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Penyghent rope retrieval

The aim: to retrieve the equipment inquired about above, which was installed in the days when digging in the Hunt Pot Inlet seemed like a fun and realistic thing to do (2017). It turns out getting a job in another country reduces the likelihood of these endeavours being a success.

A somewhat overcast day, although with the dales being so dry and minimal showers forecast I didn’t feel that there was a threat of entrapment. Hannah and I left Selside around 11:30, though I had to abandon my vehicle briefly and dash back for my SRT kit, upsettingly left in the drying room. At least I realised at this early stage rather than later.

Walk up quickly, Hannah complaining far less about the monotonous plod than George used to. Entrance looking even more modern and solid than I remember.

Entrance crawl much more pleasant than I remembered, probably because it was so dry. I enjoyed the knowledge that I was crawling along the Girvanella Bed inception horizon, the initial fracture within the Hawes limestone that is also thought to guide the development of Upper Long Churns and Swinsto Long Crawl. Somehow I had never noticed how many fossils are in the lower limestone bed along this horizon; there are some massive, very well preserved crinoids in the floor at the head of the first pitch. It was here that I realised I was lacking a crucial tool, namely a spanner with which to remove the maillons I had left on the first pitch. The rope was still in useable condition though so we headed down and pressed on through Easy Passage to the Second Pitch, where there was a heavily corroded karabiner on the 2nd bolt which I couldn’t shift (needs hacksaw?). Either way, a problem for another day.

The rope I had left for the big pitch was in very poor condition indeed so I rerigged it while Hannah stuffed the shagged mess into a bag which we left at the pitch head for later. Another rogue maillon had to be abandoned on the 2nd bolt. Hannah was glad that I warned her that my 8mm rope creaks a bit as you descend!

Pressing on I was able to appreciate the geology of the Rift passage much more than in any previous visits. At the base of the 4th pitch, there is a very nice contrast between a very pure limestone (above) and a more fossiliferous limestone with some small lithic fragments and nodules (below). In the Rift passages that follow, a series of shale beds are intercepted by the minor fault, which is the chief guide to cave development, with the shale bed above the 5th pitch being particularly prominent and thick. Below the 7th pitch, this cluster of shale beds ends and the rift cuts through thicker, more massive limestone beds.

The crawl beyond Pool Chamber made me glad of wearing neoprene, as usual. The rope I had left coiled at the head of Myers Leap had disappeared, so I rigged a new rope and we pressed on, having decided that Hannah might as well tick the sump after coming all this way. Passing the route to the dig on the right, I felt no real desire to visit although a touch of nostalgia for more carefree, jobless times was apparent. I noticed that the bedding plane that guides all of the development in the Extensions appears to be distinguished by a very thin (~2cm) shale band separating the limestone beds either side.

Hannah rigged the 10th pitch and we slithered down the back of Niagara to reach the sump. Just before arriving, Hannah spotted a very lost frog of considerable proportions, hiding in an alcove. There didn’t seem to be a lot of chance of bringing the poor thing out of the cave, although given how dry it has been recently and how deep it was into the cave it must have been in there for some weeks already.

By this stage, Hannah claimed that Day 2 of her ‘Monster Hangover’, post dissertation submission last week, was beginning to bite, causing her to battle a bit with her inner demons in the Rift passages. I packed the ropes I had left on the 8th, Flake and Coffin pitches into my bag and we continued to thrutch towards the exit at a steady pace. There are still in situ ropes available for use on the 5th (‘YSS, 2002’) and 8th (unknown origin) pitches, and a handline of sorts on Flake pitch.

I derigged the big’un, packed away the trash on the 2nd pitch and the exit plod commenced, with us reaching the surface just after 5. Wander down, wondering if the little terraces in the surface landscape correspond at all to the phases of passage development underground. Then back to Selside for celebratory leftovers. I’ll be back to pick up the metalwork with a spanner etc as soon as I can. Thanks very much to Hannah for coming and helping!

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