Dudley Caving Club White Walls Weekend
Saturday January 10th 2015
Photographic / Navigational Trip to The Time Machine. Daren Cilau
Team: Jess, Keith, Becca, Daz and myself Mark.
When the White Walls weekend was advertised Becca and Daz contacted me asking if they could have a trip to the Time Machine as a route finding exercise in anticipation of a future camping weekend at the Hard Rock Cafe.
It is a trip I had heard mentioned a numbered of times over the years and one on my list for a while so I agreed to have a go at leading them in.
At Dudley caving club on Thursday I tried to persuade Keith Edwards to join us and much to my delight he decided to give it a go. My wife Jess, although swearing she would never again do Daren also agreed, and so our team of five was arranged.
Knowing I would need quite a lot of camera equipment if we were going to try and do the Time Machine justice, as well as a bit of extra food, drink and a first aid kit I emailed Becca the night before to ask if they would mind carrying in some kit; I think I actually used the hook that they were the youngest and fittest of us, and as they would need to carry kit with them to camp it would be good practice for them
As usual our first stop was Luigi's for a good breakfast before heading to White Walls to kit up and were enjoying the delights of the entrance crawl by around 11am.
Becca and Daz did a sterling job carrying the heavier bits of kit in and it also meant the rest of us were able to keep up with them
We took a steady pace to Big Chamber and were soon heading off through the crawls to St Valentines Chamber. Keith and I led off down Preliminary Passage and waited at the bottom of the Ladder climb for the others to catch up.
Jess led up the 65ft ladder pitch and was unusually quiet which is not like her. I called up to ask if she was ok....I figured she was either scared or exhausted and called up again to check. As she reached the half way point where there was an awkward change to the next section of ladder she called down to let me know to save my daft questions for when she wasn't using all her effort to cling on to a slippery awkward climb.........point taken.
Keith went up next to take some video and was followed by a very vocal Becca, whom when asked if she wanted me to take the tackle bag declined and climbed with it on her back! It didn't even occur to use the hauling rope
After seeing the others struggle getting up the ladder, and having belayed everyone up, my arms were feeling pumped and I was quite nervous.
I shot up the first section of ladder and although awkward didn't find it too bad to the change over to the second section. Here I realised what all the fuss was about as I climbed the overhanging slippery rungs. Red faced, puffing, I worried that my arms wouldn't hold me as I clung desperately to the chain at the top and pulled myself to safety. How Becca at size 8 and weighing the same as a sparrow had managed with a heavy tackle bag on her back was very impressive.
The traverse and rope climbs caused no problems and we were soon dropping down in to White passage. Continuing on we emerged at the top of a large boulder slope and dropped in to the Time Machine itself and followed markers through to the drop down to The Bonsai Stream Way to Crystal inlet where we paused for photos at the services sign.
Time was ticking by and everyone was aware of the return trip that awaited us, so it was decided we would head back at this point taking some photographs and video as we went.
I could see the extra weight had taken it's toll on Becca and Daz so the kit was re-distributed so they only had one piece of kit to carry back.
The return trip went well until the entrance crawls where the tired group began to struggle a little in the crawls. Daz kept us entertained with a constant stream of expletives some of which I had never even heard before! He managed to get stuck at every opportunity and even managed to loose a welly in The Vice
Finally after about 12 hours we emerged to find snow coming down on the escarpment and were very glad to get back to the hut.
All that was left was to eat, sleep and cave the Sunday.....but that's another story.
Daz in the crawls when he still had both wellies! (Picture by Jess)
Daz on the ladder (Picture Mark)
Time Machine (Picture Mark)
The Bonsai formation (Picture Keith........and a little creative editing by Brendan Marris
Daz and Becca at the services sign