I was also reminded how isolated we are in the Wharfedale region where meeting other cavers is usually a rare occurrence. In the space of ten minutes in Clapham I'd bumped into just about everybody.
Due to the dubious forecast, the originally scheduled venue of Sunset Pot was altered to something a little less fickle. Gaping Gill via Small Mammal/Bar Pot was chosen instead. There were a few in the group who'd yet to visit the main chamber, so all the better. One never forgets those early adventures and how that first trip to Gaping Gill felt. No matter how many times you've done it yourself, there's always satisfaction to be had from witnessing someone's first time.
The day felt like a kind of reunion even though it wasn't. Myself, Ian and Fay had gone through a period of frenzied sport activity in the Gaping Gill region some ten years ago or more. Our memories relating to most were still pretty desperate! Denis, as ever, provided the most entertainment with his never ending account of close-calls and anecdotes..
The first pitch of Small Mammal and the big pitch alternative in Bar Pot were used for the descent to South East Passage. The latter being a route I hadn't used before and one which lands you right next to the entry point to New Henslers Crawl - the end and beginning of many a Far Waters memory.
The main chamber was visited via the well travelled South East Passage. Even though I last visited the system several years ago, it's been twice that since I last travelled that particular way. The sense I'd begun to take it for granted previously was apparent. I'd forgotten how wonderful a section of passage it is.
As we approached, those new to the chamber (Leif and Adele) were ushered ahead to cast unobstructed eyes on that ominous distant rumble. The inlets from above were awash with little light penetrating the chamber. One feels the presence of that space. Conditions were hardly suitable for a picnic, not that we had one and I'd already scoffed my cadged Mars Bar. After five minutes in the maelstrom we were ready for off.
Our exit was a scattered but serene affair. Being the last one up the big pitch and having no disruptions from below I took my time and hung for a few minutes several metres above the ground. I looked down at the exit to New Henslers and remembered my previous lonesome visit to the Far Waters. It was another one of many strange experiences I've had. I imagined myself exiting New Henslers all that time ago, looking up and seeing me hanging there looking down on myself from the future.
Photograph courtesy of Leif Andrews
The author descending Bar Pot - big pitch alternate. See caption for further enlightenment
|The future's bright. "Yes," Mr Beck says, "about as bright as the shaft I'm descending."|
© Simon Beck, 2017. The copyright for this article and photographs remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.