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Stream Passage Pot Lets go caving by train! - 11 May 2002

Saturday May 11th 2002

Members present: Andrew Gilmartin,  David Sproson,  James Gregory

Report by David Sproson

James G's report --

Stream passage - lets go caving by train!

Sitting in Wentworth bar on the evening of Thursday 9th May no one who owned a car or old enough to get a hire car wanted to go caving at the weekend. In the past I'd suggested going caving by train, but people had always pointed to the unfeasability of lugging all one's personal gear and caving equipment and rigging gear from the station to a cave, in addition to the fact it required getting up incredibly early in the morning to get a very early train if one wanted any hope of making the last train back. So this Thursday I didn't suggest it again. But Andrew did. Me and Dave S foolishly accepted to go to. Blake initially accepted but changed his mind when he saw what time we'd have to get up.

The trip of Saturday 11 May 2002 was fairly ambitious to begin with, but it ended up becoming a bit of an epic. Hence I felt the need to write it up properly. If you're not a member of YUCPC, trips usually make far better progress than the one described here. It's just that even the most experienced person on the trip (me) had only ever rigged a few things before (one pitch of Eldon hole and the first pitch of Bull Pot of the Witches, neither of which go out of sunlight, and one pitch of Bar Pot, plus a few easy things in a sports hall). Plus I'm fairly incompetent to begin with. Plus I should think that's the last time anyone goes caving without a car to carry stuff and allow us to get up at a more reasonable time, for a while at least. The times are just estimates, some of them may be a bit out:


Stream passage: James (me, leading), Dave S, Andrew G

Time: Action:
04:30 Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc. Fears about having to get up early to go caving by train were well founded.

05:35 Set off to caving garage.

05:45 Get to garage, start finding ropes.

05:50 Andrew arrives, start packing ropes.

06:20 Dave arrives. I use Debs' bike to give in trip form and to check the bus timetable. Finish packing stuff.

06:45 There is only one bus we might get and we don't want to totally rely on it, so we set off on foot for the station. Fears about the unfeasibility of carrying all of one's caving gear, personal clothing and other personal items, rope and rigging gear, along with a day's food and drink, were well founded. By the evening my feet hurt rather a lot.

07:20 Arrive station, buy tickets.

07:35 Train leaves, change at Leeds.

09:35 Train arrives Clapham. Looks set to be a lovely sunny day. Phone around to try to find someone to be call out. Adrian agrees, set call out for 23:00. Set off for Clapham and Ingleborough beyond it.

11:30 Reach Bar Bot.

11:45 Find Stream entrance. Eat a bit of lunch and have a bit of a rest in the sun after the walk up Ingleborough carrying silly amounts of stuff. Get changed.

12:30 Rig entrance down 4m of oil drums. I stand at bottom whilst Andrew throws our stuff down, I catch it and put it all in an alcove at the bottom.

13:00 Rig first pitch from rather constricted take off, after being momentarily confused by permanent bolts (I'd been expecting either spits or P hangers). Crab walk down 150m of rift to second pitch. As rift both deepens and narrows we begin traversing along top of rift, as desciption says.

13:45 Get to bit of traverse where the floor drops away for miles, and footholds disappear requiring bracing against each wall. I miss the obvious flake for protection, so it is unprotected. It scares me too much, I bottle it. Go back to first pitch, Andrew gets on rope. Then I say maybe it would have been easier if we'd have gone higher. We go back to traverse again. Is indeed a bit easier slightly higher up, but 2 metres of it are nevertheless totally unprotected and very, very silly.

(There is apparently an obvious flake for protection that I should have used. Oops. Anyhow, the entire traverse is P-hangered now - the result of me posting this report to uk.rec.caving, I wonder?)

14:15 Start rigging 2nd pitch.

14:45 Start rigging 3rd pitch. Can't find a bolt at the beginning of rhe traverse, so I begin the traverse over a very big drop with a hand jammer and cows tail in a knot on the trailing end of the rope from the last pitch. This is a bit silly because falling would mean a big fall and a big swing into a rock face before the rope caught me. Traverse then gets very very exposed, but by this point there's lots of bolts to clip in to.

15:30 Everyone at bottom of 3rd pitch. I say that if we want any chance at all of making last train back (Railtrack website said 20:00, board in station said 21:00) we must turn back now. Andrew says he's got nothing to do tommorrow and wants to continue. Neither Dave nor I mind what we do, so we continue.

15:40 Go between big holes in floor with no protection - rather scary but this time it's definitely not me missing things to use as protection, as description notes the danger here - "careful", it warns. Start rigging 4th pitch.

16:10 Everyone at bottom of 4th pitch. Start exploring bottom of cave. Description says dash past waterfalls (do this), along passage (do this), to big Stream Chamber (do this), around massive boulder to your right (do this), squeeze through some boulders (were these the right ones? I'm not sure). Description says find route through boulder choke to stream. There's a boulder choke and we can hear the stream beyond it, but after a while searching the only way through looks totally unworn and we worry we might not be able to get back up it again.

17:00 Turn back, go back to first boulder squeeze. Only Andrew can squeeze back up through the boulders. Immense amounts of struggling to get up doesn't work, even with SRT kits taken off - my and Dave's legs are too long to bend to be able to use all the footholds. Andrew builds a sling and crab contraption hung round a rock from above. We're still not able to get up, as our arms are far too tired to be able to pull up our full body weight with our legs free hanging. I put a pile of rocks beneath the squeeze, and hold them in place as an extra foothold. Dave gets up. Andrew comes back down to hold the rocks in place whilst I get up, then comes up again himself.

17:30 Everyone is much more tired than we were half an hour ago, so we decide not to look for another way on and just to turn back. We get lost for about 10 minutes after taking a wrong turn by the waterfalls.

17:50 Everyone at bottom of 4th pitch again, we start heading back up, I derig without a huge number of issues though I'm extremely tired. Also, on managing to get off the constricted top of the first pitch I think wow, almost there now, and can just about see one of the other two eating a sandwich a short distance away. Only then I find a krab won't undo and so I have to squeeze back out on to the rope again.

21:30 Everyone is back in the entrance where we left all our stuff. Eat some food we'd left in our bags here, drink water as all of us are very dehydrated. Dave goes out, shouts down that there is still sunlight. Andrew ties things on to the rope for Dave to haul up, I mainly sit and rest.

22:00 Everyone out of the cave, a tiny amount of sunlight is gone within a few minutes. Change into walking boots, pack entrance/first pitch rope, pack bags with stuff. Luckily Dave's phone gets a signal twenty metres walk from the cave, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to cancel the call out in time. Spend ten minutes getting lost before finding the tourist track down to Clapham. Have a couple of 10 minute breaks on the tourist trail, resting whilst looking at the very clear sky above, full of stars.

00:45 Back at station, there isn't a waiting room but there is a little brick structure with walls on three sides and a roof. Get in survival bags (first time I've ever seen what a caving survival bag looks like out of its packaging). As Andrew said the following morning, "I had no idea it was going to be that cold". Not quite sure how cold it was, but anyway I woke up from a fitful "sleep" every half an hour to an hour, shivering in a soaking wet survival bag (the result of breathing in it).

06:30 It's quite sunny by now and it looks warmer out in the sun than it does where I am lying. I get up, other two follow within the next half an hour. We realise the first train of the day isn't until 13:19.

07:50 We hide our stuff behind a wall and set off for Clapham to buy food.

08:10 Buy food from village store. Eat. Doze off in sun on benches outside New Inn.

10:00 Set off back for station.

10:20 Lie on grass by trees, near the station. Doze off in the lovely warm sun.

13:21 Get on train which is 2 minutes late. Change at Leeds.

15:20 Back at York station. Wait 15 minutes for bus back to university.

15:45 Get back to caving garage, pack stuff away.