Cavers: Chris Scaife, Don Miller, Camping Daz
Until Friday afternoon, we were set to be a group of five, so we planned an exchange trip, but with all the pain and suffering in the world these days the numbers dropped to just three, so we adjusted our plans accordingly – a simple SRT trip down Centre Route and the Lower Streamway.
On arrival at the shakehole, in stark contrast to last weekend, there was hardly any water flowing into the entrance. Daz rigged the first pitch with grace and a knowing smile, then we all danced our way down the handline climb after the flat-out crawl. Last week this part of the cave had been a Poseidon Adventure; this time we were struggling to find anywhere to moisten our tackle, as it were. Daz once again showed courage and poise as he deftly rigged the pitch into Three Ways Chamber, where Don made the startling revelation that he had brought a 30m rope for the next pitch, not the 40m suggested in the rigging guide.
Nonetheless, perhaps bolstered by Daz’s legendary stoicism, and employing some highly economical rigging, Dr Miller was able to achieve the impossible and reach the bottom. His exemplary rigging led us down, down the Centre Route and, thanks to Daz’s repeated shouts to avoid the hole in the floor, we were saved the indignity of grovelling through the duck. Had Don forgotten to avoid the hole, or somehow failed to heed Daz’s oft-stated advice, the duck would have been easy as pie. Not low airspace at all, but we’d have been soaked to the skin.
The final rigging duties in our threesome fell to yours truly and I hesitate to discuss myself in a trip report, never feeling entirely comfortable with the notion of one blowing one’s own trumpet, as it were, so I shall do my best merely to state the facts in a dispassionate manner. The beginning of the traverse above the Lower Streamway was right up in the ceiling, atop a bigger climb up than any of us expected or remembered (we had all been there before, just not in recent years). The pitch at the end of the traverse was then rigged with a wide Y-hang, using a deviation on the right wall to avoid rope rub. This was followed by a rising traverse to an exposed Y-hang. I attached a sling to this Y-hang to help on the return journey and then we went all the way down to the sump, or at least the little side passage just above the sump, via another traverse and short pitch.
Daz bravely raced out to Three Ways Chamber, where he set up camp and cooked himself a meal as part of his Berger training, leaving us losers to derig and discuss show business. Frankly, I can’t think of a better cave in the country for Berger training, with its traverses and pitches and all that jazz. Daz will do himself proud out there.
Just to explain how I rigged the hang for the pitch at the end of the first traverse in the Lower Streamway:
The pitch head is a narrowish hole in the floor of the traverse, with P-bolts on either side of the traverse just before the hole and another P-bolt on the right wall after the hole. I rigged a Y-hang from the first bolt on the left and the bolt on the other side of the hole, with a deviation sling from the P-bolt on the right wall before the hole.
What a wonderfully coherent account of our adventurous trip down to the sump. It was very enjoyable. Both the report and the trip.
I very briefly want to add something. The original plan was to do an exchange between the BT route and Centre route. As only three people showed up on Saturday morning though, we decided to do Centre down to the sump, and then Scaife and I would do BT on the way out. In the end we didn’t, mainly because of a mixture of time and tiredness. I did, however, crawl – without tackle – to the head of the first pitch, which had four new bolts in place. I’m assuming that the other pitches have been bolted as well. If the route truly is deserving of its name (bloody tight), then the tight section must start below the first pitch as the section leading from Three Ways to the first pitch was not difficult at all.