Sunday 21st Sept - Mark Richardson, Rob Eavis

After a bit of coming and going this weekend pass trip, the first for Crusader, ended up with just myself and Mark Richardson, the first Badger to go to Crusader. The plan was to make use of both the long trip but also Mark’s recent bolt climbing practise from his Rowter exploits very recently. 

We whittled the gear down to just two bags, plus the ropes. 10:30am and we were in. Once into Pilgrim’s Way Mark commented “Is there much crawling, as I’ve not brought my proper knee pads?” Nor had he got proper gloves, a belt for dragging his tackle bag, and he’d cleaned his suit ready for expedition soon so was hoping to stay quite clean. Lol….!

For a 6ft5 caver, he breezed through the Crusader Squeezes, which was reassuring for the trip’s prospects. Once into the new stuff he seemed suitably impressed, and by the time we’d gotten to the top of Nights Templar we’d both realised how many similarities this place has to the new Rowter extensions. That said, Rowter is in my mind a much more impressive discovery (so far).

After looking up at the many different bolt climb objectives, we decided on the unusual looking “tube” in the centre of the chamber. Roughly one hour later Mark was at the top staring at a one inch wide crack issuing the drips… A quick derig of the ~10m climb and we each smashed down a Snickers to warm up. Mark then set to at main rift, on the basis that we won’t get to the top today, but we could make a good impact. Roughly 2 hours and 2 batteries later he was ~20-25m up and at “something that needed my help”. 

I went up to join him and it turned out he was looking into a passage heading east out of the rift. We put in some extra rigging and climbed up into it. Unfortunately it quickly turned right and got quite narrow after only a few meters. After a bit of digging I was able to see up to a continuation but a single boulder stopped us progressing. I could be wrong but I’m sure I occasionally noticed quite a gusty draught. We didn’t survey it but I think this is about 15m below the White River bedding, so some quite remote digging trips could yield good results. Mark had a little rummage around the top of the rift and noted a way up further, although it leads quickly to the bottom of a boulder choke, and another potential dig. We therefore put in some stainless bolts and rigged a permanent route to the floor. 

By this point it was 6:30pm so we headed out, getting to the surface at 9pm. So after a very useful 10½ hour trip it was the first trip we’ve been able to make it to the pub! What a no-go up the top of Nights Templar means is that some of the other leads are now much more interesting. There’s still a lot more to learn in there...

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