Monday, 16 March 2015

One More Hit

A piece from May of 2008. I don't know why I've kept hold of this one, not a great piece, but it did precede what turned out to be a great year. It was also an early attempt to articulate my motives behind these kind of trips...

One More Hit
Sleets Gill Cave 21/05/08
After bottling it for months, I finally plucked up the courage to quit my the soul destroying monotonous fucking existence at whorehouse foods. I needed a change more than anything but my hope was that the same reckless approach I had displayed towards the security of a weekly cheque, would influence a similar approach towards underground activities while jobless. The only thing I lacked when freedom came was the 'hunger'. After two very satisfying weekends doing the Langstroth pot and Rowten Pot through trips and a handful of easy ones in-between I felt pretty satisfied, complete, at peace, CURED!
Then, within a few days of being jobless the lack of financial security put the shits through me enough that I quickly arranged with an ex-employer to get an old position I had filled several years ago back. I could now at least enjoy freedom town knowing future employment had been secured, which was not the reason I binned oak house shit in the first place. For the first handful of days I managed to remain at peace. I hung out at a mates dive shop, helping out with stuff but mainly inputting products on to the online shop he had just begun to set up. By the end of the third day I began to feel restless. No hunger, just apathy, the signs are never obviously and after 10 years of dealing with these symptoms you'd think I'd have grown wise to this. I guess I initially ignore the urge and hope it will just go away because I am well aware that to satisfy it I must put myself through hell in exchange for a week of peace. Movies/books/late night drives etc... all work to suppress my dissatisfaction with normality. I once joked to a friend that I wished some anonymous person would post letters to me stating my next mission, which must be obeyed, for example.....Run the three peaks in winter wearing g-strings, solo juniper gulf on ladders, retrieve a piece of purple tat from 'to long gone' etc.... If I ever form my own caving club it will be based on this idea.

A decision was made to do something that evening, but what?. Getting back down Hell Hole (trollers gill) to attempt to pass the duck/squeeze and access the limbo pitch beyond had been on my 'loose ends to tie up list' for a few years now. But due to the free diving type theme of previous weeks, a dive I hadn't yet done seemed more appropriate. Down to it's close proximity to my home the free diveable upstream 68 series sump in Sleets Gill Cave seemed the obvious choice.  

 A 15/20min drive found me at the layby. At one time when doing things alone I would find myself farting about for ages, kitting up, waiting, expecting some mental verification to take place before committing. But these days this seems not to be the case, I guess I have prudently realised that it's pointless to prolong the agony any more than is necessary. My intention due to the awkward terrain between the main gallery and the 68 series was not to carry any unnecessary shit and certainly nothing in my hands. So, my mask hung around my neck, weights and belt round my waist and everything else got stuffed into my wetsuit jacket. The entrance was quickly reached and after a roll up I was away.
The main gallery was dealt with reasonably quick but the lead around my waist and the thick long john wetsuit bottoms made every stride feel more like a hurdle. The main gallery's eerie atmosphere and light swallowing abilities made the change in dimensions after the vertical slot (entry to hydrophobia/hypothermia) a relieving experience. Water levels in hydrophobia were pretty low (no nose to ceiling like the 1st time), the weights around my waist and the diving belt buckle were a real pain in the ass here and caught on everything. Even though water levels were low, the water soon begins to build up around you if you hang about to long. Hydrophobia seemed twice as long as on previous occasions, but soon I was in the '68' and negotiating the boulder crawls leading to the next opening.
I must have nearly been sick here cos I could taste the breakfast sandwich that Balders had treat me to earlier that day. In little time the first of the deep upstream pools, prior to the sump, was reached, a duck is passed to a cross rift. The water is so clear here that if it wasn't for the temperature and the resistance created by the water you would think you were moving through nothing but air. I hung around on a mud bank for a few moments to adjust my mask, lights and belt, then I was ready. Another duck must be negotiated to the sump proper, neck deep water, hands on line, a deep breath later and I was gone...... The next thing I remember was the underwater passage ahead opening out into a huge pool, the air surface I was approaching seemed huge, the water so beautifully crystal clear, the borrowed backup light gave everything a marine blue appearance, the scene was not unlike that seen in diving shots of some far away tropical scene. I could have surfaced a lot earlier than I did but instead let go of the line and swam into the middle of the pool. As soon as I surfaced my head hit the roof! Back to fucking reality and some swimming and wading had to be done to reach dry ground. It wasn't far to the final upstream sump and choked right hand passage, which I only peered up from a distance. Most of sleets gill cave's mud covered walls are covered in scrawled graffiti, but here there was none. Not unlike Mossdale Cavern's, the fact the place floods severely is hard to ignore, not to worry though, that part of my nervous system which worries about such bollocks was defeated and deactivated ages ago. I wasn't planning on hanging around here and entered the water a few minutes after exiting. The belayed diving line was quite a distance back from the actual sump and as a sign of my passing I larks footed a petzl head torch strap to the end of the line, I will be back soon to retrieve you I thought. But I couldn't leave immediately, I didn't want to, for I knew that as soon as I was on the downstream side of this sump, the adventure would be over, over before I'd even reached the surface. So I stood there in very chilly waist deep water for maybe 5mins, shivering my arse off. I've been to so many far out remote places in the past that when the adventure has come to an end, I've kicked myself for not having embraced the experience, the place, the end result, the ideal a little more. I still had an obligation and I was going to damn well enjoy the moment before it was over. Moments later I was on the downstream side of the sump, I grabbed my smokes and headed on out. I committed a blasphemous act by not being arsed to remove my two diving weights from the cave and instead left them on a ledge with a good view of the ramp. It won't be long before I return with Ian to do the sump again I thought. Hydrophobia was a piece of piss on the return and I didn't regret leaving my weights, yet I do now. Sleets gill is a pretty scary place when your only objective is to reach the surface, the imagination has got a helluva sense of humour. Looking back now a week later the whole experience seems pretty mediocre, like nothing really happened. It may as well have never fucking happened cos I'll never be satisfied. SI-B

© Simon Beck, 2008. The copyright for this article remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission. 

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