The Roads to Nowhere
Langcliffe Pot: Ian Cummins & Adele (8 April 2018).
Weekend trips are usually planned on Thursday night excursions, so looking at the weather forecast at the time things looked a bit on the limited side. Having done Pippikin as our favourite dry trip 4 times in about the last 8 weeks even our joint high boredom level for repeating caves was coming under pressure…. so what to do? Arriving home only a couple of hours late to my ever-tolerant husband who was watching that I can only describe as the most miserable, grim, film ever “The Road” . However this provided a muse – hmm ‘The Road’, grim and miserable… where does that make me think of aah The Roads in Langcliffe!
Casually slipping my idea of a round-trip into conversation with Ian on Friday, he suggests we ditch our Sunday plans and have a trip to Hammerdale Dub via The Roads, Skirfare Inlet returning by way of Strid Passage. Last time here we had been somewhat pushed for time, so I was keen to see if it really had gone on for as long as I recalled.
Jumping around feeling a little over-excited, my spirts are soon quelled when I think of the walk up. Quick chat with a friendly farmer, off we go. I’ve heard some people like this walk, even do it for pleasure – well they are better people than me. I despise it, with a passion. Ian sets little targets, just this next ridge…. which I know he is fibbing about. Well it aint that bad really, once I hurl my pack to the floor upon arrival, vowing to weigh the damn thing when I get home.
Looking at the pond dribbling down the hole, Ian’s already checking that it’s still rigged and comments it’s dismal, wet and cold. Thinking to myself – it can’t be that bad, all of a sudden…. I might change my mind. With the water slamming down onto out faces we nip down as fast as possible, with a few whimpers from me of ‘’Ian this is Shit’’. We remove and replace the screw gates for some temporary snap gates with a bit of jiggery pokery from Ian.
Relieved to get shot of my SRT kit, my mood returns to optimal. The journey to the junction is great fun, spotting the formations, the changing nature of this cave, I comment to Ian “ it’s a cracking cave aint it mate, it has everything ” Climbing up through boulders at the junction leads to slimmer but easy muddy passage – at least on exiting via the Strid Passage we will be clean. Reaching the gour pool, I recall my excitement upon recognising them last time, realising we were nearly out. The triangular-shaped passage looking familiar and welcoming, leads to our previous resting place. To this point the rock has been smooth-ish; however; the wet suit ripper is ahead.
The Roads today following the recent bad weather seemed perfectly doable but rather aquatic since last time. We had a fair forecast, so the water moving down stream was almost helpful.
The passage is often on what I think is a sandstone bedding, and is easy enough crawling, as long as I remember to keep my bum down. However that’s not the problem, the water is perishingly cold. We begin a ‘where is the water colder than this competition’. Ian suggests it’s colder than the High Level in Caplecleugh, which takes the biscuit. Occasionally I miss a bit that it’s possible to stand up in, such is my determination to get through this at a good pace so that thought of “this is never fucking ending” start to occur as previously had.
I ask Ian to lead as I’ve learnt it is possible to smoke whilst crawling in water as long as you don’t splash too much, so Ian takes off….. Why did I ask Ian to set the pace flashed through my head? Pausing for a moment, to warm up hands and take in the place, I check the time, we have been down here an hour or so and it’s bitterly cold.
Happy to see the inlet at High Cross, things are going to plan…. but it goes on and on and on. Ian is definitely picking up the pace more now which is indicative of a certain behaviour I’ve seen before.
Various ducks are passed True to word at times the caving is easier, asking Ian if he has noticed the rock has changed. There is chert sticking out of it like in Langstrothdale Chase and in Easy Passage in Mossdale, and it looks like it’s had more traffic, which puzzles me, until we eventually reach the mother of all ducks …. a sumped section. I can only describe my suppressed mood as incandescent with rage, although I already grimly accepted our fate. Turning to Ian – perhaps we are missing something mate, let’s have a look with my lights perhaps it’s just a bit of a duck along here. Hearing the glugging noises, but feeling no draft and after attempting to see if our legs could poke through into space beyond, we reckoned any further time spent or attempts to negate would be folly.
Trying to put my best ‘oh well let turn around and do all that shit again voice on” had me wondering ….. is this on the cusp of becoming one of our “epics”. Reasoning I should challenge Ian to a fruit pastille sucking competition, retrieving their little dissolved disks from storage…. my offering looked soggy. Oh well fuck it let’s crack on we can be in the pub in an hour…. yeah right.
It’s fair to say by now Langcliffe starts making you doubt yourself just a tad. All of a sudden every corner I turn has another in view looking like a sumped passage, until I round the next. Adopting a pose of crawling on elbows rather than hands is preferable than suffering any more cold water. We have moved as fast as we can, but things are beginning to become a ball ache. I bash me knee on an underwater razor flake which leads to the usual muted crying. Thank fuck Ian has skills for dealing with me rapidly changing moods – I spot the resting place – Yipppee, only the muddy pools, little sideways slithering, boulders and we are out.
Not tackling these pleasant obstacles with the enthusiasm I had envisaged, it’s nice to see the welcoming running shower of Slaughter Aven rubble slope. Looking up, it looks a bit shit, usually water coming down on me doesn’t really cause me to much discomfort, moving up the rope pondering why it does today, the penny drops – Cos it’s so cold. Exciting vowing that trip is shit and I’m never doing it again
Ian stays down de rigging the battered rope and carabiners. Whist waiting by the entrance to pull the rope up, I thought I might be helpful by depositing my ass in the dribble stream and acting as a human dam, in order to give me friend a little protection. All that actually happened was I sent rather more water down with my ass that once in situ didn’t seem to actually slow the flow….. Just don’t tell him I did that, I reasoned as there was a mini tidal wave.
The Bluebell in Kettlewell is a top pub to have a post-caving debrief. Covered in mud, pleading for sandwiches and drinks close to locking up time we have always been welcomed with good humour. Commenting to Ian as I tucked into my sandwich, that I felt remarkably tired given the short time we were underground but it had been a great trip, I ask him – well should we have another go some time mate.
Returning 48 hours later with Elise to retrieve the rope and old screw gates. The weather did not seem on our side. Rain and wind made this a particularly grim affair. Only brightened by a quick pint in the Bluebell.