Brown Hill Pot.

The Saturday night was spent in the Hill Inn, with the usual entertainment from young Paul, the new scrot. Who showed us his potential by squeezing through the 7 inch wagon wheel, this set off a mass craze for all the university students, by the end of the night every fat bastard in the pub had become stuck. This brought back painful memories o-f squeezing between chairs up at Bullpot.

Badk to the farm to continue the party, the evenings entertainment was spoiled when it was discovered that five cavers had failed to return from County Pot and were suspected of being lost on the fell somewhere. The conditions were bad with a thick mist completely covering the fells; but it was a mild night. By the time the police arrived I decided it was time to go to bed. Ten to a bed as usual with nine out of ten people snoring and you being the only one who couldn’t sleep.

Phil Luff was abruptly awaken at 6am in the morning to assist on the fell search; I went back to sleep. By nine thirty I decided to get up, the kitchen was quite busy with Paul Saville still being there from the night before, Chaz had retired to bed, several other people had been up all night. Time to get a serious grip and decide what to do today. The night before old Paul (big scrot) had set a date for the bottoming trip in Quaking Pot. It was to be in two weeks time, he asked me if I was fit enough with not being an the caving scene since July. There is no way I ‘m going to miss out on my third and final attempt on Quaking Pot, so there was nothing else to do except join the Neil Pacy get fit quick scheme. Todays caving menu involved Bullpot of the Witches or County Pot, not quite test pieces for quaking. So I swanned off to Bernie’s to try and find another alternative. There I met ‘Mad Stan’ who I had caved with before down King Pot, Just after Christmas. Stans last caving trip was in fact King Pot, ten months ago.

Ow do Stan, iste going patholing?’

‘Aye, weathers a bit damp, it’s drizzling.”

‘Shall we go down Brown Hill?’

 ‘Aye, We’ll go down Brown Hill Pot.”

So it was back to the farm for some rope ‘n’ ladders. Neither of us had a guide book, but Stan thought he might be able to find the entrance, (in the mist, doubtful). Luckily I had previously memorized the tackle list and description -from many months back as you do. 200ft. of rope, 35ft. ladder for the last pitch and two 25ft. ladders.

We did’nt have any belays -for the ladders, but Stan had four slings and five bolts, this’ll do it, it’ll be rite. Drive up to Ingleton, Stan hires a lamp from pal at swindlesport, then up to Kingsdale to where you park for Heron Fat. Quick change then off up east Kingsdale in the mist. We decide to go down Floyds entrance being the one everybody opts for rather than the original Brown Hill entrance. I find the oil drums while Stan’s wandering off doing an impression of a lost banana.
Brown Hill has got an evil reputation for being hard at grade IV, many tales and legends date back in Red Rose history of Frank Hardy being stuck in a calcite squeeze and Andy ‘orrible’ Hall smashing stals to rescue him. I had heard tales of gripless rifts where you had to try to keep up, big wet pitches, no bolts and tight squeezes. Only one thing to do, go dawn the pot with an attitude of getting to the bottom, then you can form your own opinions good or bad.

Stan went first and I passed the tackle bags dawn the 12ft. of oil drums. At the bottom he passed a squeeze and thrutched along a passage with a rather constricted nature to a small chamber where it was possible to stand up, I quickly followed passing the bags through to him. The guidebook from here quotes main way on is a traverse in roof to a squeeze round a calcite mass, route continues in roof to next bend where climb down leads to narrow awkward stretch.

Remembering Andy Hall telling me he rescued Frank from the bottom by smashing some stals, I decided to keep to the bottom and bollocks to what the guide book says. In fact this section was a piece of piss, we passed the bags through and were soon in a small chamber. We kept cradling in the bottom and at one section Stan had a bit of a problem getting stuck at a sharp bend, eventually we had to traverse in the roof to the head of the first pitch. The bolts were sticking out and the ladder didn’t reach the bottom. It was about 2Oft. too short. I climbed down the ladder onto a ledge where there was a good bolt, Stan dropped the ladder down to me and then he free climbed down.

The next pitch followed immediately, this is where the Brown Hill entrance joins on the right. At the bottom of the pitch a crawl led to the very impressive ‘Galerie pas Mur’, I think this must be some french bullshit for large waterfall. Here Stan found a pair of brown national health specs with a piece of rubber to stop them falling off, they didn’t have any lenses in them, Stan said the waterfall looked a right spectacle, we left the glasses for on the way out. After traversing over a 4Oft. pot we continued along an easy traverse until it formed a phreatic roof tube. This ended over a large hole, but we did not think it possible to climb down. We were at the end of the passage and there were no bolts for a pitch. Did the 165 ft. (partis? ed) ‘Ian Plant’ actually exist, things were again looking doubtful.

The next hour was spent climbing, traversing, and squeezing at various levels in a large rift, trying to find the head of the pitch, no bolts could be seen anywhere. I followed a rather interesting smooth section of the rift which eventually came to an end with a bolt in the wall. Looking down the rift below pinched out, but peering round the corner I found that I was in the roof of a huge 165ft. shaft, this belied out to immense proportions, in my opinion, probably the best shaft in the Yorkshire Dales.
We then kitted up our SRT gear in the roof of this rift. Stan discovered he had forgotten to put in his descender, things were looking doubtful for the third time today. He said he would abseil down on an italian hitch round a crab and I would rig the pitch on my Pretzel ‘drop’. The pitch was perfect, a V hang at the top using one bolt and a sling around a large lump c-f rock, -free hanging in space until it landed on a ledge 100 ft. down. The waterfall came into the shaft, but the pitch was dry.
Stan followed on his italian hitch, the sight was spectacular, spiraling round his light illuminating the shaft on the way down. ‘Wow man what a picture’, the next bit of the pitch involved traversing out on a ledge until we found two bolts for a tremendous second V hang. The bottom shaft looked wet. I set off down, about 20ft. down I spotted a deviation cord 30 ft. away over the other side of the shaft. God knows who had put that in, I started kicking off the walls to pendulum to reach it.

By this time we were running short on equipment so I used the crab from my cows tails for the deviation.. It was a perfect rig, well out of the water, but with one small, trivial problem, only a small problem mind you; the rope was now about 15 ft. too short from the bottom of the pitch. I changed over and prussiked up; after some devious tactics we managed to get the rope to reach the bottom.

Marmite passage followed an easy sporting section of stream cave, this ended in the last pitch, the rope was hung off a good bolt and reached the bottom for a change, around the corner lurked the gloomy ‘Murphy’s Irish Stout’ sump, very impressive indeed.. The return trip went ticking along fine until we came to the entrance series; we were both tired and the bags were presenting a problem, the bastards kept getting jammed. Eventually we surfaced to the blackness of night in the middle of some Yorkshire moor. We were both knackered, the trip had taken seven hours. One of the best trips in the dales, just get a grip and do it.

Coming soon: Quaking Pot, the epic continues

Neil Pacey

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