Party- G. Loughlin, D. Crellin & T. Crellin.

It was my half term holiday and Gordon was owed a few days off so we saw this as a good opportunity to get in a midweek trip. Long Churn was chosen as Gordon was determined to bottom it since he only succeeded in getting down to the rock bridge on a previous occasion & I had only been down to the top of Dollytub. Also, my kid brother had been nagging me to take him caving & I thought this moderately easy trip would be a good one to start him off on, especially as on a Wednesday there was a chance of it not being crowded.

John & I eventually met Gordon at 11:00. in t’Heifer car park. He had had trouble with his car so it was decided to go over to alum Pot in mine (Mum’s actually.). There was no sign of Jim who said he might turn up to take some pictures, mumbled excuse about wet weather, as used in connection with the magnetometer meet, couldn’t have applied today as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Having paid the phenomenal admission charge of five pence each at North Cote, we changed, John putting on the same boiler suit I started caving in. We learned from another party doing Long Churn, that there was yet another Landrover full of people going down as well (but not in the Landrover). So much for us trying to avoid the crowds by coming up mid week.

We set off up the lane laden with five ladders, four ropes and numerous crabs, pulleys &. belays. We passed the “gaping maw’ of Alum Pot where a party were doing the direct descent on SRT. On reaching the cave & keeping with the general trend of the day, my light wouldn’t work. Someone in the party behind saw me hammering my cell with a rock to no avail and took pity by offering a screwdriver. This fixed it. At least there are some advantages with being in the same cave as lots
of other people.

The three of us then proceeded underground at last. The water from Upper Long Churn entered via a waterfall from the right & after about a hundred feet was seen to make its exit to Diccan Pot. As we rounded the corner to the Double Shuffle we were met with the incredible sight of about twenty cavers, all just milling about. Surprisingly, we & the party ahead walked straight through and past the congestion. At Plank Pool, this party also let us pass. The way ahead was now clear, but after negotiating the climbs we reached Dolly Tubs to find it already laddered. Gordon descended first, followed by John who I lifelined as it was his first time ever on a ladder. Before I could follow them down, the cavers. whose ladder it was turned up so I went down on ours. That was the last we saw of anyone all day, the others we had passed must have turned round. & gone out upon reaching Dolly Tubs.

On this first time down Alum Pot, it was quite an experience to walk out from the cave into, the open pot. With the surface a hundred feet above, the bottom a hundred feet below and the rock bridge spanning the rift, it makes quite a spectacular scene. Gordon put the ladder down onto the Greasy Slab, which certainly lives up to its name. We walked across this and round to the Rock Slab which was easily climbed using a hand line, The shaft was then laddered from a stout metal stake, once again Gordon was first down. John followed, then both double lined me down. At the bottom the spray & wind from the waterfall made it quite chilly.

On the final pitch John, who was not yet an expert ladder climber lost his footing, but managed to hang on with his hands before finding the rungs once more. As he was now pretty damp I think he was glad we could avoid he wet cascade via a dry oxbow. The waterfall from Diccan Pot which we passed next was deafening even though it hadn’t rained recently. It took me quite a while to explain to John that his carbide lamp kept going out when he looked up at the waterfall, because things tend not to burn too well in water.

Finally we reached the unimpressive sump. It was a bit of an anticlimax and didn’t even look inviting for a swim. After a brief sit down we headed out, Gordon & I had fun climbing the cascade while John took the dry oxbow. We were soon at the bottom of the 60 foot, which John climbed first, a lot slower than his descent as he was now tiring a bit. Gordon & I followed and as we prepared to cross the rook bridge I accidentally kicked one of the ladders, sending it rolling towards the edge of the shaft. I managed to stop it however before it built up enough speed to roll over the edge. (No sarcastic cries of ‘My hero”, please! (I was thinking more of Clumsy.? Ed.)

We reached Dolly Tubs without further ado and the gear was hauled up and shared out before moving on. After the first short stretch of passage, instead of climbing up to the left which is the normal way out, we carried straight on into an aven and then climbed up. The way on here is the Cheese Press
where I thought it would be good to give John the taste of a squeeze. To show him I wasn’t fooling I went first then talked him through. It was Gordon’s turn next. I had always imagined him to be a slim type hut evidently I was wrong. Despite the grunts & groans he still wasn’t able to force his flab through the bedding-plane. Rather disappointed in himself, he retreated and came round the normal way. My light was on the blink again & John’s carbide had run out so with only Gordon’s light between us we neared the entrance. Just to make sure that John had a clear picture of what caving was about, I dragged him, complete with boiler  suit, through the wet crawl to Diccan Pot. Gordon took the easy exit, he wasn’t going to be caught in another crawl! We emerged wet, after about five hours underground, to a now cloudy day and made our way casually back to the car.

D. Crellin.

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