Not fancying the cave and the weather on offer for the club’s Saturday trip me and Dan decided to do our own trip, Grange Rigg, which neither of us had done in a long time. It also has the advantage of all the rope fitting into one bag.
Despite there being plenty of snow on the ground and lots of wet weather recently, we figured it would be dry enough due to all the water being frozen up there and the temperatures would not be warmer then zero all day.
So up we went, as usual despite the below zero temperatures we were soon overheating and were removing articles of our clothing on the way. We found the entrance instantly so no time wasting there so for once we were underground before 11am (10:30)!
We kitted up inside the walking height entrance passage and I went ahead to the top of the first pitch. I rigged off a combination of P-bolts and a very very old I-bolt which I tested first of course. We dropped down at the end of the traverse just in-case it got warm outside, the current water levels was quite low but not completely dry like my last trip.
Second pitch we rigged off a thread and after a little bit of searching I found a “P” high up on the right to keep us out of the water, again rigging for potential high water levels. Downstream there was some crawling and walking before we reached a hole under calcite in the water. Of course Dan was not pleased about this, however I found if I chucked the bag into the water first, you can easily crawl over it and stay relatively dry.
At the 3rd pitch Dan free climbed down the first drop as it was easier and I rigged behind him to help on the return, before free climbing the top half myself. We bypassed the 4th pitch and crawled along beyond, a bit concerned about the described straddle over a deep hole. However when we reached it, we found some nice person had rigged a traverse line over it. Though the hole is not any more difficult then the “pit” in Simpsons pot. The anchors for the 4th pitch alternative go straight down the tight bit rather than carrying on into the big open section beyond, why? For the extra challenge of course! There was in-situ rope here too but it appeared jammed on something so we used the 4th pitch rope we brought. The 8m climb below was also rigged with in-situ rope but was only useful for tackle hauling. (20m rope would do the pitch and the climb).
The crawl was next, annoying with bags but nothing difficult and we were soon in large walking passage, which abruptly ended at a climb and some slightly awkward squeezes between boulders. At this point the cave became very pretty but my camera was not playing ball, too much condensation.
The 5th pitch was free climbed, Dan did not think it was possible but I remembered where to climb down from many years ago (traverse round the corner on the right). The 6th pitch did not have anything to rig off near the pitch-head so we used a thread miles back. It took quite a of faffing was get my 10m rope to reach the bottom! Nevertheless we managed to bend physics and got down the pitch, making use of a P well out over the pitchhead.
Now for the challenge, on a trip more than 5 years ago, Rob was turned back an “impassible” boulder choke that separates this cave from Pay Sank/P5. I took my SRT off expecting to put in on a minute later, assuming it was blocked as recorded. The gap against the left hand wall, which was suppose to be the way through was ludicrously tight, impassible even. However to the right there a slightly larger square shaped hole between boulders, this I entered feet first.
I made it through without too much difficulty, but beyond the hole there was another squeeze to regain the stream, an awkward L shaped squeeze again not massively tight but you got to be a bendy lad like me. A bit of a grovel in the stream I was soon in a small chamber. Thinking I was in Pay Sank now, I whooped and invited Dan through. He valiantly managed to slip his hips into the hole but could not get his chest through and aborted. I quickly realised that I was not yet in Pay sank, when I was unable to find the climb up, so I looked around for the continuation. A claustrophobic water-filled tube seemed like the only way on. At first I thought the tube was sumped so I turned back, but finding no other way I pushed on through, finding at the end the water blocked by rocks that I swiftly removed to make the return more pleasant. Now satisfied I was definitely in Pay Sank final chamber with a foamy sump in-front of me and a climb up on the left I ate a celebratory Pepperami, before returning to Dan.
On the 6th pitch, I managed to drop one of my crabs swiftly followed by the bag, luckily Dan was out of the way as he was looking for the crab. I went down and sent Dan up less I drop anything else! (And to search for the crab). Having found the well hidden crab we swiftly made an exit until we reached the narrow 8m climb below the 4th pitch alt. Dan really struggled here as he doggedly decided not to take his SRT kit off. Struggling to understand how even managed to get up there and listening to him pant like a rabid dog, I decided to strip off my SRT kit off and climbed it easily.
The 3rd pitch was fun on the return, it took me 3 attempts to get off it backwards trying to find the right spot. The big difference this time of course was there was no swearing, no shouting, no nothing this time, unlike many MANY years ago I was actually enjoying the trip. Dan got off the pitch by removing his SRT kit while wedging himself in the rift about the pitch, what a hero.
We were soon out to one of the most breathtaking sunsets I have ever seen. The snow was dancing in the wind creating pink haze in-front of a deep red sunset. I would have taken a photo but the wind-chill was at least 10 below and I had already lost the feeling in my fingers.
Fantastic trip, well recommended, it has a bit of everything.
We’re all waiting with bated breath for the next instalment…
Okay it’s done.
Sounds like a very romantic trip. Did you Dan hold hands and cuddle while watching the snow dancing in the wind, creating a pink haze in front of the beautiful deep red sunset?
We might had done, but as my hands were so cold I would not have felt it.
Maybe that’s for the best.
We did hold hands and then went for a romantic meal for two at Alex’s local.
Couple of corrections…I’m sure that rusty, bendy thing you rigged of was an extremely old piton, not an I bolt and probably not recommended!
Also, re-reading the NFTFH description describes the route to the drainpipe (what you called the claustrophobic water filled tube) as been accessed via the squeeze down the left hand wall (and not the squeeze between the boulders). I never tried the left hand wall way…did you give it a go before taking your route Alex? Was it worse? It didn’t look nice.
Still not sure how the last pitch was meant to be rigged. Need to buy some more laminating pouches!
Left hand route looked way too small, I think the rocks have shifted since the book was written. P.s. I got your chest strap.
Awesome, thought I’d left it in the cave.