Mark R, TomTom
I was fast asleep in the car when Mark arrived, I hadn't been there that long but a spare blanket in the car and a very reclined seat was too good a offer to refuse. Now Mark has a van we had our obligatory faff of making a cuppa in the back, I'd even brought along cake!
Tonight's Rowter trip wasn't really going to be a Rowter trip, it was going to be retrieving several thousand tonnes of leftovers from the top of the shaft into the back of the van, finishing off the clean up that had taken several trips already. The weather in the field was being effected by what Southern broadcasters were calling a weather bomb, but to you and I in the north it's what we call a fairly ok day in winter. The wind was plentysome and there was even the odd shower to keep you on your toes.
Mark had brought a camera to take some star trail pictures but it was more or less a lost cause from the start, I suspect had he got the tripod out it would now be somewhere over the North Sea. I wasn't there for the Mark x2 hauling effort last week but I did know how much was at the bottom of the shaft originally, a fair weight! We were mostly wind assisted to the cave but this of course meant we'd have a hill and wind against us on the way back. The hole wasn't completely surrounded by wood and metal junk but it wasn't going to be a quick job.
We had planned to split the trip into two legs, firstly to get it all to the gate between the fields, and then move it all to the farm (where hopefully the farmer would let us driver though, which he did). Dressed in what was probably the majority of a polar survival suit we carried the weight bit by bit to the first gate, quickly forgetting what feeling in the hands felt like. We tried to make a little game out of guessing how many loads it would take but I can't remember who won, it was either a draw or Mark won I think, I had guessed 8 loads each and I think it was 7.
In all honesty it didn't take long to get it all to the middle gate, but that was only half the job. The next bit involved traipsing through mud and battling the wind that was rampaging though the walled off gateway. It was pretty hard to really move with wind catching boards on your shoulder but Mother nature intervened with a horizontal hail storm to encourage quicker movement from the windiest section.
Some time later the majority was into the farm yard and Mark went to fetch the van whilst I went to get the very last load. It had taken about 2 hours of continuous work but our bodies still seemed to be responding which was all good. We packed the van up with our recovered junk with the longest bits just fitting and made a break to the pub, it wasn't even 10pm!
Not really a caving trip but something that needed doing. Anyone who plans on visiting Rowter now will find it in a much cleaner state than the last few years so wipe your feet on the way in!