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st_cuthberts_swallet [01 May 2013 20:08]
admin created
st_cuthberts_swallet [02 May 2013 09:53] (current)
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 We met at  the Hunters' Lodge Inn since no-one had GPS devices allowing us to meet at the  Belfry; a quick drive round to the BEC palace and we changed amid jovial banter  and general introductions. Castle frowned occasionally. Steve just got on  with things while Binding and Nicholson tried to keep low profiles on this  "hard man's" trip. St. Cuthbert's Swallet has a bit of a reputation as a  caver's cave and some of the obstacles are quite arduous at times. Binding was taking  a camera for the first time, hoping to get sufficient shots to make up  this article (obviously this was a success otherwise this article wouldn't be  written... do keep up at the back there!). We met at  the Hunters' Lodge Inn since no-one had GPS devices allowing us to meet at the  Belfry; a quick drive round to the BEC palace and we changed amid jovial banter  and general introductions. Castle frowned occasionally. Steve just got on  with things while Binding and Nicholson tried to keep low profiles on this  "hard man's" trip. St. Cuthbert's Swallet has a bit of a reputation as a  caver's cave and some of the obstacles are quite arduous at times. Binding was taking  a camera for the first time, hoping to get sufficient shots to make up  this article (obviously this was a success otherwise this article wouldn't be  written... do keep up at the back there!).
  
 +{{ :stcuthberts6.jpg?direct&200|Steve makes his way down the entrance rift}}
 Robin was  the Cuthbert's virgin and Steve was on his second trip. Of course Castle's done this  trip hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of times and Binding's tally of 30+  trips here isn't exactly stella. The entrance was the usual nightmare - so  seductive, luring one down into the depths of the rift whilst for the rest of the  trip it nags at the back of your mind... "I've got to climb back up that damn  rift.... hell's teeth... do I have the reserves of energy for such a feat of  physics?" etc., etc.. Robin was  the Cuthbert's virgin and Steve was on his second trip. Of course Castle's done this  trip hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of times and Binding's tally of 30+  trips here isn't exactly stella. The entrance was the usual nightmare - so  seductive, luring one down into the depths of the rift whilst for the rest of the  trip it nags at the back of your mind... "I've got to climb back up that damn  rift.... hell's teeth... do I have the reserves of energy for such a feat of  physics?" etc., etc..
  
 +{{:stcuthberts5.jpg?direct&250 |Robin glances into the depths}}
 We were in  the cave by 7:30pm; no way were we going to be making the pub by 10:00pm! The water  levels were low on the surface despite severely heavy rain showers during the  day; the damn was quite high but it should surely have enough reserves to allow  us to make our return without having a minor river accompanying our desperate  efforts to clamber back up the horrific 10 metre rift. We were in  the cave by 7:30pm; no way were we going to be making the pub by 10:00pm! The water  levels were low on the surface despite severely heavy rain showers during the  day; the damn was quite high but it should surely have enough reserves to allow  us to make our return without having a minor river accompanying our desperate  efforts to clamber back up the horrific 10 metre rift.
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-Steve makes his way down the entranc e rift. Robin glances into the depths... 
  
 We  progressed down the entrance series of climbs and ladders; after the narrow entrance rift we  squeeze through to the approach over boulders to Arete pitch, an easy climb down  a fixed ladder to the peak of a large angular boulder, constantly sprayed by  falling water. We slide down and enter the descending rift which immediately  drops away to an awkward short fixed ladder where it is necessary to hang on to a  good flake edge with one's left hand while dangling one's leg around fishing  for the top rung of the ladder; immediately at the base there is another  slightly daunting manoeuvre to get onto the next ladder whereupon each caver gets  lashed with a strong showerbath cascade at the base. A short quick scramble  under the water leads to the beginning of the infamous Wire Rift - for any first  timer this is usually a moment of realisation - My God! What have I let myself in for? ... anyway it's a "do or die" kind of moment and is actually far easier  than it looks (but not on the way back!). The awkwardness doesn't allow easy photography so I was unable to get a shot of this classic feature. We  progressed down the entrance series of climbs and ladders; after the narrow entrance rift we  squeeze through to the approach over boulders to Arete pitch, an easy climb down  a fixed ladder to the peak of a large angular boulder, constantly sprayed by  falling water. We slide down and enter the descending rift which immediately  drops away to an awkward short fixed ladder where it is necessary to hang on to a  good flake edge with one's left hand while dangling one's leg around fishing  for the top rung of the ladder; immediately at the base there is another  slightly daunting manoeuvre to get onto the next ladder whereupon each caver gets  lashed with a strong showerbath cascade at the base. A short quick scramble  under the water leads to the beginning of the infamous Wire Rift - for any first  timer this is usually a moment of realisation - My God! What have I let myself in for? ... anyway it's a "do or die" kind of moment and is actually far easier  than it looks (but not on the way back!). The awkwardness doesn't allow easy photography so I was unable to get a shot of this classic feature.
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 We safely pass the Wire Rift and then pop round the corner and down the last fixed ladder which is a breeze by comparison with what has gone before. We safely pass the Wire Rift and then pop round the corner and down the last fixed ladder which is a breeze by comparison with what has gone before.
  
 +{{ :stcuthberts2.jpg?direct&250|Robin gets an eyeful of one of the lower curtains}}
 Once down into Mud Hall we clamber up the easy bit into Pillar Chamber and then descend the  vice-like drop and climb down past Friday Night Traverse and round the corner next to Kangchenjunga (a huge boulder, shaped similarly to the Himalayan peak  after which it is named). We then slide down the muddy slope and have a look-see at the Cascade from the vantage point, for the benefit of Robin who  has yet to witness some of the marvels of this fantastic cave. Once down into Mud Hall we clamber up the easy bit into Pillar Chamber and then descend the  vice-like drop and climb down past Friday Night Traverse and round the corner next to Kangchenjunga (a huge boulder, shaped similarly to the Himalayan peak  after which it is named). We then slide down the muddy slope and have a look-see at the Cascade from the vantage point, for the benefit of Robin who  has yet to witness some of the marvels of this fantastic cave.
  
 +{{:stcuthberts4.jpg?direct&250 |Steve illuminates the curtain from behind}}
 After this we return upslope and then clamber down past Quarry Corner towards the Octopus and continue down to the Curtains where some photos are snatched before we scramble downwards towards the streamway. After this we return upslope and then clamber down past Quarry Corner towards the Octopus and continue down to the Curtains where some photos are snatched before we scramble downwards towards the streamway.
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-Robin gets an eyeful of one of the lower curtains. Steve in the background illuminates the curtain from behind. 
  
 It is  perhaps worth pointing out that there are an uncountable number of these huge curtains  in Curtain Chamber and they extend upwards to an undiscernible height but  it must surely exceed 15 metres. Their condition is pristine and they undoubtedly rank as some of the finest curtains in the UK,  despite the cave being open to "tourist cavers" in excess of fifty years now.  It is  perhaps worth pointing out that there are an uncountable number of these huge curtains  in Curtain Chamber and they extend upwards to an undiscernible height but  it must surely exceed 15 metres. Their condition is pristine and they undoubtedly rank as some of the finest curtains in the UK,  despite the cave being open to "tourist cavers" in excess of fifty years now. 
  
 +{{ :stcuthberts3.jpg?direct&200|Robin makes use of my rope to climb back up the Great Gour}}
 We reach  the streamway after an uneventful trip via the mud formations approaching Rabbit  Warren and then the slide down towards Plantation Junction; an awkward thrutch up  towards Great Gour Chamber follows with Robin taking the wet option of crawling underneath the gours to pop out below us thus avoiding the chain pitch. We reach  the streamway after an uneventful trip via the mud formations approaching Rabbit  Warren and then the slide down towards Plantation Junction; an awkward thrutch up  towards Great Gour Chamber follows with Robin taking the wet option of crawling underneath the gours to pop out below us thus avoiding the chain pitch.
  
-Steve, Chris and I admire the view- always a joy and quite stunning from the vantage point of the top of the 5 metre high Great Gour. Steve paddling in a smaller gour pool. Robin makes use of my rope to climb back up the Great Gour. 
  
 +{{:stcuthberts1.jpg?direct&200 |Steve paddling in a smaller gour pool}}
 So that's  as far as we're going this evening. From here on it's all effort!... To begin, however,  we descend the Chain Pitch and then climb back up the other side before  regaining Plantation Junction and heading back past the mud formations but taking  a diversion to visit Railway Tunnel, the base of the Cascade and then  waltz through Harem Passage and slither up towards Traverse Chamber and then  make the climbs back up the various ladders, Wire Rift, Arete pitch ladder and  the final nemesis - the ENTRANCE RIFT! So that's  as far as we're going this evening. From here on it's all effort!... To begin, however,  we descend the Chain Pitch and then climb back up the other side before  regaining Plantation Junction and heading back past the mud formations but taking  a diversion to visit Railway Tunnel, the base of the Cascade and then  waltz through Harem Passage and slither up towards Traverse Chamber and then  make the climbs back up the various ladders, Wire Rift, Arete pitch ladder and  the final nemesis - the ENTRANCE RIFT!
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 +{{ :stcuthberts7.jpg?direct&200|Robin completes the rift climb}}
 Binding  climbed up first `cos he got there first. Unfortunately I dropped my belt and thought  "Sod it, I'm not climbing back down for that... anyway someone else will be kind  enough to pick it up for me (yeah, sure)". Castle followed on and then Robin  suggested it might be a nice touch to send down a rope for assistance (duly done,  sir). Robin then thrutched his way up this arduous obstacle with only minor  moments before being followed out by Steve who had kindly collected my "oops, butterfingers!" belt. Binding  climbed up first `cos he got there first. Unfortunately I dropped my belt and thought  "Sod it, I'm not climbing back down for that... anyway someone else will be kind  enough to pick it up for me (yeah, sure)". Castle followed on and then Robin  suggested it might be a nice touch to send down a rope for assistance (duly done,  sir). Robin then thrutched his way up this arduous obstacle with only minor  moments before being followed out by Steve who had kindly collected my "oops, butterfingers!" belt.
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-Robin completes the rift climb. Triumphant. 
  
 We return  to the luxurious confines of the Belfry for a quick hose down and "bon voyage". All in  the trip consumed two and a half hours of joy. Hope you look back on it as an  achievement packed trip, Robin! We return  to the luxurious confines of the Belfry for a quick hose down and "bon voyage". All in  the trip consumed two and a half hours of joy. Hope you look back on it as an  achievement packed trip, Robin!
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-Let me  know if you want to add anything to this report - it's always nice to get someone else's  viewpoint - this report is only a draft and may well be altered before it goes out  for general consumption. Feedback please!....