19th February 2012 - Allan Berry - SK 1194 8268
It was a cold crisp morning on Sunday when I met up with Richard, Glyn and his son Mark for a trip down Giants. But at least it was a fine day with no cloud. The recent snow melt and loads of rain the night before made for an exciting trip from the outset. And we weren't disappointed!! It was awesome. Nearly 7 hours of it!!
We got changed quickly (some of us having come half dressed for caving) and since the bags were prepacked with the ropes etc from the last aborted trip we got straight into the cave at 10:30am. Water was coming in everywhere. Even the usual dry parts such as Geology pot were running with water! We quickly made our way to a wide passage close to Garlands where we stopped to put on our SRT gear before rigging the pitch and decending in a waterfall to the floor of the chamber and the start of the Crab Walk. We made good time down here, the 4 of us being able to keep up a fast pace all the way to the Vice. This was passed with ease (no fatty's on this trip !!!) to reach the entertaining cascades which had an exciting amount of water going over them. We soon arrived at the eating house and the junction for the round trip - but we weren't planning on the round trip and so we once again donned our SRT gear and crawled through tubes and into the rift with the aerial traverse on the way to Geology pot. The traverse was quickly followed by a short freeclimbable pitch (knotted rope) into a small chamber that was like a shower - there was water coming in from all directions. I had my doubts at this point as to whether the duck would be sumped below Geology. Anyway we pressed on at a good pace to the head of the 12m geology pot and rigged this for a rapid descent into the wettest section of the cave.
At the bottom of geology pot we crawled through to the main stream and on to the next pitch. This pitch is quite small but the amount of water going over it meant that we had to rig it quite a way out from the wall and use a second line with a short cowstail to draw us away from the water as we descended. And we still got wet !! But not as wet as what was still to come......
Immediately following the pitch we came to the ducks which are often sumped. I went to have a look and after lying in the water I soon reported that there was around 2 inches of airspace - Sporting !! I backed out to let the others have a look. All had a look and then we looked at each other, waiting for somebody to declare it a bad idea so we could all go to the pub !! But unfortunately Richard said "Lets just do it" and that was that - no backing out now. So it was helmets off, lie down in the water, deep breath and then right under to get through and emerge in a smaller chamber before the next duck. This was the first time my new caving light had been completely submerged and I was happy to report that it still worked !! Wow - that was cold. Glyn followed us through but Mark had more sense than the rest of us put together and declined the duck - very sensible chap !!
The second duck was much easier than the first - thankfully - and we were soon in the last section of the cave. Glyn returned to sit with Mark whilst myself and Richard made a dash for the end of the cave - East Canal. This was a little further than I remembered and we soon came to another obstacle - Spout Hall. This is a small hole that you have to climb through - but with water blasting through it like a firemans hose. It was easy enough on the way in..........
Soon we reached the end of the cave where the canal necessitates swimming and there was around 3 metres of foam on the passage walls showing where the water levels had been recently. I was starting to worry about getting back through the duck !! On the way back we came to Spout hall and had some difficulty in passing back through it against the flow of the water - great fun !! And then came the duck - no worse than on the way in - but OH! so cold!! The wet pitch again required some interesting techniques to keep out of the main flow but we soon got back to Geology pot and ascended back up it and across the aerial traverse back to the eating house.
At this point - in my defence (your honour) I did offer everyone two options - either return up the crab walk - or go for the full round trip. The full round trip was voted before - although I was a little worried about the windpipe since Mark hadn't liked the earlier ducks. Anyway we set off in this direction and it soon became evident that Mark was tiring. I though it was impossible to tire him out but I think we were succeeding at an alarming pace by this point. We made our way up the many rope climbs to emerge at the daunting entrance to the windpipe. I hate this piece of passage at the best of times - not least because it lures you into a false sense of security by starting out almost dry. Then just when you are beginning to think its not that bad.........bang....... you round a corner and see a long piece of passage with not much airspace. This is how I found myself with a very big bag of heavy rope - staring at around 6 inches of airspace for as far as I could see. I quickly realised that I did not want to try to push my heavy bag through in front of me (the waves created would have drowned me) and I had nothing to tether it to me with. So I used a short length of rope and I took one end of it through the duck whilst Richard tied the bags to the other end. I opted to keep my helmet on and was breathing out of one side of my mouth at the worst point - speed was of the essence !! I made it through and then pulled the bags through using the rope. Richard then followed with some spluttering and splashing. Now it was Mark's turn.
I went back partly into the duck head first in order to talk Mark through. Soon I could see his light as he started to come through. My worries were unfounded as he came through with no problems - but I wish I had a camera - He did not look amused !!! Glyn quickly followed and we were into the top of the Crab walk.
We had all had a thorough soaking for many hours now and not stopped moving for more than 5 minutes on the entire trip. Mark was getting cold quickly and running out of energy but he pressed on regardless with great resolve. We soon came to the free climb down the rift and after dropping my bag - only to watch it start to float off down the crab walk - upgear and all ! I had to make the most rapid descent of that rift than I have ever had cause to do before. I slid down the rift finding every painful bump on the way down with my teeth chattering like a typewriter - but managed to rescue the bag before it floated too far. Mark then made the free climb without too many problems and soon we were all back in the crab walk and soon back near to Garlands.
At this point we donned out SRT gear once more and I seriously thought about a hauling line in case Mark couldn't make it up Garlands - he was very tired and very cold at this point. The only thing that changed my mind was the fact that another party had a left a rope in next to hours and I knew I could quickly abseil down to him if he got stuck. However.....once again my worries were unfounded as he grit his teeth and made it all the way to the top. Richard followed and then Glyn and we soon making our way out to daylight.
It was 5pm by the time we exited - 6 and a half hours after we went underground. The trick now was to get changed before we froze to death !! By six we were all in the pub with a pint (well not Mark obviously !!). Mark's teeth were still chattering with the cold but otherwise we were all in good spirits. I enjoyed it - don't know about everyone else !!! We had pitches, ducks, aerial traverses, waterfalls, squeezes, crawls, freeclimbs, and a thorough soaking. What better way to spend your Sunday !!
Looking forwards to the next one.