Lost John’s: A Cast of Thousands (almost) by Ian Cummins

Lost John’s Cave: Ian, Andy, Chris D, Jeff, Matt, Peter and David W, Nigel and Jonathan (11th October 2009).

After spending Saturday pushing diving kit to end of one of Wharefdale’s shortest and nastiest Grade V potholes and having a very chilly session in the deep, murky water therein (thanks John!), I fancied an easier day on Sunday.

Leaving the house with not much fuel in the car and 25 quid in my pocket, I stopped in Richmond to get some petrol and went off into a daze whilst filling up – panicking when I noticed I was up to about 24-quids worth!  Not much café money then!

Arriving at Cowan Bridge, I was pleased to see that Andy’s Land Rover was bursting with people and ropes and I hopped into Nigel’s Landy for the drive up, where we found that we were the only party on the fell, having a rapid change in the chilly wind as the farmer from Leck Fell House hauled a huge load of silage bales up the hill (more of that later!).

Matt and I led off to head along the Roof Traverse and the fine Mud and Centipede pitches were soon passed, where I again marvelled at the superb yellow formations – incredible!

Having no ropes left, we waited here for a while, swapping tales of our favourite climbs, until eventually the seniors of the Dudman family arrived and we carried on to rig the Candle and Shistol pitches, where I forgot about the bit around the corner and had to beg for Chris’s bit of 8 mil for the short slabby drop, where we got the gear for Battle-Axe, Valhalla and final pitches.

Rigging the traverse is fun and this time I didn’t quite go to the end, dropping down to a ledge about 3 bolts from the end, where a bit of re-rigging allows a nice drop, with the bonus of allowing more people on the pitch and also giving a nice hang for Pantin-wearing rope-walk-style ascending against the wall – so much nicer than a total free-hang.

Reaching the Master Cave, with quite low water levels, we explored downstream to where the water was getting deep and then upstream to where we tried to figure out some of the muddy side passages.  Matt’s light was playing up, so he was excused de-rigging duties and this was left to me, Andy and David.  Being last up, I lay at the bottom of Valhalla for a bit of a snooze after gratefully munching some of Andy’s chocolate.

Sprinting up to reach Andy at the traverse line, I looked down to see a red bag below – thinking I’d found some booty, I was a bit disappointed to notice that it was my SRT bag, so I had a quick reverse to retrieve it before the fun of de-rigging the traverse.

Getting a bit bored at the bottom of the Centipede pitch, I bouldered the bottom section to the ledge, cursing the lack of flexibility imposed by my oversuit as I struggled to do a high step, with Andy being a rather concerned onlooker!

Bags were hauled with the ropes lying in the grooves of a thousand lifelines and we were soon out in the last light of the day to sort out the gear by torchlight.

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New member Matt Dudman on the battleaxe traverse, Lost Johns Cave.
At the bottom of Lost Johns.

Being first down the hill with Nigel, we were confronted by a bit of a blockage in the form of a stationary tractor and fully-laden trailer pointing uphill and obviously not going anywhere.  The farmer explained that he had run out of diesel and was waiting for his mate to bring a re-fill and some tools to bleed the fuel system – been there – done it – not an easy job in the dark!   We were just able to drive under the loader arms and traverse the sloping verge to get by – the advantage of a Landy, but we were unsure if David’s Mondeo would make it.  Waiting in the car park, I was about to drive off when David and Peter turned up, followed by Andy and I set off to spend my £1.50 in the Ingleton garage.

Top day out and a grand turnout too.

Pics by Geoff and Chris Dudman