Return to WRPC Shaft by Adele Ward

Never Say Never

WRPC Shaft: Ian Cummins, Leif Andrews, Adele Ward (29th October 2017) 

Having vowed never to return the WRPC Shaft in Caplecleugh High Level, my resolve felt pressured when Ian reported a rope may have been damaged. Previous bolting antics had seen us make a route that potentially always needed a bit more work. Midweek options were discussed;

Plan 1) Ian scoots down WRPC shaft and plays with gay abandon practicing his bolting DIY skills, securing a traverse line, then have a look at the Darker Shades graffiti, then exit via Archer’s Rise.

Plan 2) Ian, Leif and me head down the WRPC Shaft. Chat to Ian while he drills and rigs traverse line.

This is Hobson’s choice for me. The WRPC Shaft holds no joy for me. Practice makes perfect or getting there with the help of my friends. Feeling excited its time for a silly selfie !

The car park at Nenthead felt colder than ever, kit checked and a quick yoga practice – we head underground at 11.30am.

Caplecleugh isn’t helpful with communication, being the chatty sort I want to get these initial sections done and dusted ASAP.

Ian holds the gate and the race to the toilet box begins. My feet are feeling the cold of late, so keen to get the blood following, we make good progress.  Tackle bags are always a ball ache through this section, curse them! No sooner is the bag on my back, than it’s having to be carried through the crawls… It’s a pain in the arse!

I would like to describe the passage as spectacular – but it ain’t. It’s full of underwater hidden booby traps that catch your feet, trip you up and generally lead to cursing. Looking for familiar markers every time it seems easier. Arrival at toilet box pausing for a rest,

Archer’s Rise isn’t a straightforward route, it’s basically held together by a cigarette paper offering a variety of shithole scenarios.  Super keeno Ian heads up first, to aid my confidence at the top. heading up ain’t so bad, its enclosed.

Top of the first rebelay, passes remarkably easily.  Ian awaiting me and suggests I make a start up the mud scrabble that is scattered with an amusing puzzle of rotten ladders. I forgot about the final squeeze at the top; however spotting it reminded me I’m close to the final mud shite horribleness slope. Spotting blue nylon car towing rope makes me think what lunatic thought that was a good idea.

The perfect place for a little break. Hearing some shenanigans below, did I detect the words” fuckin hell? ” Quick shouts to me buddy – all is well.

All reunited, passing through some dug-out areas, awaiting the water today it doesn’t seem that bad…. Oh how this place likes to fool me at times. The water in this area is cold and clear, it’s chest deep in places and the mud fills my wellies making them extra heavy…. Pain. All that said, it’s kind of nice, it feels remote and untouched. – the passages reminds me of a cave in places, the tone of the place can change very abruptly  The water gets colder, my feet begin to cause slight discomfort. I seem to get a little colder nowadays, even sporting my new Warmbac!

I must have been up front at this stage – because hearing the sound of crashing water made me pick up the pace… are we at the pitch head…. oh. The pitch head looked different; previously the water was at least 10 cm below the dam, now the displacement of me moving along the passage and the high water level created a mini waterfall. Grim fodder is ahead.  The only viable option I see is to try to lower the water level. This is done by enthusiastically trying to eject as much water over the side. This doesn’t seem to slow Ian displaying his hop skip and a jump over the edge.

I don’t really like this pitch – stepping out my feet are constantly slowly slipping as the shale crumbles into mud. The path has one or two pieces of rock that Ian suggests Leif might enjoy on gardening duty. Arriving at the pitch head – momentarily drawing on my friends’ confidence of the situation, leaning back on cowstails, fine.

Ian head downs – I have been practicing – with kind words from Leif to bolster confidence – this is one of Nenthead’s bigger pitches – I’m such a fanny. Descending down, this is all going remarkably smoothly now- plonker move of landing on me arse.

Rejoining Ian, at the top of some stacked deads all seems a little different, Wasn’t this place a little … fuller?

Ian Bolting


Ian sets about his DIY antics, the traverse looked more agreeable. With reassuring words from Leif to remember what I know and ditch the crap, this is beginning to be fun, a methodical use of devices is enjoyed … really it was!

Arriving with Ian it’s time to sort out the tackle. Ian asked Leif to check the rigging which he competently does. Not sure if any alterations are required. Leif appears, looking sporting, keen to progress on. Watching my mate head down the ladders – I hope he is ok. Seeing my friend back underground is a joy. Oh the pub is going to be brilliant.

Feeling rather chilly after the battering of water and draft Ian and Leif lead off down the ladders.

The path out is always familiar. I’ve probably passed this place 20 times this year for one reason or another. Looking for my markers the exit is cold and long. Sections that raise the heart rate are gingerly passed.

Exiting to the cold – a speedy change is had. I furiously seek out the coffee to stave off Ian’s hypothermia, which is lucky as if he hadn’t been my co-pilot in my new mini cave car, I would have driven the car into a post!