Volume 32 Number 2 Article 5
Team: Paul and Claire Wilkinson
For some time now Claire has had this "hit-list" of various Yorkshire potholes that she wants to do. I eyed up the list and noted some that I had wanted to do for some time as well. Car Pot, Strans Gill, Out Sleets Beck, Crescent Pot (only joking!) were all on the Easter Hit list. Brown Hill Pot was also thrown in for good measure.
All in all a fair little tick list but there was one name that I thought deserved a mention that hadn't made it onto the list, Disappointment Pot. The previous week we had both decided to test ourselves with a quick trip down Top Sink and out of Wretched Rabbit. Expecting an epic with the wrong lengths of rope, light failures and getting lost we surprised ourselves with a slick trip of less than two hours and no cock-ups! Obviously this was no challenge so something with a sting in the tail was required. Brown Hill, Crescent and Car Pot were judged to be a bit ambitious for the time being but Disappointment Pot, now that was about right.
Inevitably Claire wanted to know what it was like. "There's a bit of a duck at the beginning but apart from that it's a lovely place to spend a Wednesday." Suitably conned we set off towards Gaping Gill with the tackle we had sorted out the previous night to save time. The guide book describes the entrance as a "funnel shaped shakehole" which is as near a blanket description of any shakehole within a fifty mile radius as there is but once inside it is obvious where you are. The distinguishing feature is the easy climb with several hundred kilograms of loose cobbles poised over the lip. Lovely, little obstacle on the way back!
Soon the "Dwarf Squad" team as one of the larger members called us once were at the piece-de-resistance, the duck and portcullis. With plenty of loitering and hesitation we launched into the bedding plane dragging the tackle bags behind us like yellow sea anchors. During the winter floods the bedding had filled up with sand forcing us to squirm nose to the roof, bulldozing the sand ahead of us. The canal ahead of the portcullis had a special grade of frothy sludge, eight inches thick and with a high tide mark nearer the roof than the floor. Paul went through and cleared some of the flood debris from the duck and Claire passed through the tackle bags which by now weighed much more like a bag of spanners. A yellow helmet hoved into view from the muddy depths and then this balaclava spluttering and cursing popped through the orifice. "Nice feature to the cave isn't it Claire." "No." replied Claire looking like sewer-rat and ninja assassin all in one.
Beyond this point the cave takes on more vertical dimensions, two short pitches a long rifty passage designed to test the finest traversing technique and the final two pitches, or so we thought. Something was not quite right. A niggling, confused and embarrassing thought occurred, "There is another pitch we haven't put a rope in for." And we hadn't.
Oh the shame of it all, within a cobbles throw of the bottom and not enough rope because we had not done our homework properly. How would we explain this away to the Farm Animals. The slagging would be relentless at the weekend. We mulled over the options. Least inviting was going to the entrance and getting the handline, even worse was to tell a lie but no, we could not stoop to those levels of scurrilous, bad behaviour. With desperation taking over Paul moved into a mode of potholing best described by Hugh St. Lawrence as "dubious tactics". At the top of the pitches we removed the traverse line and made the Y-hang into a rebelay then pulled tight the rope to the top of the final pitch to another "dynamic belay" requiring a unique bridging move to pass it and a free hang was gained to the bottom of the chamber... almost.
There we were less than six feet from the bottom with no hope of ever getting on the rope again if we untied the knot and jumped the last bit in sheer desperation. So near and yet miles away for all it was worth, within spitting distance but an impossible leap all for another metre of rope we didn't have.
But our team were not to be beaten quite so easily as we scanned the horizon for a glimmer of hope. Off in the distance was a small ledge, an unstable slab jutted out from the boulder pile which forms one wall of the final chamber. Just to give that extra bit of length that we needed a sling was larks-footed to the end of the rope around a suspicious looking knot to which was tied one of the bandoliers for the maillions. Kicking off from the wall a pendulum was achieved and the assorted junk tied onto the end was hurled over the slab at full stretch. It held and we gingerly belayed the rope to the rubble and came down cautiously.
We had made it to the bottom and set off into Henslers Master Cave for Echo Rift consoling ourselves that if we couldn't find laboratory work then there was a space for us in the circus trapeze act (doubling as the freak show no doubt!). At Echo Rift we had the chance to refresh our repertoire of farmyard animal noises with Claires impersonation of a mad cow deserving special mention.
Returning back was something of a pig with every squeeze and rift sapping our energy however it provided us with a good opportunity to teach the new club tackle-sacs some bad habits and unprintable language. By the time the ducks were reached we were both totally knackered and we hungrily devoured the last of the chocolate before plunging in. Some planning is required before diving in, best demonstrated as Pauls nose dredged up some gravel from the ducks floor and he tried to drink the pool dry. Eventually we hauled the tackle up to the entrance with arms pumping and panting like a rabid dog. "Good trip, crap cave." Claire decided.
Inspired, the team set off back to Clapham with fire in their bellies ready to tackle the intricacies of Brown Hill Pot which was next on the hit-list. However first the more important matter of mulling over a fine days potholing over a pint of hot tea.