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Present: Those Accused: The Gimp, The Doer Yorkshire Git, The Bint, Andrew ladder-hands, The Donkey, also starring Psycho Badger!

Such was my dedication/stupidity (delete as appropriate) that I was up at 6:30am to catch a bus from Bradford to Leeds and a train from Leeds to Ribblehead in order to meet up with team caver. Hung around outside the Station Inn and played ‘spot the Lada’ (nope – too white, nope – too shapely) to pass the time for fifty minutes or so, until said vehicle arrived… After a lardy breakfast Al returned from Inglethief clutching a bag, the contents of which I was assured would soon be revealed. He’d bought wet socks and a neoprene balaclava, and set the tone of the meet by donning these garments and sticking his head + feet out of the car window on the road up to bpf!!

The Aygill entrance had a dam built nearby and a trickle of water running into it; mildly worrying but we went caving anyway. Water soon vanished into the floor, so we stayed dry for a while… Crawled, squeezed and traversed to the first pitch, which Anthony abbed down, giving a worried, ‘Er, watch your stop on this one, Andy’ as he descended rather quickly on the braid line. Andy’s stop however didn’t cause him any problems, because he hadn’t actually remembered it! Down the ladder, then I hid in the hole in the floor and turned my light out – Andrew came down next; he hadn’t done Aygill before, and so didn’t know the way on. Ha Ha! Got to the second pitch head to find Anthony muttering about the lack of bolts. We looked in all the obvious places (where everyone else had looked as well, judging by the amount of soot on the walls) but couldn’t see any, so rigged off naturals. Once we were all down the pitch, Al-the-gimp (who wasn’t there when we were rigging) asked why we didn’t use the bolts; he knew they were cunningly located in the floor and round a corner from the chamber. Doh!

Anyway, once down the pitch we realized that there was alot more water there than usual, and whilst being washed down the cascades I speculated that the ascent might prove more than a little interesting. However, first we had to find the sump. Set off down a passage, crawled a short way and came to a dry chamber. Al pointed to a tunnel he’d explored previously and informed us that it was really nice, honest. His tone of voice told us quite clearly that it wasn’t, but Andrew went for a look anyway. A few minutes later his feet appeared (which naturally caused much amusement; Look – it’s my foot!); like Al he claimed the passage was pretty at the end but too small to turn round in. Being a fuckwit, I went to have a look myself. Got to the end of the passage (which isn’t that pretty) and decided that reversing out would be a bit shit, plus I wanted to prove Al wrong. The passage widened a little at the end, and I figured that there was enough room to turn round. Bad idea. Wriggled around a bit, got my legs pointing the right way, was bent over double and then got stuck. The passage was too small and my lungs were compressed so I couldn’t breath and it was fucking scary. Told myself not to panic, to think rationally then thrashed around anyway and got free. Almost worth it to hear the others saying ‘that’s her light’. ‘She can’t have turned round in there!’. Almost, but not quite.

Turned left out of the chamber and went to curtain chamber, which was impressive, then retraced our steps and went the other way out of the first chamber. Crawled around for a bit, then Anthony disappeared off down a hole in the floor. We followed him down a short climb which led back to the stream. Thought we might have missed the low air-space section, but it was not to be. Anthony dashed off downstream and we followed for a while, until it began to look really shit. I wasn’t going to follow, but then he shouted for us to come through, so it was time to get wet. But believe it or not, we did actually find the sump! Hurrah. Everyone came through to admire this officially impressive sump pool, with the exception of Al who was too cold. Ahh!

Cascades actually looked more imposing than they were; we got up without too many problems, then I astonished Al and myself by climbing the ladder and not being knackered at the top. The pitch isn’t quite vertical, plus the ladder was against the wall, so that made things easier. Al got to the top of the first pitch with his light almost out, but it wasn’t a club light this time, it was his Oldham that he’d failed to charge up. To the Marton then home via Darlington, where I had my first ever driving test, since the Lada was being shit and I couldn’t push it fast enough for Anthony to start it. Eventually needed to drag Al out again before we could get the thing started and chug back to Durham.

Quote of the day: Look – it’s my foot!

Julia Bradshaw