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Longwood/August
By The President

By The President 5 October 2001

I really enjoyed it last night, I went somewhere new, I went somewhere I had not been in 10 years, I had several periods of self-doubt, lost four carabiners (although I know where they are I cannot reach them!), made the pub, and got praise from Martin for the efficiency of the evening!

We went down the wet chimmney route to swing pitch. I had never been down to swing pitch this way before. Although it looked straightforward on the map. 10 years ago we climbed up to the right of the waterfall in Great chamber and found a route into the stream from the wet chimmney from a side passage. Upstream we followed it back up wet chimmney's rift to make the connection with the entrance. Downstream we were thwarted on another trip by a waterfall that wrongly we thought was swing pitch. We found swing pitch by the christmas crawl on another trip. This was 10 years ago and only a vague memory, but enough to give me a confidence lift in the cave. Gary never really liked the cave it is tight, tiring for beginners, and liable to floods! So I was never able to get parties going for this cave. So I am very pleased that we all came through it with flying colours. There is a lot more to see.

Enough of memory lane.

We parked the car at Black Rock, more or less to plan because of Rachel! Rachel and I walked up to the cave with the two ladder bags on our own because Martin was late again! Tim and Martin overhauled us before we reached the cave. I opened the lock eventually although I was wishing we had Royston's talents with us. Martin and Rachel led the way down followed by me and Tim and we passed the letterbox squeeze uneventfully. Thankfully! Martin rigged the ladder and I put a lifeline in place for Rachel in the bedding plane before the vertical. It was here I cocked up and dropped 4 carabiners down a tight crack. Royston could probably fish them out with a coathanger! How about another trip down?

Once we were all down the ladder. Apologies to all are inorder my memory had completely forgotten how horrible and desperate the wet chimmney route is. I thought it would be a short rift (8 foot) followed by a crawl. So I thought it would be an nice way of missing the exposed climb at the waterfall in Great chamber. The rift felt more like 40 foot and was tight wet and desperate. Martin went down to check the rift out. We watched from above, it looked desperate, I was having self-doubts is this the right way? I never remembered it like this..

Martin timed out on the rift and came back up. I was beleiving him but there was no other route. I was the only one who knew it should go! But normally I remember. I went down to where Martin had got to and it went down the same distance again, getting more enclosed all the time. It did not look the way on. I knew it would be a pig to go back up, I was soaked. I gritted my teeth it must go, feet first I went round a corner and came into a chamber I recognised. I looked around and saw the way on was a crawl. I remembered the crawl but nothing else. I had looked at the map and it looked plain sailing to swing pitch. I had not been before and I could not remember beyond the crawl. I grinned and climbed back up and confidently shouted that I knew where we were and that everyone should come down. Sort of true!

By now everyone was getting wet and cold above and it took a little gentle persuasion for martin to get everyone down. I was thinking no one would be happy with me if we had to go back up again. We had better find the way on! I kept these thoughts to myself.

Mind you I was less than certain and went through the crawl feet first so that if it was not ...

We passed the crawl and I followed the streamway down expecting to reach swing pitch at any moment. I reached the waterfall where we had been thwarted before. I remembered it and cringed they won't want to hear about this. However I knew this was not swing pitch so the guide book would have told me if I needed a ladder. I started down it, but as i went down a little I noticed a high-level route that avoided going down the waterfall. I grinned I was in business. The streamway seemed to go on and on, on i went expecting swing pitch to appear on every turn. The trusting souls straggled behind. I was getting desperate, I did not want to admit I had not been this way before and did not know the way on. Eventually I reached a pitch as the stream poured down. The chamber below might be the chamber at the bottom of swing pitch. But we were not at swing pitch. I was horrified!

Meanwhile as I flapped at the top of the pitch, Martin and Tim climbed up for a look around. I contemplated the acrimony when they found out where I had taken them! Martin and Tim were gone longer than they should have been, I climbed up to join them, I looked around the corner there was swing pitch! God was I happy.

Meanwhile Rachel came around with the bag. The route brings you out on the top of swing pitch and you have to span the drop to get down. I was torn busy hanging on over the drop with one hand whilst reaching for the bag with the other. Rachel was facing a similar dilemma, as we each stretched as little as we dared. Somehow the bag was exchanged without it being dropped down the pitch or me or Rachel falling down it. Not very satisfactory at all.

Martin rigged the ladder pitch and I lifelined and we descended down to fault chamber and the streamway. As we headed upstream I was feeling rather good and just loitered in the rear as we headed into new territory. Tim and Martin set the pace, none of us had really looked at the survey. Tim reckoned we had 20 minutes below the pitch. We had to make the most of it. The passage soon goes up steeply and we clambered up dodgy loose scree-like boulders. My worst fears about being below everyone else were confirmed near the top when a four-football-sized rock came my way. Luckilly it moved slowly and I was able to move to the side slightly and push it to the side with my foot and watch it cause a minor avalanche amongst the scree we had come up and had to go down on the return.

We continued up and got to what must have been wet gallery. We came down and explored the left-branch of the passage up what must have been dry gallery. Even Tim and Martin could not have reached the end of it. so there is more to be done. Plus we missed the route to stream gallery entirely. Another trip is in order to visit all of upstream series.

We timed out and started our epic bid for the pub. We derigged and headed out up christmas crawl into great chamber. I took us down the low-level route before climbing up to the waterfall to contemplate whether to do the dry exposed traverse, or to do a wet traverse under the waterfall followed by a climb up the side of the waterfall. Last time we had done the exposed traverse. I did not like it and did not feel like asking Rachel to do it. Although I am sure she would have been up for it. So I elected for the wet route! It was pretty easy for me but I was lucky Martin was at hand to guide Rachel through the waterfall. I couldn't really help from above as there was far too much noise.

The pub beckoned. Rachel followed as we crawled up the last bit of the waterfall. Up an awkward climb upto the showerbath. I tried pulling Rachel's arm off whilst Martin gave the vital push. Someclimbs need long legs. Back up to the ladder pitch I climbed up and got ready for the lifeline in the bedding plane, glanced down at my lost carabiners. I Lifelined Rachel up into the bedding plane and edged up to the letterbox squeeze. I do not like this part and steeled myself for the squeeze whilst the ladder bag was passed up. Passed the letterbox without a hitch then got into a mess turning around to take the bag.

The last trial was the entrance vertical as I struggled to find enough space for me and the bag whilst I climbed and squeezed. I huffed and I puffed and Rachel nonchantly watched on wondering what the problem must be as she went up this large natural staircase (for her that is!).

Rachel and I left tim and Martin in the entrance rift and made our dash for the car. It was 10:30pm! Maybe just maybe. Martin and Tim caught us before we were halfway back. Halfway and it was 10:40pm and desperately Martin was trying to lead us into a jog! We made the car just before 10:50pm.

Renato's was mentioned as it seemed the Hunters was lost. But saner council prevailed and Martin urged that we push our luck and make for the Hunters. Tim and Martin dispeared into the distance with our beer order. As we failed to match their speed-changing. Rachel was appalled by my driving as I tried to regain their 2 minutes start. We arrived at the pub at 11:05. I hung my head in sadness thinking we would not get served, but Martin put the order in for the beer whilst the rest of the pub looked on in amazement. The landlord shook his head and started to pour the beer. We decide to go for food as well. A wag at the bar asked if we would like to see the desert menu. We put in our order for cheese and onion rolls and Rachel's pasty. Settled down with our beers. What a night!


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