Winnats Head Cave - Ann Soulsby

Saturday, 3 January, 2009

Present: Ann Soulsby, Jane Rigby, Angus Sawyer, Tom Spriggs, Glyn Roberts & Martyn Grayson

This was supposed to be a trip to lay the ghosts to rest after my one and only trip into this place, foolishly undertaken the day before I was due to go on my holidays, when I got stuck and thought I wasn't going to get out.

The day was very cold and frosty so I was pretty optimistic when we set off - last time it had been extremely wet and at least I wouldn't be contending with the water as well as the squeezes. We crawled into the tight entrance and fairly quickly found our way through the boulder choke maze.

I had fleeting reservations as I passed the rift climb and the squeeze, which had caused me problems the first time. No point in worrying about getting out just yet as we were planning a trip up the pitches this time. Once through the sewer, which was quite dry compared to my last trip, we had a really enjoyable time going up the pitches. I was however, pleased that the ropes had been re-rigged recently. We had to do some crossing over so everyone could get to the top, as there wasn't much room up there. Glyn decided to have a look up a rope, which led off to the left, a proposed future dig. Martyn had already decided that he had enough and headed back out.

While everyone was having a look up the pitches Jane and I reached the sump at the other end of the sewer. After having a bite to eat we decided that it might be a good idea to start getting up the awkward squeeze to save time when the others got back. Jane went up first and appeared to get up with very little problems. I was just climbing up the boulders to reach the squeeze when I lost my footing and before I knew it I was rolling and bouncing down towards the sump. I eventually managed to stop myself just before I bounced over the last boulder, which would have landed me in the water. It all happened so fast but I remember a bit of a scream when I realised that I was out of control and saying ow, ow, ow each time the floor connected with parts of my injured body.

I eventually came to stop and as you do in these situations I went very quiet as I assessed the damage. This worried Jane as she couldn't see me and probably thought I was unconscious. She shouted out to me and she appeared to be quite relieved when I answered. She quickly came back down to me and we started to assess the problem. I was bleeding - there was blood on my suit so we started to look where the blood was coming from. I knew I had hit my head so Jane looked at this and determined it wasn't bleeding. I checked all over and the only cut I could find was on my finger. I had some clean gloves so I put these on to stem the flow. At this point I was slowly realising how lucky I was, after a fall like that I appeared to have escaped without any broken bones and although very battered and bruised - especially my elbows - I would be able to make may own way out of the system.

By this time Tom had joined us and he told us that Glyn wanted us to get going so as not to hold up the rest of them. I wanted to get up the squeeze as this was one of the things that had been bothering me so I headed back up the slope - a quick look back at the drop confirmed how lucky I had been. Unfortunately I still had trouble getting up the squeeze probably not helped at all by my battered body. Thanks to Tom for giving me a push up whilst I managed to wiggle my body through. I must admit it was a great relief once I was through this bit. Unfortunately Tom also had problems due to his height, I tried to help by giving him my arm to pull on but it soon became apparent that this would not help him at all. By this time Glyn had arrived at the bottom of the squeeze and he told me to start making my way out - obviously concerned that if I were still for any length of time the shock would set in.

I was pleased to be on the move but soon hit the second obstacle, which was the rifty climb. I had a few attempts at this before I managed to get my body wedged in enough to shuffle up to the top. Once at the top of this pitch I relaxed a bit and quite happily made my way slowly throughout the system. All went well until I found quite a tight squeeze in the middle of one of the boulder chokes. I was really proud of myself when I managed to get my injured body through the hole but was extremely deflated when I looked up and realised that it was not the way on after all.... I extracted myself back out of the hole - lost my elbow pad and sat down with a small sob to wait for the others. Its okay being on your own when everything is going okay but a bit scarey when you are lost.

The others were not too far behind and as soon as they arrived I told them I couldn't find the way on - told Glyn I had lost my elbow pad and showed him where I had been. He immediately retrieved my elbow pad and then I looked upwards to the left and realised that this was the way on...

I was still taking the lead until I made a mistake near the end of the cave, I followed what appeared to be a strong draught but this was not the way. As soon as I realised I had gone wrong I turned back to meet up with the others. We were now nearly out - just the flat out crawl and we were met by a worried Martyn who was wondering what had happened to us.

When he found out what had happened he made me get into his car in my muddy gear and ran me down to the Chapel to get changed. After a cup of tea I was sent home with instructions not to come back the next day for my caving gear. I was told that it would be washed and stored safely until the following week.

I would like to thank all my friends for the support given to me on the day and for carrying my SRT kit out.

Unfortunately I now have even more ghosts to put to bed so I will have to go in again at some point - MAYBE.