Penyghent Knees
Sunday, 5 May 2013

On the May bank holiday weekend, I met up with my friends from YUCPC at the BPC hut: they had a permit for Penyghent Pot, and this cave had been on my wish list for quite some time. I was very keen to find out how fine the “finest stream pot in the country really is and how sporting the “long sporting rift is (Northern Caves). On Sunday morning we kitted up and left the hut relatively faffless, arriving at the cave entrance at quarter to one. As the BPC had been in the cave the day before and had left it rigged for us, we had no gear to carry up the hill or drag through the crawl.

John was sensible and cautious, wearing his neoprene suit under his oversuit (cheater!), whereas everybody else contented themselves with normal clothing plus an extra shirt. We set off and I prepared myself mentally for some hardship when John read out again the description of The Canal… At first I was delighted that the floor of the crawl was sandy at the beginning; however, only a couple of metres further on, we hit the first pebbles. Although wearing lots of protection, everybody complained about knee and shin pain at some point. The cold water numbed my legs and arms, but provided only temporary pain relief. Just when I started to think, “I dont really enjoy this crawl, it was over. Thanks to the pre-rigged pitches and the level of experience of the team members, we made fast progress down the first pitches. It was when we arrived at the Rift when my light started to fade significantly which reduced both my vision and my enjoyment of the trip. The constant wetness of the cave did not bother me at all until we reached a pool which was waist-deep and froze off our crotch areas. The climbs that followed helped to warm up again, though. When we arrived in a small chamber close to the final sump, some people decided to head to the sump to have a look whilst others stopped for a little break. Finally being somewhat out of the water, we could change my lamp batteries, which instantly and radically improved my experience of the cave.

On the way out, Andrew and Cat took care of the de-rigging, passing on tackle sacks to the rest of the team as we went. Having significantly better light, I could now start to enjoy the trip and spent a good deal of time looking around and admiring the different passages. Copying John and Toby, I climbed all the smaller pitches rather than getting frustrated with prussiking in the tight rifts. Thats where my climbing training came in handy. The mix of SRT, climbing, stomping and crawling made the trip exciting and interesting. It was at the Second or Third pitch when I started to feel slightly chilly and seeing that Toby was keen to leave, we told the others that wed speed off through the crawl. The way out through the crawl felt much better than the way in as I already knew what to expect. However, by then my knees and shins were quite battered and I couldnt feel my hands anymore. Dragging the tackle sack through the crawl was not too bad as it kept me busy and warm. At some point I didnt care about stopping and adjusting my knee pads all the time and just went for it, clenching my teeth and ignoring my knees. Soon enough we could smell the exit, Hurray! After a bit of a struggle trying to get me and one and a half tackle sacks out of the entrance, I rolled onto the grass, suddenly feeling exhausted but also elated by our adventure. Whilst waiting for the others to emerge, I tried to talk Toby into walking up Penyghent ‘ without success. In addition, my stomach had other plans, so that I abandoned the idea and followed the others back to the hut. Thanks to Andrews mischief and ingenuity, I only then noticed that I had been walking around with a big fat, black slug on my helmet for the last thirty minutes. Nice.

When asked what I thought about Penyghent Pot, my initial reaction was, “Done it once, was awesome but hate the crawl so not coming back! However, a few days later, having nursed a caving hang-over and a severe case of Penyghent Knees (which caused raised eyebrows at work, by the way), I kind of toy with the idea of wanting to do it again ‘ ideally with three pairs of knee pads (at least!).
All in all a brilliant adventure!