After a night of merriment and feasting at Bramley Speleo Mansion, which also nearly featured strip poker between Brendan and Fergus, myself and Brendan awoke early-ish to faff ahead of the days caving, with Brendan heading to some easy caves with his friends from Burnley and myself and Big Great Botch heading to Chapel-le-Dale so that Botch could have something to say at Hidden Earth about ticking Yorkshire classics in the sun. Meregill and Black Shiver were on the cards and I had prepared exceptionally well, taking lessons from previous successes in the area (8mm and snapgates big tick). The journey up was a discussion of all things CHECC, such as ‘who is going to attempt to paralyse themselves at this year’s forum’, ‘why it would be a bad idea to let 300 cavers sleep in classrooms instead of tents’, and ‘how can Brendan best capitalise on Bratchley’s international stardom’.
Brendan dropped us off at the Hill Inn and we had a pleasant walk to the cave in improving sunshine, the cncc description proving a useful guide to the entrance. The Mere was far grown from the puddle reported in July so we opted for the aven entrance, whose bolting felt slightly bizarre to me. Quick enough progress down the pitches, with myself rigging first, second, fourth and fifth pitches and Botch rigging Mr Big using my Nemesis, a big wormnest of new petzl 8mm. Botch commented that his rigging might need practice, whilst I countered that more practice reading rigging topos and cave descriptions might be of more use, though this is a subject on which I have had to learn considerable and somewhat embarassing lessons in the recent and not-so-recent past so I guess no one wins that one. The streamway was impressive and the water cold, and I wished I had worn more than 2 layers. Lots of other shafts were seen to drop in from above during the descent, implying numerous alternative former entrances for the water.
The streamway at the bottom was rather good but not one of the best I’ve visited in Yorkshire. The sumps were visited and I had a good sniff up a waterfall inlet (think it’s called torrent passage) before realising that Botch had left me and turning around. Out of the cave shortly after to a glorious evening sun satisfied to have explored (at least in part) a previously unfrequented Yorkshire classic. Brendan met us at the road after his work social got canceled and we were back in Leeds for tea and medals by 8:30. Good trip, must return for Black Shiver and to do that free dive (but with a dive into the Mere from the top, obviously…)