It wasn't just wet... it was REALLY wet... white water down Kingsdale Beck.
John turned up, snorting about how there was no way we were getting down Rowten today... but having descended Rowten several times in similar conditions I was rather more confident that the Eyehole/Flyover route would be passable.
Progress underground to the bottom of the normal (Eyehole) pitch was expedited by the cold and driving rain on the surface. Gully Route (our original plan) was hidden behind a raging waterfall and shrouded in spray. The noise was deafening!!!
Down at the traverse, I waited patiently as Gary descended first, disappearing into the spray. At this point I was 50/50 whether a descent would be possible, so I was half expecting Gary to turn around and come back up. But after some time, the Rope Free call bellowed up and off we went.
The bottom of the big pitch was horrendous; not the usual wet weather spray, but heavy rain from the torrenting waterfall lashing the balcony by the start of the Flyover route; but perhaps the most noticeable thing was the 40+ mph chilling wind howling at us. It was a painfully cold wait for five minutes, huddled over the pitch head, while Gary completed the Flyover route rigging.
I thought it would be sheltered once off the ledge, but abseiling down the first section of the Flyover route you are hung only 5-6m from the water and the wind, spray and noise was unbelievable. But once at the re-belay you go around a corner away from the waterfall and it was sheltered from the wind.
With our extremities numbed to the bone, it was a relief to get onto the traverse to the final pitch where it was dry and nicely sheltered and we could complete our trip to the bottom in greater comfort.
On the way back out, Gary and I offered to go last and de-rig. We sent the others off out on a 20-minute head start, to avoid us all bunching up at the bottom of the big pitch, not somewhere you would want to wait for more than a few minutes under these conditions. We arranged for the last person up to drop a Krab down the rope to indicate it was free.
After a cold 20 minute wait I set off with instruction from Gary not to stop until the traverse at the top of the big pitch. I was pleased to see a Krab hanging in the loop of rope at the bottom of the big pitch (there was no way I would have heard a rope free call nor could I see up through the spray to tell if anyone was on the rope) so without delay up I went... with the gales, the torrential rain and intimidating roar I didn't stop for my usual rest half way and I belted it up the rope to the relative shelter of the tiny traverse at the top.
From here it was fairly straightforward progress out, where the surface seemed so peaceful and mild by comparison.
A tremendous, dramatic, enjoyable but very cold day out.
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