Aquamole, Yorkshire Dales - Phil Wolstenholme

Saturday, 30 March, 2013

Present: Jess Eades, Martyn Grayson, Emma Key, Ann Soulsby, Phil Wolstenholme, Lisa Wootton.

Aquamole was one I'd been looking forward to, and again, the weather was glorious and dry, so I knew we'd see it all. Lisa and Jess went to rig the Valley Entrance for a later Swinsto jaunt, and the rest of us headed on to the shaft. The trudge up the scar from the road to the shaft got us all nicely warmed-up, and we were all boiling hot when we arrived. Martyn set off rigging at top-speed with me in hot pursuit, followed by Ann and Emma. The first pitches were nice and tight, just like a Derbyshire lead-mine, so I felt right at home, although another set of fat digging ropes rigged all the way down made things a bit annoying at changeovers.

After the first pitches, the cave changes into a typical meandering streamway for a while, again, almost dry. After the streamway came the next pitches, getting bigger all the time. A large chamber led via a small stream and rift to the final pitch, the 'big wet' one, although in reality there was barely a trickle down the near wall. This pitch is really cool, widening all the way down into an enormous rift chamber with a flat bottom. After detaching, I went to have a look at the big lake sump, and one by one the others descended, with Jess and Lisa now alongside. After a quick chat and chocolate bar, I set off back up. I assumed everyone would be quick, and so blasted out with Emma close behind, followed by Ann.

Once I got to the surface I realised my mistake - although sunny, the wind was bitter, and as we were damp, we became cold very quickly - we all ended up lying in tiny depresssions on the hillside, trying to both sunbathe and avoid exposure at the same time! Every time the sun went behind a cloud it became numbing. In retrospect, I should have just gone back down the entrance shaft, but it wasn't very big, and I thought I'd get in the way of the others returning. But I get hypothermic really quickly, and was freezing up fast. Once everyone was out, and the extent of the shivering problem of the first three out was apparent, the second trip to Swinsto Hole was abandoned - also partly aided by us not being able to find it with the all the snow-plugs around! So Lisa went off to de-rig the Valley Entrance and we scuttled back to the car.

We bumped into some Westminster cavers at the road who told us that they'd also been unable to find Swinsto, and so we didn't feel as bad. We'd had a good trip, and one good trip a day seems like good odds to me in that weather!