TRIP REPORTS - what have you been down to? > Sporting Trips in The UK

Sunset Hole, into the extension via the bypass.

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I don’t normally share my trip reports here but thought this one for the UNCCs recent trip to Sunset Hole may be of interest to some people, as there isn’t much information available online about the bypass, and to an extent the extension series.

Our small group decided that due to the rain this weekend, a trip down Sunset was a safe bet, and we headed off around lunchtime.  Progress was quick with most people opting to free climb the first 2 climbs, although I rigged them to allow the option for SRT.  At the end of the second pitch we then paused to allow me to remove my SRT kit, then headed on.  We soon reached the third pitch, where I left Jacob and Joe to rig the 3rd and 4th pitches and headed back to attempt the bypass.

This was roughly were it was said to be in the description (just before the third pitch means about 15m back) and is a gully into the bedding plane on the right at head height, with an outcrop a few metres in seemingly dividing the route in 2.  What followed was an awkward crawl, with some stals and straws (nothing special in their own right but not all that common in sunset), before a series of steps down that are easily free climbed.  The final step down is into a rift passage which is for the large part too tight but can be tackled by climbing up to roof height and squeezing along the top, keeping as high as is possible.  In my opinion this is a disgusting squeeze, and I was convinced I had trapped myself a couple of times; adopting a do or die attitude as I a. was confident by this stage that this was the bypass. And b. believed I was unable to go backwards.  I was able to make it through (the squeeze is around 4m long) and was fortunate enough to find there were handholds to allow a headfirst dive back down the rift to release my legs. Once back at the bottom of the rift, a few metres saw me at the top of another couple of free climbable steps; climbing down, the passage then went back on itself and after a few more metres reached the iron bar that marks the entrance to the extension for the main chamber is reached.
At this point I sat and waited for the remainder of the group to head down the main pitch, where they then attached a ladder to the in situ tatty rope, allowing me to pull it up and rig it off a natural.  I headed down to retrieve my SRT kit and ropes for the extension.  The group split at this point, Doc, Jacob, Joe and I headed into the extension while Jen and Yasmin opted to wait in an emergency shelter for us to return.  A note here for anyone going up from the main chamber, the passage is split into 2 at the top of the iron bar, the left leads to the extension while the right leads to the bypass.

After some awkward crawling and a short drop down, we reached the first pitch in the extension, which had an abundance of naturals for rigging, and we were able to do with a 15m rope rigging off two naturals.  Embarrassingly at this point, I realised my descender had gone rogue, but not wanting to go back and search yet decided to descend on my jammers.  At the bottom, we found ourselves in a large bedding plane, with options of exploration to both the left and right (we decided not to look). Directly in front of us, a climb down through boulders led to the corkscrew, which Joe and I headed through.  At the end of the corkscrew, we found ourselves in some tight passage about 3m back from the 2nd pitch head, and with ample room in the bedding plane around the sides.  Rather than descend, we enjoyed the view from the bedding plane (it’s quite pleasant in its own way, but is just a big pit in the ground) before heading back out, with Joe having to help pull me out of the corkscrew, everyone going via the main chamber, and me managing to find my descender again in the pool at the bottom of the second pitch.  The volume of water had increased slightly whilst we were in the cave,  meaning we were pretty thankful we had left the pitches rigged!

An enjoyable trip, although I can’t say I enjoyed the bypass, as I was pretty concerned that I had got myself stuck several times.  For reference with the squeeze, I’m just shy of 6 foot and weigh around 82kg, plus I’m certainly not an expert with squeezes so may have been doing things wrong! 

Thanks for including your personal dimensions : very useful :)

Thanks for that description DaveK. I've done Sunset 3 or 4 times (quite a while ago) and have always meant to have a look at the bypass. Thanks to your efforts I don't need to bother now!


--- Quote from: DaveK on February 03, 2020, 12:01:43 am ---Embarrassingly at this point, I realised my descender had gone rogue

--- End quote ---
Assuming you don't have any complicated rigging to get passed, an Italian Hitch is a very handy knot in this situation (assuming you have a steel carabiner)

Got me out of an embarrassing situation after walking up the fell as a student, with two giants of the caving world who had invited me digging, only to discover that my rack was not in my tackle bag, having gone back to Durham the night before with a load of club kit...  :-[

Or on a short pitch you could take your chances with a classic abseil, though I would suggest a little practice somewhere safe (and make sure to wear gloves if the rope is gritty and muddy!)

I didn't think of using an Italian Hitch, that would have certainly been a lot quicker!  Although I don't intend to have a descender run away again, it's definitely a useful tip, thank you  :)


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