Our second trip assisting the digging team down Spider Hole.
Group: Will, Jude, Adrian VDP, Pete Hann, NikNak (unsure of real name), Aubrey, John, me.
Duration: Four and a half hours, approximately.
This was another great trip down Spider, once again hauling sand for the diggers. We brought SRT kits at Judes suggestion and, although I was rather dubious about whether it was a good idea, SRT’d the pitches. Spider has two notable pitches (plus one small one that has a ladder) in a rift called Hazelnut Rift. The first, Hazel Pitch, is 26 ft approx, and the second, Nut Pitch, is 40 ft approx. They are basically one pitch but are done as two ladders, with some jammed boulders providing a change over point. When on SRT, they are generally done as a rebelay.
My previous SRT experience has been limited to one trip down Manor Farm over a year and a half ago, and one quick pop up and down the very simple and short pitch at Giant’s Hole in Derbyshire. These were both good experiences but, despite this, SRT still scares the bejesus out of me. I’m not fond of heights, and, when up high, have a tenancy to freeze up if I’m unsure of what to do. Also, I hate the SRT tower at the Wessex because you can see the floor! Ascending is not so bad, although I don’t like getting off the rope at the top, but I really dislike descending. I hope that with practice I can overcome this fear, but practice that doesn’t involve the tower is hard to come by.
Anyway, Jude was very patient in going through the set up of the kit with me and making sure I didn’t do anything stupid while getting on or off the ropes. She was above me for both of the descents and ascents, and I think I could probably guarantee that I know what to do when getting on or off the ropes. At the top of Giant’s I forgot to make myself safe on the traverse line before unclipping, for example, but I don’t think I’d forget anything now.
The sand hauling was all fine and without incident. I went down the rather impressive chimney climb to look at the bottom, it’s certainly not a dig you’d want to fall down!
On the way out, Jude was first up the pitches followed by me. While we sat at the top waiting for Will we kept thinking we could hear voices further up the chamber. When we became certain, Jude headed up the next small pitch and climbed up to the small emtrance / exit passage. I heard her saying hello so someone (we presumed another group of cavers) and then I heard her say ‘Oh, I’d keep your helmet on if I were you’ to which the voice replied ‘I don’t have one’. It turned out to be a man and his 11 year old son, both without any form of caving gear at all, with a single handheld torch between them! They’d seen the cave exit and, since the gate was open due to us being down there, they headed on down! This involved climbing down a 20 ft chimney, not an easy task and especially not for an 11 year old. Absolutely crazy! At least they seemed to realise their mistake and the dad cheerfully allowed Jude to belay his child up the climb and shown them out of the cave without any complaints. Absolutely crazy people.