Saturday 22nd May - Gypsum Tripsum
The rain gauges warned of recent heavy rain, and the forecast hinted at unpredictable conditions (the lightning cloud with rain and sun symbol is a fine bit of iconography). Unwilling to engage in a breath holding competition I wracked my brain for some safe wet weather caving. I cunningly suggested Easegill, which has the appearance of decisive decision making but still leaves the actual nitty gritty of which section of the 60km long cave to do to someone else. Luckily we had in our ranks the formidable intellect of Clive who suggested a trip to Gypsum Caverns, to which Cecilia and I gladly agreed, and to get there by laddering County Pot, to which Cecilia and I more apprehensively agreed.
Clive drove us over. He and Cecilia discussed their classical music preferences. I have nothing to say on this matter so I contented myself with sheep watching. I saw two lambs standing on top of another sheep so I think I spent my time more rewardingly. The unpredictable weather seemed quite happy to remain mostly pleasant as we changed and walked over. The streams and fell did not seem particularly sodden.
We briefly encountered some Cambridgites at the entrance but they graciously allowed us to go first and we mostly avoided each other in the cave.
On the laddered pitches Cecilia and I knew it would be futile to attempt to hide the depth of our ignorance and so gladly accepted many pro caver tips from Clive. I was at least able to belay using an Italian hitch using the excellent mnemonic "Never cross an Italian, never fold a clove". It was an educational experience all round for me as I previously had not seen the excellent technique for getting into Spout hall unwetted, and did not know where the dry bypass was, both of which Clive demonstrated.
We each clambered up Poetic Justice, a shoulder offered here and there, and plunged rapidly down to Eureka Junction. Once again we noted that the previous day’s rain hadn’t made a noticeable difference to the stream level which was decidedly nominal. We headed upstream following Clive. He “refreshed” his memory on the dry bypass by exhaustively pointing out all the ways we shouldn't go before leading us the correct way.
The route to Holbeck Junction was a boulderer’s delight. Clive led us traversing around the stream and across the abundant Easegill boulder melange. Freed from the burden of navigation I appreciate the physicality of caving, moving from one perch to another, foot wedged here and there, fingers grasped on this hold or that.
As we approached Gypsum Cavern Clive engaged turbo mode and shot off into the distance. The reason for his speed was clear when Cecilia and I rounded the corner to a ceiling full of sparkling straws, lit from behind. We paused briefly and, hearing from Clive that the chamber floor also used to be covered in crystals, lamented the lack of conservation tape in the past.
I extracted a cobweb ridden camera kit and I attempted to remember how to take photos on our way out. Clive and Cecilia were very obliging models and I enjoyed finding at least some muscle memory remained.
As a final extension we came back via Razor passage with Clive once again in the lead. He deftly avoided any navigational difficulties and we were soon on the surface.
Sunday 23rd May - Notts For The Faint Hearted
We were joined by Jack for the Sunday trip and we were all keen for a bit of string dangling. With the forecast still unsettled we opted for a classic Notts trip. Jack had never been to the bottom and Cecilia had somehow never been at all so it was a novelty for them.
We picked the Twilight Zone route and packed 4 bags, making sure that one of them was comically large and overfull. Leck Fell was unusually hospitable so we changed and wandered over. Clive walked unerringly there following neurons burnt in by many exploratory dives and we half followed, half used our patented horizontal gate post technique.
I began the rigging and it was smooth sailing most of the way down. A pitch or two above three ways chamber I dropped the rigging guide down a shaft we were not descending. In the spirit of leaving no trace I bounced down to get it. Despite this effort I did not look at the rigging guide.
Just above three ways chamber I realised we were a couple of metres short of actually being able to land in the chamber. I fastened myself to a bolt and called up to Jack to work some magic. A few minutes later about 5 metres of rope appeared, no big deal. I was quite please with us working past this difficulty. As I waited for the other I consulted the "rescued at much effort" rigging guide. I had a think. I had a look in my rope bag. I had another think. Realisation came. I had a whole extra rope to rig the final traverse and hang into the chamber which I had not used. Luckily the others passed me by so swiftly that they did not notice me sitting conspicuously in front of an extra rope.
Jack took over the rigging, hounded by Clive, whilst Cecilia and I came up with new words for “Puff the Magic Dragon”:
Dave the magic caver,
Frolicked in the dark below,
Rock walls all around,
Little Jimmy fresher,
Loved that potholer,
Brought him slings and locking krabs,
And all that rigging gear,
Together they would travel,
To places with no name,
Jimmy shivered in a bag,
The bottom was Dave’s aim,
Caves last forever,
Not so caver’s knees,
Bouldered halls and cobbled crawls,
Often fail to please,
One grey night it happened,
Jimmy fresher caved no more,
And Dave that mighty caver,
Fled across the moor
Dave hung his head in sorrow,
Maillons fell like rain,
Dave no longer went to play,
On surface terrain,
Without his caving friend,
He could not be brave,
So that old explorer,
Sadly slipped into his cave
The final pitches were suitably moist and we sheltered in the tube to the downstream sump. Clive pointed out the dive line attached to a bolt that he had placed before any of us were born.
We had a Cecilia powered derig and we exited to a Leck Fell returning to normality, threatening horizontal rain. We were quickly changed and off the hill before it made good on the threat.