Mark Richardson, Tim Allen, Mick Numwick
Sat 10th December 2011
I left work on Friday afternoon and headed straight up to the Dales, I was staying with Tim and Jane Allen for the night. I arrived to see a huge cottage pie being withdrawn from the oven- perfect timing! I was in the Dales because Jane had arranged a ‘meeting’ with Howard and Deb Limbert who once lived and worked in Oman. I was lucky enough to have the chance to pick their brains about the country and anything they knew about the caving over there… but first, I had a day’s work to do!
We went over to Kirby for a few pints.. which seemed to end up being a lot of pints followed by a beer back at home and a 2:30am finish. That made getting up at 0900 particularly hard! I rushed down to Inglesport and treated myself to a new pair of long wetsuit socks- bliss! We met Mick in the car park at the bottom of the fell and drove up in his van for our appointment with Death… well Death’s Head at least.
I had done the Deaths Head- Big Meanie through trip in my first year at Uni but was damned if I could remember which hole it was. It seemed harder to get to than I remembered but then that may have had something to do with the 3 planks of wood and 2 scaffold poles I was carrying- that made the re-belays unnecessarily difficult on the way down, the 2 stop method was definitely the way to go.
Now I was expecting a bit of a beasting from the day given the reputation of the 2 I was with but the first job when we were down there was to get the kettle on! Pfft honestly… The shaft they had sunk so far through the boulder floor at the bottom of Death’s Head was very impressive. It was generously proportioned and well-constructed with scaffold tubes and boards. Tim went down and started fitting the next ring of steel and boards whilst Mick and I fed him with materials and hauled stuff out when required. There were large gritstone boulders in the choke which were drilled and capped into pieces before we hauled them out. The dig worked really well and by the end of the day we had dropped the floor of the shaft by about another 4 feet.
We shot out at high speed and went home (via another pub) to meet Howard and Deb. We sat round and tucked into several beautifully prepared curries and chatted about Oman. I was running my plans and ideas past them both and asking about the simple things that you sometimes forget about when thinking of going away somewhere- groceries, fuel, local do’s and don’ts, all the time trying to absorb as much as I could. Howard and Deb were very patient and I learned a lot about the country and the culture from them so thank you both.
Before I left, Tim had managed to find a copy of International caver number 23- 1998 in which there was a translated article about the Slovenian expedition to Oman in 1997, this proved to be very handy and gave me another lead for information.
Tim and Jane went off to another party and I too departed for the Liverpool University Potholing Club Christmas meal. I got there at 11:30 just in time for food…. more food and a sea of more friendly faces.
All in all a very productive and enjoyable weekend- thanks to my hosts and my interrogation victims!