Mark R, TomTom
Rowter farm was back to being pleasant again, with the field approaching what some would call dry. After a quick spot of dinner in the field the two of us headed off to Rowter, for once mildly unladen! Our tasks for the evening consisted of retrieving the dye sensor placed on Monday, to widen the pitch at the CrystalOrechasmready for bolt climbing, investigate some other bolt climb leads, and to time how long it actually takes to get down the cave these days. We headed down the entrance shaft at more or less 6:40pm and went to investigate the dye situation at Hypothermia. There wasn't any sign of dye and the cave was back to its none hippy boring brown colour. Mark took a few holiday snaps to prove that the cave wasn't forever techno colour and then we headed on our merry way down.
At the top of Two Left Wellies there was still a slight green tinge to the water coming through, obviously the water slowly makes its way down from Hypothermia for dye to still be filtering through 72 hours later. We left the detector in place and would retrieve it on the way out, heading on down the pitches whilst poking our heads into the various voids which hopefully we can have a crack at bolt climbing next week. We removed our SRT kits in Decisions Decisions to make our onward journey easier, but then this decision was reversed as my lovely light tackle bag was filled with generic bits of metal for the use of capping. A spot of shining light through voids to check connections later, and we were hopping along the Ice Cream Trail. This was my second time down here and things were still pretty uncomfortable, although slightly easier than last time due to added ladders and handlines for the awkward bits. I watched Mark go through the bit he hates and mocked as I went up to repeat my move from last time that made things much easier, ready to comment about how this part of the cave wasn't as totally horrific as last time. I headed through the squeeze and began my elegant pirouette at the edge of the drop. About 2 minutes later I came to the conclusion that I was fubah, one leg hanging off the ledge, the other under my bum. My shoulders and head wedged, I was properly stuck! I called Mark back from the Wizard's Sleeve for some encouragement and after much fumbling and the removal of my helmet and one welly I was able to retreat head first down the slope. I performed the 'Mark special' move to get through the squeeze and we continued our journey to the end of the Crystal Orechasm.
Despite our mild faffing, void investigation and me getting stuck our journey to the end only took an hour, arriving at the end of the Wizard's Sleeve drops at 7:40pm. We assembled the capping tools and Mark went down the tube to once again give the pitch head hell. The place makes for great acoustics when capping with lovely shock waves and bangs when each cap goes off. Mark was capping close enough to the edge that after every bang there was the sound of rock raining down the drop. Whist Mark was blasting I had a look around the little chamber, not really finding anything noteworthy other than the definite cold sinks that flow down the climbs, it really is pretty chilly right next to the wall. After (I'm going with 8 here as a guess), After eight caps Mark wanted to try and fit a new bolt to assist in getting off what looks like a lovely pitch head so I hopped along to supply a 8mm bit and the bolts. The wall is horrid calcite so we used one of the biggie bolts which go nice and deep, although as it turned out the wall was just too soft and the bolt wasn't able to properly lock in. We're going to need a even bigger bolt! Capping all this calcite was covering the place in white crystals and general dust, the place looked oh so clean until you moved a mm and then it was all brown again. It was decided that this squeeze should become the 'Powder Party', in honour of the much white powder now residing on Mark's lap!
I decided that I wanted a go at capping and so we changed places, in a move that I instantly regretted. Although it's now possible to pass through the squeeze with relative ease, it wasn't too easy for me to actually drill the wall to be capped. I incompetently drilled the wall left handed with my face looking at my knees and began the task of inserting the caps. On the second cap it all went horribly wrong with the caps jammed less than half way into the wall. It was decided to ignore this issue and just start again, drilling a nearby second hole which looked far nicer. I very carefully set the caps up this time and lined up the capping rod. A few taps and bang it went, taking a nice slice of wall in the process, great success! I was very uncomfortable and fairly slow at this capping malarkey so decided it was home time, and by the time we had packed up it was 10:20pm. Back through the Ice Cream Trail we went and Mark managed to find another little squeeze in the roof right at the Decisions Decisions end.
I had turned my torch off to see if I could see any light coming through from this new little bit although as it turned out this was a bad move as when i turned my torch back on it had gone into crazy mode. I now had a choice of 10lm camp mode or 400lm turbo spot, and some sort of weird disco red LED mode. I had plenty of battery to get out with the over bright torch but took Mark's spare just in case.
Up up up we climbed, picking up the dye detector at 11:05pm and then squeezing and wriggling until we were at the bottom of the main shaft, two worn out cavers ready for the final slog. Even though I had far less weight strapped to me than last time the going was hard, it seems the Ice Cream Trail just saps it out of you. I eventually reached the surface to some lovely stars, Mark pretty close behind and as quick as usual (damn him). We were out for 11:40pm, 1hr20m from the very bottom to out, not too bad at all.
A successful trip with exciting leads for bolt climbing next week!