Gaping Gill: Ian, Simon (7th September 2008).
Sorry to mention the weather again, but why not? After the floods of Friday and Saturday, I formulated a plan for Sunday, hoping to have a look at GG Main Chamber in spectacular conditions. Having enjoyed the Disappointment Pot streamway so much on our Far Waters trip, I reckoned if we avoided the Portcullis duck (sump?) by descending Marilyn, we could get to Hensler’s Master Cave and on to the Main Chamber. One advantage of the grotty weather was that few tourists were on the road and I had a trouble-free drive to Clapham. Remarkably, Simon was actually on time – nay – slightly early, and we enjoyed a coffee in the café before packing up the gear, just as the rain started again!
Calling in at the show cave, Mister Cordingley was in attendance and we suggested to him that a trip to Southerscales might be in order to re-lay the line in the sump, which we had found to be loose on our trip the week before. Continuing up onto the cattle-grid-come-missile silo entrance of Marilyn, the rain came on again as I was changing and Simon rigged to the ledge about 10m down. With a small tackle collection (almost too small!) I placed a couple of hangers down the narrow rift below the ledge, before meeting the short blasted crawl to the top of the second pitch. My topo suggested 2 deviations here, but only 1 was in-situ and clipping this created a shocking rub on a roof, necessitating a reversal by chimneying up to un-clip. In fact, we reckoned the rope hung free anyway, with only a slight kiss to the rounded ledge, avoided by keeping one’s legs pushing on the wall – so don’t bother clipping the tat. More logically a re-belay bolt would be useful here.
Reaching the short 3rd pitch of Disappointment, I couldn’t remember if I had climbed this before, although even in wet conditions it looked OK, but I fixed my 8mm rope here, as Simon reckoned that with only a belay plate for a descender, he would feel safe in such narrow confines! Reaching the next pitch, with only 1 9mm x 20m rope left, it became apparent that we were a rope short! No worries, I had definitely climbed this pitch last time, so I left a sling on the belay and down-climbed to check. Simon abbed, pulled the rope and we continued on to the final pitch, where I again traversed out to the pitch head and made the bottom with rope to spare from 20m!
Reaching the superb Master Cave, ‘The Navigator’ led the way faultlessly to Main Chamber after a bit of strenuous, rubbly crawling and we took in the force of the wind and water in the wild conditions. It was actually difficult to look up at the light above; such was the force of the wind and swirling spray! Amazingly there were no ropes down Bar – the system to ourselves?
After a detour to the top of Mud Hall we were soon back at the ropes and making our way up the Marilyn pitches. Ascending the final pitch, I was aware of how tight and awkward it was, so I decided that free-climbing would be easier – and so it was, so I climbed the final section to the lid too – great fun.
Yes – it was raining again and I got soaked getting changed and on the way down to Clapham, where it was apparent by the water in Trow Gill, that it had thrown it down whilst we were underground. Again, great sport on a grotty day. I’m pleased Simon knew the way, or I would still be down there!