161 - Beyond Wookey's pitch, Mordor

Sat 13 Aug 2011



Having cursed Julian with a painful bout of caving keenness before clearing off on another caving expedition to Voodoo Canyon with her fancy friends, Becka got Andrew to swear over 7 bottles of Gosser to take him on a not-completely-waste-of-time caving trip for once. She was going to stay up with the all night session to make sure he drank it all until assertively reminded of the notion that after 3 weeks of neglect and one change-over day basking unadulterated caving glory plus dinner with the Germans, things were getting mighty sulky. Luckily, Neil was around to keep him occupied throughout the night with interesting conversation and brass music until he passed out under the awning with the foot of his sleeping bag in the rain. Inside the hut Andrew was among the debris on the floor. He accepted a mug of strong coffee from me. We drove up, walked across the plateau in the rain finding Wookey and his side kicks coming down from gerry-rigging pitch at the far end of Old Men to lots of horizontal passage which they'd pushed and explored in every direction until 3 in the morning because that's what they were there for. He'd passed a sketch to Olly of all the grade A leads (most of which were pitches or traverses), as he was going on ahead.

We reached top camp still in drizzle, wondering when Andrew's hangover was going to kick in, and heroically continued onto 161G, catching up with Olly and Emma. Its a long way in. Andrew declared the Tyrolean crap, which it is. Wookey's rigging on Mordor rifty pitch was even worse and had to be redone (its bitterly cold there), and then we pressed on to the far North end, where there was a breakdown pitch/ traverse chamber. Emma went down it and climbed up the other side to find a junction, Olly allocated the left hand passage for himself because he had the drill and there was some work to do at the far end. He was snuffing from a cold he had caught earlier and was suffering. Andrew and I surveyed across the chamber (making me do notes for the first time in 20years, because he only does it with his PDA/ DistoX/ top plant, which is best - unless you don't have it with you - and can no longer use dumb paper). The right hand passage lasted only 2legs to a pitch and a mud bank, barely out of sight of previous passage. Certainly if Wookey and co had then been standing at the start of the chamber they could have seen our lights. It was 6pm and Andrew had lasted much longer than expected. We had to go out 'Olly Julian will be said', Emma said as they shot leg after leg down there fresh passage. Don't worry about it, that was the plan. Andrew still moved up the pitches at a faster pace, and wanted to walk back across the plateau by the light of the full moon, but I decided that the shadows were too deep and put a stop to that notion. Olly and Emma got back so much later after us that I lost a lot of sleep fretting over whether I had accidentally pulled one of the up-ropes after me and snagged it out of reach