Claire, James, Dave, Ray
The best… and worst… of winter caving. To be honest, I didn’t give us much chance of getting up Leck Fell Lane, given the prevalent snow and ice. So much so that I’d packed the ropes in such a way that we could easily decamp to Jingling. So the real question in my mind was whether we would even be able to get up into Kingsdale. When we got to the bottom of LFL, there was no sign of James, who was travelling independently of the rest of us. This meant that either he hadn’t arrived yet, or he had come in is pickup and breezed up onto the fell, leaving us with a bit of a problem when we came to the inevitable impassable section. But, surprisingly, no such impasse occurred. The road was relatively clear with just a few icy sections to navigate. We decided not to think about coming back down.
So there we all were in -7 C, regretting the decision to cave at all, but reluctantly getting changed anyway. The walk up to Notts Pot started unpleasantly cold, but we largely warmed up on the stomp up the fell… apart from my hands, which didn’t thaw out until well underground. It would have taken quite a while to find the entrance, had it not been for the GPS we had brought along, GPS in hand, James thankfully led us straight there. A quick rigging of the entrance pitch soon saw us all underground and rapidly warming up. Ray forged on ahead to rig the short climb and then the pitch down into Three Ways Chamber, where we could all regroup. Well, Ray and Claire regrouped… and waited… and waited. No sign of the other 2, so Claire eventually reascended the pitch to search for the others, while Ray set off to start rigging Twilight Zone.
Claire and the others eventually arrived as Ray was close to finishing rigging the initial traverse over Left Hand Route. Apparently Dave & James had somehow managed to get lost in the entrance passage. I didn’t even know that was possible. But, given James’s affinity for pushing into scrotty holes, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.
The rest of the descent went reasonably smoothly. There was the usual time wasted trying to find the deviation on the first drop, marked on the CNCC topo. As the CNCC’s own description states, this is either non-existent or impossible to find. Certainly I’ve never found it. This leads to the 2nd bit of time wasted trying to swing directly over to the y-hang above the next drop, before the usual admitting defeat and instead using the traverse on LH Route to reach the same y-hang. This traverse is actually one of the highlights of the trip, so it would be a shame to miss it out. The 3rd obligatory bit of time wasting is in deciding which window to swing into on the next drop. I don’t do this trip often enough to remember, so invariably start swinging about much too high. On locating the correct window the rest of the route down to the Lower Streamway was plain sailing.
Claire, then Dave, then James were soon down in the Lower Streamway too. No-one seemed to have any issues with the descent, despite it being quite a technical route. Dave, in particular, did very well, having only been caving for a few months. Not bad, given that he largely taught himself SRT from YouTube videos!
Being an evening trip, we had no intention of going lower than the Lower Streamway, so there was nothing else for it but to set off out. Claire volunteered to do the derigging, so Ray set off first, planning to wait at the difficult traverse to watch Dave & James and offer helpful advice. In the event, the helpful advice went something along the lines of: ” Now, the thing to do here is… Oh, you’ve done it” or “You’ll need to face the other way here… Or you could just make it look really easy facing that way, as you’ve just done.” Ever felt redundant?
Surely I at least had something to offer in terms of helpful derigging advice for Claire? Absolutely not. It was a very slick operation indeed. Not even a hint of swearing at tackle sack or rope.
We all regrouped in Three Ways Chamber again, before the final push out into the arctic wasteland. The surface pitch was surprisingly hard to prussik, being absolutely encrusted in ice. But we all did manage to reach the surface. By the time we reached the cars we were all absolutely frozen stiff, requiring combined tactics to remove various items of kit/clothing. Dave & Ray decided to not even bother getting changed.
This was an absolutely outstanding trip with a great bunch of people. As James, Dave & Claire are all relatively new members of KCC, it seems clear that the future of the club looks very bright indeed.
Some photos courtesy of Dave & Ray:
And, finally, a caption competition: