Rowton Pot

It was a cold and windy day. Once again a late breakfast had deferred the prospect of Vesper into perpetuity. But there was enough rope to do Rowten, wasn’t there?

Ann and I arrived at the entrance just as Andy slid over the edge and somehow hooked the rope over the farthermost branches of a tree. “You‘re supposed to use the bolt!” Bawled Fran, but the hurricane was already far below, gibbering at the Turgid waters flowing into the abyss.

‘‘What‘s it like? asked Ann, looking slightly apprehensive.

“Airy.” I replied.

We were just digesting this remark when Mr. William Stead arrived. I knew it was Mr. William Stead because he had it written all over his suit striking an impressive hand-on-knee stance like a war movie (this Americanisms creep in everywhere Ed.) veteran this imposing figure pierced us with a penetrating stare through his bifocals.

“What‘s the state of play here, then?” The word ‘chaps’ was omitted from his question but implied by the accent. His battle troops stood around him, hungry for pitches and glory, brandishing their immaculate descenders.

“Well. We’re going down,” I said, “and this is the only dry route, and we’ll be absolutely ages.” Mr. William Stead looked pensive. Moving a few steps away he convened a whispered meeting with his platoon. “No luck here, I’m afraid, we’ll have to try Jingling. His sorry band of mercenaries trudged off over the fell following the determined Mr. Stead.

“Rope free!”

Following Ann I slid down to the bridge and wobbled across to the ledge where rigging was in progress on the pendulum. Andy went down next and all seemed to be going smoothly until muffled shouts floated up from the depths. Something was up, and no one was down. Andy came back over the edge followed some time later by Fran.
“The rope’s 2Oft. short. I could have swung onto a ledge but couldn’t have climbed down.”

It was Hurricane’s hour. We retrieved 20ft from the traverse and the famous international speleologist set off down like some hero from a Boy’s Own saga. We waited, and, leaning out from our cows tails, watched. Below the ledge a yellow, bird—like creature flapped frantically in and out of view, pedaling the thin air for all it was worth, but getting nowhere very fast. The pendulum became less intent, then almost idle in it’s motion, then non—existent. A rust crabs and gagets.

“He’s coming back up!” indignantly.

“I can’t swing into the rift with all that rope below m° and a bag as well.” stated the birdman hotly.

“Well, it’s your turn now Hugh!” said Fran challengingly.

It wasn’t the moment that I’d been waiting for. Out Anne had never rigged before, so I had no option. I left the bag behind with instructions for the next man to bring it to the re-belay. I never like this bit. Below the ledge I started swinging with a push off the wall. What a lot of black space. A tower of precarious blocks overhang this exact spot. It’s uncomfortable. But I got in. We’d have to go off the first bolts or there wouldn’t be enough rope. For the first time on a pitch I tried a butterfly knot — at least I think I did, it looked sort of OK. Well pleased with the hang I notified HQ

“Rope free!”

The Yellow birdman came into view and was pulled into dock.

“You might as well carry me with the sack.” I said cowardly.

“Thanks, pal”.

Another wait to chock Anne through to the re-belay. It seemed to take an age.

“Sorry. Forgot the bag and had to get Fran to pass it down. She’s got cold and ha gone out.”

And them there were three.

It’s a pleasant glissade for the next l4Oft., cooled by the breeze of the hissing fall close by. I swung onto a ledge at the bottom and watched Anne follow, a friendly glow of yellow light descending like some paraclete into the black and silver daylight streaked depths. Impressive.

Andy was busy atoning for his previous failure, bolting manically downwards like there was no tomorrow. A fifty, a thirty five, traverse and the last twenty five. No rope to spare. Just made it.

Carefully we traversed the deep bottom pool and rushed round a few corners to the sump, showing Anne the line through to Kingsdale Master Cave. Back at the pitch I rid myself of the Saville bloodstopper harness and substituted some trusty Troll leg loops into the rig — less efficient but they don’t bite your bum off. As Andy and Anne headed off out I began to de-rig. The three bolts at the top of the thirty five came out but unfortunately the rope didn’t follow. I put them back in and descended once more to free the sodding thing which had got washed behind a boulder. Now twenty minutes behind I hurried up the pitch and followed fast up the fifty, arriving with a heavy bag at the bottom of the biggie.

Not wishing to repeat the getting—it—stuck lark, I opted to take the bag up with me and began a slow assent on the inefficient rig that had me stopping for a rest every five turns with the bag swinging giddily below. It’s a lonely place. No one to talk to. No friendly floor to put your feet on. Just a great hissing black hole. I sat and admired the situation, nagged by the thought of my homemade butterfly knot. But I was too far up for doubts to matter much. At last the rift and the re-belay. Edging nervously to the end of the rift I let qo and shut my eyes. Like Tarzan I swung out with a whoop and prussiked the last few feet to the changeover bolt. I could see a light going up the entrance pitch.

“Sods! They’ve left me with all this tackle!” I cursed.

But a cleated pair of welly sole’s appeared and I woke Anne. She set off with the bag an I unstrung the traverse line and wobbled once again over the bridge, the waters rushing past below in a giddy chant that seemed to cry; “Come down, come down.”

“Rope free!”

I swung out for the last time and slowly prussiked the 6Oft. to the top. The changeover was not friendly. I struggled and swore as every bloody bit of rope ended up on the wrong side of the next bloody bit of rope. I was getting fractious.

“Good floor show” beamed Andy to an un amused caver.

At last I was out, hurling the sodding bag into the frosty evening sky, shouting “Bloody SRT, what a cock up, bits of string everywhere, we’d have done it in half the time on ladders!”


It’s a fine trip, though. Fine hole. Please fix it for Fran, Jim.


Hugh St. Lawrence.



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