Christoph, Rachael, Mark R, Claire Bird, Tomtom (Tomtom)
Tuesday 16th Dec 2014
After navigating the CAN traffic signs stolen by the Derbyshire County Council near Rowter Farm, I arrived at Giants Hole by half 5, having made good time from work. I got changed and sat waiting for the others to arrive which didn’t take too long and by half six we were all there and starting to get changed after the usual exclamations and disgruntled moans about caving had concluded. Tomtom led the way into Giants through the bitter wind and rain, into a warm & cosy 10° entrance passage and begun to rig Garlands Pot, managing with only 2 maillons and a slip of rope whilst Mark made short work of photographing some entrance descents with flash guns and a foggy lens.
Once we were all down and de-SRT’d, we set off through the crab walk at a reasonable pace. It was (almost) the first time Claire had been caving, but the pack stayed tight making good time as we zig-zagged through the twists and turns as Mark melodiously serenaded us with scraps of Christmas tunes and other cavey-related delights. We all chimed in a few times when the urge to resist was overcome, culminating in a particularly memorable screeching session when the notes of silent night were beyond our reach.
After a short while we got to the 2m drop down an awkward free-climbed pitch and I guided Claire down behind me, managing to head butt her under her helmet on the bridge of her nose in retaliation for her falling on me. She is a tough Yorkshire Lass and took the abuse in good spirits, so I tried again a little later on when we dropped a short 1.5m section with water fall, and it appeared to the untrained eye that I pusher her into the waterfall once she landed. I feel I was on a roll with supporting the girls on this trip as I managed to misadvise Rachael down the metal ladder in the waterfall, ensuring she got absolutely soaked. Rachael pointed out that these instances are why caving with freshers is preferable (hear me out…) so that we can head-butt them and advise them to become soaked in waterfalls, preventing us having to carry out the treatment on our friends and their better halves.
We got to the turning point in the stream way which leads up to the Windpipe and had a mini discussion as to whether we should continue with the full loop or if Claire and Mark were going to head back up the crab walk, as Claire had a sore wrist and the thought of crawling didn’t interest her. Gentle persuasion (totally ignoring her requests/concerns) led to the unanimous decision (dictator-led) to continue on our track, as it was probably the fastest way out anyway. Mark explained that the best bits were coming up, in an attempt to rally spirits based on lies and deceit, but it seemed to get the job done. Tomtom heroically led the way through the wet crawl, up the roped scramble and along the passages towards the Windpipe. Rachael had bad memories and experience with previously attacking this section but she persevered like a trooper and came out on top, with some mild support and rewards for her efforts.
As we approached the Windpipe, Tomtom temporarily hid the sign warning for the dangers of flooding so as not to concern Claire, and I re-instated before I entered. Devious? Maybe.. but caving is partly psychological, so anything we can do to help (like lying about what it’s like, how far it is and how dangerous it is) can only be a good thing.. surely? Rachael gave a fairly large resistance to crawling through 20ft of freezing water flat out with face turned to the ceiling for air, but in a short time we were all through and maintaining movement to keep warm, no need to take anyone’s temperature as of yet, despite Mark’s personal requests for his own … enjoyment.
The last and most fun bit of Giants was taken slightly more cautiously on the basis that straddling 15m drops between slipperly narrow vein walls can be hazardous. Tomtom soldiered on once more, followed by Mark guiding Claire through the curious manoeuvres required to support yourself with no hand/foot holds then posting yourself through a bin-lid sized hole, head first, above nothing. Claire did really well and was lickidy-split-quick through, then I helped Rachael through after. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling to know that you are unbalanced and mostly unsupported, above a big drop, but she did really well too and without much fuss or effort, was through and relieved to have done it – superb effort!
The remainder of the cave was mostly uneventful, a short drop down into the stream way near Garlands Pot, re-SRT’ing then Mark and Claire set off to pre-heat the hot Ribena in Mark’s glorious Passion Tub, as I de-rigged and set out back through the rain to the cars with Rachael & Tomtom. We were out before 10pm (making it about 2 hr 30 in total) and head down to the Cheese for a well-earned pint before home.
I stopped to check all were well at the scene of a fresh crash then managed to be home before midnight.
Full success & a fun evening underground!