JH West Photo Trip - Phil Wolstenholme

Thursday, 26 November, 2015

Present: Phil Wolstenholme, Lisa Wootton

This trip was yet another photo-shoot (frantically ticking off the list now), due to my epic fail last trip up there where I didn't even get the camera out I was so traumatised by the thought of mud and smashage 'pon the rocks. Having calmed down a bit and thought it through, a plan was hatched to try again, and a midweek evening was our only chance due to our ever-so-busy schedules. The weather was surprisingly clement for Rowter Farm at night, but the family still seemed a bit surprised to have us turn up at 7pm - however, the dog was calm and they didn't mind really. All the fields seemed empty as we trudged over, so I think 'market day' has been and gone, as it were. At the bottom, the first thing I did was check the inlet in the cartgate floor, which was absolutely pouring out - we have a proper stream here and no mistake, and I am very, very keen to find out where this comes from, travelling horizontally at high pressure 100m above Main Rising! I'd love to have a detector here, but where to put the dye? The silt buildup in the plastic pipe was getting significant again, and clearing it out soon reduced the levels, but I think we should try and get that large-diameter twinwall pipe in there soon.

Up above, the far side of the cone we have to climb down is getting worse - it's really starting to slip now and is getting more difficult and dodgy to navigate, and sooner or later it will need a rope to get up and down. A vertical face of rock is becoming exposed near the base, and I think it's all dropping down ultimately into the cartgate dig through the floor holes, which is why it never clears down there. I had a quick traverse into the ledge level dig, and that is still clear and draughting, albeit with some mud still remaining inside, but water was running out steadily, which means it's still open. We have a loose plan to clean this out and climb it next Saturday before the meal, but I'm also well aware Longcliffe needs a large tripod!

Once all this was done it was time to go up and show Lisa the new stuff and try to photograph it - at least up to the Attic Stairs, as anything after that is filthy, exhausting and time-consuming, and neither of us were in the mood. Putting my camera kit together, I suddenly had a horrible realisation that I'd forgotten to put the charged batteries in the radio flash trigger! Cursing wasn't to going to get me anywhere, but given we were now at the spot, I wasn't going to be beaten either, so I had to pinch two batteries from one of the flashguns, making that redundant, and we just had to go for it with one flash. I was secretly cursing under my breath, just to make myself feel better, but kept it quiet so as not upset my model. We did some shots of Shinbone Chamber (including the bones), and a couple of Lisa attempting to get into the semi-vertical squeeze of the Attic Stairs. Watching her struggle, and looking at the photos now, I'm really pleased at an inspired bit of digging that paid off in a really hard spot, and one that would make even Eavis grunt on the way through.

After that we had a very careful pass-down of the camera kit from the ledge down to the disgusting muddy pit below, and then Lisa got on the rope at the top of the main pitches to get some shots of the top of the vein. This is where I really wanted to use two flashes, but there was no choice - so we went for it with one, with it turned up to full power, which is bloody bright - I was dazzled back at the belay point, so Lisa must have been blinded, but she didn't grumble. The brief glimpses of the top of the vein as it went off were really spectacular from where I was, so must have been great right on the edge. Kind of satisfied, but still a bit fed up at my schoolboy error, I started packing up, with Lisa setting off down immediately as our shaft rope wasn't quite long enough to tie a rebelay. The descent was easy enough for me after about twenty trips (you just throw yourself at it roughly and get down as fast as possible), but proved a bit trickier for Lisa who's used to exhibition-standard rigging, rather than low-rent bodge (no offence Glyn). If we are going to keep using these pitches it would be really nice to rebolt it all with stainless Y-hangs now (especially replacing the 90° deviation at the top with the cord tied straight into a hanger plate!) - I'll donate the bolts, and we have plenty of spare rope to put in now. I'll post the photos in the Digs and Projects thread when they're done.

Lisa Wootton in Shinbone Chamber. Photo: Phil Wolstenholme.
Lisa Wootton in Shinbone Chamber high in JH West. Photo: Phil Wolstenholme.