Scott, Tim D, Tom
An unsettled morning saw us parking up at Braida Garth with a minibus full of scouts kitting up for Valley Entrance. With Scott and Tom in wetsuits, the march up the fell was a sweaty lark, with Tim enjoying a pleasant stroll in normal kit on the promise of sacrifices later in the trip. As we neared the entrance, another group of cavers was on our tail and followed us into the cave – oh no, were we going to be double rigging and leapfrogging the whole trip? Were we ‘eck – by the time we’d quickly freeclimbed the 5 Steps we heard them calling Rope Free on the first step.
Scott’s cunning plan for this trip was to take 2x 40m ropes in 2 bags, tying them together for Slit Pot at the bottom when we needed it. As we rigged the first pitch, the plan came crashing down as Tom discovered that not only had he forgotten his Stop, but that the bag he’d picked up was a duff one whose bottom fell out, spilling its ropey contents everywhere. After a couple of pitches carrying 80m of rope in one bag, Tim had an ingenious idea to nip together the break in the bag with a maillon. This worked an absolute treat and we were back on course, with Scott kindly sharing his Stop with Tom or sometimes just Hitching down.
We made good progress and reached everyone’s favourite bit, the Duck. No problems here, particularly for the wetsuit contingent. Onwards and downwards, until we reached Shuffle Pot. Initially we traversed far too high, and although we reached a set of bolts, Tim had a rayt struggle squeezing down the pitch from here. However he soon spotted another set of bolts from a lower ledge, and we realised we could traverse back and then forward at a lower level to reach a much more comfortable hang.
Onwards down to Slit Pot without any drama, and Scott hooked up his double 40m pullthrough rope and headed up to the overhead bypass to Slit Pot. Flawless descent apart from rigging from some maillons on a bit of tat. The descent was pretty damp, and the stream pouring in from Swinsto at the bottom was much more ‘sporting’ than it had been a month ago when we did Swinsto in drought. The final pitch into Great Aven was really hammering, and we crossed our fingers that there hadn’t been a cloudburst outside that had swollen the master cave.
Thankfully the Master Cave was fine, although it had risen enough for a few toboggan slides down in the water for the wetsuit folk who were still nice and toasty at this point. At the roof tunnel pitch, the scouts’ ladder hung as we made an efficient ascent and the usual back-breaking exit from Valley Entrance.