On the drive over to the Dales I stated my prediction to Tash that there was no way the folks staying at the NPC would be ready to go when we arrived at 9:45 - she’d have loads of time for a cup of tea and breakfast. Sure enough when we arrived the packed tackle-sacks were piled up outside, teams for the exchange had been decided, call-outs were on the board, and everyone was stood around expectantly, most already wearing undersuits. Oh well. Tash had a hurried breakfast while the rest of us gossiped away.
I’d not really rigged anything since Pasture Gill a month or two previously, and I find it odd how rapidly I can slip out of my vertical-caving-comfort-zone. Every time I’ve had even a slight break from caving and SRT I notice feeling a little rusty on my return, but it’s reassuring how quickly comfort returns. I’d not done Boxhead for a few years, and I’d forgotton how enjoyable the route is down the Kendal Flyover. Once on the ledge we could hear Gary, and soon spotted his light emerging from the Lost Pot aven and he joined us on the ledge, also dropping a rope to the bottom. In no time at all the ledge was packed full of people from both routes, and we soon lost track of who was where. Aileen, Toby and I were keen for an explore, but the other members’ enthusiasm levels were somewhat lower, most seemingly suffering from the tail ends of colds or flu.
We’d pondered doing the Tate Galleries – Lyle Cavern – Lost Pot Inlet round trip, but none of us had ventured through the Tube before, and although water levels weren’t high, they weren’t especially low either. We followed Clive down to check that there was a rope in place above the Tube (there were two) before going to look at the Tube itself. The chamber and climb just upstream of the Tube didn’t bode well. I was immediately soaked through from the water and spray that was suddenly everywhere, and it didn’t look promising as I looked down the continuing passage. Aileen dropped down to join me and took a closer look, declaring that the significant quantity of water disappearing around the descending tight bend didn’t look greatly appealing. With little or no debate, we elected to go the other way around and see what the Tube looked like from the other side. Perhaps the proximity to our exit route would provide greater encouragement.
Back in the Cresta Run, it was enjoyable to be navigating with a survey I’d found rather than a description. Memories were rusty. We elected for the route via Handshake Crawl and Straw Chamber, the first of which provided me with some entertainment as I wedged myself in for a short while, unable to proceed, retreat, or remove my helmet. Some shuffling later rectified the situation, and we were duly rewarded with the straws the survey promised. We picked up some lost-looking items before the climb into Avens Passage (check the UKCaving lost and found forum if you’ve lost anything here!) and making our way to Lyle Cavern. Toby was in his usual dilemma that his delicate descender couldn’t deal with the fixed ropes, so a slight faff ensued on our descent, before we ventured into what was new territory for us all up Lost Pot Inlet.
We were pleasantly surprised by the caving, and pondered collecting a drag tray and haul line that appeared to have been washed down there, before remembering that we still had the Tube to negotiate and deciding that large pieces of digging paraphernalia probably wouldn’t enhance the experience too much. We quickly arrived at the Tube, which looked infinitely more inviting from below. Aileen shot straight in, and announced that water levels were in fact fine. I followed, and soon heard laughter behind. It’s fair to say that crawls half-filled with water don’t represent Toby’s favourite form of caving, but he’d found he could avoid the whole thing via the narrow slot over the top. I can’t remember the last time I saw him so pleased.
Now a little chilly we made our way out It’s a Cracker. More new passage for us all. I was pleasantly surprised at how different the character of the cave quickly became. I collected some rotting wood and an old drag-tray on my way up and, after briefly mistaking a fixed rope for our route out, elected to wait to make sure Aileen avoided my mistake. She waited at the rope to do the same for Toby as I went on up the next pitch, and after a few minutes waiting at the top I was puzzled to see Toby climbing the rope below me…”Have you and Aileen swapped?”, I shouted down. “No, she’s ahead of me”, came the reply. Oh dear. She certainly wasn’t. Although we didn’t realise at the time, it turned out that while Aileen was waiting to make sure Toby went the right way, he’d taken an alternative route following the water, bypassing her altogether before derigging the next pitch. After a bit of shouting and lowering the rope back down, we all headed out to a picturesque but extremely chilly Leck Fell. Brrrr.
An enjoyable day was topped off with a visit to Tim’s where we thawed (or slept in Toby’s case) in front of the fire, followed by a tasty dinner at the Marton Arms.
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