Lancaster Hole - County Pot.      Number I.

Party:- M. Doran, F. Croll, A. Hall & D. Crellin.

I always find the pre-caving, Sunday morning discussions in the farm kitchen quite entertaining to listen to. To those of us new to caving, as I am, it is a way of finding out all the latest gossip & scandal of the caving world. Another observation is that the older you get, it seems the less caving & more jawing gets to be done.

On this particular Sunday the conversation had. inevitably got round to the subject of the days caving. By the process of elimination, in which the ideas of more ambitious trips fell to the axe, Frank & Andy decided on a through trip. The only other takers were Mike & myself. Not unusual for most of the trips I have been on, it was almost one o’clock when we reached Lancaster Hole. Frank & Andy wanted to abseil the entrance shaft and as Mike & I hadn’t a descender between us we had to borrow Frank’s rack. It was my first time with one & only my second time on SRT. The first time was with a figure-of-eight sling down Rumbling Hole, having been persuaded by Keith that there was nothing to worry about. This time, however, I felt much safer with Frank’s. rack and my new Troll, leg-loops. Apart from my hair getting caught in the bars & a bit of a tangle with someone else’s rope at the bottom, it was quite an enjoyable descent. Mike followed, and after sending the racks up, Andy & Frank descended. The former repeated in performance and got tangled at the bottom arriving minus a light as well. Apparently his main bulb had blown, this was replaced with the pilot light and all was well once more. It took Frank some time to arrange his gear about himself, but once done he looked quite presentable.
At last we set off.  I knew the first section, as it was my fourth time down Lancaster Hole and was able to lead for a while. We descended Kaths Way and through Bill Taylor’s Passage, where we waited for Frank who was behind. Andy remarked about the potential danger presented by senile cavers and just as we thought we might have lost Frank, he appeared. We made our way down the iron ladder into Fall Pot. This climb does not really compare with the splendour of coming down from Cow Pot.
We decided to take the high level route as a result of reports of really wet conditions from Bob & Gordon on their previous days epic trip. Stake Pot was soon reached & gingerly crossed. Passing Bob’s Boss, we came to the fascinating Painters Palette, where Frank went to great lengths to tell us that it was all of twenty six years ago that he had first laid eyes on it. Shortly after this he led for a while, obviously trying to convince us that at forty-three he was still not past it. At Oxbow Corner, crossed by crawling over the mud banks to the right, we could see lights & hear the voices of covers in the streamway below. This suggested that there weas not as much water flowing as there was the day
before.
Upon reaching Oakes Cavern we met a party from Leeds & District S.A. They continued on their way to Lancaster Hole while we sat down for a rest. Here Andy & Frank proceeded to tell us of the various rescues they had been involved in and other cheerful things. The latter again wishing to emphasise that there was life in the old boy yet! As we had cooled down quite a bit now the journey was resumed, and almost without realising it we were in the Minarets. These to me seemed much more than a series of parallel fissures linked by short crawls as described in Northern Caves. The stillness & sheer unique ness of shape & character makes this place set in the heart of Lancaster Hole, one of the most wondrous. Almost as fantastic is the gigantic Cornes Cavern which follows, Frank advised me to wait a while until he and the others had gone well ahead so that I could gain a better appreciation of the immense size & he was right. When I met the others in Snail Cavern, they were chatting to Phil Peppard & Johnny Wilkinson, the short sighted hairy man but without the two brothers. They, as the party we had seen previously were on their way out of Lancaster.

After some slight hesitation at Main Line Terminus, Stop Pot was reached and after descending the iron ladder we dropped into the streamway. It was refreshing to get into the water after hours of climbing over boulders & slithering about on mud banks. At Eureka Junction we noticed fresh foam on the walls & roof which showed how far the sump must have backed up the day before. However we were soon speeding up Pierces Passage to the ladders left for us by Jim & Bruce. Shuffling through the crawl and sliding down Poetic Justice we gained the County streamway. Carrying on through Spout Hall we reached Confusion Corner where Frank & I had a glance about for possible, as yet uninvestigated holes in the roof. It seemed strange to be in such a narrow passage after a journey which had mostly consisted of walking & scrambling through large boulder floored mud caverns.
Almost without realising it, I found myself staring up the excavated entrance shaft to a heavily clouded sky & rain. Our return to the farm via Lancaster Pot to retrieve the rope was cheered by Mick having dashed straight back to get a good hot brew on for us.

 

D. J. Crellin

 

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