Reyfad Pot, Co. Fermanagh


Since arriving in Ireland we had been thinking about doing Reyfad Pot, but Chris Wilcox & myself had mixed feelings about the risk of flooding, since on our last visit (Easter 1976) we had been trapped overnight by impassable entrance pitches. In the outcome, Bob Stevens, Dave Crellin & myself decided to do the trip. Chris chickened out & went down Poilnacrom with the Birmingham lads.
Set off late as usual and staggered manfully across the peat bog of Reyfad Moor armed with two SRT ropes, personal SRT gear and my camera box. Reyfad lies in a big depression over 300 metres across and was discovered by the Yorkshire Ramblers in 1939. The easiest way to rig it, is not down the main shaft where the water sinks as this is loose & wet, but down a parallel shaft from a separate entrance just north f the main hole.

This  entrance involves a traverse over a hole on chert ledges, and my wobbly legs got the better of me here as Bob assisted me across (I was only a little bit gripped up). At the end of the short traverse we. Climbed down a nicely rotted fixed rope to the head of the big pitch (170ft.) We belayed the rope to a cherty boulder and backed it up to the rotting fixed rope and protected it over the lip with a handy bit of mouldy carpet which some thoughtful person had left for us. I set off down and put rope protectors on a couple of ledges as I descended. The water from the main entrance comes in about 50 feet down but it was only heavy spray so I carried on to the bottom.. Here the way on looks blocked, but at the lowest part is a squeeze through some hanging death onto the second pitch (80ft)

This opens out about 20 feet down and comes in through the roof of Main Chamber, an impressive spot. This is a large cavern 70 feet high, 30 feet wide and over 600 feet long. The chamber is partly filled with sand & boulders with a sizeable stream meandering between the deposits. We assembled at the bottom of the second pitch and set off downstream, clambering over huge sand dunes & fallen blocks until we reached the camp site. Here we stopped for a brief rest so I could have a fag. Bob said he had given up smoking because he couldn’t hold, his breath for long enough at the baths.

Here we had to make a decision, if the others found the way through the connection from Polnacrom, we could link up do an exchange. I thought it was unlikely that they would find the way and later I was proved correct. We eventually set off along Southern Inlet to find the Aghnahoo  Extension  some recently discovered passage over one mile in length which reaches the main stream beyond the Main Boulder Choke (The previous limit of exploration downstream) To get into Southern Inlet, one climbs up a sand bank opposite the campsite and along a roof bedding plane crawl which opens out into another large passage with cracked mud floor. We followed this to the end which is a high narrow rift. The way into the extension is back about 50 feet from the end. On the right (as you go in). Having located this passage we went back to the campsite to collect my camera gear and see if there was any sign of the others — we did & there wasn’t. We briefly took some photos in the Main Passage and returned to the end of Southern Inlet. The way on into the extension leads off though a squeeze into a rift passage then up a short fixed ladder with a nasty awkward squeeze at the top where I got stuck again, much to Bob’s amusement. From here the route opens up through a boulder chamber and  along a large passage to a point where the main, stream can be heard down through the boulders. A muddy fixed rope assists the caver here and we slid through a jumble of huge blocks until we reached the stream, which we followed until another boulder pile was encountered. Behind this the passage opened up with a high roof and 5 to 10 feet wide. This was a dismal spot with inky black mud covered walls, dark peaty water & a total lack of formations. The passage was fairly straight which added to the feeling of depth. We pushed on through a wading walking type passage for several thousand feet, until time & waning enthusiasm called a halt. At this point where the passage continued on into the blackness, we sat down to eat some butties & chocolate. Dave hadn’t got any but we, took pity on him and let him have a bite. After the meal we returned, taking pictures on the way. This seemed swifter than the trip in, probably due to familiarity and in hardly any time at all we were back to the campsite. Here we sat for a few minutes wondering if the others had got through from Pollnacrom and if so, had they dc-rigged Reyfad. In the end Dave & Bob set off back to the pitch and I sat down for a fag & a kip. Dave returned after 15 minutes and said it was still rigged and that Bob had started out. Suitably revived I was keen to reach the surface. It was now 7p.m. and we were wasting good Guinness time.
Bob was already out of sight at the top of the pitch so I suggested to Dave that he go next as this was his first under ground SRT trip. After messing about for a while with his rope walkers, he set off up the pitch leaving me holding the rope. About half way up a note of panic came into his voice as unintelligible remarks floated down the shaft. I looked up to see Dave separated from half of his SRT gear, which was still attached the rope Some ten feet below him. He seemed to expect me to do something to help. I told him to bugger off and sort it out for himself. This shock treatment seemed to work and in no time at all he reached the top. I followed quickly, de-rigging the pitch as I went.

Once through the boulders I found that Bob had started up the 180. Communication on this pitch is extremely difficult & we heard Bob screaming something about half way up, but ignored this. A feeble whistle blast echoed down the pitch telling us that Bob was at the top and Dave immediately set off, his fully floating (in more ways. than one) descender was attached to his foot with a spare boot lace. Again about half way up there were screams & shouts from Dave, who I assumed had dropped his gear again. I heard myself shouting a well known phrase followed by more panic from Dave.
After what seemed an age, I got more whistle blasts from the top and set off up. Then I saw it - my heart missed a beat then did several rapid ones. ”Pull yourself together”, I thought “It’s only a knot in the rope because it’s damaged.” I passed the knot without much trouble and rapid1y prussiked up due to heightening tension & water falling on my head. At the top I was greeted by Dave, Bob & Chris Wilcox. At that moment I had one desire only - a pint of Guinness in the Bush Bar. One hour later, this was achieved.  

In hindsight (after several more Guinness) this was an interesting trip at least Dave learned to pass knots, quick thinking by Bob who tied the knot probably saved the day, and I was the famous leader again.

A. Hall.

 

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