Jon Young, Andy Dawson, Chris Fry, Dave Holder (SWCC)
We reached Ingleton early in the evening and went straight to Mrs. Morphet's caravan site. We had already 'phoned ahead to try to book a caravan and, strangely, once Jon's name had been mentioned we were told they were all full! However once in Ingleton we found there was no shortage of caravans available for cavers to use, despite being a Bank Holiday. As I recall, Jon hid in the car whilst enquiries were made.
Superb weather. The usual first morning visit to Inglesport in order to part with the collective hundred quid resulted in "Inglepal" discovering Jon and Andy writhing around on the shop floor trying to both get into the same bivi-bag which they claimed could be useful in an emergency.
After this slight di/per-version we headed toward Juniper Gulf and enjoyed a trouble free superb trip to the bottom and back. The caving on this day was, however, the least of our troubles. We arrived back at the caravan to find that just about every midge in Yorkshire was enjoying Mrs. Morphet's hospitality and had to employ SAS storming techniques when entering or leaving the caravan, complete with cover to eliminate the next wave of hostile intruders. I had already purchased a stick of insect repellent which seemed to do little but make you stink of lemons. However, we found an amazing use for it that I am sure the manufacturers would never have expected. By wiping the stick along the fluorescent lights a thin layer would melt onto the glass and proved very effective at entrapping midges attracted to the light where they were poisoned/fried to death. We also held many "torching" sessions, with two of us running up and down the caravan waving roaring Gaz stoves around us. Very quickly the caravan was littered with thousands upon thousands of little bodies - but the buggers still kept coming....
In order to spend as little time as possible in the battleground we opted to eat some sort of paella creation that Jon had prepared in London and had left in a tupperware container in strong sunlight all day. It was still warm and would probably never have passed a Ministry of Health bug-count. Having collectively consumed this, a rapid retreat to The Marton Arms was deemed in order.
Now, being Southern townies, and despite having been to this fine hostelry many times before, we had never quite r attuned to the Northern licensing hours and had probably had quite enough by 11 o'clock. But seeing as nobody rang last orders we just kept drinking. By about 2 am we were given the odd hint that it was about time to leave when the cleaners' vacuums kept bashing our shins.
I'm not sure who it was, but some idiot suggested that we run back to the caravan. This guaranteed that the Theakstons was well mixed with the paella and would wreak havoc for the next six hours or so....
It was a stifling night with a very high pollen count, and what with the persistant attentions of the little perishers I had a night of sneezing, sweating and scratching. I was lucky, I managed to stay relatively sane..., though for a short period I did pull a large pillowcase over my head down to my waist and climb into my pit in a misguided attempt to produce a crude mosquito net.
It got a bit much even for Jon (who you will seldom see in any sort of flap) and he wrapped himself in spare curtain material and attempted to sleep standing upright in the broom cupboard seriously believing that the buggers wouldn't find him there!
Dave's stomach finally decided it had had enough and made at least three bids for freedom during the small hours, unfortunately getting only as far as the caravan steps. Somehow Dave managed to trip the latch on the caravan door so that every time he slammed it shut it would swing open again. This was repeated 20 or more times each seemingly louder than the last accompanied by Daves cursing. He was to suffer the repercussions of this in the morning.
Needless to say the enemy were taking full advantage of our intermittently weakened defences and succeeded in driving Andy out of doors where he ran round the caravan site in a state of apoplexy until he too unleashed some oral chemical weaponry at a still undisclosed location.
Somehow we had all made it through the night without topping ourselves but were in a pretty rough state. Taking stock of our ourselves over breakfast we watched as Dave ventured toward the standpipe and basin in the middle of the site. A lady from a nearby caravan stomped toward him like "Grannie" in the Giles cartoons and accosted him :- "Did you hear the bomb in the night?". Dave pleaded ignorance but she persisted that there had seemed to be a lot of noise coming from the direction of our caravan. Dave was amazing. He put on his little-boy-lost look and said that he had been very ill in the night and even indicated where the results lay. She instantly apologised and went back to her lair, only to appear 5 minutes later at our door with some stomach pills for Dave mumbling something about the water being dodgy. We agreed. She still moaned about the noise in the night, so we blamed it on another caravan of cavers.
With everyone feeling a bit fragile a gentle day was planned and a visit to Alum Pot went ahead. Andy rigged one of the longer drops which takes you from the surface to a point close to the bottom of Diccan Pot via a re-belay. Most of this was free hanging in sunlight. The rope was nearly new and dry. We were surprised to find later on that after 3 people had abseiled on it with Stops that the sheath had "glazed" giving every indication of the first stages of melting.
By mid-afteroon everyone felt a bit better and a Meregill trip was proposed. Rather cheekily, we called in at the Hill Inn and asked the barman to act as our callout if we were not back for closing time. This is probably ill-advised as it never seems to shut anyway!
The Mere was bone dry and an un-eventful trip ensued. Of course we had to demonstrate to the barman that we were OK afterwards. (Several times)!!
Following another frustrating (though less riotous night) we got off to a good start and were very quickly changing to enter Rift Pot (NGR SD680769). This cave was first opened up in April '84 after three and a half years digging by Derbyshire and Northern Caving Club members in the area. The entrance comprises an excavated rift (with much of the spoil held back by shuttering) which leads down to the head of a short ladder pitch. At the base of the pitch a bedding plane gives access to a junction, a short section of phreatic passage, and a few short climbs. A section of low passage, which required a fair bit of bang, follows and leads via a squeeze, more short climbs and blasted passage to the head of a 140ft pitch, which is broken by ledges. Although you can walk straight onto the rope I found the pitch head a bit constricted and had difficulty operating my descender for the first couple of metres.
There is a definite advantage to being one of the first few of a party to the bottom. The nature of the cave takes a dramatic change as you seem to come down through the roof of a vast (60 x 2am) flat-roofed chamber with a re-belay right on the lip of the hole in the roof. Having landed safely on the heap of loose rocks at the pitch base it is possible to walk to the head of a ramp and watch the rest of your party descending into the chamber almost on a level with the re-belay which I found to be quite spectacular. From the Parthenon (as this chamber is known) several very well decorated passages can be followed. Many of them are quite spacious, although a few extremely muddy crawls are required. Although we knew that a way through to Large Pot had been found we were unable to trace the connection and made a pleasant exit to bright sunshine.
So ended a most memorable bank holiday caving in the Dales - so memorable in fact that I am still able to write up the trip well over a year after the event! With so much pollen and insect life on the surface it was a positive pleasure to get underground.