Carrie Chen, Clara Rodríguez Fernández, Dave Wilson, Jack Hare, Kelvin Choi, Kenneth Tan, Kevin Li, Layla Aston, Nicola McCallion, Nuria Devos, Oliver Myerscough, Peter Ganson, Rhys Tyers, Sam Page, Tanguy Racine
As usual, on Friday I went to stores to start packing everything into the minibus. Some familiar faces were already there, but I was also glad to see some new people. We were surprisingly quick this time, so we were able to leave quite early. We arrived at the NPC cottage, had some tea and biscuits and went to sleep.
Packing was quick, and the road was fine. I found a huge Morrison's at Banbury along the M40, which I can see being a favourite. As soon as I got inside, a baker pushing a huge trolley of bread asked me if I wanted any baguettes, as they were going to thrown away. At 9p each, I grabbed nine, much to her astonishment. The rest of the journey was easy - we arrived to find the car park at the NPC quite full, but only DW was still awake.
Notts 1 Pot: Everyone!
|Jack, Carrie, Sam
|Rhys, Clara, Layla, Kenneth, Dave W
|Oli, Peter, Kelvin, Nicola, Rhys, Kevin, Dave W, Clara
|Jack, Nicola, Sam, Carrie, Oli, Peter, Kelvin
|Tanguy, Kenneth, Layla, Nuria
|Tanguy, Layla, Kevin
After breakfast we left the hut to go caving. The weather was not really nice but you can’t expect anything better in Yorkshire. Today my team was going to be formed by Tanguy (leading), Kenneth, Layla and myself. We changed into our caving gear and started looking for the cave, which turned out to be quite difficult to find. After going a bit too far down and wandering around the fields, Tanguy finally spotted the entrance. Yes!! Ready to go caving!!!
My group did Adamson’s route. We first had to do a bit of an up climb and then went down. I was following Tanguy and at some point we descended a quite large and surprisingly dry pitch. When I was already at the bottom, Tanguy shouted to Layla and Kenneth not to come down because it turned out that this was the wrong pitch. However, I had the opportunity to do a long ascent, which is always good to improve your ascending technique, and Tanguy took a lot of pictures of me going up.
After this, our journey continued quite smoothly, successfully descending another large pitch with two deviations. However, not everything could be perfect. In another descent, just before the big chamber where we were meeting the other groups, Layla’s hair got tangled into her descender!!! After some time trying to untangle herself without success, Tanguy decided to go and rescue her, so he went all the way up the Centre route, found some rope and descended again until he was with Layla. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you get a free haircut in a cave!!! We chatted a bit with the other groups, had some hot lemon squash and decided how to go back.
Tanguy, Kevin and me went back through Adamson’s route again. But I didn’t mind because this time I was going to be the one derigging!!! It was nice to learn something new and I was glad to discover that it wasn’t that complicated. Something really cool about this cave was that in some parts the routes were connected. So, when I was going up one big pitch I didn’t feel alone because I could hear Jack going up through the left-hand route.
We got out of the cave but that didn’t mean that there were no more adventures! We had to walk quite a long way to the minibus in the dark, through the mud. Suddenly I felt my leg sinking into a mud puddle. I tried to get out and managed it but without my boot! Luckily, I got my boot out of the mud as well. But then, my other foot got stuck in the mud!!! After solving my little problems with the mud we continued our way back to the minibus while singing a French song that Tanguy knew.
In the minibus, after hearing Rhys trying to speak some bad Spanish, I decided to teach him some things. At least now he would be able to say “muy bueno queso sabor” correctly: “muy buen sabor a queso” (Don’t forget it Rhys!! ;)). In return, he also thought me some English words, which I had no idea how to translate. “Dogging” and “Cottaging”...
Back in the hut we had some nice dinner. Kevin also cooked a nice Chinese dish with celery, meat and soya sauce. I went to bed early because the following day, Tanguy, Clara and me would have to get up early to explore a pretty cave called Shuttleworth with members of another caving club [The NPC - Ed.].
My alarm went off at 08:00am. Thankfully I’d had a bit of rest in the minibus during the journey up, which meant getting up wasn’t too much of an ordeal. In the kitchen I put a kettle on the boil and proceeded to chop mushrooms. In the chaos of food bags I failed to locate oil and beans and immediately switched to crisis mode (this involves toasting vast amounts of slightly stale baguettes). I prepared the eggy bread batter – cheekily and sneakily adding milk to bulk up the volume – and had Kenneth help me with the rest. Other cavers filtered down and soon a lively conversation around the table was held.
Before we set off to the cave, Rhys animated a rope techniques workshop, while Jack and I went over which bags had which ropes (some of the labelling had worn off, become illegible or simply was inexistent). That done, the bus was boarded and whizzed off towards Leck fell to the clamor of the tarpaulin ratchets hitting the roof rack. A quick look in the side mirror revealed it was about to come off so we stopped at the petrol station. Jack took it off entirely while the tank was refilled.
The first car park past the cattle grid being full, we parked higher up. Having decided to approach the cave in waves, I got changed along with my crack team: Nuria, Layla and Kenneth. I strode off confidently across the fell in search for the entrance to Notts Pot. While the rest of the team stayed tightly together I scouted one field too far south, came back and found the muddy tracks leading to the depression.
I rigged the entrance and soon dropped into Three/Four Ways chamber. Having identified the ascending rift leading to the top of Adamson’s route, I rigged the traverse and reached the ladder steps. Climbing up, and after walking 5 metres of rift the head of the first pitch was found. There followed a quick traverse on a muddy ledge leading to a Y-hang. Dropping onto a ‘col’, to the left was an enticing spacious dry pitch. I rigged the traverse leading to another Y-hang, shortly deviated from a thread, for a straight 25m drop. At the bottom, I didn’t wait for Nuria to come down before starting to explore the way on. A tight drop in a very cosy pebbly stream popped out in the middle of a wet pitch. Having no rope to descend it, I decided I had rigged the wrong shaft, therefore prompted Layla and Kenneth to stay at the ‘col’. Nuria was at the bottom of the shaft so I took advantage of the situation by taking photos of the fine drop, before following her up.
Having prussiked back up to the ‘col’, I rigged the other pitch, which very quickly dropped into the shaft I’d seen already. After two deviations, I stood in a drippy alcove at the bottom. The lights and voices of other cavers below could be heard quite distinctly. One by one, Nuria, Layla and Kenneth descended the pitch. I rigged the last hang dropping into the chamber where all routes converge and descended once more. Down came Nuria. Then Layla stopped halfway up the pitch.
At first I couldn’t make out what had gone awry, but eventually I understood that her hair had become tangled with the descended bobbins. Seeing that she was not in a good posture, I ascended the Centre Route to pick up some spare traverse rope at the start of Adamson’s, and then whizzed down the ropes I’d rigged until I stood over the final hang, above Layla. I abseiled down to her level, and cut the strands of hair that were caught in both the descender’s bobbins. Soon the descender was free, so she finished the abseil to the base of the chamber whereupon the ascending teams were formed. I abandoned Layla and Kenneth to the Centre Route, and gained Kevin for the ascent up Adamson’s. Nuria offered to derig.
After a quick look at the head of the final traverse in the lower streamway, I started the ascent, followed by Kevin, and then Nuria. She derigged all the way to the first rope of Adamson’s first traverse, at which point Oli’s crack team met with us at the main chamber. We lead the exit swiftly, up until the very last rebebay where Kevin, having prussiked a little high up couldn’t very well stand on the ledge to take the weight off his jammers. I rigged a spare rope, and clipped my foot loop to the bolt which he used successfully to prop himself up. We ascended the last drop in parallel, packed the bags tightly and started the walk back to the minibus.
Following a contour towards the farm lead us nicely to the minibus, where we changed and waited for Oli’s team. There were talks of an advanded party already chopping all kinds of vegetables back at the NPC.
What an exciting trip! We had two people new to SRT, one of whom had never been in a cave, so we carefully divided the groups to minimise the incompetence. The bags were all labelled, the plan was in place, and I'd even agreed with Tanguy that his group would form the first wave whilst we huddled in the minibus. In intervals of around ten minutes I persuaded other groups to get ready, but such was the general level of competence that the other three groups set off at almost the same time.
Oli got ahead of us, and lead his group obviously the wrong way, so we waved him back. Then the three groups trudged across the blasted feel, looking for holes in the ground as it pissed it down. It took about an hour to find the entrance, which was far further north than we had decided. Rhys reckons heading to Notts 2 and then following the dry valley is a pretty infallible way of finding Notts 1.
At the entrance, our group was last to go in, so we got a bit cold, but at least our novices got many opportunities to watch other people descend. Carrie didn't seem to have many problems with the first pitch, so I crawled through the stream (the only grim bit of the cave) to the tight and short drop. Fumbling my free climb, I tripped and launched myself head first towards the rocks below. Fortunately I caught myself at the last minute, because it could have been quite serious. I quickly sorted myself out before Carrie arrived - nothing reassures novices like incompetent leadership.
The rigging down Centre is really good fun - the first pitch I rigged with a deviation off the top flake, which was a little controversial (tough for short people) but I reckon a rebelay there would have been worse. It's a beautiful long drop down, and Carrie was down quickly. I pushed forwards, rigging slowly to keep the group together, until we got to a slightly unpleasant hanging rebelay which I had not remembered from previously. I made a few mistakes with it, and eventually left it as 'good enough', a mistake as it turned out.
Below that I left too little rope for the traverse to the pitch, which came back to haunt me later as well. The next few pitches are superb - the obviously hole below needs to be avoided, so the solution is to kick off whilst descending, flinging you out away from the wall and down into the next shaft. I heard voices nearby, and decided to press on to meet up with the others, finding Rhys and a few others down there. At this point it was obvious Carrie was far behind, so I turned round to find her.
She was stuck at the rebelay. I couldn't really work out what was going on, so I free climbed up most of the pitch to get closer. I could now talk to Sam, and saw that there was a lot of spare rope from a traverse line just by him. He dropped the rope down towards me, and few through as much slack as possible. It was still slightly out of reach, so I freeclimbed higher, adopted a dodgy stance, clipped in my hand jammer and just got my chest jammer on a few centimetres above the end of the rope.
Now I could prussik up to Carrie. She'd got the rope from the rebelay wrapped round her descender, but it wasn't too bad - I talked her through doing a midrope change over to her ascenders, and after a few false starts she was off again. I switched to the main rope and went by her. At this point she obviously felt confident enough not to wait for Sam to check her descender, because she was right behind me all the way to the bottom.
Whilst standing there, we realised Layla was stuck, and we sang Disney songs to keep her spirits up. I was bending over and fiddling with my bag when something light hit me on the head. Assuming it was just someone brushing passed me, I ignored it, but as I stood up, a chunk of Layla's hair slid off my helmet! I put it in a tackle sack and it hasn't been seen since. Happy hunting!
A complicated discussion about derigging ensued. I went to check out the continuation, a lovely rift traverse high up in the ceiling. There wasn't time for everyone to do it, so only Oli, Kelvin and Peter went down the pitched. Eventually we swapped the groups up and I headed out with Nicola up Left/Twilight. This is another superb route - I could see Nuria derigging through the windows that lead to Adamson, and I enjoyed the huge but slightly scary traverse round before the final pitch.
The top of the Left route is quite tricky to get up. It's a tight rift, with no foot holds, and the traverse line leads up at too shallow an angle for jammers to be useful. I struggled up, and Nicola really wasn't having a good time with it. There's actually a bolt just above the pitch head which is meant for the traverse line for Twilight, which leads off up an oxbow. I derigged the end of the traverse line and dropped it down so that Nicola could prussik up it - I highly recommend this to others rigging the Left route.
On the surface we followed our noses back to the minibus, eventually finding a convenient gate. DW took an advanced party of choppers back, and when we arrived I quickly made shakshuka (not a very good one, sorry guys) and Kevin made an incredible beef and celery dish.
After some breakfast I was ready and excited to go caving again. I was going to visit Shuttleworth with Tanguy, Clara and three members of another caving club: Clive, Olivia and Gene. After walking through the wind and fields of Yorkshire for a bit, we found the entrance. We went down, passing a deviation and two rebelays until we arrived at the bottom. Once there, we just had to walk through a horizontal passage. I was really impressed by the beauty of this cave!! Incredible formations, helictites and at the end a whole curtain of really long straws!!! We stopped there for a while to take some pictures and then headed back. Once in the hut we quickly ate some crumpets with cheese and then set off to London again.
I decided to wake up before my alarm went off, at around 7:30am to start a breakfast for three. Nuria, Clara and I were to go with Clive, Sylvia and Jean to Shuttleworth Pot, in order to take pictures. I was recruited as ‘expert rigger’. At around 10:10 we parked on Leck Fell and started the walk to the cave. Following the tracks along the wall, towards the west we crossed the fell until we reached a very light green grassy knoll. After descending past the hillock we found muddy tracks leading NW, which were followed to a lidded entrance about level with Gail Garth farm to the west.
The SRT is never particularly challenging, but some climbs have distinctly loose cobbles, which must be taken care of. After a satisfying descent onto the rubble pile that forms the start of the horizontal decorated gallery I dropped my SRT kit before setting off to see the ‘pretties’. A short dry crawl opened up into dry roomy fossil passage, ascending to a boulder choke. On the way, we spotted helictites, straws 50cm long and some calcite curtains almost jet black – very reminiscent of the Painter’s Palette in the Easegill Traverse.
The choke lead to a large breakdown chamber, with an alcove of stunning straws both in quality and quantity. Clive prepared his tripod, while I looked at the well exposed cave sediments. I then posed for Clive and took photos afterward. Soon after I proposed to derig the cave, so Clive, Sylvia and Jean led the way out. The ascent was very smooth, as the SRT technique of both Nuria and Clara had really improved from the trips so far. By 4.pm, two cars were racing down Leck Fell bound for the NPC, where the rest of the cavers were wolfing down cheddar, brie and biscuits. One hour later, we were starting the long haul back to London.
Another great trip under the belt!
Bull Pot: Jack, Kevin, Kenneth
Having got rid of a fifth of the club to go to Shuttleworth with the NPC, I turned my attention to the remainder. Kenneth and Peter wanted to learn to rig, so Rhys and I volunteered to take them and one other, whilst Oli and Sam took the rest to Jingling with DW. I hadn't been to Bull Pot in a while - the memorial plaque at the top is sobering. Kenneth quickly and competently rigged the entrance pitch and I follow him down, assuming Kevin would be fine. He was.
The high traverse that follows is an excellent bit of practice - hard lock the descender, tie the alpine butterfly, put it in, switch to cowstails and then take out the slack. Not always necessary when you can swing on your cowstails without rigging your descender, but it seems like best practice and Kenneth got good at feeding the rope through. I became a bit concerned that his alpine butterflies weren't, but after a few checks I decided they were just being pulled into an odd shape when Kenneth fed the rope through.
At the bottom of the second pitch I wasn't sure of the way - Kenneth took the oxbow as a traverse, and got to the pitch head. He reminded me that when he'd done Bull pot on winter tour that this pitch had been very wet. I responded that this would be good practice then, and he cheerfully set off, only to find he didn't have enough rope. Back he came, and I realised that the slot in the floor that we'd stepped over was probably Slot Route. We rigged a massive and hilarious y-hang from bolts three metres apart, and Kenneth set off, finding a rebelay with a nice ledge half way down. Kevin was keeping up well, so I set off after Kenneth.
Third pitch has a nice traverse to start that quickly loses its foot holds. You can see the waterfall below you, so I explained to Kenneth how to rig deviations, and to Kevin how to pass them. Kenneth found the first dev and put in a sling - as he descended I realised it was too long and didn't deviate enough. Kenneth was hanging right in the waterfall, so I encouraged him to go straight down to avoid getting too wet. I went down and halved the length of the sling, and Kenneth followed after some fun with the deviation.
At the bottom, Kenneth explained that he had wanted to put in the second deviation, but didn't cos I told him to go down instead - my bad. I went up first and put the dev in, which definitely helped with the water. Kevin had a lot of fun with the deviations, pushing his hand jammer right up into the krab and making it very hard to take off, but eventually he got to the rop and a very cold Kenneth began to derig.
We sped out of the cave, Kenneth hot on our heels, and out into the glorious sunshine. Just kidding - it was at least daylight. Back to the NPC, crumpets and home. Glorious.