Chris A, TomTom
Today's 'dig' was to be anything but, Chris had yet to see the wonders beyond the ice cream trail and so we were set for a tourist trip. With excursions to the very end taking quite some time these days it was decided that a early start was needed so we both left work early to meet at Rowter farm at 5:30pm. I very much enjoyed the emptiness of my tackle sack as we bimbled across to entrance, although I less enjoyed being in a fury suit with the temperature outside being 26c.
We managed to get into the coolness of the cave by around 6pm and began our long journey into the depths of present day Rowter. By 6:40pm we had reached the limits of Chris' past exploration in decisions decisions, decidedly warm after the quick movements through the decidedly dry Rowter. We packed our SRTs away into our tackle sacks at took on the ice cream trail. Going in we mostly had gravity on our side so although it was anything but pleasant it was at least manageable with Chris enjoying the many reversing blind onto ladder moments.
After much squeezing and wriggling we found ourselves at the crystal orechasm with a choice. Theres not much of interest at the bottom of the pitch but it is the deepest part of the cave. Chris decided he would tick it off(which would become handy very soon) and so introduced himself to the fun that is the crystal orechasm pitch head. Without really being able to operate his descender he managed to wriggle himself to the Y-hang and descent into the dark abyss of the crystal orechasm. Once he was down and out of harm's way I decided to begin the rope to rope transfer to save a bit of time. Things were going well as I begun the transfer until I realised I was doing it wrong, I was descending the orechasm rope (which is tied off at the bottom) whist climbing the transfer rope. Fortunately I managed to realised before I was totally hung up but it left me in the awkward situation where I had to down prussack sideways to start again. I'm far too lazy for this so Chris kindly gave me some slack by briefly de-rigging the bottom of the crystal orechasm so that I could complete the transfer without having to reverse.
I waited for Chris on the ledge as he tied the bottom of the rope back in place and came up to join me, performing the transfer the correct way (show off). I made sure he was out of the line of fire as I made my way up into the window and the hourglass aven, admiring the rock netting now in place as I performed a little jig to get past it. Once I was sure I wouldn't send rocks down into Chris' face I called him up to follow. Once he arrived I informed his how this section involved much rocks into face action and so he should cower out of the way until I was in a position where I wouldn't send down any attempted murder boulders. The slope seems a bit safer now there's rock nets round but it's still as loose as anything up there.
Time was ticking along if we wanted to be out for a sensible time so we skipped out the party sausage and headed up into breathless and the throne room, perching on the throne for a rest and gazing up into sunrise wondering if it was too early in the evening to be here (8:40pm). We were now a long way from the limit of Chris' previous travels down Rowter, and even further from the entrance. It was time to head home and be back at the cars before midnight so we made our hasty retreat, one by one down the scree slope of death until we were both safely out of harm's way at the window back to the crystal orechasm.
I successfully performed the rope transfer this time, which is many times easier than doing it the wrong way, and wiggled off the pitch head to a nice spot to sit down. I called Chris that the pitch head was free and he followed, engaging in his first time exiting the pitch. He was making all the right noises as he squirmed his way along, arms stuck under him and jammer stuck in the v of the rock. Eventually the cave decided he had struggled enough and he appeared at the bottom of the wizards sleeve. We once again packed our SRTs into tackle bags and took on the Ice cream trail with gravity now mostly against us.
Chris had prepped for the trip by reading Lukes report and so was well up for some blunt force trauma (and I was mentally prepared for nakedness) as we began to take on the many little ladder squeezes. Chris lead the way mostly with me in position to act as a leg up if ever needed. Things seemed to go well with only one of the ladders putting up a major fight, before we knew it we were back into decisions decisions where much water waited in bottles and much carbo-gel waited in my trial run for PSM.
SRTs back on and time for the 'easy' bit of the cave, getting out. Slowly and steadily we climbed our way out, the carbo-gel seemingly working (or at least a good placebo) as we made a steady but not slow ascent after many hours hard caving graft. Fresh air greeted in no time at all it seemed, but the fresh air that was about 10c warmer than the cave and far too hot after a 68m pitch. We made it to the surface and de-rigged for 11pm, a more than sensible time considering the depths we had been to.
A nice trip down, some good exercise and practice for future escapades, and very enjoyable to climb gin shaft without a tackle sack full of iron. 5 or so hours underground so not a mammoth trip, but a trip of almost continuous effort!