Hagg Beck (Active) Sink: Ian (28th November 2009).
No, I didn’t do this trip for the fun of if – far from it! However, with a fair bit of kit waiting to be hauled out after my dive and with other projects waiting (if it stops raining), this had to be done.
Painful, yes – and not really getting that much easier with familiarity, this monument to Chris and John’s tenacity deserves a lot of respect, although John told me he actually used to enjoy going down it to dig and left me in his wake on the dive carries.
Considering how hot I had been in my wetsuit on previous trips in, I decided to go with the neofleece and oversuit this time, although the amount of bruising I sustained certainly underlined the padding qualities of good old neoprene.
Whilst I would have preferred a bit of company, I felt that I’d made John suffer enough on the carrying trips and remembering his comments after our last visit, I decided not to twist his arm this time, resigning myself to a further trip in.
Arriving in a soggy and deserted Langstrothdale at 2.30, I was underground by 3, leaving my car key on the dry shelf about 10m in, making steady progress and taking great care not to get my foot stuck in the bottom of the trench as I had done on a previous visit – careful, relaxed movement is the key in these situations – forcing your way through is not recommended at all!
Navigating my way past the nastiest bits to reach the sanctuary of ‘Green Oversuit Pit’, where one could turn round if necessary, the ladder on pitch 1 was grabbed as I nose-dived down, swinging to complete the descent of the slippery rift and join the stream below.
Knowing the worst was done, I admired the fine straws in the chamber beyond, before making the final squeeze to the head of pitch 2, dropping the ladder and descending to take a look at the sump pool. Despite the wet conditions and the amount of water flowing down the calcite at the far side of the chamber, the water level was not significantly higher than on previous visits, adding to my optimism for the project anyway.
Exiting with the most vital bits of kit, but committing myself to another return trip, I took my time manoeuvring my leaden burden, actually finding the trip out to be easier than going in, perhaps knowing that each painful inch was leading to an end to the ordeal, with a choice to be made of left arm hauling (strained shoulder and elbow tendonitis) or right (pulled finger tendon) – the joys of climbing!
Reaching fresher air, the final traverse of the deepest and widest section of the trench was performed and I exited to the chilly wintry night – only about 2 hours underground, but not a dull moment. Remembering to pick up my key, I wandered down the track to enjoy a coffee and even consume the protein bar that had been ignored for so long due to its unappetising appearance. No, it didn’t taste nice either.
So, back again for more next weekend, rehearsing for the return next year with even more kit!