Rob E, Adam P, Mark R
The sun was rising over Sheffield as I wound my way around Owler Bar with my mind firmly fixed on trying to get a few hours sleep before work. It would be fair to say that tonight had ended up being a longer trip than anticipated!
10 hours earlier Rob, Adam and I had assembled at the farm and kitted up with drill, rope, Rob’s photo gear and survey gear for a long trip to the end. The main aim for the evening was to get a survey done. Secondary to that was to get some photos of some of the new bits that we didn’t already have and finally we wanted to re- rig some ropes and move bolting gear up into the Throne Room ready for a climb tomorrow night.
We flew through to the Wizards Sleeve by 19:30 and proceeded to pick up the survey where we had left off. Rob had borrowed the Eldon Disto-X for the task which was interesting to see in use. I have never surveyed with one before and it produces some great results. Despite the semi- automated nature of the surveying it was still time consuming and it took us quite a while to work our way up into Breathless and our final destination. I have no idea how long this took but it must have been at least 2 or 3 hours?? I stopped off to re- rig the Party Sausage as we passed to allow access for the surveying later on and the other two continued upwards. I heard Rob ahead of me say something along the lines of “Yes.. that is enough to take your breath away” as he climbed upwards into Breathless and I smiled at the thought of getting to see it again myself and smugly enjoyed knowing the double meaning for it’s name! ; )
Eventually we arrived at the Throne Room and Rob started snapping photos whilst Adam and I sorted out climbing kit. We decided to just get a quick shot of me starting the short climb up from the Throne Room so I kitted up and set off. It took a bit of getting used to Mark’s adjustable foot loops instead of using etriers but I have to say by the third bolt I was beginning to see the beauty of them, even if the elastic bit to keep them on your feet was a bit annoying.
At bolt 3 Rob decided he had the shot but one more bolt and I would be able to climb the next section to safety and go and have a look at what lay ahead. Another few minutes and I was up! Initial thoughts… there was a lot of calcite and it was bloody exciting. Before I did anything else I stuck in a couple of bolts and rigged the ropes back down the pitch and set off up the gorgeous white slope. The passage continued to climb, fairly steeply and it went what turned out to be about 34m from the back wall of The Throne Room. The roof was around 10-15m above and there was at least one spot worth a climb but it was hard to see into. The passage closed down towards the end as it reached the line of the vein again. To the left and straight on was loose breakdown from the shattered walls and to the right was the continuation of the passage but full of large, precarious boulders. Under a small arch the continuation could be seen to rise steeply but it was death on a stick. I returned to the pitch and descended for the others to go and have a look. We decided it was a shame not to add it to the survey so they diligently carried on up into the new passage. It is a fitting addition to the Throne Room and is a lovely piece of cave.
Once that was all done and dusted Rob got out his photo kit again and we headed out, each with a flash gun in hand. I have never seen anyone take photos underground quite like that before and it was interesting to see how Rob managed to cave and shoot photos at the same time with very little delay. I have seen the results of these and whilst Rob will insist that they are of poor quality, given the amount of time it took to capture them, I can tell you- they are very impressive indeed. You will hopefully see them in the next copy of Descent!
Time was getting on now, it must have been pushing midnight but we still had to survey into the Party Sausage and the bottom of the Orechasm. By the time we had these ticked off, it was probably so late we thought it couldn’t hurt to stop for a quick shot of Adam struggling off a pitch head at the top of the Wizard’s Sleeve. More guerning ensued.
I got back to the cars at something like 03:20 and got changed then tried texting Sarah to let her know we were all safe. As I sat in the car waiting for the other two to arrive I could hear Adams phone in his car vibrating away… hmm, this wasn’t good. I could barely find reception and couldn’t find his keys to get in and have a look (as it turns out they were in my boot!). A short while later Adam arrived to find 27 missed calls from Sarah and Luke!!.. oh shit! We pieced together bits of messages and realised that they had called cave rescue. We immediately called the police and cancelled it and Adam realised his callout text was not as clear as it should have been about our callout time. He had meant it for 05:30 the following morning and Sarah and Luke had read it (as would anyone I think!) as ‘call for help some time after midnight’. Understandably Sarah and Luke were fairly worried and from what I can glean a bit pissed off.
Fortunately the stand down had got through to DCRO only 5 minutes or so after the call out but we knew that we had inconvenienced who knows how many people by waking them up in the middle of the night for what turned out to be no reason. It also wasn’t good that this just happened to be the evening before Luke’s final, final ever medicine exam- shit. He had an interesting time trying to convince Merseyside police that he wasn’t a hoax caller and ‘cave rescue’ did indeed exist. It took him “38 minutes of pleading” for the lady he spoke to, to raise the alarm. DCRO have been informed and hopefully some good will come from the whole thing.
The following morning- or later that day we had a lengthy email exchange with DCRO who were really understanding (and we were really apologetic). If anyone who was inconvenienced is reading this- we unreservedly apologise for the event and promise that it will not happen again unnecessarily in the future. A donation will be winging its way to DCRO from Adam and the Badgers and we are arranging to take DCRO down on a trip sometime soon.
It was as I rounded the Owler Bar roundabout and looked out over the city with the orange glow sat low in the sky that I thought back to the new piece of passage we had entered today. Despite Rob and Adam’s hilarious suggestions we hadn’t named it yet.
Sunrise. That’s what we will call it.
(A very tired) Mark R