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The Latest B.E.C Expedition to Yorkshire

By Paul Christie

That’s a rather grand title for a meet which for a number of reasons bordered on a total washout.

Needless to say the problems started on the day up when the car carrying Gary “disaster follows me around” Cullen in had a broken universal joint at junction 33 of the M6.  You may well ask what they were doing that far up the motorway on their way to the BPC hut.

The rest of us arrived safely in the small hours of Good Friday morning and found bunk space easily. It wasn’t until the Cerberus arrived over the next ten days that the place began to resemble a sardine tin.

We got up Friday morning woken by the phone call of the stranded car calling out the BEC Relay service. Graham Nye put on his patrolman's uniform and set off leaving his passengers Breakfast locked in his trailer. Martin Grass, Graham W-J and myself had our breakfast and set off to go caving.

We had decided to go down Tatham Wife Hole which is near White Scar Cave.  Graham and Martin navigated between arguments and after directing me into a muddy field where we found that my car had a bald tyre we settled for the grass verge as a parking spot.  I took one look at the scar we had to go up to get to the cave and tried to find an excuse to back out of the trip, all to no avail.  We quickly changed and set off up the scar with me bringing up the rear.  I had hoped that Martin and Graham might not find the cave but my hopes were soon dashed when Graham located the fault line that the guide book refers to.  We found the cave entrance in a small depression at the far end of the Tatham Wife fault taking a fair sized stream of melt water.  The tops of the hills were still covered with snow as they had been when we had been here for the White Scar trip earlier in the year.  However, the snow was now thawing quite quickly and we thought that the cave would now be a bit sporting.  Almost excited by the prospect by now we descended the entrance passage and quickly reached the first pitch.  We abseiled this without getting too wet and rigged a ladder for the ascent. The second pitch followed almost immediately but was much netter than the first one because the water was concentrated into a small gully.  We abseiled down again and rigged the pitch as before and left the abseiling rope for self lining on the way back up.

We then set off for the third pitch discussing a possible bypass to it and also who was going to be first up the second pitch on our return.  It was obvious that it was going to get wetter and we decided that even if it didn't it was going to be a desperate climb.  About half way to the pitch Graham’s light went out so with only two lights working and the possibility of more water we turned round and made our way back.  What we did not know at, this point was that it had rained on the surface.  By the time we reached the pitch Martin’s light was working on dip only but he bravely volunteered to make the first ascent.  My light was now the only one working properly, Mike Palmer please note!  Graham was next to go, followed by myself.  The water was now very unfriendly and the ladder hung in the water. The water came down and hit you on the head rather like a lead weight.  I climbed most of the way out of the water by pushing one leg against the wall and climbing while the ladder was swinging out of the water.  The top pitch was a bit easier but we were glad to be up as the water had increased since our descent.

We returned to the surface and began our long walk back to the car.  While descending the scar, a hazardous job with boulders rolling around, I dropped the three ladders I was carrying and they ran off down the hill. However, the high spot was when a boulder leapt up and bit Martin's leg.  Graham was nearest and comforted Martin after this brutal attack and helped him limp off down the hill while I chased after the escaped ladders.  When we met back at the car and looked at Martin's leg we found that the boulder was indeed guilty of grievous bodily harm and that the resultant hole in his leg might need sowing back together.  Having packed everything into the car we set off to the nearest Hospital.

The first Hospital we found was a mental/geriatric Hospital who declined to treat Martin as he was not yet geriatric.  Instead, we were directed to the local surgery where the Doctor had been on duty most of the afternoon stitching up fell walkers and such like.  The Doctor put Martin back together while he wasn't watching and sent him back to the car where we were waiting.  I gather that Martin was not very happy with the sight of a needle going into himself.

Naturally Martin had now provided us with an excuse, as if we needed one, to spend the next day in the pub as it was open all day.  Some of the others went caving but as the thaw had now turned to rain we felt we were safer in the pub.

On Sunday Graham and I were going to explore parts of the Red Moss cave system but Saturday's rain had turned to snow on the high ground and was again thawing.  We went over to the resurgence and saw the amount of water coming out and felt the temperature of it and decided to go for a walk instead. We returned to the hut, put on our walking gear and persuaded my wife to join us.  We left Martin plating cards with the Cerberus and set off up Pen-y-Ghent. Funny, I thought the Cerberus were keen cavers these days.

The path from Brackenbottom was well trodden and consequently very muddy.  As we got higher the mud gave way to snow and the wind got stronger until on the final climb up the wind was whistling round the crag which was covered in ice. The only time we were able to stand up we were nearly blown over the edge.  Pat and I were much slower than Graham who had chosen to walk up a gully rather than the crowded path.  We met again at the top where Graham told us that the gully had been easy because the wind had blown him up it.  On the way down we left the path and slid down the snow covered slope straight across to Hunt Pot which was taking a large stream.  We rejoined the main path until we were nearly into Horton and then cut across the fields to look at the normally dry Douk Ghyll which had been transformed into an impressive waterfall by the rain and melting snow.  When we got back to the hut we found the card school still going strong 4 hours after we had left.  We changed out of our wet clothes and after tea went off to the pub where for the first time in three evenings we actually got a seat.

On the Monday morning we decided to make an early return home as Martin was still unable to use his leg. The Doctor had told him not to get the wound wet which also gave him a great excuse not to have a bath.  It took Graham and two Valley CC members an hour to get my car going and we sat off home.

There was some other caving done by Gary Cullen and friends so maybe we could have another account of the weekend.