Lancaster Hole - County Pot  &  back again.   Number 2

Party:— Bob Stevens (Leader), C. Loughlin (Learner)

It was the day of the “Bonny do” up at Alum, so Bob & I decided to get up to Bullpot early & get a trip in. I arrived at the farm to find Bob already there from Friday. So after± a hearty fry up we decided to have a fertle down Lancaster. As we were getting changed a party arrived from “Westminster”. As they were going down County Pot there was talk of them leaving it laddered until Sunday, so we could do a through trip if we wanted. We muttered something about it not being a bad idea & headed off to ladder Lancaster.
This was my biggest pitch so far, so it was with some degree of trepidation that I listened to 110 feet of ladder rattling on its way down the holes It seemed to go on for ages. I had my line on as soon as it stopped as I wanted to get on with it. The bottom was soon reached, though I had a crafty rest on the ledges on the way down. I made a mental note to glue some pieces in the arms of my wet suit as I was finding them rather constricting. Bob soon appeared expertly self lining himself down the shaft.

After a look round Colonnade Chamber, Bridge Hall and an interesting dugout crawl we decided to head for the Master Cave. We soon reached the “vastness” of Fall Pot and after descending the iron ladders, climbed down through the boulders to the streamway, the water from Cow Pot thundering down on us from far above. After deciding that the water was too high at this point to follow the stream, we climbed back up the boulders and set off along to Montague East to see how far we could get, Stake Pot was soon arrived at and having climbed another iron ladder, we rejoined the high level route passing Painters Palette & the gaping holes of Scylla & Charybdis which we traversed round with much care.

Once we’d arrived at Oxbow Corner, Bob was so chuffed at getting us this far that we decided to carry on towards County. Unfortunately things got a bit confusing now as we kept arriving back at Oxbow, but eventually the way on was found over some mud banks to Oakes Cavern. After the Minarets we thought we’d cracked it but managed to get lost again at Main line Terminus, trying to locate the way to Stop Pot through the boulders. We eventually succeeded, so, stopping only to give Bob half my Mars bar, we headed down the fixed ladder to refresh ourselves in the stream below. The water was really moving now, making the boulder choke a bit desperate but we got through without mishap. Climbing gratefully up the cascades we discussed how much ale we were going to sup at the “do” that night.

…… Just after that we discovered that P.J. was not laddered. Well, after one minutes silence to get over the initial shock, during which we gazed up the pitch in total disbelief, we decided it was our own fault for not confirming the ladder arrangements. After about 15 minutes of frantic cavorting to free climb the pitch — this included Charlie Carolli balancing act and me taking a running jump at it - we decided to throw in the towel & retrace our steps to Lancaster Hole, I mean, if we continued to jump up & down like two spastic flies, we might sap too much of our he man strength ( Actually we were a trifle quiffed).

The streamway was soon regained and the froth marks of recent flooding were noted. This spurred us on to Stop Pot & the high level route once again. At this point we removed our wetsuit tops to save burning up. This proved good thinking later on at the Minarets, as we flipped through like performing seals the projecting rocks caught on our bare flesh & stopped us from nodding off.
After passing Oxbow Corner again, and again, and again, it was decided that we might make better progress in the streamway and so it proved. I don’t remember much about the rest of the trip back. Suffice it to say that when we wus up we wus up, and when we wus down we wus down. One minute we were in boulders and the next gazing at the “giddy prospect of the raging stream.”
Suddenly the iron ladder of Fall Pot appeared in the gloom, so we knew we’d be out before long. On reaching the entrance pitch we noticed there was a hell of a lot more water dripping in the shaft now, in fact I had to climb about 60 foot up the ladder before it dried off. I made another mental note to do the arms on my wetsuit as I had to hang like, a cold chip every few yards while the blood flowed back.
On regaining the surface, we found that we couldn’t see a hand in front of us because of the blinding rain. This was seen as a way of relieving our boredom, as we could now have the fun of finding our way back to the farm in the torrential downpour. This we eventually did by following the valley down to the wall, arriving back at Bullpot absolutely knackered. The whole path up to the farm was awash & even Hidden Pot looked like Niagara.

Looking at the clock we found it was after eleven and too late for the do! We’d been down for eleven hours!! Still it had been an eventful day.

G. Loughlin.

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