Boxhead – It’s A Cracker Exchange

James, Dave, Helen, Ray

After a few dropouts and a late entry by Helen, a bold team of 4 set off on this classic Leck Fell exchange. It seemed the perfect opportunity for Dave & James to venture forth on their own, so they entered via Boxhead, while Helen & Ray went in via Cracker. As good as they are, it would be a bit much to expect D&J to rig the Kendal Flyover route in Boxhead at this stage of their careers, so the enterpise was facilitated by Ray pre-rigging earlier in the day.

Both entrances were located relatively easily, relative to previous evening attempts that is. Helen and Ray braved the spiders in the Cracker entrance climb and were soon at the 1st pitch, which Helen rigged. The 2nd deviation is an absolute pig to reach. It’s not that it is a long way off, but there’s nothing to push against to swing over to it. Much hilarity ensued. Helen may see it differently. Ray took over rigging on the 2nd pitch. Luckily there are no deviations, so it went relatively smoothly. The awkward climb on the way to the 3rd pitch seemed more awkward than usual for some reason.

Meanwhile, James & Dave had made short work of descending Boxhead. Knowing this would be the case, they had been armed with a survey of the Tate Galleries and told to go exploring. They would have great fun finding Cresta Run, Crowbar Pitch, Epiglottis Grotto etc… All they had to do was go through the short crawl from the Kendal Flyover ledge and turn right. But what did they do? You’ve guessed it – they turned left, into Venus Dig.

The exchange timing couldn’t have been better. D&J emerged (rather dirtier than before) from their explorations back onto the Flyover ledge just as Ray was rigging the 3rd Cracker pitch. So we all descended our respective final drops at the same time.

After a quick poke around at the bottom everyone exchanged. The old fogies limped out of Boxhead. James & Dave did an excellent job of derigging Cracker, which should have taken considerably longer. On exiting Boxhead, Ray popped into Cracker to see if they needed any help, only to find James already at the top of the 1st pitch! Well done guys.

This was the perfect evening SRT trip and marked a big step up for 2 of our newer members. With a bit more rigging practice they will be able to lead us all on some great trips. But they do need some tuition in how to read surveys…

Photos by Dave.


Notts Pot (Twilight Zone)

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:

Notts II

Dave, James, Scott, Tom

Blighted with yet more damp weather and with enthusiasm running low for Low Douk, a reschedule to Notts II for an easy pre-Christmas trip was made. 

On getting down to the streamway it was flowing pretty hard, and with rain still falling we didn’t fancy spending too much time in it. We headed up to Digby Spode’s, then up to the flood escape route.

James led the way having been through on the last trip, followed by Dave for his first squeezy stuff which he thrived on. I made slow but steady progress right until the very end with the sound of the stream tantalisingly close – a rib in the ceiling stopped me in my tracks. James bravely returned with a digging rock and we hacked at the muddy floor to create just enough room to slither through while kicking at Scott for foot purchase. 

A quick rinse in the main streamway and Scott’s measuring rock showed the water had risen a couple of centimetres in the time it took us to do that short loop – definitely wise to have not gone any further. A speedy route for the exit (entrance series was super drippy) and out for 8:20 – must be a recent record for a Weds evening trip.

Photos by Dave

Lost Johns (Dome-Centipede exchange)

Tom, Scott, Pete, Matt, Claire, Dave, Ray

A great evening making new acquaintances and renewing some old ones. Matt was making a return to KCC after several years away. Claire, who is an experienced caver, was on her 3rd KCC trip. Dave was on his 2nd ever caving trip.

The 1st order of business was to split into 2 groups. Luckily Claire is a dab hand at organising 😉 Team Centipede consisted of Scott, Pete & Claire. Team Dome was Tom, Matt, Dave & Ray. Due to the wind chill, the various riggers set off sharpish (Scott for Centipede, Tom & Matt for Dome) while the rest of us got changed. Eventually getting underground was a very welcome break from the bitter surface conditions.

Everyone romped across the traverse in fine style and the teams parted ways at the top of Dome. Dave & Ray caught up with Tom & Matt on the 3rd pitch. The descent of Dome went very smoothly indeed, with Tom doing a fine job of rigging the whole thing. There wasn’t even any audible whimpering when it came to swinging into the window on Dome pitch.

Obviously Team Centipede were waiting at Dome Junction when the other team arrived. We had a sociable few minutes of chat before making our way out. Everyone exchanged. Matt derigged Centipede, while Claire derigged Dome. It all seemed to go smoothly and we were all back on the freezing cold surface in no time.

Thanks to all riggers and deriggers who made the trip go incredibly smoothly indeed. Special mention must go to Dave. He absolutely smashed it, given that this was his 1st real SRT trip and 2nd cave overall.

Deaths Head Hole

Darren, James, Scott, Tom

Freeeezing tonight, with the ground frozen and a reluctant turnout of 4 for this big pitch classic.

We rigged off the dodgy-feeling new ground spikes and Darren lead the way on to the big 64m entrance shaft. We then headed down the dig to the master cave including some efficient rigging from Darren on some slightly too short ropes. 

After reaching the final drop to the master cave we headed back out, no dramas just sweating. Back at the surface it was just very lightly snowing (or frozen mist or something) but the heat we’d made on the prussik back up made this refreshing. Back at the cars for 9:30!

Notts II

Claire, Steve, Tom, Yolanda

Report by Tom

Claire joined us for her second trip with the club, and Steve for his third. Classic trip to see Curry Inlet, with Chocolate Orange and Pringles provided by our leader Yolanda. She needs to lead more trips!

Report by Yolanda

Notts 2 is perhaps my all-time favourite cave. It was one of the first caves I ever did, and I clearly remember the wonder of seeing calcite formations for the first time. Since then, I have persuaded friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and my brother into this cave as part of my Notts 2 evangelism. On Saturday, I added Steve and Claire to my list of converts.

The entrance to Notts 2 is underneath a metal trapdoor a few meters from the road (one of the seldom mentioned perks of Notts 2 is that there’s no need to trudge for miles across a muddy moor in order to reach the cave). Steve looked slightly apprehensive when he realised the first part of the cave involved about 70 meters of climbing down scaffolding, but was persuaded by either the promise of a calcite waterfall and/or a chocolate orange at the bottom of the cave. After the scaffolding, there followed the usual bit of slithering before the cave opened out into a large streamway. We took a leisurely stroll along the stream, admiring the stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, and calcite curtains. Best of all is the calcite waterfall – five meters high, and as white as snow.

Enthusiastic cavers, beautiful formations, a sunny day, and a bacon sandwich from the burger van on the way home… what more could you want from a day out? Thanks Tom, Steve, and Claire for joining me on a trip to one of the world’s loveliest caves!

Lost Johns – Centipede training

Amber, Maz, Rhod, Tom

Another rescheduled trip due to the weather, Smeltmill Beck was rightly called off! We hastily organised a replacement leisurely SRT trip into Lost Johns, with Amber having completed indoor SRT training with Ray and raring to try it out underground. 

After a delayed start from a grim Leck Fell we made the short commute to the entrance. The stream was peaty brown and a little up, but nothing to be concerned about so we headed in to where the routes diverge. An entertaining/spooky traverse in the roof led to the New Roof Traverse, with the worst bits over Hole No. 1 roped up. 

We quickly found ourselves at the head of Hammer pitch, and Amber had a quick recap of how to get on the rope and made her way down like a pro, followed by the rest of us. Onwards to Mud pitch, and yet again a flawless descent by everyone. After a quick peer over the edge of Centipede and switching gear over we started to make our way out, with rain forecast to arrive about 10. Once again everyone performed valiantly on the ascents, and Rhod de-rigged. It was pouring rain by the time we reached the surface, and everyone except me enjoyed a luxury change out of the grim weather in the back of their vans 😑

Notts Pot – Centre Route

Claire, Scott, Tom, Paul

Originally planned as a Bye George trip, Scott then actually read the description a couple of days before and decided against it with the recent weather. A quick reschedule to Notts was taken up by Tom, prospective member Claire (an experienced caver) and, on the day, a nice chap called Paul. He’d turned up for a meet with his club (who shan’t be named for legal reasons) and had grown impatient at their ongoing wining and dining in Inglesport Cafe! We happily invited him, having 4 tackle bags between 3 people – the extra hand was very welcome.

We headed down the first few pitches at breakneck speed with Scott rigging. At the start of the lower streamway pitches however, progress became a little more sedate, with Tom’s promise of rigging the remainder quickly being abandoned due to laziness. Scott took the reins for the first awkward rift rig, but for the second one Tom stepped up and finally put some legwork in. The last big pitch was a really enjoyable rig, and we ambled down the final pitch on in-situ ropes left over from the Three Counties Traverse still in place.

After a snack break by the sump, the long ascent began, with Paul very kindly offering to de-rig the whole cave. Getting off the upper big pitch of the lower streamway into the awkward rift proved a struggle for all of us, but once past this it was plain sailing back up the lovely Centre Route, to emerge into the chilly drizzle. Just over 5 hours in total, and a fantastic trip for us all.

It’s A Cracker

Darren, James, Tom

Just three for this fantastic evening trip to one of Darren’s favourites, It’s A Cracker. By the end of the evening it was one of Tom and James’ favourites too.

We headed in with some of Darren’s site lights for a bit of photography, especially enjoying Park Bench Pitch.

Notts II

James, Maz, Pete, Rhod, Tom

Planned as an SRT trip up and over the bottom sump of Notts II to visit Notts III, we made our way down to find the streamway pretty powerful, which was surprising given there’d been no rain for a couple of days. Shows how much fell last week.

After a couple struggled down the water spout climb into the bottom chamber, we decided to sack it off given the job of getting the rest of the crew safely back up it on the way out, and instead had a long wander upstream to see the classic delights of Curry Inlet. 

On the way out, James and Rhod were dispatched to the flood bypass route for some muddy squeezing while the rest of us met them at the other side, and made our way out to a nippy night.