Stupid Swildon's questions

tony from suffolk

Well-known member
I free-climbed The Twenty once, when following J-Rat out. I moment of rash bravado, it scared the willies out of me, & I never attempted it again.
 

cap n chris

Well-known member
Writing with my instructor cap on, is it not the case that there are serious warnings in many manuals and training syllabi to never rig into water? If so then perhaps the time is nigh for a better infrastructure solution to the Twenty (more like the Twelve); maybe a second attempt at Stanton's Ladder, or a VF traverse and angled climb avoiding the waterfall. Discuss.

NB. Inertia and the all too predictable knee jerk reactionaries means my post is clearly tongue in cheek and nothing will be changing any time ever. One tries.

Some footage for visit reference for those unfamiliar with the cave.

 
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Babyhagrid

Well-known member
A fixed ladder would be a good solution IMO, as it's less impactful than VF staples. (less holes drilled in the rock).
And would help to stop people needing hauling up the ladder.
(However this problem also can be avoided by not getting novices soaking wet in the sump)
 

tim.rose2

Active member
I was left with out ladder at the bottom of the 20 a couple years ago (thanks who ever left my ladder & rope hanging coiled on the bolt at the top of the pitch). Either a long wait for somebody to come and find us or I had work out how to climb it. Obviously went with the latter. I am a climber of sorts, but not a very good or frequent one. It was low water conditions which helped. I looked at a couple of options but decided to climb the stal behind the pitch and then step out around into the water and straight up. It was a 'little refreshing' and wouldn't have been possible in high water but I didn't find it as bad as I was expecting. There were plenty of hand holds in all the places I wanted them. Although the whole thing was rather annoying and Sas said she would have had to wait if I'd not been there, there was no need to change my underwear! The only thing I wish I'd done was practiced the climb (roped) before than had happened so I had been prepared for such an eventuality.

Not sure I like the idea of a fixed ladder - with sufficient knowledge and experience it's fine as it and give's first timers something to remember. What I would be in favour of is bolting the 'up and to the right' traverse which takes you to a really nice vantage point over the top of the pitch and would be an ideal place for a SRT Y-hang. This would allow both options (which with some politeness could be used at the same time) and on busy days reduce the queue. No doubt many will shoot me down for daring to suggest this!

Thinking outside the box...
As an alternative has anyone thought of leaving a ladder, quickdraw and clip stick at the bottom of the pitch rather than relying on others to rig your kit?
 

cap n chris

Well-known member
Found this. Might be helpful to explain to modern cavers what an old fashioned caving ladder torture device is actually like to use. A bitch, is the short answer.

 

langcliffe

Well-known member
Not the best ladder-climbing technique I've seen. I could produce a similar video of someone SRT-ing badly, and use that as evidence that SRT is a bitch.
 

Speleofish

Active member
It reminded me (embarrassingly) of my first ever ladder climb. On the same pitch... I hope I'm better at it now but I was definitely crap (but effective) then.

Probably a good thing it was only the Twenty rather than something seriously big in the Dales.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Finally, putting in a fixed ladder? Hmm, probably goes on a par with putting in stemples on St. Cuthberts entrance rift, feasible but might result in less competent individuals getting into trouble further down the cave.
There's nothing particularly dangerous below the ladder (no more than above it, anyway). The pitch itself is probably the most dangerous part of the cave. I've had people in waterproofs head down past me, climbing down the ladder unlifelined, and I've wondered if they had a plan if there wasn't a ladder there when they got back...
I've had a member of our group with (mild) hypothermia there when we had a delay due to having to haul someone else up. And there have been callouts there before from non-cavers trying to climb the pitch with a handline, falling off and breaking things...
 

mrodoc

Well-known member
Which reminds me of the time one of my daughters took a (now very ex) boyfriend down the cave. He was too knackered to climb the ladder and after she had shinned up and down several times in an attempt to get him moving was fortunate that a beefier individual came by who could haul him up. That was the end of that relationship. Just for interest here is a photo taken over 40 years ago and you should be able to see from it that the stal boss has eroded considerably compared to the present.
 

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hyweldavies

Active member
Found this. Might be helpful to explain to modern cavers what an old fashioned caving ladder torture device is actually like to use. A bitch, is the short answer.


That Swildon's pitch is just too straightforward so you need SRT to complicate it to justify needing a professional guide. With a ladder you'd get the whole party up the pitch before the first SRT person had gone his harness on - where's the challenge in that?
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Incidentally while I don't recommend it, it _is_ possible to get a good (enough) SRT hang there (albeit you will get really quite wet). There are two anchors above the pitch (which I will call the 'left' and 'right' anchors, looking at the wall) and one anchor in the passage (which I will call the 'traverse' anchor).

You need a 15m rope. Start at the thread back in the passage, then rig out the traverse to the 'traverse' anchor and then the 'right' anchor above the pitch. Rig your Y-hang not off the two anchors here, but off the tall stubby stal (visible rope wear marks) on the left and the 'left' anchor. You can just throw a big Alpine butterfly over the stal, for example, or use a sling.

There are only four reasons to do this:
a) you are laddering the pitch, but nobody else in the group is competent to belay so you do SRT (in which case you need the 15m rope for the traverse and pitch and a second 15m rope for the lifeline, which you hang on a small Y-hang in the traverse line between the anchors at the head of the pitch).
b) you are bringing SRT kit anyway for something else and you are a small competent group who now only need a single 15m rope and three carabiners instead of a ladder.
b) you hate yourself, and have chosen to practice SRT on a single not-very-nice wet pitch because you enjoy making your life difficult and ineffective.
c) you hate other people, and have chosen to delay other people laddering the pitch by getting your group to faff around with SRT.
 

Fjell

Well-known member
Incidentally while I don't recommend it, it _is_ possible to get a good (enough) SRT hang there (albeit you will get really quite wet). There are two anchors above the pitch (which I will call the 'left' and 'right' anchors, looking at the wall) and one anchor in the passage (which I will call the 'traverse' anchor).

You need a 15m rope. Start at the thread back in the passage, then rig out the traverse to the 'traverse' anchor and then the 'right' anchor above the pitch. Rig your Y-hang not off the two anchors here, but off the tall stubby stal (visible rope wear marks) on the left and the 'left' anchor. You can just throw a big Alpine butterfly over the stal, for example, or use a sling.

There are only four reasons to do this:
a) you are laddering the pitch, but nobody else in the group is competent to belay so you do SRT (in which case you need the 15m rope for the traverse and pitch and a second 15m rope for the lifeline, which you hang on a small Y-hang in the traverse line between the anchors at the head of the pitch).
b) you are bringing SRT kit anyway for something else and you are a small competent group who now only need a single 15m rope and three carabiners instead of a ladder.
b) you hate yourself, and have chosen to practice SRT on a single not-very-nice wet pitch because you enjoy making your life difficult and ineffective.
c) you hate other people, and have chosen to delay other people laddering the pitch by getting your group to faff around with SRT.
d). You own 600m of rope and zero ladders.

Admittedly I do own 2 x 5m ladders and used them last time, with a lifeline for the first time for sheer novelty value and the fact my wife was there (and it’s a horrible wet pitch). I only own those ladders for use in places where I am not going to use a lifeline, because otherwise I would use a rope……
 

Babyhagrid

Well-known member
b) you are bringing SRT kit anyway for something else and you are a small competent group who now only need a single 15m rope and three carabiners instead of a ladder.
And you have to cave whilst wearing an SRT kit.
The bulk of. Harness and the metalwork and cowstails and footloops is more than one ladder and 3 belts
 

Cantclimbtom

Well-known member
It made me chuckle and a non caving friend cringe, good one Capn!!
Oh...
Never having actually seen a caving ladder, in my ignorance: if all the replies had been "good technique" and "that's how it's done!" I'd not have noticed. (Serious comment)

Enjoyed the last 2 vids cap'n
 

PeteHall

Moderator
d). You own 600m of rope and zero ladders
Borrow a ladder from one of the many clubs?

I own two ladders. Both are well past their prime and down a dig. For Swildon's, I have always use a Wessex ladder (even when mine weren't down a dig) as they are specifically made to fit the pitch.
 

Cantclimbtom

Well-known member
And you have to cave whilst wearing an SRT kit.
The bulk of. Harness and the metalwork and cowstails and footloops is more than one ladder and 3 belts
Why would anyone take SRT kit for a single 20" drop? Especially if they own a caving belt.

Wouldn't someone just use a sling and HMS krab as a makeshift sit harness (with the krab also clipped through belt for elf n safety and convenience) and slide down on a Italian/Munter. To get back up you could use the same "harness" but have 1 (or better 2) footloops tethered on some chunky cord. That could be chucked down to the next person (or pulled up on rope) so everyone could share the same kit. That and a short bit of rope would be pretty small and light, it's not like you're passing rebelays and need cows tails.
 
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