Crescent Pot - 13th June 1992

Team:       Pete Hall, Neil Pacey, Gavin from BUSS

This was the second in our series of severe Grade V potholes for the spring season after the trip to Quaking Pot. This time we were a little more concerned at having a member of the team who wasn’t a specialist in misery but we made him well aware of the situation in advance to avoid any confusion about the serious nature of the trip.
We had a little prior knowledge of the pothole gained by an unsuccessful attempt to bottom it by myself and two others four or five years ago, which ended in failure under mountains of tackle. However this was enough to give us an idea of rigging tactics for the first five pitches and the knowledge that the fourth and fifth pitches both have awkward take-offs, which was the reason for the failure of the last trip. We also had the benefit of two lengths of 9mm rope for the two longer pitches. So all in all we were quite well prepared. As usual we didn’t get an early start and set oft down the hole at about 2pm. The entrance is m a totally undistinctive shakehole with a climb down a rift leading to the narrow first pitch and wider second and third pitches following immediately. Natural belays abound and with atotalofonlysixhangersandtwoslingsfortheentiretripofeightpitches, economy was the order of the day. These three pitches were rigged safely and adequately with one hanger and 110 foot of rope.

A quite remarkable piece of shoring followed leading down to a fiat out sand and cobble crawl for 50ft. The continuation was in a classic piece of East Kingsdale passage similar to passages in King Pot, Brown Hill Pot, etc. with various climbs up and down with muddy roof tubes in between and occasional boulder obstacles. This eventually led past some avens to some walking passage and a climb down into a chamber. Sharp left here led after a few feet to the very awkward fourth pitch. This is the most awkward part and involved a sideways crawling traverse to a place where we could stand up followed by another sideways rift which I approached with the end of the ladder in my hand. As I emerged from the hole into the side of the shaft I had to screw the bolt in and, hanging onto the ladder, drop my legs out of the rift onto the ladder and climb down. A reasonable stream had gathered by this time and the ledge was quite draughty. On the fifth pitch we chose the dry way as it was bolted (one bolt sticking half way out) although narrow. This was backed up to pebbles calcited to a ledge and a thin calcite thread and off we went A short crawl got us to the top of the sixth pitch which was generously provided with a thread and two bolts although one of them was only good for a deviation. We dropped 70 foot down a sloping wall into a pool where we abandoned our SRT gear and set off down the damp, sharp crawl to the bottom.

The seventh pitch was easily climbed without a ladder and the damp crawling got progressively more awkward with deeper water and always seemed to be too narrow or too low to crawl comfortably. Eventually we came to the Duck. After a short while waiting up to our cobblers in cold water for Gavin to decide whether he wanted to do it he gibbed and started on his way out. The lowest part is first so the length of the duck can’t be determined by looking at it, because all that is visible is a small rock arch. So, thinking it was only a short duck under I went for it. It proved to be about twenty or thirty feet long and I was a little chilled and surprised when I reached the rocky shore on the other side and called Nell through. It’s not really a duck to do without a wetsuit

The eighth pitch followed immediately. It was a series of four ten-foot climbs with large ledges in between and we left the lunch bucket from here, notes the guidebook, the remaining half-mile of the cave is all crawling. However it is easier and drier than the previous bit so it was something of a relief and we were able to warm up. Twenty minutes of sharp crawling past several inlets led to a waterlogged bedding. We weren’t able to conclude whether or not it was a sump, although it had a line going into it. Apparently some lads from ULSA are carrying out some diving here and as far as I’m concerned they’re welcome to it. Half way back to the last pitch was the bit we’d been waiting for. The Passage of Slime. Neil romped off down here like a man possessed, leaving me flailing away in the slippery mud some way behind. Soon we reached the Unspeakable Passage of Outer Slime which is a totally separate streamway with a strong draught indicating the presence of a Master Cave beyond the mudbanks at the downstream end. We both stuck our heads in the dig to avoid any accusations of unfinished business and set off out Neil “The Ferret” Pacey left me standing on the way out but soon we were back at the last pitch and ready for some well-earned jock. Unfortunately we had carefully packed the cake with a FX2 cell on top of it, causing it to explode and the lunch bucket had leaked resulting in something with the texture of potato soup. However we fished out some chocolate bars and. bags of pulverised crisps that were floating in it and ate them. At the duck I tried to go through with my helmet on and swallowed a considerable amount of water. It’s surprising how much difference an inch or two of headroom can make!
We caught up with Gavin at the top of the fourth pitch and stopped for another snack before continuing on out. It was gone nine o’clock when we emerged to a fine but windy evening and went for a fish supper in lngleton before retiring to a wild night of beer and music at the Hill Inn.

Crescent is a classic pothole of its kind. Unfortunately it is only to be recommended to specialists in misery. Now Neil wants to resurrect the dig in the Unspeakable Passage of Outer Slime. Any volunteers?

Pete Hall.

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