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Author: James "Hard Cavin'" Armstrong
Present: James Armstrong, Seamus Breathnach, TJ Connolly, Aileen Connor, Damien Datry, Gaelan Elliffe, Tony Furnell, John Gilbert, Roisín Lindsay, Conál McCartan, John McManus, Eoghan Mullan.
On Saturday 14th, the band of 5 cavers (John, Damien, Roisín, Eoghan and I) left Belfast and embarked on our long journey to the Yorkshire Dales. Those who were lucky enough to be in Roisín's car were exposed to her cheese-tastic collection of 80's pop for over 4 hours. After arriving and leaving our bags at the ironically named Dump (Buckingham palace compared with the Hoo), we met up with TJ and stocked up on food and alcoholic beverages at Booth's. John told us about how this trip was going to be all about "The 3 H's: Hard drinkin', hard cavin' and hard ridin'." Back at the Dump we had heard tell of a cave diver's social at the local pub, the Helwith Bridge. An executive decision was made to crash the party and "show them how to drink." We achieved this goal, and by 5am when the party was fading out, the taps were all empty. The remaining Queen's drinkers decided to leave at this milestone, but strangely none remember how they got back to the Dump. An unsolved mystery.
Sunday morning didn't exist as far as we were concerned, and it set the standard for the rest of the week. I got up early afternoon, but as few others had ventured from the bedroom, I promptly went back to bed. We finally had breakfast at 5pm, and John announced his grand plan of doing two caves that day, Jingling and Swinsto. After threats of a mutiny led by Roisín, it was decided to only do Swinsto. On arrival to the valley, Eoghan and John marched off to rig the exit of this pull-through trip. Damien, Roisín, TJ and I climbed the hill to the entrance to find that they had not brought ropes, and neither had we. So it was back down the hill and back up with the ropes. At 8 o'clock we finally entered Swinsto Hole. The cave was a fantastic introduction to a week of caving, and soon cheered up those who were not in good spirits after a day of faffing about. There were plenty of big waterfalls to negotiate, and the SRT provided a lot of fun, particularly for the Yorkshire newbies. After our exit at 1am, needless to say not much partying happened that night.
Monday saw another lie-in, but don't be fooled by that, a hard day of caving followed. It was decided to go to the spectacular Alum Pot. We rigged it in 3 groups and then swapped over routes for the way back. Eoghan, Damien, Roisín and I took the Dolly Tubs route, John Gilbert and Gaelan who had just arrived took Diccan route, while "Frank" and Tony took the Southeast route. I decided to take the Southeast route back up with its two huge pitches because it looked simply awesome, and was joined by Roisín and John Gilbert. It turned out to be a lot more tiring than expected but the view from near the top, hanging over a huge abyss was worth it. Afterwards was a late night for some with the party in the sitting room going on until 6am
By Tuesday the caving was beginning to gain some momentum, with most people doing two caves today, Rowten Pot and Jingling Pot. Things ran smoothly, despite Tony forgetting his wellies and having to drive to the Dump and back to retrieve them. Rowten Pot had some exciting SRT, including some free-hanging rebelays, and a precarious high level traverse over a 40 metre drop. A certain fresher learnt that putting the rope bag on ones back is not the wisest of ideas, particularly when it comes to free-hanging rebelays. Jingling Pot was a much shorter trip, but still good craic. We arrived back at the dump to find Conál had appeared, looking like death after a weekend of moshing at Download festival and a day of tough caving.
Tuesday night had heavy rain, but despite early doubts we decided to go caving. Amy, Eoghan and I were led through Lancaster hole by Gareth, while most the rest of the rabble visited Bull Pot. Both caves had very wet pitches, as could be guessed from the smell of the drying room the next day. The Lancaster team, after seeing some huge chambers and 5 metre tall columns, decided to turn around and make an early exit after seeing the water level rise with concerning speed. That night everyone attempted to have a little social drink in the sitting room, but in reality most people were asleep on the sofas within half an hour, after drinking one can of beer.
On Thursday Gaping Ghyll was our cave of choice, and was a bit of a hike to get to. Sadly the direct route was too wet to be descended, so we rigged flood and bar pot. After the pitches both teams converged and pushed our way through to the main chamber, somehow losing Roisín along the way. She turned up 15 minutes later, covered in mud. No questions were asked. The main chamber resembled a huge cathedral, with a shaft connecting it to the surface. Tony and Conál took advantage of the shower facilities that the waterfall provided. We then visited Mud Hall, almost as big, and as the name suggests, very dirty. Inevitably, Damien and Gaelan instigated a mud fight, which escalated so much that even John told us off. On the way out of the cave, we swapped routes for derigging, before the arduous downhill journey to the cars.
Friday saw Gaelan, Seamus, Aileen, Roisín and Damien visit Ireby Fell cavern, which was a short trip to the final sump. Tony and John Gilbert went for an explore around the West Kingsdale Master Cave and after much debate, John McManus and Eoghan tackled Pen-y-ghent Pot. John made sure to tell us his last will and testament before leaving and since they only left at 6pm they were not expected back at any reasonable hour. The others had a nice wee day off visiting Bernie's and eating tea and crumpets.
Saturday was the last day of caving for most, except John who was still traumatised from Pen-y-ghent. Myself, Damien, Conál, Roisín and Gaelan went to Sell Gill. We rigged both the dry route and the Goblin route. We found the dry route far from dry, and the Goblin route resembled a torrent. Prussiking up the waterfall however was a highlight of the week, although it made the walk back a bit miserable for those in a cordura suit. That evening, we celebrated our caving successes with a meal at the Indian restaurant in Settle, followed by a major piss-up at the Helwith Bridge, with the trail of destruction later moving back to the Dump. I won't write about what happened to Gaelan's whisky bottle for fear of what might happen to me, but I will say that it was a fairly rough night.
Sunday as expected was a day spent lying in the increasingly smelly bedroom. Later on John and Eoghan went on a mission to retrieve a renegade rope bag from Aquamole Pot while the rest of us played about on the practice rope in the dump, trying mid-rope rescues. Nobody could bring themselves to drink much of the leftover beer from the night before. Monday was home time for the remaining cavers, and the journey was spent sleeping and reading a wide range of magazines, from Nuts to National Geographic.
A great trip all-in-all, but sadly for John, he only got 2 of his "3 H's".