Bar Pot to Gaping Gill (Main Chamber).


Team:          Jim Newton (co-ordlnator) Phil Wright, Bert Savage, Pete Eland, Ken, Tony Clarke, Neil Pacey, Angela Hare, Dave Webb, Claire and Paul Wilkinson.

9.00 am Clapham Estate Office:

Jim, Pete and myself arrived outside Clapham Estate Office on a cold but sunny morning and kitted up straight away. Our intention was to get to Bar Pot and rig the entrance pitch in readiness for the rest of the team arriving, but after contemplating how much tackle we would have to carry we decided to wait for the other members to turn up (ladder meet). At 9.30 there was still was no sign of any other cavers. After a short discussion with Jim we decided to wait another twenty minutes and if nobody else turned up we would spend the rest of day at our dig which is within a 50 mile radius of Bullpot Farm! Pete and myself had a walk to Clapham Beck Head to take some photos and ten minutes or so lat& Jim signaled the arrival of three more party members.
I for one breathed a sigh of relief as this is one trip that I wanted to do. With the arrival of three extra cavers we were soon kitted up and off we went. We were still four members short (Paul and Claire Wilkinson, Neil Pacey and Angela Hare) but they would soon catch us up due to the bottlenecks that occur on the entrance pitch and the big hundred footer. The walk to Gaping Gill is a long one and we were soon split into pairs a couple of hundred yards apart. Phil and myself were in front and as we arrived at the gated field at the foot of Trow Gill I noticed a stampede of at least 100 sheep come galloping across the field (I am not exaggerating). Obviously they thought it was feeding time.

Phil looked at me, I looked at Phil.

I said, “You go first.”

Phil said, “No, you go first!”

I said, “No, you go first!”

Phil said, “No, you go first!”

I said, “No, you etc, etc, etc

After five minutes arguing by these fearless, intrepid potholers I decided to go first. I opened the gate and walked in to the field (mistake no.1).

“What’s that weird snorting noise Phil?” I said and out of the corner of my eye I saw a slavering, slobbering bundle of wool rushing towards me, I promptly turned around and ran towards the gate.

“Show it your not scared!” said Phil.

Get stuffed” said I.

Once safely back through the gate and once Phil had picked himself off the floor where he had collapsed in hysterics, he decided to show me how it was done. He stepped into the field and started to wave his arms in the air and shout silly things like YAHOO, GERROUTOFIT and MUSH, MUSH. To my amazement it worked and when I look back I think it was enough to frighten a police-horse.

Eventually we all arrived at Bar Pot and as Gaping Gill was only a short walk away we went to have a look at the impressive entrance shaft, whilst leaving Jim to rig the entrance pitch of Bar Pot. On arriving at Gaping Gill we skirted the perimeter fence and approached the shaft along the stream bed. I cautiously moved up to the edge and when my foot slid from underneath me I thought that it was wise to get down on all fours, even then I must confess that I never got close enough to the edge to see all the way down the shaft.

Once back at Bar Pot, Jim had just finished rigging the entrance pitch, so the lifeline was tied on and down he went. A short time later Jim shouted “Ladder free” and so I clipped into the lifeline and climbed down the ladder. The pitch is a bit tight at the top but soon opens out into a fair sized chamber and the rest of the descent is easy. Next it was Ken’s turn and as it was his first caving trip he failed to negotiate the entrance squeeze. Oh well, it was a nice sunny day idea! for fell walking. The rest of the party soon followed and we set of Gaping Gill and the Main Chamber. Next came a short climb down a greasy slab, fortunately with a fixed rope to help things along. After a few minutes of easy going passage we emerged at the head of the big pitch.

While Jim rigged this I had couple moments to mull over a few thoughts that usually go through my mind when faced with a vertical drop of more than six toot such as, “I must be mad.” or “What an I doing this for?” and “Oh shit!”. Phil at this point asked if he could be first man down. Little did I know that he had an ulterior motive, namely, first man down does not have some silly bugger shouting up “Look down, look down!”
Presently the shout came “Ladder free” so I clipped in to the lifeline and backed out over the shaft. Curiosity got the better of me and I had a quick look down the shaft (mistake No.2). I could see Phil’s light far below and to me looked a lot further than 100 foot.

The climb down is fairly easy, dry and close to the wall but if like me you don’t like heights it is a real relief to land on the floor of South-East passage. A short walk and scramble took us to the floor of South-East Pot, a gaping hole in the floor passed by a cautious traverse on the right. This hole is 120 foot deep and a fall would obviously be fatal. At this point of the cave Flood Entrance Pot makes its way into the system. Next comes the slog and only bad part of the Bar Pot to Gaping Gill traverse which consists of 400 foot of hand and knees craw!

Suddenly there it was, the Main Chamber of Gaping Gill.

For the next 15 minutes I walked around with my mouth open firing off shot after shot on my camera (not one photo came out). Ever since I took up caving my main goal was to see the Main Chamber, now I have done that my next ambition is to do the main shaft of Gaping Gill (can we have it on the next meets lists?) I have just been out for a pint so ignore the last 26 or so words and I promise to book myself in for some therapy. A quick trip was made to Mud Hall, the second largest chamber in the system and then we retraced our steps to the foot of Bar Pot. As we arrived at the foot of the pitch we were surprised to see the last member of the other party descending the ladder. Better late than never and it meant that we wouldn’t have to de-tackle the cave!
An uneventful journey was made out to a glorious, sunny evening and the waiting but slightly bored Ken. On the way back to Clapham Jim and Phil, as usual, went to have a look at a couple of digs.

A very enjoyable caving trip.

Tony Clarke.


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