Sunday January 15th
Gary, John D, Laura, Matt
It wasn't just wet... it was REALLY wet... white water down Kingsdale Beck.
John turned up, snorting about how there was no way we were getting down Rowten today... but having descended Rowten several times in similar conditions I was rather more confident that the Eyehole/Flyover route would be passable.
Progress underground to the bottom of the normal (Eyehole) pitch was expedited by the cold and driving rain on the surface. Gully Route (our original plan) was hidden behind a raging waterfall and shrouded in spray. The noise was deafening!!!
Down at the traverse, I waited patiently as Gary descended first, disappearing into the spray. At this point I was 50/50 whether a descent would be possible, so I was half expecting Gary to turn around and come back up. But after some time, the Rope Free call bellowed up and off we went.
The bottom of the big pitch was horrendous; not the usual wet weather spray, but heavy rain from the torrenting waterfall lashing the balcony by the start of the Flyover route; but perhaps the most noticeable thing was the 40+ mph chilling wind howling at us. It was a painfully cold wait for five minutes, huddled over the pitch head, while Gary completed the Flyover route rigging.
I thought it would be sheltered once off the ledge, but abseiling down the first section of the Flyover route you are hung only 5-6m from the water and the wind, spray and noise was unbelievable. But once at the re-belay you go around a corner away from the waterfall and it was sheltered from the wind.
With our extremities numbed to the bone, it was a relief to get onto the traverse to the final pitch where it was dry and nicely sheltered and we could complete our trip to the bottom in greater comfort.
On the way back out, Gary and I offered to go last and de-rig. We sent the others off out on a 20-minute head start, to avoid us all bunching up at the bottom of the big pitch, not somewhere you would want to wait for more than a few minutes under these conditions. We arranged for the last person up to drop a Krab down the rope to indicate it was free.
After a cold 20 minute wait I set off with instruction from Gary not to stop until the traverse at the top of the big pitch. I was pleased to see a Krab hanging in the loop of rope at the bottom of the big pitch (there was no way I would have heard a rope free call nor could I see up through the spray to tell if anyone was on the rope) so without delay up I went... with the gales, the torrential rain and intimidating roar I didn't stop for my usual rest half way and I belted it up the rope to the relative shelter of the tiny traverse at the top.
From here it was fairly straightforward progress out, where the surface seemed so peaceful and mild by comparison.
A tremendous, dramatic, enjoyable but very cold day out.
Saturday November 27th 2010
Rowten Pot (Gully Route)
Gary, Richard G, Simon, Matt
After sacking off Car Pot due to lack of interest, the focus of the day was to a somewhat easier option in the form of Rowten Pot. My initial thoughts were that I wasn't interested in <i>another</i> trip down Rowten but the suggestion was made by Rich that we give the newly anchored Gully Route a go.
The frost had well an truly set in during the night and despite a somewhat chilly removal of clothing at the side of the Kingsdale road, we were all in high spirits for the new (sort of) trip ahead. It was unusual for Kingsdale not to see a single other car parked, but perhaps others had either not made it up the icy hill from the main road, or had had the sense to turn back.
The crisp white walk up the steep hill yielded some spectacular views of Kingsdale in the snow and we paused for a moment to admire the vista. Onwards to the pot, where we found that the traditional route had been rigged by MUSC for the CHECC event, but with no sign of other cavers, we made a start on the rigging.
It took a moment to locate the anchors for this new route, but were soon on our way with some rather interesting but fun hanging traverses to the first pitch. Rich had gone off on his own to expore Rowten Cave, so meanwhile I made my descent, still in full daylight, and landed by the side of the waterfall. A few seconds later, my feet slipped from underneath me and I landed in a pool. The rock was slick with ice. Now came the challenge; to cross the water and reach the continuation of the anchors on the opposite wall. I was concerned about loosing my grip once again and been taken off the next pitch by the force of the water, but as it turned out, the wet rock was not as bad as the exposed rock.
More icy traverse lead to the head of the next pitch, thankfully now well away from the arctic spray. By now, the new route was feeling so different; I had almost forgotten I was in Rowten. A tight deviation dropped onto the next traverse where things started to look more familiar as I came to the main pitch. This route begins the main pitch about ten meters further down than the traditional route and several hanging traverse points lead out an around to the main hang running parallel with the traditional main hang.
Familiar territory again as the descent lands in the bottom of the main chamber before I headed off into another foreign part of the pot (for me at least). Traversing over the exposed hole at the bottom of the main pitch, I set off down several climbs to re-gain the water again at the head of the final pitch. This route bypasses most of the traditional pitch from the bottom of the main chamber; not something I had seen before. One more pitch and we were back on the traditional trade route to the bottom. Seeing as it was already rigged for CHECC members, we made use of the rope and saved un-packing our own. A quick drop to the bottom, down to the sump, then set off out.
Back at the waterfall on the first pitch I came across something I had never seen before. The whole rope had a several millimetre thick layer of ice over the whole length of it which had to be cracked off before the jammers had any grip! I didn't envy the de-rigging team trying to get it back into a bag!
Matt and I left Rich and Simon de-rigging and went back to the warm car. By the time we'd got to the bottom of the hill, most of our gear was totally frozen which made removing it a challenge.
The Gully route is a definite must if you like a nice stringy classic dales cave with a new twist. Well done to the guys from the CNCC Technical Group who made it possible. Probably not one to do in the wet!
Sunday October 3rd 2010
Matt, Gary, Laura
With the weather having been extremely wet all week, and heavy rain forecast for the entire day, we decided that a trip down Rowten would be fun and one of the few options open to us! We had the whole of Kingsdale to ourselves, with most cavers put off by the torrential rain. We didn't know whether Rowten would be passable to the bottom, but at least we know it was a relatively safe option (and it's been four years since I was last there, so I was keen to remind myself).
After a wet trudge up there, the roar of Rowten could be heard. We made a quick descent down the usual route (the south eyehole), to where the bridge was pleasantly dry. Water thundered away underneath, and we could see the fixed ropes of the new route in the main fissure thrashing away under a tremendous waterfall - it made it quite dramatic! For future reference, this new route is not the best place to be during flood!
We descended down, swinging into the traverse and rigging the full traverse. The big pitch was extremely impressive with all the water, however, the rope maintained a suitable distance from the waterfall, although with quite a bit of spray near the bottom. Our rope was only just long enough to swing onto the ledge at the bottom (see notes below). This ledge was a very drafty and rainy place (although with no major danger), and somewhere we were very glad of our new PVC suits! I wouldn't want to hang around here though - so we made a prompt start of rigging the next pitch!
We descended the next pitch, swinging around the corners at two rebelays to the final traverse. There was an enormous gale howling through the rift at the first corner rebelay, and lots of spray, making this an exciting, if rather chilly place to be! However, once round the corner and at the traverse, we were out of the wind and things became much more pleasant. We promptly completed the last pitch.
A faff-free return trip followed, we noted that the 'weather' on the ledge at the bottom of the big pitch had improved somewhat and it was nowhere near as drafty as on the way down (which I was thankful of, being at the back of the group). We arrived out at 6pm, having completed the trip in about 4.5 hours. Very enjoyable indeed! Rowten is certainly a spectacular place to be when water levels are very high, and it makes the trip rather fun if you have some thermals and a waterproof oversuit (you are never actually in the water, however, the spray is very heavy). I don't know if it ever becomes impassible - the water levels were very high but there didn't seem to be any problems or immediate risks.
Note that the rope lengths in the CNCC rigging guide are incorrect.
We used 50m rope for entrance to end of bridge traverse - this was fine.
We used 60m rope from start of second pitch (just beyond the bridge below the entrance), into the traverse and then down the big pitch - this was VERY tight (and we only just made down) - I would suggest a minimum of 70m rope is used, or a 30m rope to the end of the traverse and 50m for the pitch itself if you don't have a 70m rope.
I forget what lenghts we used for the last two pitches, however it would have been at least the length in the CNCC guide, and this was quite tight too. Therefore, add at least 10m to all lengths.