The offer of a midweek trip doesn't usually excite me. An evening rush somewhere for a short trip always seems a bit too much travel not enough cave.
This was different, James was heading for Juniper Gulf, a cave I know quite well, (certainly the first two pitches) but one I've not been to in over 3 years and my interest was spiked. All the stars seemed to be lining up, I could get a train to Horton for 9 which is not too early and not too late for the walk up past Nick Pot, but if I did that James would have to carry all the rope and that is a big ask (although having met James now, not so unlikely).
James kindly met me off the train and discussing options he offered to drive to Crummack as the walk is shorter than from Horton Railway station and with pretty low visibilty in the fog going the way I knew was a little mnore comforting.
I tried to state the case for a measured approach to the walk up the hill, many many many mince pies didn't go well with climbing the hill past Crummack Farm but after a gentle steer from a kindly farmer and a few wanderings the wall loomed up in front and the gate was easily found.
James set off down the South pitch, we abseiled onto the cascades with no bother and through the traverse to the 2nd pitch. The 3rd pitch crawl traverse took a bit of grunting from me to get through, I really was out of practice, good thing I only had the one bag. A wonderful sense of deja vu washed over me at the third pitch after looking down and seeing James suspended on the rope but attaching a foot jammer, the rope was too short! Just by a few metres though so by shifting rope through knots I went down to see if we'd got enough through. I could just get off the rope with the help of a large boulder but after unweighting the rope, seeing it recoil to 3m off the ground was a worrying situation. Another shuffling of the knots and James set off down the pitch and over to the 4th pitch.
I remember the top of the 4th pitch being bigger than it appeared, but for some reason I found it quite a nervewracking place! Don't look down! Have I developed a fear of heights? I think I might have. I clipped out the autolock on my descender and prepared for descent, the single bolt (!) rebelay a few metres down allowed me to focus on something other than the tiny speck of light below me before it was time to descend. The lower sections with the famous fluted rock are as awesome as ever and I was feeling pretty happy with the world as I arrived at the base of the pitch. Nipping down to the sump is always a little bit of a disappointment, if only there was a few hundred metres of passage to wander after all the effort to get down to this level. not really complaining, it's an awesome space, and a favourite of mine. I felt smug, thinking that here I was almost 100m underneath Ingleborough whilst colleagues were at their desks getting back from the corner shop butty trip. That is a real plus point to midweek caving!
James offered the chance to derig although after waiting an eon for me to get up the 4th pitch, he soon chivved me in front and took over. I arrived at the surface with a contended glow, the fog was thinning, it wasn't raining and it wasn't even that cold. Excellent day out and even better once ropes had been deknotted and James offered a lift to the railway station which I was very grateful for. Being sat alone on the platform, the air full of moisture droplets being blown in the breeze and picked up by the station lights made a peaceful location to wait for a train. Much more peaceful than Leeds station where I picked up the train to York. It was a stressful time, a rucksack of wet kit feeling ever heavier and trains changing platforms and destinations was a worrying time. Though not as worrying for me as the girl who found her ticket to Bradford Forster Square wasnt valid as we headed East through Church Fenton. oops.
Entrance to the sump of Juniper Gulf
The following user(s) said Thank You: stuartw, alexw, Alans, Ales Hrabec