Tune for the day - Treacherous Gods, Ensiferum – although not much singing on this trip, more like grunting and gurgling. This trip had been another casualty of the first meets list of the year back in February, when my chum and I surveyed the very impressive foaming beck blasting down towards the Wharfe, before having a very aqueous experience in Dow cave – thigh-deep water in the entrance passage, a duck into Hobson’s and a very impressive cascade section made it a fun day, rather than a waste.
The promise, or threat, of thunderstorms later in the afternoon, made me impress upon the team some sense of urgency and we decided to look down the last pitch, rather than descend it, to save time. Having not been too impressed by the spits on the big pitch last time, one of which is stripped and is replaced by a sling on a spike, I brought along a couple of wired nuts, Rock 6 and 7 to be precise, that I had eyeballed as being just the job for this pitch, and my eye must still be in tune, as they were just the job and also easier to place whilst lying down than hanging by one set of fingertips!
Taking a few geological notes on the way down for Steve, we were soon assembled in the tight section below the big pitch, where Jane and I carried on through with a rope for a handline on the short pitch and dumped our harnesses in the rift.
The aqueous crawls were no problem for my neoprene-clad form, although I felt for Jane when I missed a dry by-pass and substituted 10m of nose-in-roof crawl, immediately recognising the correct route for the return. Again missing the big slab – dunno how, but did the same on my last solo trip – we were slogging along the final crawls to admire the fine formations – organic and inorganic, before peering down the final drop, again contemplating free-climbing down the easy-looking (but fragile?) ramp on the right. We paused at one point to admire the tree roots by a mud cone, with the discernible smell of the surface, before continuing our crawl out – how many feet to the surface?
After completing the slog up the big pitch, I lay down for a snooze in the hollow by the ring bolt, awakening with relief to remember that I was not, thank The Lord, in camp 1 of The Berger, and only 10 minutes from the surface, where we eventually emerged to find 2 soggy cavers who had witnessed a fine thunderstorm. Despite no visible effect upon the cave water, the Wharfe was rising as we watched and was soon a brown torrent.
Returning home to an incredibly violent 2-hour downpour, I got another soaking sorting the kit into a barrel of water and clearing some blocked drains – but at least the water was warm. I felt worked at the end of the day – top stuff!