Large Pot to Rift Pot.
This was a day of surprises — How come on a sweaty hot day, for an awkward hole, loads of Red Rose members arrived — well before time! Some time later, used to this fell in minus zero temperatures, found me dripping sweat, like an over ripe cheese, before I’d even locked the car. A little later walking up the fell I’d aged from forty to eighty, I felt awful! and, was in heat stroke! Soon I felt a right wally, too exhausted and knackered to ever get to the cave, let alone get down the hole. I lay down like a black toad in the desert.
Graham, showing good sense, came up with .the suggestion that I take off the top of my wetsuit. It worked, but like the frog, I needed to get underground, fast. So as Jack German wanted to go down Large Pot, off we went, the rigging party had set off long ago. Large Pot used to be awkward, tight, and full, of foot trapping mud. How places quickly change! At the bottom of the entrance shaft the exit was much bigger with the short crawl to the forty foot almost clean and polished and devoid of grit and shingle. Half way I down the tight pitch is a handy ledge, this used to be a narrow pit (now full of cobbles from above) which used to be a right tackle trap, or even trap yourself if not seen. Quick progress was made to the squeezes, but where had they gone? “Now then Jack on this one when you get stuck, lift your shoulder otherwise its impossible, its just bloody hell” I was in a hands and knees, crawl with the squeeze as a ledge on the side! “Well Jack the next one I can just get my legs round, I’d need some help, its just“. A nice 2’ x 2’ passage led on to the right, a tiny passage, an oxbow, lay ahead, the original way. All the mud that would have taken long digging trips had gone. Mushed, liquified by legions of struggling cavers with the small stream in flood washing it away! Onwards, no longer had one to slither and slide up and over mud banks to the Orgasmic Squeeze. Now no mud bank preceded it to lubricate you so that you could not get up to it. Now you could almost crawl under the calcite barrier. The squeeze was now two to three inches wider. We were through in seconds instead of the hectic five to ten minutes of struggle, thrutching and oozing out of the hole an inch at a time.
Oh dear, what
would the pitch be like? It’s wonderful flowstone worn away it was decaying
even when first discovered. Well it has been saved by SRT. Not only that but
with the traverse starting early it is a lot safer at the top of the soapy
flowstone, you are well clipped in. This leads, via a rebelay, to a hang well
clear of the delicate flowstone. Below for 150ft. lay a wonderful shaft, lined
all the way down with flowstone, it is a sight that reminds you of comic
pictures where a truck
disappears down a bottomless pit. Unfortunately with the awesome view and my
first rebelay in the wild, helped by verbal encouragement from Jack I forgot to
look - does a passage go on beyond the pitch - the original explorers never
found out. May be a way goes on to an old rising or to the parallel shaft
nearby or a more direct pitch?
At the bottom we went Eastwards as I had never seen how it ended. After a flat out crawl it leads to a fine tunnel some what like the bigger bits of
Returning to the pitch we meet the Rift Pot party and we rushed on — would we be left to derig ( and carry camera) or even be left in until they realised that we were still underground. Soon we lost the way on through the choke. Why had I not asked the way on through this 50’ of passage that I had not done before? This is followed by a flat out crawl and wallow through lowish boulder chambers at the start of Rift Pot — gritty and slippery and the hardest bit of the trip. Bigger and bigger chambers follow, but at the sight of a distant light we were stopped by an impossible tight crawl, with tantalizingly a small party exiting up the big pitch! Shouts of “How do you ******* get out of here; Don’t derig; Which is the way out?” brought little response. How upsetting to look through a tiny hole from one huge cavern into the vast blackness of Coates Cavern. Soon we found the way on slightly higher up and now relaxed a bit from our rushed caving.
The big Rift Pot pitch is full of rebelays, and this was my first prussick underground. Unfortunately with leg loops too long and a mess up with my ropes still on lower ropes, like a fly on a cobweb, it took some time. Overall I found this pitch easiest on ladders, as after the first 60’ the rest is up a steep slope with ledges. Thankfully we did not need to derig. We followed the crawl to the exit followed by the strong wind that rushes down Large and out Rift; cold, draughty and chilling. We exited into a positively furnace like heat on a brilliant June day. Soon parched and hot I returned to the car, to a tin of pop, like a Coke advert I thankfully pulled the ring — there was a great bang — blood everywhere — and a little left as the hot tin exploded. One of the worst and oddest accidents I’ve had in thirty years of caving, what an odd end to the day.
P.S. The twenty odd photos that I took — only two came out!
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