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A snowy trip to Yorkshire – January 2015

Weather often dictates cave choice in the Dales, but this time it was not so much flooding concerns which narrowed our choice, but the feasibility of getting anywhere, (even escaping the YSS hut) as Yorkshire disappeared under a blanket of snow.

An introduction to Caving Huts (Emerald)

The accommodation was great at the YSS hut, well the first night was anyway. We arrived after a long day driving from South Wales to Yorkshire and also going caving in Sell Gill that same day. The six of us had the hut to our self’s and so we all decided a room each would be the way forward. I decided to look at all the rooms to see which one I wanted for the night and picked the one with a double sized bunk-bed in. This was a bad choice as I couldn’t walk into the room without a couple of layers on and I was dreading going to sleep due to it being so cold. Anyway, the next day we set of and went caving. When we arrived back we had to rearrange the bedrooms and chuck all our stuff in one room. This was a smaller room and was much warmer due to every one’s body heat.

I only brought cereal for breakfast which was fine although I was running out of milk. I managed to make myself cereal and a tea which also left enough for Amy to have cereal and tea as well. However about 20 scouts had arrived during the night before and the fridge was full of different milk’s. My section was separate from everyone else’s yet one of the scouts decided to make a tea and use my milk which I had only just put down. This didn’t amuse me as he knew it wasn’t his milk and he could clearly see that I only just put it back and that I clearly wasn’t a scout.

Later on that day we went caving again and Amy managed to just scrap enough milk for herself to have breakfast. When arriving back to the hut after spending 5 hours underground in freezing weather conditions I decided to make the six of us a tea to warm us up. So I went into the kitchen placed 6 cups in front of the kettle and placed a tea bag in each of them and put the kettle on. Then went away for 5 minutes to sort some stuff out. When coming back to the kettle a man was standing next to me and smiling. I thought he must be a generally happy smiley man. However I realised as he was walking away that he had stolen one of my cups of tea and walked away with it. Another scout which doesn’t understand what’s his and what’s mine.

So overall a very pleasant stay in the YSS hut, someone used my milk with the risk of Amy having no breakfast, another person stole my tea which clearly wasn’t for him and there was also screaming children everywhere even though it was a caving hut not a play pen. Everyone keeps telling me how lucky I was to stay in such a pleasant hut and that it was one of the cleanest huts around. I’ve stayed in better huts if I’m honest but I do blame it on the 20 scouts that was sitting around everywhere and stealing my stuff and the noise of young children every morning running around the hut and into me. I’ve learnt to put labels on everything that’s mine which will make it clear next time around that my stuff is mine.

Ha, ha, Emerald – welcome to the world of caving huts! - Ju

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Sell Gill - fossil route (Amy)

After a long six hour drive, dodging all roads that may have been swamped with water, we arrived in Yorkshire and headed to our first cave of the trip, Sell Gill. The walk to the cave was a steady 20 minute stroll and easy to find.

Once Simon had rigged the first pitch, Emerald, Amy and Ju followed him into the cave with relief as it began to turn cold and snow! As a beginner, trusting my gear to hold my weight was a scary thought, but after a tricky traverse and dangling from the ‘Y’ hang on the second pitch I soon gained confidence in my equipment. We followed Simon down the next two pitches which were reasonable lengths and easy to manoeuvre up and down. Once we reached the bottom of the final pitch, Emerald, Amy and Simon explored around the corner to view a beautiful waterfall before heading back up to meet Ju and ascending up to the entrance. Sell Gill was a brilliant cave to start our four day caving adventure! After a very chilly and windy walk back to the bus we headed to the caving hut, gasping for a cup of tea!

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Bull Pot (Simon)

We awoke on the Friday morning to a cold and snowy Dales. Our plan was for myself, Will, Em and Amy to head up to Kingsdale and take a trip down Bull pot and if we had time Jingling. Both caves were new to the four of us, we were on our own as Juliet was spending the day with Tom on his assessment. As we drove up into the valley the snow was starting to fall heavier as we were passed by another group of cavers making a tactical retreat to lower ground. It was time to make a decision! With the confidence of knowing we had the snow chains in the back, we decided to take our chances and go caving, fearing the alternative, a walk around Ingleton and five cups of tea in Inglesport. Following a snowy walk up behind the escarpment, we located the entrance and after a quick snowball fight we kitted up. I took the lead and rigged the first pitch with Em and Amy following and Will playing “Tale end Charlie” It is always great to be the first down a cave you have never done before, the sense of adventure and reward that comes with making decisions is always a rush, I guess this is why we do what we do. The traverse around the s bend led us to the next pitch head and the decent to the “Slot” pitch., an eye shaped vertical shaft with a re-belay half way down on a very convenient ledge. Rigging the traverse to the final pitch I decided to take the higher line as apposed to a walk through the streamway. This was to prove to be the wrong call as I ran out of rope after the two deviations and 5 meters from the bottom. A quick changeover and I shared the bad news with the others. We then decided to make our way back to the surface with Will de-rigging. Having been underground for a few hours we were surprised to see heavy snow still falling down the first pitch, very pretty. On the surface we were greeted with 6 inches of fresh snow, within 2 minutes it had stopped snowing, the sun came out and we were treated to a wonderful classic dales winter view. With all the fresh snow and Will de-rigging, we prepared our arsenal of snowballs, as soon as his head came into view, we “unleashed Hell” (One for Gladiator fans) Will took it with great humour and we enjoyed a picturesque stroll back to the bus. We had had a great trip and decided not to push our luck by visiting Jingling. Back at the van, we fitted the snow chains and made our way out of the valley without any problems. As we had a bit of spare time we ended up making the obligatory stop off at Inglesport for a cup of tea and the biggest slice of carrot cake I had ever seen. A great day.

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Aquamole (Will)

Overnight the YSS turned from a quite Gagendor retreat into a hive of activity, a few YSS members and a full Scout jamboree! Breakfast time was total chaos, luckily we had come up with a plan the previous evening and all the kit was in the bus so it was just a case of getting out the door. I managed to grab my morning caffeine fix but it became too hectic so I ate my bowl of porridge on the bus.

Ju took the driver’s seat and expertly navigated the snow and ice and got us into Kingsdale. We had chosen to do “Aquamole” again this was a cave that none of us had done (or remembered doing) After a swift walk-in we arrived at a drain cover on top of the scar which luckily was fairly visible.

I had drawn the rigging straw and dropped down the first pitch “the entrance dig”, which was a block work shaft. I felt a bit like a council workman inspecting the sewers, luckily it didn’t come with any nasty smells. With my builders hat on I couldn’t help admire the effort that had gone into creating the entrance but at the same time being glad it wasn’t me laying blocks in the constricted shaft!

The first few pitches were great fun to rig although with the cold weather and the arrival of another group I definitely felt the pressure to move quickly and until everyone was underground I didn’t have much time to look around the cave. Once at the bottom of the “Rabbits Graveyard” pitch we switched to horizontal mode and squirmed our way along some passages that felt quite tight with a big bag in tow. Simon took over the rigging for the next two sections and we ended up at the bottom of the very impressive final pitch, a huge vertical pot around 6 meters across and at least 50 meters deep. The cave ends there for non divers in a large sump. I went up last and looking up at the 50m pitch with a small amount of dread and wondered how long I could hold my breath for... however I wisely decided against the sump. I de-rigged all the way out handing Simon a very large bag of rope to carry out half way through after the wet crawls. The surface was an eventual and welcome sight and it was nice to not be blasted by an onslaught of snowballs!

A fantastic trip and an impressive performance by Amy and Em especially as it was only their second underground SRT Trip

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Lost John’s (Ju)

With Tom and Ju having beaten a hasty retreat from Leck Fell on the Friday morning, icy roads fast being covered by blizzard snows, we knew that the road up onto the moorland would be interesting. However, as the trusty snow chained wheels of our minibus had crunched their way out of an icy Kingsdaleover the past two days, we thought we’d give it a go. Keeping up the revs, we made it past farms and fields and onto Leck Fell plateau, only to find that we’d lost Mr Peacock’s car someway back (Tom had joined us for this final day) and Will was fretting that he’d be marooned on the moor indefinitely! Having stopped, we were going no-where without chains, so we geared up the bus and escorted the two cars to a safer altitude. Our caving trip was far less eventful. Will rigged Centipede route with Em and Ju following, whilst Simon took on Cathedral and Dome pitches, with Amy and Tom in support. Passing at Dome Junction, both teams made an efficient exit – thus we were back at the vehicle by early afternoon, ready to creep (cautiously and a little scarily) off our glacial plateau.

An excellent end to four great days – well done team.