Car Pot.  -  Sat 25th March

 Chaz, Fran, Hugh, Neil.

There’s a faint blue biro tick against the Car Pot entry in my copy of Pennine Underground, 1965 edition. SSP it is ranked, which the key translates as Super Severe Pothole. The description closes with the intimidating ‘should only be attempted by thin and experienced potholers. Crawl keeps silting up.’

I last did it in the early seventies, mesmerized by Jim Eyre’s pub time tale of taking a set of sweep’s brushes down to rod out the famous Baptistry Crawl, and then using them to push protesting bodies through the evil tube. I also remember Pete Llewellyn’s valiant ‘gardening’ of the crawl, and Chris Bargh threatening to become a permanent fixture in it with three rather worried cavers on the far side. It took us ten hours and only three of a ten man party reached the bottom. We also missed the pub!
Still, it’ll have got bigger since then, I reasoned, regarding my thin (?) and experienced frame (??). With only three tackle bags between us we set off up the Clapdale track. It’d be reet.

Cha.z and Neil fired off down the entrance pitch of 45’ to rig, while Fran and I adjusted each other’s harnesses — an old excuse for social contact; but there you go, we’re living in the liberal eighties. Much the merrier for a slap on the face from Fran I set off down memory lane. Didn’t recognise a thing. At the bottom of the entrance Neil was groveling in a tiny hole which I smartly, and foolishly, told him wasn’t the way on. Eventually he hooked the ladder on and disappeared round a thrutchy looking corner. We passed the tackle and followed one by one, the 25’ ladder landing in a small chamber.

Communication now became the order of the day. but who was shouting at who?
It‘s tight in here!’
“In where?”
“It’s alright it’s easy.”
“rre you through yet?”
“No,, we‘r e waiting for you”.
“I’m talking to Neil.”
“Is there room down there?”
“Don’t come through ‘til I’ve got the tackle.”
“But you’ve got the tackle.”
“I’m talking to Neil”
“It’s OK, I’m through.”
”We can still see your light!”
“Keep up in the top”.
“But it’s only six inches wide there!”
“Alright You can come through now.”
“But you’ve just told me not to!”
“OK. pass the bags through now.”
“Can you get my lamp?”
“I said pass the bags through!”
“You’re standing on my head!”
“I don’t think I can do it.”
“Well tie them on the rope then!”
“I’m talking to Fran, Neil!”
“What did you say Charlie?”
“I was talking to Neil, Fran.”
“Can I come through yet?”
“What do you mean NO, just tie them on the rope
“I was talking to Hugh, Neil.”
“Who, Neil?”
“I‘m stuck !
“Are you coming through or not?!
“Oh, sod it. ‘“

The litany continued. Swapping laces with Fran I tried the letterbox, an awkward, vertical, right—angled slor. Breathing out I slipped slowly through. Christ, I thought. that’ll be a bugger on the way out. Ahead of me stretched the Baptistry Crawl. A pair of wellies scrabbled feebly for purchase propelling their owner, Chaz, forward at the rate of six inches an hour. Above me fran stuck in the letterbox, and I was caught between a two way grunting match. Chaz. won by grunting longer and louder than Fran (and have you heard him snoring?), but to no more effect,.

“I’m sorry Neil, I can’t do it.” The wellies started a slow, toe—grappling reversal, urged on by Chaz’s frantic shouting like me and Neil were the other side of Sarawak Chamber.
“I think we can hear you, Chaz.”

“What? Oh, uh, it’s bloody tight, I think I just lost my bottle.”

“You’ll have to come through Hugh.” said Neil.

Once more into the breech.... Thinking of sweep’s brushes and flood pulses I backed reluctantly into the squalid hole, forded a pool ten feet in and felt the walls press in on the hips. Here available movement is circulated in fractions of an inch, the slightest displacement of the body making one stuck fast or releasing a sudden surge of movement. I’d dragged a few pounds of pebbles through with me and these filled the odd spaces that were left. It didn’t look good. A bit of a jam, really.
But I wasn’t about to take any ‘yer can’t ‘ack it’’ talk,. so I struggled through to the end, tied the rope round my ankle, and set off back again dragging the pebbles up the crawl once again. You’d have thought they would have worn out by now with all the rolling to and fro, but there’s still plenty to make life difficult. So. I reached the end, sat up, turned round, and no rope.

Well, we got it sorted out, as you do, after I’d been back through the crawl again, making sure that I didn’t lose the rope twice. Fran and Chaz. were wondering what the hell was going on, and getting cold. I passed the tackle up the letterbox and started on it myself. Hellfire, what a little bastard. Being thin is one thing, but long took me ten minutes to get a foothold to push up on. Neil followed with similar problems. But then we’d cracked it and de-rigged quickly. Looked at my watch. The four of us had spent three hours shouting at each other within 60’ of the entrance. That sums up Car Pot. A neat little hole, not easily won over. Chaz was a bit miffed that he’d bottled out and swore to return....and swore...and swore. On the surface I rummaged in Fran’s boiler suit front for the fags and got another slap in the face. Perhaps the eighties aren’t so liberal after all? Car Pot has certainly not relented.

Hugh St.Lawrence.


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