out of the mist and noticing my exertions in the blocky squeeze, wisely decided to head out.
After a bit of thrutching, the nice climb down to Tadpole Passage was attained and the chilly crawl was endured in rather deeper water than was comfortable, especially as I’d left my gloves in the rift – oops. The short fifth pitch was rather awash, but the holds are good and I was soon down to make the aforementioned bypass climb.
The low section following necessitated a face-in-the-roof approach – very chilly, before the wonders of Forest Passage could be admired.
Back at the big pitch, I was pleased to see that Jeff was up and out before clipping into the rope and kicking down an alarming amount of stretch in the rope with my Pantin. Chris and Jeff were at the top of the third pitch and I followed Jeff out to leave Chris to de-rig the entrance. Yes Chris, it’s disturbing, but the bolts really are that short!
Splendid cave - must go back to see if that slab was there after all.