Hammer Pot

The potholer’s rose early at Bullpot Farm, Andy’s a1arm watch burst into life at 8 and the famed Red Rose ear1y start had begun.. Andy & Chris Wilcox, keen to get a crack on, had soon finished lining their stomachs with the obligatory fry up and were ready to go. Meanwhile Alan & Dave were taking things far more leisurely as a couple of ˝lb.steaks sizzled slowly in the pan. Outside brilliant sunshine shone.
.   If all this early start & fine weather for Hammer seemed too good to be true, it was not to be. A check with the weather centre confirmed the previous nights forecast of thunderstorms advancing from the south. However a quick reassuring phone call for the Whernside Manor weather report suggested that run-off conditions wouldn’t be too bad. So Hammer was on, with nothing like the threat of drowning in the infamous Sludge Crawl to raise the adrenalin.     .                                            .   Andy & Chris left early for Rainscar House to check in with the permit, the tackle following with Alan & Dave a serious mistake. Never leave the tackle for someone else to bring!!  A slight problem had emerged the previous evening concerning Andy and the permit, Hammer was booked for the following weekend. A further problem arose on the Sunday morning when Andy discovered that he had left the permit, albeit for the wrong weekend anyway, behind in Preston. At Rainscar House, Andy was on his best tactful behavior and succeeded in persuading the farmer that although we may have seemed a right bunch of cowboys, we were in fact a quite responsible party. With a bit of good luck, nobody had booked the hole that Sunday so the farmer agreed to let us descend provided, we didn’t turn up again the following Sunday too.                      .                                                                    .   The assembled party waited and overhead the sky darkened - one and a half hours later they were still waiting. Meanwhile Al & Dave, oblivious to any sense of an early start were traveling via the farm, Ingleton, the farm, and finally Neals Ing on a Sunday jaunt to fix Dave up with an electric. Dave finally recovered his lamp back at the farm where it arrived via Jim who had been charging it up, and all this despite Chris offering Dave a carbide.                                                .                                                                                    .   After much verbal abuse the party finally kitted up just before twelve and set off for Hammer. The entrance was soon found and once inside Bernard rapidly returned after having immense trouble negotiating the first few feet Not even mentioned in the guide book. He disappeared to join a party descending Magnetometer, quite a wise move. .                                                                                      .   .   The entrance series was gruesome. From the first short pitch, the entrance rift wound tightly to the head of the second pitch, which was more of a vertical squeeze to the base of the rift. After this initial thrutch the going, although still awkward, became easier and the trip progressed smoothly. Tackle was continually moved to the front of the party and each pitch quickly negotiated. From the fifth pitch, a snort length of easy rift ended in a chamber and the start of Sludge Crawl. This more than lived up to our expectations and after the initial hands & knees section rapidly lowered to a flat-out crawl in stinking peaty mud, not far removed from half rotted compost. At the front of the party, Andy, Boyd & Chris ploughed slowly forward through the mud with the remaining tackle - meanwhile, empty handed, at the back of the party Chris Foghorn issued enthusiastic words to “get a grip” and such like. The crawl ended with the main stream entering from the left, several hundred feet of what was described in Northern Caves as “treacherous going downstream’ proved fairly easy going over a series of deep potholes.                                                  .                                                                                                                  .   The final pitch was laddered dry by traversing around to the right facing downstream (not left as in N.C), which gave access to a dry shaft beyond the main water. Once down conversation noticeably dwindled, peaty mud extended high up the walls and the atmosphere stank of rotting vegetation. It was an oppressive place and the entrance seemed far away. The roof soon lowered to the final crawls up to the sump, peaty mud was everywhere. After much groveling Andy & Chris found the only way on blocked by a large boulder in a duck. Andy, ever mindful of the description in Northern Caves, the bouldery crawls frequently become blocked, causing their excavators to rediscover the final sumps, gave the boulder a quick prod. Nothing -- it didn’t move -- “Well that’s it then, best be on our way out”, Chris agreed. Unfortunately at this moment, a slightly more keen Boyd arrived and lying full length in the water quickly moved the boulder. More low crawling over boulders or peaty sludge succeeded only in finding the way on completely silted up — the party rapidly turned back. .                .   At the head of the final pitch, Hugh “Last in first out” St.Lawrence appeared, after being delayed (somewhere near York?) and negotiating the entrance series solo. He then proceeded to exit at the front of the party, finding the going easy, not that a couple of armfuls of tackle would make much difference. The return through Sludge Crawl was soon completed and once negotiated conversation rapidly increased. It seemed that Hammer wasn’t such a bad hole after all; the entrance series was forgotten.

It soon reappeared. At the front of the party Hugh exited first. He squeezed rapidly off the top of the second pitch and was soon into the entrance rift. The constructed top of the pitch was immediately followed by a very awkward uphill squeeze in the rift, with few footholds and no room to turn around. This kept Andy occupied for some time. Chris was stuck even longer, at least an hour (or so it seemed). After much thrutching, removing of helmet, more thrutching and getting nowhere, a restless Boyd squeezed past and was soon through into a marginally wider part of the rift. After much moaning from behind and blowing from Chris Foghorn, Al moved forward, with much thrashing and using Al’s head for a push off, Chris finally prised his way through - by this time completely buggered. Stuart, next up, had even more trouble and was also stuck for about an hour.

The entrance rifts proved very difficult on the return, unlike Pippikin & the like they represented a continuous squeeze at varying levels in a tight rift, and by the entrance everyone was well thrashed. The party adjourned fur a pint and although the conversation was rather subdued, everyone agreed it was quite some trip. We wouldn’t be returning the following Sunday.

C.Wilcox.

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