Mossdale Session 25
(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)
'The price of admission'
I did at times wonder, whether I'd ever make it back this year.
Although opportunities did arise in the weeks after Session 24, and before the weather broke. I was in need of rest and still deliberating over which drill to buy. The latter was something necessary if work was to continue, and further visits justified.
Rest was the last thing I got. And I'm probably more strung out now than I was during the previous onslaught.
You can't put a physical price on fun. Yet the damage done far exceeds a few missed Mossdale visits.
I was unsure, during our approach to Mossdale Scar, whether it was the distant Manctalo, the German Techno, or the brutally cold breeze that was ringing in my ears. We were both under dressed for the conditions over ground! Adele had shown great foresight and partly taken pity on my (still) Jacket less self, and commandeered Elise's Rab for me. Thank you Elise!
We were also feeling the effects and tired from our individual weekends up to press. Adele had visited Juniper Gulf the day before and attended a late running evening event. I'd hosted an impromptu birthday celebration house rave, that had ended at 4:30am that morning.
Nevertheless, I was still feeling ambitious. It may have been the pile of Weetabix sprinkled with copious amounts of sugar that did it though. I'd brought along the new drill with the intention of beginning work breaking up the two boulders I'd dropped, which were blocking the way ahead - during Session 23.
Even though I was well aware Monday would be GRIM! If I stuck with the plan. I was still up for it. Adele sensibly talked me out of it and suggested a recce instead. A string of major floods had taken place during our absence. The possibility of some remedial work at the very least made up for the last minute change.
Our departure from Yarnbury, around 3pm, was a hesitant one. Conditions were far from inspiring, and a vast contrast to those of our previous series of visits. The air temperature hovered just above freezing, with a strong wind chill buffeting us the entire journey. Unattended cigarettes were extinguished within about ten seconds. The Daleswear balaclava I'd unwittingly brought and spotted in the back of the van at the last minute, well and truly saved my arse! Little was offered for shelter and my thoughts were never far from how miserable getting changed before and especially after would be. A brief diversion came in the form of a dazzling, yet distant, gaze warming sunset.
It is always wise to prepare for, or expect the worst, especially where winter potholing is concerned. Deliverance from our oppressor was certainly not expected. Yet, as we dropped down to the track for the final few hundred metres, we were relieved to discover the Scar was in the lee of the wind! A rare commodity considering the winds were northerly based. Morale towards the coming visit was definitely bolstered with this.
A few months absence from Mossdale is usually enough to bring noticeable changes. The floods are always playing etch-a-sketch with the landscape around the sink. I was appalled, but not surprised, to find my rock counter, two boulders (one atop the other) used for organising kit and keeping wet neoprene free from sand/grit had been undermined and shifted from use under the overhang. The stepping stones, built by Dave/Alan Brook and others who visited during the 50th anniversary had also disappeared. I managed to jump the beck at it's narrowest, just! But Adele wisely swapped to wellies for the wade across.
The light had gone altogether the moment we'd arrived. Changing costumes was more than bearable and not at all what I'd anticipated. All we needed now was some real snow.
The entrance series which for much of the summer had been dripping wet with condensation was absolutely bone dry. We arrived at the first canal with barely a damp patch on us. With the unavoidably miserable return to the surface to contend with, we could have justified staying on the dry side of the cave that evening. Fortunately such options still remain a very distant consideration with me.
We were certainly spoiled during our summer visits. The water was bitter! The temperature on the surface had felt far colder, so adapting wasn't too bad. The folding shovel was grabbed at Razor Rocks but little work appeared necessary on arrival at the 2nd dam beyond the duck.
With little work on the cards I decided we'd undertake one of the loops Adele hadn't done yet. Instead of our usual right turn at Cigarette Junction we headed left - following the water. The devious route to Straight Way was then entered where I was delighted to find quite a bit of recently washed telephone wire and rubbish. I say delighted cos at least something bordering on work had been achieved. Adele was then introduced to the heavily sumped Syphon Passage and the delightful entry to Borehole. With yet more rubbish and wire being collected en route to Wiggle Junction, via Straight Way, we then popped for a smoke in Great Aven. Which was back to it's dripping and draughty self.
I gave the entry to Ouroborous a side ways look as we passed by at the Serpent. With absolutely no hint of Schwarzenegger, 'I'll be back!' sprung to mind. There's little doubt the next phase will be a challenging, grueling and exciting piece of Mossdale history. Whether we succeed or not.
The rubbish collected was dumped with the Cache at Boulder Hall and a speedy yet tiring exit made. I part conferred with both Adele and myself during the exit regarding plans to get the cache of telephone wire/rubbish from Boulder Hall/Razor Rocks out of the cave for good. Hopefully before the New Year, but we will see. Winter visits to Mossdale are not to be taken for granted, progress at the project takes priority. So maybe we will have to do this in bits if we are to achieve within the time frame.
The wind had altered slightly on the surface with the odd gust escaping the shelter of the scar. Hasty our change of kit was! The walk back to the cars, however cold, was a delightful experience. I'm not sure what element of the day had provoked this effect. Maybe it was the thought of what was to come next, with all that had come before.
(Next installment) Sessions 26 - 28 : https://simonbeck.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/mossdale-sessions-26-28.html
© Simon Beck, 2017. The copyright for this article and photographs remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.