Hyperthermia – Sleets Gill by Ian Cummins

Ian and Adele.

This was one of those occasions when one thinks ‘please end soon’, although afterwards, when the pain is almost forgotten, the familiar high that comes after a challenge makes it all worthwhile.

The painful moment in question was when after several minutes’ crawling along the low, jagged initial section of Hyperthermia Passage, my hands were tutally numb, despite neoprene gloves and the cold also made my calves start to cramp, such that I had to wriggle my feet to get some relief in the grim surroundings.  With only a slight tightness remaining after the brief rest, we were able to carry on to a small cross-joint, where Adele finally gave in to the choice between numb hands and saving her diving gloves.

We had a chance of a short evening trip and having done Hydrophobia a few days before, the downstream connection just had to be done – a first for both of us – and clad in wetsuit with double neoprene kneepads, I thought I was prepared for the challenge.  A sweaty walk up, suit peeled to the waist, but wearing a shirt to keep the horse flies off, had us craving the cool of the entrance, sliding down the scree to investigate the connection of downstream Hyperthermia to the main chamber.

The short crawl of the ‘Bottom Connector’ was soon located and I crawled along its rugged confines to check out the stream beyond.  Making a small cairn in the stream to mark the exit, I made a return to Adele, being disappointed to have muddied my pristine kit.  We left our hoods and camera kit here, not fancying lugging anything along this notorious route – hence the sole picture below.

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Connection to downstream end of Hyperthermia Passage in Grand Gallery.

The familiar romp to the end of the gallery was made and the crawling began, rounding a bend to notice the jagged, elliptical passge to come.  All of this was awkward, having many ruggedly sharp projections, combined with some twisting sections, although with nothing one could call a squeeze, but the chill of the water soon found us both making progress using elbows rather than palms to gain some relief.

We didn’t miss our hoods – the low water level meant only a few immersions of my mouth and I got the feeling that a bit more water would certainly aid the downstream progress, as in Hydrophobia, since the deeper sections were a pleasant float.  A couple of small inlets on the left were passed as I carefully removed a chunk of flood debris from the roof, although we felt no inclination to investigate them and with kneepads regularly rearranged we found sanctuary in a short, dry breakdown section.

From here on the going became easier – hands and knees stuff, with a few stubborn formations managing to cling on in this normally hostile place, comprising amazing jagged rock sculpture and clear-water pools – shame about the lack of a camera – that we both agreed was reminiscent of a low tide seashore.

Negotiating a wider, low crawl, I noticed my marker in the water and the clay-coloured crawl to exit left, neither of us fancying any more pain to view the sump.  The exit was made and Adele joyfully told me that she had managed to clear the jagged rock that had caused me a bit of suffering on my two traverses of the crawl.

We were soon out, both nursing sore elbows and knees, my calf muscles were painful and next day I noted a bruised thigh, forearms and sore abs.

Kudos to my companion for her fortitude on this trip – I got a message that after a few drinks back at home she felt the need to go back there again!