Luke and myself left Liverpool fairly slowly via Adams to collect some grub for everyone. We went pretty slowly since most of our fellow badgers were many miles further south, or in some cases still at home. Joe was the first one there and so engaged in the Brackenbottom key hunt, eventually finding the super secret location. The three of us had enough time for a cup of tea, a small musical, and to work out the fire before the fellow badgers slowly started to gather. The evening was spent wrestling inappropriately small tables and drinking various unknown spirits. Eventually at some sort of time before dawn it was decided we should go to bed since daddy badger would be arriving in the morning in full caving mode.
The morning started slowly with the waft of breakfast slowly seeping upstairs. It took some time for all the badgers to congregate in the kitchen but once we were there we went to town on the breakfast. The plan for the day was to rig Bar pot and Dihederal, take some pictures in Gaping Ghyll, and then go out the pitches the other group rigged. Unfortunately we didn't have enough tackle sacks and nor did we know the ropes required to rig dihedral. Luke, Adam and myself were send to Inglesport to acquire some new gear and to sneakily find a rigging guide for Dihedral, before congregating at Clapham for the walk up the mountain.
Considering the potential unknown length of the trip it was getting quite late in the day before we were finally all dressed like cavers and heading up the nature walk towards our respective dark cold holes. I may have blacked out a little but the walk seemed shorter than usual. The fairly cold conditions also stopped us melting in our little one piece PVC numbers. We eventually reached Bar pot and discussed who wanted to go down which hole. It seemed that pretty much everyone wanted to go down Dihedral and up Bar, but after a short while we were split into two fairly equal groups. I was on team brown alert and would be heading down Dihedral, so the first task of the day was to find Dihedral. Finding Gaping ghyll was easy enough and in the end it only took 5 minutes before we were sure we'd found the entrance to Dihedral. Mark started rigging and stepped out into the void, rigging off a reassuringly huge p bolt and then disappearing down into the spay. It was virtually impossible to hear when the rope was free due to the sound of water but after some time Chris A was able to follow Mark down the rope. I was next and so I spent the time occasionally checking if the rope was still loaded before eventually I heard Christoph's whistles to alert that the rope was free.
I didn't feel entirely comfortable sliding out above the hole which appeared never to end but in the end it was fairly easy to rig myself onto the rope and begin my descent. I can't remember a pitch with so many deviations but none of them were particularly brutal so it didn't take long to descend the 60m or so to the knot pass. The knot pass was annoyingly close to the ledge but not quite close enough. A quick bit of jiggery pokery and I was onto the second rope, which at 9mm didn't entirely agree with my worn descender. Somewhat rapidly I found myself upon the ledge and finally able to take in the shaft in all its glory. I was more or less half way down and could now make out lights at the bottom blending into the light flowing in from the top. I shouted rope free as loud as I could and hoped that I would soon be followed by a fellow caver.
The second descent started easily but then came to a deviation which seemed to be taking the mick, free hanging and some way out from the initial anchor. I spent far too long faffing with it before finally escaping and heading down to the next re-belay. From here on it was nice and simple, two re-belays and then finally a large solid floor (which I hugged since I hadn't seen such a thing in a while).
The main chamber was full of spray and wind and so the Bar pot team was hiding in the dry whilst Chris and Mark huddled in the spray waiting for me to arrive. As I joined the waiting crew I engaged in star jumps and various other techniques to stay warm until all of the Dihedral lot except Ben made it to the floor. It was time to start with the pictures and hopefully catch Ben hanging on the final pitch. Mark stood in the spray with the flash bulb whilst little Chris set up his camera. 3,2,1 and flash, the chamber was lit up and the image captured, I was even able to steal the flash on my GoPro by going through the video frame by frame :)
Ben was allowed to join us on the Chamber floor and Mark got some pictures from the other side of the chamber using more flash bulbs. It was getting a bit chilly for us all and the Bar pot team had already started their ascent up Dihedral. The rest of us slowly started on our journey towards the Bar pot main pitch which also seemed much closer to the main chamber than I had remembered. Once we were all at the main pitch I opened up my tackle sack of goodies and unloaded some weight of fluid and chocolate. We slowly headed up one by one with Maddie and Chris A taking charge of de-rigging the main pitch whilst the others engaged in many questions about siblings and the like.
One more pitch was required to escape the warmth of Bar pot and it was one of the fun ones where you can't really move your body whilst on the rope. We were all squeezed in at the top of the pitch since it was so cold outside and waited until the last possible moment before heading out onto the frozen grass. Ben managed to pass the time by chasing a bat and once we were all out we headed off back towards the car, remembering that between us we had most of the car keys for those who were already down at the cars.
We made good time down the mountain side and soon joined the others in getting changed in the ice, calling ahead with our dinner orders and then escaping at break neck speed back to the warmth of the hut.
Sarah had food ready as soon as we returned and I couldn't have been more thankful for than since I was starving. The food was wolfed down by all and then we got to the serious matter of drinking, I mean the AGM. We got through the AGM at a fair pace and I reserve this 'word' for hyperlinking to the minutes when they become available. Once the AGM was over more alcohol was supplied and more people took on the table, with Mark doing the impossible and traversing the table without support to stop it tipping over. I was pretty tired and headed for bed a little after 1, with several others not far behind (although it seems some stayed up till 6am).
Sunday was reserved for a trip down Rowten, obviously this was off the cards since daddy badger was more or less in a coma and the rest of us just generally couldn't be bothered. I was persuaded by some of the others to join them up Pen-y-ghent after brunch. Most of the end of the morning was spent tidying up the hut and doing many of the jobs the job sheet suggested before finally getting out and heading for the hills. After a while of walking it seemed Pen-y-ghent wasn't getting any closer so a few of us called of the walk and headed back to the hut to head back to our corners of the country.
A weekend well spent and a very enjoyable trip down Dihedral, always nice to do something new. Another successful year for the badgers and here's to many more of those!