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Present: Chris R, Al, Tim, Richard, Katrina, Andy, Phil, Julia

Part of a fantastic weekend full of DUSA blunders washed down with beer…

Friday evening saw the northern contingent depart from Durham, after various diversions including Al’s pager, tea at Mary’s and just missing Tim at Collingwood. The groundwork for blundering was laid as we paid a hasty visit to the gear room… But we had food and Al’s car started, so away we were!

Negotiating Richmond proved surprisingly tricky, so we took the completely unscenic route to Leyburn via Catterick Garrison…

Arriving in Helwith Bridge, we got the key from the pub, and settled down with a pint to wait for the rest. They duly showed up before official closing time, and we had lots more pints and some dodgy peanuts before we decided to go to bed. The central heating at the YSS was broke, so it was marginally warmer than the car park we had to cross to get there. Getting out of sleeping bags next morning was not easy, but me and ‘the giggly one’ went to start cooking breakfast and everyone else came and helped.

Drove to Bull Pot Farm via Ingleton, with Phil eyeing Bernies nostalgically. Got out of the cars and it started snowing. Got changed and packed gear. Went to look for cave. Someone remembered that we’d got a spanner and I naively asked what for. To do up bolts – at least we might need bolts. The ones in the tackle store in Durham, you mean? Oh. Decided to go down the cave anyway, at least the ‘little way’ to the first pitch. Experienced rigging-type cavers decided we didn’t need bolts, a couple of slings would do. Couldn’t see any holes in the rock anyway. But spreaders would be nice. This is more of a mystery than a blunder, as they… hang on, this is all getting out of sequence. Tim and Phil volunteered to go back out in the weather and get them out of the car. Before they got back, the first chamber was getting a bit crowded as Steve (ex-DUSA) and some Scottish people (one of them pregnant?) arrived. They decided they’d trust the dodgy looking traverse rope, while we waited. They (P&T) arrived back without the spreaders, which are still missing. I think Al’s car is a black hole. Anyway, so we hung the ladder off a wire belay, which was fine, climbed down rather uneventfully (Richard’s first ladder). He was enthusiastic enough to follow Al down the hole in the floor. I was next, and after quite a nice crawly bit, had to stop because Richard’s wellies were flailing around. Just before the second pitch, there’s a bit of a drop, which Richard went down head first (despite Al’s protests). We relayed back the ‘feet first’ message and it started to get a bit crowded, so someone went down the second pitch. The rest of us duly followed, transferring to the other (not ours) ladder halfway down to avoid the 10ft fall at the bottom. Blunder no. whatever: a 30ft ladder is not long enough for an 11m pitch. Bloody metric measurements, could kill you, they could.

Anyway, up to this point, the cave had been nice and dry. So next we went to look at the rather pretty spout thing (left & left again at bottom of pitch), and then we slid down some waterfalls, which was fun. Quote at this point: “Fuck, we’ve got to get back up there.” Al was on a mission to find the sump (third time lucky and all that…) He nearly did. At this point, Aygill Caverns got more complicated, so we decided to head back. Steve & co. had gone further, so handily, their ladder was there on the way back too and we didn’t have a 10ft jump.

Up the pitch without too many problems (except that Chris isn’t climbing any ladders with his cowstails for a while…) Al came up to belay and Phil went on to belay people up the first pitch. Steve and co. started to catch up with us again, so we sent Richard, who is very ecologically sound and needed a piss, out with them. Julia, Phil and I soon followed, feeling highly guilty for not staying to derig. It was alot longer ‘little way’ out than in, but we made it and emerged at exactly 5.20pm. Richard is psychic. The others joined us soon after at the cars, where the landrover with the cannabis “woolly dice” had gone (plastic or fantastic?) We got changed, headed back to the YSS (via Settle for chips, in our case. And sugar for Phil’s tea). We all helped cook spag bol. Lots of spag. Quite alot of bol. And some wine.

Al had declined food, driving back to Darlington to feast on love… Andy stayed for food, but then went back to Durham with all the gear. Including the two spreaders? We’ll never know.

We hastily washed up and went to the pub. Ended up drinking Kilkenny ‘cos we finished their Black Sheep. Julia drank beer. So did the rest of us, but that’s not really worthy of comment. Richard can juggle pool balls. And play pool, eh Phil? Good beer and a coal fire are even better when they just close the curtains and turn up the music at 11.20pm. More dodgy peanuts, Kilkenny and whiskey for some later, we trundled off to our cold bunk beds. Our room was “Ooh, dark. Like a cave” [Tim] “Fucking freezing” [general consensus].

Couldn’t go caving on Sunday ‘cos Andy had taken all the gear (on purpose, it wouldn’t have fitted in Al’s car) so we showed Richard what the Dales looked like above ground. I think he was impressed – who could fail to be, on a bright day with a dusting of snow on Pen-y-Ghent? Went to look at the Dalesbridge centre (Dinner meet venue) – looks good. The roof of the bar is one of those assault course net things. Al and his jacket arrived at 1pm to pick us up, and an hour later we were on our way back to Durham, Edinburgh or the south. Great weekend, thanks to everyone. Mad in the nutter!

Katrina Heywood