204 - Merry Fucking Christmas pushing (or not)
Decided, much to the amusement of Tony, to try to drop the pitch 01-68A in Merry fucking Christmas. Set off, and were fine, until we reached the end of Bonsai crawl. From then on, the trip descended into chaos, as we struggled to find No pain, no gain, due to difficulty deciphering the surveys, then proceeded merrily to a large passage ending with a pitch which, upon seeing an ice formation, Nial recognised as Wolpertinger way - a part of the cave off the edge of the survey we were using, and most definitely not where we wanted to be! After a certain amount of confusion, and such plans as "if we go back to no pain, no gain, then try again", and "well, if we go past a branch on the right and keep following this wall", we eventually managed to find the correct bit of passage, at which point we found we had to climb down a small hole in the floor for 3m - Nial and Kathryn managed fine, but for some inane reason I ended up trying, and failing miserably, to fly down it, tweaking my elbow in the process. Nial, who at that point was half way along the very tight tube at the bottom, was told to come back, by a slightly panicky Kathryn who was convinced by all the mutterings and groans that he was suffocating. Due to my elbow, we decided no to push merry fucking christmas and instead went back to lead 03-1B in Magic Roundabout chamber - a journey which took 3 hrs on the way in only took 1 hr to reverse! Once there, we surveyed the lead for a short distance up a narrow tube which carried on from [what we thought was - later found that we had resurveyed a fair bit] the last survey point - will have to return to carry on.
We then decided to go for a bit of variety and to exit through 204 D - which seemed a good idea until we reached the innermost up climb out of suspended solution [apparently the floor had shifted since people were there previously, making it very hard] - Nial rigged a handline down off a rather dodgey boulder, which proved to be necessary as both me and Kathryn had problems with the climb - I ended up going up it backwards, and Kathryn prussiked up the handline. Nial then rigged the entrance climb from the bottom up, and we scrambled out over the snow plug into the blazing sun.
We then returned to base camp, timing the walk to perfection as it got dark just as we reached the cars.