Cavers: Chris Scaife, Alex Ritchie, James Carlisle
Always in our thoughts: Don Miller
The process leading up to this trip has been a long, drawn out one. I tried to do this cave with James last year, but found the entrance blocked with loose rocks. We notified the CNCC, then two days of conservation work were undertaken to make some major changes to the entrance. Last week, I went along to check the entrance with Daz, Sahil, Carol and Oscar. There was still a large rock blocking the way on, but everything else was reasonably stable, so I lifted that rock – I suppose, like Hercules or one of those fellas – and declared the cave good to go.
I’d bottomed this cave back in 2008, and been on the Veg Inlet round trip (not recommended, as most of the trip is spent trying hard not to damage the delicate formations all around you) in 2014. Alex had been on that 2014 trip and James had never been past the loose entrance. Poor old Don had been as far as the Bosch Rift once before and was eager to do it all again, but then went and moved house this week so couldn’t join us. Maybe in the 2030s we’ll all go again with him.
The new entrance pipe has a bar for a rope, but frankly if you need a rope for this bit you’re not going to like the rest of the cave. We shimmied down and were into a crawl, pushing tackle sacks out in front. After a few narrow sections we reached the first pitch, a free climb, immediately followed by the second. We put a handline on as it’s narrow and awkward at the top. This was followed by the notorious Bosch Rift, which has repelled many a good caver in the past, and claimed another scalp today as James decided to turn back here. Just two of us now. I’ve never found Bosch Rift particularly hard to squeeze through, but pushing a tackle sack in front is a real pain. As is having a light that keeps falling off your helmet.
More narrow stuff followed before the third pitch, then an awkward squeeze that I had completely forgotten about – Alex had to take off his SRT kit mid-squeeze – and we were into University Challenge. It’s a good name for this rift, as route finding and rigging in here throws up all sorts of intellectual quandaries.
Much of the rest of the cave is spent traversing above large drops, free climbing with faith, and rigging off flakes that may not appeal to the sort of cissy who has a hissy fit when they don’t see a nice clean Y-hang from P bolts. As one of our ropes had not made it through Bosch Rift, we stopped at the final pitch, not far from the sump. It didn’t look very free-climbable to me, despite what the Black Book says.
On the way out, our months without hard caving, and my sleepless first months of fatherhood, were taking their toll. Alex made a dignified ascent of the second pitch, without any screaming and swearing, as far as I remember. But my memory isn’t great these days. The tackle sacks were a pain to push through Bosch Rift and beyond, but we were soon back into the World, where James greeted us. Since leaving us he’d been to the first pitch in Hardrawkin and then done High Douk, making him the winner.
Later, we sat in the sun in the beer garden of the Marton Arms, just like in the halcyon days of a long-ago summer before Covid-19 ruined everything.
My memory is not very good either, I seem to recall stripping off my oversuit when stood on a narrow ledge half way up the second pitch. It’s bloody hard to reverse that bugger, next time I will use my hand jammer as an extra hand and foothold. Hardest bit of the cave in my opinion at least according to my crap memory.
My memory tells me there was also lots of swearing from one of us in Bosche Rift but it could be wrong too ;)
Yes, my light unfastened itself from my helmet several times in Bosch Rift. It did worse than that yesterday though – the battery fell off the back.
Yeh that’s what mine has done a while back, into 3ft deep water no-less. I had to go fishing. Luckily I was not alone at the time, so I was not fishing in darkness.