It Finally Happened: Sell Gill

After a training weekend in February I learned SRT and was ready to try it out in cave. Six months later and after multiple failed attempts (including one where I was hung up for nearly an hour about 5 meters from the cave entrance, but as I could always see natural light I’m not counting it) I still hadn’t done it. So as I headed to Eurospeleo I was determined to do some SRT.

I woke up on Monday to find Jacob and Rosanna had conferred last night while I was asleep and decided on a trip to Sell Gill. Excellent!!! The classical first SRT trip, 3 simple short pitches with an easy rebelay on the last one, or at least that is what I expected.

Jacobs’s parents kindly gave the three of us plus Alex (Imperial) a lift to the cave and we kitted up and set off for the 20 mins walk to the caving entrance in weather that was too warm even in shorts and t-shirts let alone caving gear. After a short detour to avoid the herd of sheep coming down and Jacob attempting to take a selfie with a sheep we made it to the cave.

The first pitch had two rebelays more than I was expecting but at least that gave me some practice. Alex descended down first and seemed to have no problems. I followed on, as I came into line with second rebelay I knew what to do, first lock off, easy enough. After considerable effort I was able to get a soft lock on. That would do, next get my short cowtails into the knot. I had just bought a pair of cowtails and haven’t had time to weight them, I was now regretting it. Finally I gave up and put my short in the loop and long in the knot. My memory is a bit hazy on how this worked but it did and I was able to quickly descend down.

Once Jacob and Rossana were down we walked a couple of meters to the next pitch head. As I tried to traverse to the pitch head I was clear that my short cowtail was causing more issues as I was hung about an inch off the ground on what should be an easy walk. Alex being taller kindly switched cowtails with me. This time Alex and Rossana descended first and I followed with Jacob giving me instruction and reassuring me I’d be fine. Something felt wrong but I couldn’t but my finger on it, so I trusted Jacob and slowly started descending. At which point we realised I had put my descender on backwards when I was changing cowtails. Luckily I was still able to put my long and short cowtail back in. Once that was sorted I descended much happier (I gave up on the deviation and left it for Jacob to sort out).

Here we met a group of cavers making their way back out, who informed us that the rebelay on the third pitch was a nightmare and was best to leave me at the top. So I found a nice rock to sit on and have a chocolate bar. Rossana headed down and as forewarned the rebelay was a pain in the backside and the roaring waterfall didn’t help either. At this point we decided to give it as a bad job and try and nice cave tomorrow (for future reference Yordas Pot is not a nice beginner cave). With the help of Alex, Rossana was able to get off the rope and we headed back to the surface. This bit was actually quite smooth albeit it slow on my part. We went back down the hill, a little irritated but at least I had finally done SRT!!!

By Briony Downes-Ward, 20/08/16