Lost John’s Exchange by Ian Cummins

Lost John’s Cave (22nd February 2014).

Quote of the day credited to Phil Parker or Caddy (such was the scrambled nature of my mind, I can’t recall who) in reply to Andy Cole – ‘I’d much rather trust this topo than your memory!’.

Not having a definite plan, other than knowing we would have another good turnout (thanks folks) and hence an exchange was in the offing, I had brought about 15 ropes – enough for every pitch on Leck Fell and had to buy another couple of bags to carry them (thanks committee!).

After deciding to avoid the wet pitches down to the master cave, the plan was to rig both the Cathedral/Dome and Mud/Centipede routes to meet up in Dome Junction, then continue down into Sink Chamber before exiting to complete the exchange.

Getting my chums to pack the requisite ropes into tackle bags did produce rather a large pile, but I trusted all would be well and trotted off with bag 1 to rig down to the window off Dome Pitch.  Arriving at Vestry Pitch, no short rope was to be found in the bag, so this optional free climb became obligatory and I rigged down to the little eyrie leading off Dome Pitch.  Lacking any rope to rig down to Dome Junction, I ran back up to the pitch head to get more gear and made the swing back into the window before sliding down the short drop beyond and heading off to meet the exchange team.

The series of short drops down to Dome Junction were rigged to the waiting party and we all met up in the small chamber off the window.  Dropping down into Shale Cavern for my first visit to this part of the cave was a pleasant surprise and the rumble of the water below drew us on to the short descent into the fine Sink Chamber, with its soaring canyon walls, roaring waterfall and impressive rock pinnacle.  Curiously, the stream soon ends in abrupt and seemingly incongruous sump and we left impressed by the splendour of the place.

Arriving back at the base of Dome Pitch, plenty of bodies were still in evidence, so we managed to dump the excess ropes onto the party exiting above and re-rigged the drop into Dome Junction to pull the rope down.

The pitches above were quickly ascended, with the ‘against the wall rigging’ of Mud Pot being a delight to ropewalk, making me chuckle at the ease and speed when conditions allow this simple motion.

Walking across the High Level Traverse, the lights of the others were in synchrony below and the pleasant streamway was followed to the exit.  There is only 1 obstacle on the way…above or below?  Anyway, my bag fell from its perch into the soggy crevice, so I had to squirm down to retrieve the heavy sucker and pour out the excess water in order to carry it out with some sort of comfort.

A nice steady, enjoyable trip, so thanks are due to all who turned out in force again.