204 camping

Sun 24 Jul 2011
Djuke Veldhuis

Sun 2011-07-24 to Tue 2011-07-26

In preparation for the day-shift of the Butlins camping team (the night-shift consisting of Edvin, Kathryn and Holly), we walked up (again, in the rain) on Saturday night. By Sunday morning rain had turned to snow :-s hence giving us all the more reason to get underground pronto.

Despite having already carted down all the camping gear in a previous trip (see Djuke, Jess, Kathryn trip on 21 July), we still had two tackle bags full of food, rope and other fun heavy stuff each. Going down Gaffa'd and the rest of the pitch series, Gardener's World, Chalk & Cheese reminded me of just how much prussiking up there would be in a few days time and how pleased I was not to be doing it on a daily basis. We lugged the gear into Dead Good Bat Chamber and while Jess and Nial proceeded to calibrate survey gear and set up camp, I went along to our prospective hole, now known as “That Stupid Hole” (courtesy of Kathryn who originally referred to it as “That silly hole”).

A few slings on naturals got us down the first 15 meters or so of a steeply sloping pitch onto a big axe like boulder. A short climb below all the boulders choke. On the left however, a thin, steep, muddy climb up opens up into an eyehole which overlooks another steeply sloping shaft (an aven onto the left and continuing down to the right). As Nial and Jess surveyed down I started bolting the pitch head and remembered how enjoyable this was–keeping you warm and filling your nose with lime. As we continued a further 20 meters down, landing on a small ledge, a dark cavernous rift continued below and we realised we had found yet another pitch series. Having only hand-bolting kits we didn't get much further before we were due to turn in for the night (it was approx. 7 pm)

Our first night at Butlins Holiday Camp (aka “Dead Good Bat Chamber”) was warm, surprisingly so, it was also much drier than top camp (there was no snow, no rain – also no sunshine, but hey that's life). I rolled around for a bit in a thermals, a (clean) furry, a fleece liner and Tony's buffalo bag, but drifted in and out of sleep fairly well. We were rudely awoken at 5 am by the nightshift who made themselves dinner and us breakfast and a hot drink. They looked very ready for bed (note: for those doing underground camping, the nightshift probably has a rougher deal, though the first night they said they fell asleep very quickly, their body clocks are obviously rather messed up).

I winged too much getting into wet wetsocks, but actually, getting into caving gear was fine. A warm drink and some mediocre porridge later we were talking to the nightshift about where they had gotten with our pitch series. Having had a drill, they had dropped it another series of pitches, but had to eventually turn around being too cold surveying (they re-rigged Chalk & Cheese Pitch to get warm). As they crawled into the tent, warm sleeping bags awaiting them and taunting us, Kathryn we ‘kill' that silly hole and so we set-off once again. They had been right. It did get increasingly wet and a few more handbolts down we decided that the rest of the pitch should be named Goretex is a lie – because it is— Eventually the stream disappeared into a thin rift (QM-d at best, probably nothing) while a mud choked hole on the left told us it was time to go back up having indeed ‘killed' this lead. I offered to de-rig. It seemed like a good idea, until I realised the other group had taken one of the tackle sacks, which left one tackle-sack to put 200 meters of 9mm in to prussic out with. Splendid. I was knackered towards the end and Jess really appreciated it when I gave the bag to her for the top section J I can't remember where we went then. I think it was the Wares. We only had time to rig into it a little bit before magically it was once again bed time.

After arriving late (around 8pm) and hence giving the others a lie in, making us dinner and them breakfast, we snuggled back into the sleeping bags. Nial and I apparently curled up next to Jess who was left immobile until kicking Nial in the head (at which point he moved). I think she was dreaming it all up really… Our last cycle started, wet wetsocks, damp caving gear and a distinct itchy feeling, especially on my chin which felt like I'd just been kissing a guy with stubble for the last 3 days (in reality it was a helmet strap rubbing against my chin with added lime dust/dirt/mud and moist air). Anyway, as you can probably tell, I was dreaming of a warm shower at this point and something to untangle the rat's nest that was my hair.

As the nightshift had killed off the Wares QMc's bar two vertical leads, Nial decided to introduce Jess and I to the wonderful world that is the Convenience Series. He seems to love it; I think it's a bit gnarly and squeezy, I preferred the Wares. But I digress…In Nial's defence, he didn't make us follow him down the wet / tedious pit to check out the even wetter QMc in a 6 inch deep puddle (--- fill in name I've forgotten of this area---). While it sounded like Nial was swimming/drowning in a Yorkshire stream way, Jess and I sat at the top trying not to freeze discussing what we'd do with Nial should we drown. It was innocent Black Adderesque humour really. Needless to say, that lead crapped out too L Thus, on we went to Channel Five where Nial and I (re-)bolted an incredibly dodgy, loose pitch; one of those where you can't tread without sending rocks hurtling down. Depressingly, we didn't even get time to survey as it was about time to head out if we wanted to walk down the hill that same night.

Maybe it was because I'd been underground for several days, maybe it was the 200 m of 9mm I dragged up the previous day, or maybe it was because I managed to get the donkey's dick of the drill bag caught in my foot jammer on the very first pitch back up to the surface (Chalk & Cheese) –hence, left swinging around trying to tug it loose, like one of those annoying zips on a cheap sleeping bag—but in any case I have never been that slow prussiking out. Nial kindly offered / pleaded to take the drill bag, but NO way was I going to give in, never. Selfish? Foolish? Stubborn? All of the above, yes probably, but my fight with the drill bag had become a personal battle of strength and will. I won. But didn't get out until 8 pm or so. But at least it was SUNNY J J J on the surface. We had a relaxing dinner on the rocks. Went to bed. Heard the nightshift coming back around 3 or 4 am and walked back down the next day. All round, a superb first camping trip. (Climbing Trisselwand with Jess the next day didn't happen – we drank instead. It didn't happen the next day either, it rained, but more on that later).

Note to self: you write way too much when you type…

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    204 camping
    the butlins night shift