Face-to-face with a fish by Ian Cummins

Maybe I’m old-fashioned.  I only turn on my mobile when I’m making a call.  When I go bouldering I don’t carry a 3-piece suite on my back and when I go caving, clipping lines of P-hangers seems to lack a certain je ne sais quois.  I’m not totally reactionary though, realising that cave diving cannot be done with a bucket and a hosepipe and that expensive kit needs to be bought and mastered.  Hence the return to Valley Entrance again for more diving upstream in Rowten – it’s a good workout too, carrying all that clobber, making the diving the relaxing bit of the day.

Having done the free-dives many times, I’m always amazed at how rubbly and constricted the longest sump is and remarkably on this dive I came face-to-face with a very large (definitely a keeper) brown trout.  I had time to assess its coloration as it sat in my light beam – not at all lacking pigmentation – maybe it had just popped in from Keld Head for a jaunt!  The 2 sumps up towards the Frakes Series were quickly done up and down – very enjoyable stuff.

Next week saw us back at Southerscales sump to retrieve my ropes and lay a hawser.  Simon meant to go first, but his Jacuzzi simulation meant no diving for him and I had the pleasure of diving through the winding route in crystal-clear water, with a hint of a silt layer at mid-height – absolutely beautiful!

More conventionally, the next day saw a good turnout for the club Marble Steps meet, led by Richard, and I took new member Phil down the Gulley Route, with the aim of doing The Intestines to the bottom.  Having been soaked on his previous trips, Phil had invested in a surfing wetsuit from e-bay and was probably a bit disappointed to find the cave bone-dry!

I didn’t have a clue where to go, so I followed my nose into a tight muddy crawl past Stink Pot, ending in nothing – oh dear!  A muddy retreat left us searching for water to clean our kit and meeting the others back at the chamber, we returned to rig Stink Pot and bottom the pot via The Ninety.  Everyone bar Phil, Emma and me had cleared off, but we were certainly impressed by the architecture of the big pitch, if not by its tight get-off and we were soon at the sump.

Some sump pools are very attractive – think of Sleets Gill, for example, but the Marble Steps sump has all the appearance and allure of a rock festival toilet after a few days heavy use – yuck!

On the way out, I responded to Richard’s query by free-climbing out of Stink Pot and up the Gulley Route – great fun.

Thanks again to Richard and Emma for helping Phil on the pitches.