Boundary Pot and I have a history of failed attempts due to high water and quailing spirits, so I was not over-optimistic when we gathered on Sunday. There had been plenty of dry weather in the past few weeks, but more recent rain. However, the walk up the bed of the beck was encouraging, in fact the pool at Pool Sink was completely empty, which I hadn’t seen before.
Entering the second chamber in the entrance series, I was delighted to hear – nothing! Normally some water either babbles or thunders down the next climb, but it was completely dry – so the trip was on!
We quickly passed the bone-dry ‘Tacklesack passage’, as I think of it, on via Savage’s bypass and into a chamber where at last we heard the sound of water – a bold step over the top of an inlet waterfall is required. This was as far as I’d been before, so from here on, guides (3 of them!) were consulted at every turn, although navigation is actually straightforward at this point.
Passing through Fusion Chamber, with its impressive pitch that we’d bypassed, we soon came to the area round Boxing Day Aven. This was a lovely section of cave – as well as lots of clean stal formations, there were abundant brown crystalline deposits that I was unfamiliar with. At one point, a shelf of this stuff looked like the Grand Canyon in (extreme) miniature. Further on, the passage was divided horizontally by a false floor of crystals. To avoid walking on this, we crawled through the canal beneath it, including a brief complete ducking at the end. Looking back, it was plain that most folk had stayed dry and gone over the top. However our dampness was soon dispelled by a warm glow of self-satisfaction at our top cave conservation conduct!
Before long, the character of the cave changed as we arrived at the large rubble-strewn Hiroshima chamber. There were warnings about unstable boulders here, but we passed without incident, down the scaffolded shaft, traversing upstream in the roof of a rift and following a boulder slope up into Nagasaki chamber, another huge bouldery void. (I imagined having Superman’s height and X-ray vision – the land under Easegill must look like an enormous Swiss cheese!)
At this point, there was some doubt about which way to go on. Eventually Andy’s compass settled the argument and we followed him downslope. A series of climbs, up, down and traversing led to the Assembly Hall, with increasing confidence about the route (though not on my part – had I been leading, I would probably still be there!). Some of the climbs were not without interest, but some in-situ knotted ropes helped out.
From there, we (apparently) followed the White Way to Holbeck junction. At a subsequent climb up, Andy demonstrated the wisdom of not standing beneath a climber when a large flake he was using as a foothold parted company from the wall and narrowly missed Helen. Soon afterwards, we came to a pile of stones beneath a climb and I suddenly, and for the first time, recognised our location: we were at the end of Spiral Staircase passage. From here, it was the familiar meanders and the final gymnastics of the Big Rift to the Wretched Rabbit exit.
Exiting in warm sunshine, I was immensely chuffed to have finally made this trip, found that it more than lived up to my expectations, and it took well under 3 hours underground. And that included a number of photo stops – thanks to Tony for taking the trouble to document the trip.