Our Saturday trip was to Large Pot, an interesting name for this cave. The cave begins with a small pitch that leads into a narrow crawl. Just beyond this there was a small chamber big enough for two people and immediately beyond that was the top of the second pitch. Emerging from the crawl onto the pitch was a little awkward but everyone managed to avoid being suspended upside down, even Jarv. After the third pitch there's quite a long way before the Colossus with some interesting bits of caving. There's a pit with two rather difficult (particularly if you're tired) free climbs with permanent ropes. There was also a rather nostalgic crawl to a sky dive where I ended up staring at Ollie's wellies though thankfully not for as long as last time.
We arrive at the impressive Colossus and it is definitely accurately named, a 40m pitch with just one deviation at the top. At the bottom there's a large chamber, quite a contrast to the rest of the cave, and some more crawls brought us to a flooded section. We were hoping to go right through to Rift but we decided not to risk the ice cold water (except Jarv who had a little swim) and headed back. Standing at the bottom of the Colossus waiting for Marion and Ollie, Jarv wraps himself in a big orange bag he found and begins whistling. I think I recognised some songs but he switched between them mid song (I think) which made for a strange listening experience.
Once we were both at the top of Colossus, with both Ollie and Marion gone ahead, it was up to Jarv and I to carry the tackle bag out. Ordinarily I like to think this would have been no trouble but the lack of food and inability to carry the bag on my shoulder lead to me becoming quickly exhausted, despite the fact that Jarv carried the bag most of the way. At one point we think we're catching up to Ollie and Marion but their voices die away and soon we reach the third pitch. Deciding that they must've got lost and that we shouldn't let them die in the cave Jarv turns around to look for them, I follow. We reach the pit again and Jarv nimbly hops down and back up again and disappears into the cave. I stumble down the first climb and attempt to get up the next. After failing for the fourth time to climb up I stick on my hand jammer and pull myself up and reach the top. Seeing, nor hearing any sign of the other three I collapse into a ball of self-pity and exhaustion. A little while later I pick myself up and go further in but Jarv hears me scraping against the walls and shouts that he's found the other two. Relieved I scramble down and up the pit for the fourth time and head out. Marion and I zoom out leaving Ollie and Jarv to de-rig. Overall it was an enjoyable cave.
Large Pot and I go back many years. We have a troubled history, it is the site of my most arduous and probably physically least pleasant caving trip (June 2005, relatively inexperienced & attempting to follow a trip description backwards from Rift-to-Large against a tight callout) and most unpleasant caving moment (March 2007, helplessly suspended upside down with my cowstails between my feet, bursting all the capillaries over my forehead).
Believe it or not, March 2012, an adult for a full ten years now (shockingly), was my first return since I was suspended.
We didn't have any route descriptions to take underground, but I was happy to give it a go. Easily located now that the next shake hole has a massive fence around it. The new P-bolts make rigging a lot quicker in the tight bits.
I approached the 2nd pitch head with a considerable degree of caution. I initially approach head down (just like last time!), but the flashbacks demanded I take extra care. It is not tight, but sinuous. I have exceptionally long femurs, these get stuck on both bits of the S-bending rift, requiring me to flex my knees backwards.
So I fight backwards up the greasy slabs and get into the slightly larger 'sitting' chamber, strip off harness & stash bags, then walk (or rather, wriggle) an 'end' from the rope bag down with a few maillons to rig, feet first. This worked fantastically as I had just enough extra flexibility without my harness to manoeuvre. This cunning plan failed when the rope bag slipped & got stuck in the rift before I could reach the hang P bolt, but was soon rescued by Rhys catching me up. I then feed the rest of the rope down the pitch, slither back up + into my harness, then easily through and down with all the rigging gear. Simples.
Admired the fossils in the wall, and spotted a few bits of tat which had obviously been shredded off people's SRT kit as they passed the pitch head - grabbed this rubbish on the way out, particularly as the litle bit of tubing looked perfect for my diving regulator necklace!
First bag finished (pitches 1,2,3), I have a little bimble into the start of the Red Herring series, and offer vaguely encouraging noises as everyone admires cough my expedition taut and taught rigging.
We set off deeper into the cave. The ropes on the pit are fine and look to be fairly recent Equirial. Large is really quite nice, great sections of crawley & climby passage. Some really good (but small!) formations, all in little alcoves at head height. I lead on with the colossus tackle, and am feeling really quite happy, whistling 'Redemption Song' while admiring a particularly nice little grotto and being very glad to be back down here.
There's a few bits where you do surprising changes of height in the rifts (+ a sky dive) that are worth memorising for the return journey, as is where you join the streamway (Tinkle passage). The chamber where the stream disappears down a slot in the floor (Fissure aven?) is pretty interesting.
Nothing's that tight or that difficult, there's just lots of it! The passage leading to Colossus is really interesting, knee deep muddy water rift, with sections of calcite floor forming dams.
Colossus rigged speedily off the in situ deviation slings. I rig as a tri-hang which made me squeal with joy when I put in the deviation and see it tension up perfectly, and then a wonderful 40m abseil hurtling down the moonmilk wall on wet rope. The wall is rather brown, slippery and peat stained currently - I'm sure I remember it being much more pure white.
A quick loiter + explore with Marion while we wait for the others to abseil. Necropolis is a fine space, really nice formations again in the approaching crawls. The cairn'ed end of the chamber is obvious, but we take a few attempts to find our way through the choke. Approach at the high level and you'll soon at the clamber up a hole into the 'Eldon Extensions'. From there the obvious right-hand route takes you to the duck, via the (really quite tight, the trick is to breathe out) bedding plane squeeze.
Once everyone had amassed, I jumped in the duck. It was cold, bloody cold. I'd guess 5 or 6 degrees from the sting, completely clear water till I muddied it. It was taking a slight draught but the visible airspace was very low, perhaps 10cm at best. Clearly you'd be up to your neck & probably rolled onto your back to pass it. I also had no idea how long it was, I remembered it being 30m or so in 2005 (apparently it is 5m according to NFTFH), and I didn't really feel like getting soaked to find it sumped around the corner, with the draught following a too-tight crack in the ceiling.
So, we turned.
It was now that the big error of our trip started to make itself felt - we had no food. Andy had forgotten his wellies, so drove the minibus back to Greenclose to pick them up. We remembered to grab the batteries from the bus at the last minute, but not the chocolates! Still, worse things happen at sea, or rather, in Slovenia [see here: 2011 M2 Super Action ].
Smooth exit out, though my stomach was gnawing away at my bones & I'm sure I'd have felt less tired with a good old injection of sugar. I'm pretty damn cold waiting at the bottom of Colossus after getting my arms and legs soaked in the duck. I find a massive orange survival bag left by some previous visitor (or the Mud Miners?), and wear it like a cowl, wandering around stamping my feet and building on my repertoire of songs to whistle while the youngsters disappearing up the long long hang. The acoustics are fantastic, the whistling less so.
Oli and Marion lead the way out while Rhys + I hump the tackle. We very nearly catch up with them at the tight rift followed by skydive... then they seem to elude us, voices disappearing. Going faster? Or lost? We continue all the way to the entrance pitches to confirm they're indeed missing, then back track without the tackle. They're found back in the aven with the slot in the floor, having followed upstream all the way up to a sump, missing the obvious corner (and dam of stones to warn you not to go that way!).
Back at the entrance pitches, a cunning plan is hatched to derig the tight pitchhead, with Oli leaving his bag of rope clipped into the P-bolt and then me shoving up + forwards through the tight crawl as I derig, until he can grab it from the other side. It works like a dream, and I find the pitch head really quite easy to deal with after taking my croll off fairly early + Pantin / hand hammering up. Back to the entrance pitch to hear Andy's dulcet tones, who wandered up when he saw the lights of the first cavers exiting.
Out just gone nine, about a 7.5 hr trip. Would have shaved off a couple of hours knowing where we were going and with a smaller party, but it still is rather a long way to the bottom and back!
Back to Greenclose for a high speed super effective cooking sesh. Made frozen pea soup, blended with the stick blender, for delightfully hydrating consumption as the pasta sauce cooked for our main meal. This tactical choice also worked brilliantly, quick soups for the win.
Changing for our caving trips was beautiful in the sun, although it made the walk up to Rift Pot a little arduous. Rift has an incredibly obvious entrance nestled at the bottom of a steep shakehole, a makeshift gate of rotting wood and some rusty scaffolding protecting the cave within. Jonny took the lead down the reasonable climb to the entrance pitch, practicing his rigging. Sally followed, then Andy, then me. I declare that rotting wood in a cave is annoying, with splinters and slipping both proving to be irritants.
At the bottom of the entrance pitch, which seems to be held up by more rusty scaffolding, I spied Andy waiting on hands and knees at the beginning of a crawl, the way on. The crawl quickly turns flat out and a few muddy puddles encouraged us onwards. My left welly kept slipping off my foot all the while. The crawl emerges in a section of passage where one can clamber down and stand upright, a welcome respite from the crawl. Here Sally was waiting, nestled between rocks and Jonny had disappeared to identify the way on.
All I could see were lights and hear voices below. The way on, found by Jonny, was a body sized tube into a rift. While we had been crawling Jonny had proceeded forward headfirst, and come to a very committing climb further down into the rift. With no room to turn around, he retreated and tried again feet-first, this time prevented by being unable to feel where to put his feet. Wisely he retreated again and summoned Andy, who went and had a look for some time. It was quite amusing to stand far above the commotion and listen to the shuffling, banging and crashing around that followed.
Andy safely negotiated his way into the rift, so Sally followed and then I. We crawled backwards, on our bellies, to the rift and went down with no errors. I then went on, down a few more descents in the rift, to the head of the next pitch where Sally was waiting. Jonny came down and waited a few steps up from us. An amusing palaver of Andy scrambling first over my head and then Sally's to rig the pitch followed, then he disappeared into the black void.
The second pitch is a little tight at the top of the drop, then opens out. At the bottom of this section the pitch leads onto a traverse. Here Andy decided we should turn and exit. Jonny came down the rope, we squished into the small standing space, and I ascended first. The pitch head was nice and pleasant. A bit of assistance from Andy on the upwards climbs through the rift led back to that committing climb.
One failed attempt led to the discarding of my SRT harness. The second attempt was much better, though somehow I lost both wellies on the way up. Having caved for a little while without wellies twice now, I find that the freedom is advantageous but outweighed by the negatives of sharp, cold rock against your toes. One welly was delivered to me by Andy, the other by Sally. The left welly turned out to be a size 9, which explains why it kept falling off my foot. I blame having narrow feet in general.
Andy led the way out along the crawl. I was quite tired by this point, and essentially forgot how to efficiently progress in a flat-out crawl. At least exertion keeps you warm, something I'm grateful for when it comes to crossing pools of cave water. I struggled back into my SRT harness, ate some sogged chocolate (which I'd consider to be an error) and slowly proceeded up the entrance pitch. At the top my left welly (the annoying one) became wedged firmly in the rock and all my attempts to free it failed. I ended up in a U-shape over a piece of scaffolding, yanking on my welly and cursing the rock repeatedly, "Give me my * welly back."
Well, the rubber eventually gave in, though it had gained two neat little notches where the rock had cut in. I put it back on and clambered out of the entrance. We spied Sally sitting at the top of the shakehole in the sun, immaculately placed wooden slats blocking an immediate exit. It was as if she had wafted through without moving any of the pieces at all. "Very funny!" shouted Jonny. Sally protested her innocence.
Overall I found the cave to be full of little annoyances and would appreciate trying it again to overcome these, but not technically challenging. Lovely location also. We bimbled back to the van; Jonny and Sally wandered up the nearest hill for a bit, I investigated the pumping station and then we listened to The Cure for a long time, waiting for the others to bottom Large and return. Later, in the dark of night Sally and I walked quite away along one of the tracks, with bleating sheep and the stars for company. Yorkshire is a great place, and caving trips make me appreciate that I live there. God's own county indeed.
The morning begins slowly with the glorious sunshine tempting many cavers to forgo Sunday caving. Some retain their determination to cave and Andy bravely volunteers to lead us into Sunset Pot. Several hours pass as we lazily pack rope and equipment in the sun outside the NPC but we set off eventually. A drive and a quick walk up the valley leads us to the cave and we're in before (maybe) 3pm. The cave is nice, a pretty stream way reminiscent of the Mendips. Johnny practises his rigging and we're at the bottom in no time. After looking at a delightful little crawl at the end of the cave that lead to a tiny boulder chamber we leave, once again with Marion and I in the lead followed by Johnny, Ollie and Andy. Marion, Johnny and I are out some time before the other two so we relax in the sun. Another nice cave.
Back to Joint! No Sherpas this time, and it did appear that every diver in the county was simultaneously trying to squeeze their car into the parking bay, and themselves into the pot. Andy abandoned the Transit on a bit of layby the other side of Joint itself, and we hopped the wall and wandered down to stare at the hole. A couple of divers had just got out, and one had just entered. So no rush in dragging my bags & bottles down to the entrance. Had a little chat with the chilled semi-dry diver when she reappeared, vis report wasn't excellent.
Slow, gentle, gear sorting (the dry cavers would inevitably take a lot longer...). The sun was beautifully hot, I realised I was going to sweat in my drysuit, so moved all the miscellaneous bits to near the sump, suited up and attached the bottles, then knelt (for temperature control!) in the sump while adjusting and attaching. Not great for the vis, but needs must!
Joint already felt rather familiar as I floated down the slope of cobbles. Regs working fine, much nicer to have some buoyancy compensation + the luxury of warmth in a dry suit. It was interesting to see how my mental processes had already changed with just a few weeks more cave diver training. Every time I saw a belay a little voice spoke up: "Tag it on the outward side! How's your gas doing? What compass direction are we generally going in? Depth / Time?".
I immediately saw the Aquaflash line leading from the Out junction. I don't know how I missed it last time, human perception is an odd and failure prone thing. Without further ado I sweep off towards Red Baron chamber. I realise quickly that I don't have many pegs (just five), and my little arrows will be a fiddle to get on the thick guide line. So I can only peg every few tens of metres.
I power along at cruising speed, an amplified breast stroke with my fat yellow fins flashing behind me. The vis is very variable, anything from 1-3 metres, I suspect clouds of silt stirred by other divers passing through the sump.
I reach where the ceiling slumps and the line belays become a little slack, this does indeed form a slowly rising corridor, where I turned last time, but boy does it go on for a while! I am also not enjoying the combination of low ceiling and expanding buoyancy in my drysuit, it's difficult to get the space to do the necessary roll-and-hold I require to allow the air to migrate to the shoulder dump. Taking it slow, but I realise that my required 5/6th turn is fast approaching. The depth reduces agonising slowly. Further exasperated check of the SPGs, very nearly time to turn... check depth - 0.3m! Two more kicks along the line and I follow it up to the mirror surface.
So strange the way the environment changes as I lift my head out of the water, suddenly not cave diving but standing in a bit of cave passage, the strange bubbly wishy noises below water replaced with the oh-so-familiar crisp drips of water off the roof and slaps of the wavelets against the rock. Gag out I can't but help spoil the silence - 'HELLO!' I should at the wet walls.
Standing chest deep in the water, it's strangely pleasant. Free air! As much as I choose to breathe! No longer a final countdown to that last breath left.
My tightly focused dive torches clearly won't make great caving lights, it's a bit difficult to get a sense of the chamber with those little pinpricks of light. But a low dome, bisected by dive line.
136m is pretty long way to dive, so a nice little breather to flush out the CO2, and off we go again, homeward bound! I hadn't actually let go of the guideline while I was standing in the chamber, but I check my compass anyway... Rattle down the slight slope, cruise along with swish and glide, swish and glide. Patches of bad vis, and a worryingly loose section of line that made me start thinking about how to jump a gap (it was fine, just slack). It was nevertheless very reassuring to pass a recognised belay and see the little 'Jarv' written on the shiny plastic peg waiting the far side.
Tap my helmet against the ceiling and one of my lights folds. Hmm, it was my eLED Q40, a stalwart friend and my dry-caving backup for the last 5 years. Flick on an LED one on the opposite side to complement the SL4 halogen.
It's always quicker leaving the cave, somehow. So I soon found myself back at the 'OUT' junction bothering the little fish. Leaving it pegged, I flick myself a half dozen belays back into the sump, turn and shut my eyes. Peace and quiet, gently sensing my balance as I strike a pose. Gently, gently, feeling the polyprop line flow through my bridle-hand fingers and 5mm gloves. Stop at a belay, feel around with the free hand & identify the bits of snoopy and line leading on. Reach along the line to check it's sound, back up the free hand and transfer hands, unseen thumbs pointing the way out. I gently steer myself along the line in the dark, belay by belay, following the mental checklist and confirming myself onto each new bit of line. I recognise the last belay before the exit, a fist sized protrusion of rock.
Mmm, what to do now? I loiter by the out tag, looking down and around at my gear configuration. I quite like where my tanks are now, but the pigtail of pegs seems a bit mobile. Hmmm. Oh well, not going to sort that out down here.
Drift up the out line, seeing the brown tea of the sump entrance. Break surface to an azure sky. Stumble out into the bright light and have an extremely enjoyable slow change, sunbathing in my pants on the grass river bank, waving at the motor homes and over zealous motorcyclists screaming up the B6255.
The weather was just as lovely as the day before. I swore off caving: one day enjoying the nice weather underground and one day enjoying the same nice weather above ground seemed a great way to spend the weekend to me. Lots of lazing about in the morning sun watching the boys pack rope followed. Once everyone had left to go caving, Sally and I set out to walk to Ingleton.
We struck out to the A65 and crossed into Newby, strolling up the hill to Clapham Old Road. Here we turned left and walked along the up-and-down road all the way to Ingleton. It was gorgeous, and oh so still, with bees and butterflies aplenty.
Ingleton was lovely, though I hadn't realised it was so touristy. It was never bustling though. We wandered the high street, exploring the caving shops and associated cafes before buying ice cream and reclining on a bench to eat. We then set off back to the NPC, aiming to be back by 5. Around 9 miles in total there and back to Ingleton, I would recommend it as a way to spend the afternoon. We were pretty accurate with our estimate, and spied Jarv returning from Joint when nearly back at Greenclose. Then we lazed around some more in the setting sun outside the NPC, me receiving a suggestion that I wear elbow pads when caving.
Personally, I like to think that the bruises prove I've done something with my weekend, and enjoy them as such.