Lost Johns’ Dome – Centipede exchange to Long Pool

This was an ex-Cambridge Speleologists trip, which turned out to be rather splendid, if not the most efficient. Eight people were present in Bernie’s by 9.30 am, and underground by 11.30. (Mark Dougherty had “been to a wine tasting” on Friday night and didn’t make it until c 8pm in the Marton). Despite much persuasion from Andy, trying to get someone else to go down Old Roof Traverse with him, and connect into Dome via Zig-zag passage, there were no takers. Given the amount of water and the general level of competence (some of us really hadn’t done much caving for a while), this was probably just as well.

The Dome party (Andy, Nick Thorne, Tony Rooke, Adam Cooper) were entertained by the rigging antics of Nick and Andy. Nick found a super backup belay for number 1 hole, to which the rope was duly tied. Andy clipped the bolt and pulled the rest of the rope out of the sack to find it a little short – in fact it didn’t reach the floor of the passage at the top of the pitch ! Swift rerigging from the single bolt followed. At the next pitch, Andy thrutched down way below the takeoff looking for the classic thread belay (which is actually on Hammer Pot in Centipede route), whilst Nick found the correct belays, but couldn’t remember any of the right knots. By this time, Adam (who had actually read the rigging guide) had caught up, and took over for the next pitch.

Another short rope on Dome junction saw us into Centipede, which had now been rigged by the other party (Tanya Savage, Dave Fearon, Becka Lawson and Sam). We soon arrived at the top of Battleaxe to the thunderous roar of the swollen stream. This was where we realised that we should have given the other party an hour’s start, as rigging the traverse took ages. Finally down, we found an exciting traverse line to the last pitch, and off we shot to the master cave. Both ways were explored in various combinations, but as the cold meltwater reached MSBL, no-one went beyond the Long Pool.

The parties swapped routes, and Adam drew the short draw in derigging the big pitch (Tony set off first, whilst both Nick and Andy claimed not to be able to remember how to derig such things without falling to their deaths). Once up this, things went smoothly enough, except that Andy forgot about the first small pitch in Centipede and had removed his gear at the top of Hammer Pot. Drat ! Owing to falling off the one tiny chockstone climb in the entrance passage, Andy got overtaken, to end up as first in and last out in 6¼ hours. The Centipede to Dome party had emerged some time earlier.