Christoph, Sinead, Jenny, Tomtom
21-22nd Jan 2012
Caves: Upper/Lower Long Churn & Alum Pot
With acknowledgements to LUPC for the lending of Rope and SRT kits
The trip started on the Saturday with Jen and myself collecting some gear from LUPC headquarters, Liverpool. We headed off to the paddy fields of Yorkshire around 4pm ready for our dinner in Halifax with Shinequa and Chris. The evening was spent eating Chinese, watching a man kill several people whilst driving without speaking (the film Drive...crap), and then watching Chris fall asleep to Die Hard. It was vaguely agreed that we would wake up some time in the morning and this did happen, vaguely.
Sunday started with a big breakfast made by Sinead and Chris followed by some mild faffing to get the gear into Sineads car. We set off into the rain and zig zagged our way up to Ingleton. Some gear hire was required and my harness was starting to fall apart, this made me nervous so I decided to get a new one that could probably stay in one piece. After 3 suits had been hired (mine is also fubared) and some wellies and a helmet we set off again into the drying hills around Ingleton. We arrived at the pull in for Alum/Long Churn and unusually we were only the second car there. We suited up and packed the rope into two tackle sacks and went on the jolly walk up to Alum sink hole. After we had shown the girls Alum (as is customary) we made our way to the entrance of upper and Lower Long Churn. All the rain from the night had made things a little wetter but nothing too bad. We did Upper first, walking up against the flow until there was enough room to stand without Quasimodo getting involved. There were some deep pools to traverse but I couldn't be bothered so I just ploughed through them, it was only waist deep. The Vieve followed me through but struggled somewhat due to lack of weight, making it tricky to oppose the flow of water. Shinequa and Chris went for the traversing tactic to add some technical funsie to the otherwise walk-in walk-out experience, staying high and relatively dry but missing out on all the fun that is cold and wet. After poking around and walking up several rapids we arrived at the top chamber. The water flowing in was far greater than normal and any attempt to get up the waterfall would have ended in tears. I took a few holiday snaps as we rested off the upstream walk and had a quick look at the waterfall climb, definitely no.
The walk down stream was easier, even if it felt like we were going to be whipped off our feet in the faster flowing sections, we quickly worked our way down till we were in the opening between Upper and Lower Long Churn. We grabbed our bags and headed into Lower Long Churn which was again damper than usual. Lower leaves the water eventually so it was nice to be walking on something which wasn't flowing but this meant that Dolly tubs were next. On the first Dolly tub I attempted to traverse but soon realised it was too much effort, I jumped in and swam across, getting out the other side before any real water got into my suit. The others went for full on traversing (wimps :p).
Much ducking, traversing and squeezing later and we were at the first pitch at Alum, already rigged, but the other caving group were on their way up and derigging. We decided to pass the time with the cheese press, only a few minutes away. After Chris and I had had a quick look we sent the Vieve through. She didn't have room to swing a cat but she was able to do a small jive (damn small people). Shinequa was next through performing a forward roll into half turn pike, very impressive. Chris decided that all the cheese press needed was some brute force so he squeezed in. Several attacks on my ankle to kick his way through later and Chris was worming out the other side. My turn next, and without an ankle to push off I performed the worm/kicked the ceiling till I was vaguely stuck in the tight bit (my sternum you see). I edged forward inches at a time until I was back in a space that facilitated breathing.
It was now time for SRT so we headed back down to the pitch and kitted up. Shinequa and the Vieve are hardly caving veterans so Chris rigged and went to the bottom to help them there and I sat at the top of the pitch to make sure they didn’t do anything silly, (hand jammer on so it can only move one inch, buckles on harness undone, no descender on the D-ring... the usual). Shinequa was the first 'fresher' to attempt the pitch and was soon in the situation where you have to step out into the abyss. A bit of jiggling and testing later she was on her way down to meet up with Christopher, someone has to. Once the rope was free it was the Vieve's turn to attack the pitch. Once she was safely on the rope and told the do's and don't's of the descender she too was off down the rope. I followed on enjoying the waterfall section for the last 5m of rope. We had a quick look at Alum from the window, it seemed less green and more wet than usual, but as always very impressive in the light.
It was time to head out so I climbed to the top to help the Vieve and Shinequa off whilst Chris made sure they got on properly at the bottom. The four of us were soon all back at the top with little delay, very impressive from our 'freshers'. We packed up the bags and headed out to the twilight, the drizzling windy twilight. The walk down the hill was a cold one with some seriously strong bites from the wind (... biting wind, get it?) but we soon returned to the car to get into dry clothes and put our wet ones into what would become obscenely heavy bags. We made it back to Bernies just (just [just]) before 6 and gave back our rented gear, it was 6 now so time to go home and eat. The roads were quiet so we were soon back in Halifax with a home made meat and potato pie in the oven. Quick showers later and the pie was ready. There were pie lid issues but it was very yummy and was wolfed down.
A very fun weekend with two SRT newbie’s introduced to rope work in a cave (in a waterfall)!
Love Tom / T-Dowg / Rev T-Dowg