Bumbling in the Dales

The annual BISS (Bumbling Incompetant Speleological Society) pilgrimage to the Yorkshire Dales was underway. A tastefully coloured Fiat bread van was hired for the occasion and filled with all of the equipment needed for a good weekend of bumbling. Armed with the wise words of our mentor (Dave Elluvalot) what could go wrong? OK, we were hardly a horde, but it is the quality of bumbling that matters rather than the quantity. Friday was spent in the time honoured pastime of gear fondling and bumming around tea shops until the call of the Hill Inn became too great. The strange gravitational field in the Hill Inn was cause for some concern as the whirling black hole, cunningly disguised as a till, exerted its effect on our money. Plans were laid for the following day and an early (well, early by Hill Inn standards) retreat was made to the tin tent.

Lancaster Hole was the plan until a vital part of the team (the man with the tackle store key) failed to show at Bernies tea emporium. Last minute change of plans saw the bread van wending its way to Penyghent Gill. Snatcher Pot was located and ignored due to the fact that it looked pretty dark down there. Lower Littondale was the next port of call. Caving gear was donned and Sleets Gill Cave was located. Due to some oversight, the intrepid duo stumbled into the entrance and into the inky darkness. No turning back now! The entrance to Sleets Gill is impressive to say the least: a steep 25m boulder slope leads via short constrictions to a couple of hundred metres of passage to the main gallery which is about 250m long. The main gallery is an impressive tube train sized passage with mud and gour pools. The whole cave after the entrance slope has a kind of gloomy, slimy, dripping malevolence. The whole thing obviously floods to the roof given half a chance. A hasty retreat was executed with a strong feeling of OUTE (overwhelming urge to exit). A decision was made to leave the MUSS KOF meet to its own devices (tea and buns, no doubt) and a return to Ingleton made (via Brackenbottom to retrieve some gear I had bumblingly left behind last New Year).

A brief digression on the effects of Marston's Pedigree... Beware! After several pints of the aforementioned alcoholic beverage, I found the words "Gaping Ghyll tomorrow" issuing involuntarily from my mouth as we retired to the tin tent.

Breakfast at Bernies fast food joint, followed by the acquisition of a very large bag of Edelrid super-bouncy bungee cord. Our team was ready. The race was on. The army speleos had set off to GG and we'd have to move fast if we were to get there before them. Mind you, there is always time for a nice pot of tea in the Clapham tea shop (make sure you ask them to put tea bags in the pot). Having made sure the army speleos got a good head start, we ambled slowly up the Clapdale track, pausing only to admire the view, pick wild flowers and yell abuse at passing tourists.

Unfortunately we found GG without a hitch. The army had rigged the direct and Dihedral routes beautifully. We foolishly agreed to descend the direct route and come out of Dihedral, derigging on the way out. What could possibly go wrong? The descent of the direct route is uneventful, but a footnote to Mr Elluvalot's rigging guide should say that diving cylinders and underwater breathing apparatus are de-rigeur for the bottom 30m if death by drowning is to be avoided on the way down. The ascent was commenced uneventfully out of Dihedral until the senior member of the intrepid duo reached the first rebelay. After approximately 20 minutes of inactivity at this point, my instincts told me something was wrong.

"Can you go up?", I shouted.
"No!", came the reply.
"Can you come down?", I hollered.
"No!", came the reply from the small figure dangling 30m above.
"Oh my word, what a predicament!", I called reassuringly.
"I quite agree, my dear chap!", shouted the unfortunate victim.

I gingerly prussiked up the rope to find our hero tied up securely at the rebelay in a manner which would have defeated Houdini. To cut a long story short, a cunningly thought out plan was executed which involved a lot of pushing and pulling and the fortuitous arrival of help from above. "I heard you shouting, so I thought I'd better come down now rather than later." The plan unfortunately involved me abseiling back to the floor before setting out again. Mind you the extra 100 feet of prussiking did me good as part of my girth reduction campaign. The subsequent exit out of Dihedral was uneventful, punctuated by John's (whoops, given the game away) insane mutterings about wanting to find a dress shop.

New Year's Eve in the Marton followed the usual pattern and a fine time was had by all.


Author: Guy Jackson
Author's accomplice: John Lally
Tea: Bernies/Clapham tea shop
Rope: The Army
Backpacking equipment: Fiat Motors
Beer: Marston's/Theakston's

Note: All enquiries concerning the sale of a certain set of SRT gear or its possible exchange for a nice summer frock should be addressed to J Lally Esq.

Guy Jackson