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Present: Anthony, Katrina, Bec, Andy, Martin, Al, Gwyn, Dave, Tala, Julia

The day began for me outside Dunelm at 8:30am, normally a ridiculously early hour on a Sunday to be up and about, but fortunately for DUSA members, the clocks had gone back the previous night, allowing Anthony, Andy, Gwyn and myself to arrive on time. We chugged up the road to Collingwood to meet with the rest of the group, and whilst waiting for Tala we discussed which of the three vehicles was least likely to fall to pieces before reaching Ingleton! When all were present we set off, bumping along the narrow, winding Yorkshire lanes at top speed (which made me rather glad that I hadn’t yet had my breakfast…) On arrival at Ingleton, I was introduced to the delights of Bernie’s for the first time, and during our wait for the food, Andy had plenty of time to get to know the various dogs in the place!

After eating we drove back into the hills, got changed, and then had a ‘lovely’ walk up to the cave; well, it would have been lovely if it wasn’t for the vast amount of clothing we were wearing… We split into two groups and entered the cave at different places; for the group I was with, this involved abbing down a small waterfall and being photographed by Gwyn as we were crawling about on a tiny ledge! Then we proceeded into a surprisingly dry Long-Churn, although some people did their best to get wet…

It was quite crowded when we first got in, but everybody we met was going in the opposite direction, and we soon had the place to ourselves. Anthony pointed out a small tunnel, and said that there was a way out at the end, so I gave it a try. There was a way out, but it wasn’t at the end; consequently I passed it, and had to turn round in a rather tight space. But there were tighter places yet to come…

When we reached the Cheese-press, we were told that it was a choice between that, or a “rather tricky climb”. So Tala went through and I followed, but, managing to get firmly wedged, decided to take my chances with the climb, so I backed out, upon which the climb suddenly became “no problem”! Most people made it through the Cheese-press, although I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one to get stuck… At the Double-shuffle pool, some shuffled and stayed dry, some shuffled and fell in, and some couldn’t be bothered and jumped in for the hell of it, but either way three out of the five of us got a lot wetter at this point!

Somewhere along the way, we met up with the other group, which wasn’t really supposed to happen, (but I think they got lost) and we had a rather long, cold wait at the top of the pitch, whilst it was being rigged. However, Andy kept us all entertained with his Kinder-egg ghost, not to mention stories of his near-death experience in a glider the previous week. It made me think that maybe caving wasn’t so bad after all. Then I saw the first pitch… After much reassurance that I was on a rope, and that there was a ledge half way down, I eventually got onto the ladder and descended slowly, only to find that the ledge, whilst being a good place to have a rest, consisted of a rather deep pool of water (in which Anthony later lost some vital piece of equipment…). It was also rather difficult to get back onto the ladder, but after much panicking and faffing, I somehow made it to the bottom of the pitch. The view of Alum Pot (and daylight!) was stunningly beautiful. A second pitch was rigged to descend further into Alum, from where the sight was apparently even better. Those who attempted this pitch had an interesting time, since the ladder stopped five foot from the bottom! After a quick photo, we turned around and headed back up the pitch. At some point, the belay rope got stuck in the ledge, whereupon Al shot up the ladder, climbing with one hand and clipping on with the other. I just wish it was as easy as he made it look… When my turn came I climbed about six foot, but even with Martin holding the ladder away from the rock-face, I couldn’t get any further. I was eventually hauled up about thirty foot of rock by my belay belt; not a very pleasant experience, although I doubt that those holding the other end of the rope were having much more fun. I was immensely grateful on reaching the top (and I’m sure Anthony and Gwyn were equally glad…). Everybody else made it up without any problems, and whilst the pitch was being de-rigged, the first group set off back.

Those who’d come in the way we went back found their memories being constantly picked as we attempted to establish the correct route, but their memories served correctly, and we found the way out. We emerged into what appeared to be almost daylight, only to realise that it was in fact moonlight, and we were outside. Some people were unaware of this fact, and continued to crawl before their location was pointed out! We somehow navigated our way across the moor back to the cars, and were soon joined by the other group. Tala didn’t have any spare clothes, so along with various other garments, Martin’s shorts appeared once again, and all were returned to their owners the following week at Mary’s, after being washed and ironed for what was possibly the first time ever… After a pint, we returned to Durham via a Kebab-shop, where some DUSA members were greated like old friends… And who could forget the sight of Martin’s attempts to improve the heating in his car by using tin-foil!!

Julia Bradshaw