Volume 33 Number 2 Article 5
The Three Pots
"What do you think about this for a caving challenge?", said Neil Pacey, Lord of all things miserable and squalid. "The Three Peaks, but instead of the summits, the deepest cave on each of Penyghent, Whemside and Ingleborough!" "Shit!", thought I. "That sounds desperate." I nodded in agreement to his suggestion. "Yes Neil, quite a challenge!" I replied.
I had little intention at that late stage of the night of agreeing to bottom Penyghent Pot, King Pot and Meregill Hole all within twenty-four hours. It sounded like a caving Bob Graham requiring food stops, transport and... organisation! At the time I presumed that Neil already had the tackle bags packed and Mars Bars ready. I planned on a hard nights drinking with no possibility of caving the next day. There was no way I thought that I was fit enough to do even two of those caves in a day let alone two Grade 5s and a 4. Weeks later I was to be proved wrong along with another eight team members.
The morning after the night before the Golden Anniversary Dinner the "Dream Team" were minus one team member. "Youth, what do yer think to this?", cried Neil in a conspiratorial fashion. I knew what was coming and I didn't want to lose face. The Three Pots Challenge was thrown down with me as a replacement for Dalek who couldn't get time off work. "OK, I'll do that!!!" said I. And that was that.
The plan as it turned out was to rig and derig each cave and carry the tackle required, however we were allowed to use vehicles between each cave. The Dream Team (Neil Pacey, Pete Hall, Beardy, Stan and Youth) opted for Charlie and Frans van for its increased storage space for food, tackle and filthy potholers. The Saab team (Chris Kinghorn, Hugh St. Lawrence, Jak and Christine) opted for Chris's Saab turbo, sleek and fast but with less space for tackle. As far as food was concerned the caterers could not have prepared us better, the Stuart and Linda Food and Beer Emporium parked itself at Bullpot and stuffed us silly with scoff and drink for over twenty four hours solid. This was the essential link in the chain, without this support we could have only managed a fraction of the trip, a truly excellent support crew in every respect. Hats off to Stuart and Linda!
Saturday morning at 5am (normally bedtime for the Farm regulars) and the Saab team were up and eating a gigantic fried breakfast that had been sizzling since four courtesy of Tigertops caterers. Half an hour later and the Dream Team swopped positions and started on the worlds supply of bacon, sausage, bread, beans and even cereal for those wanting a healthy alternative. Lashings and lashings of tea were being brewed up and everyone was getting their caving head screwed tightly on. One last stop for nervous energy and we jumped in the van after checking that all the gear was present and correct. Lee was the driver and he sped us to Penyghent where we parked at Brackenbottom and quickly changed before the dinosaurs awoke.
Neil and Stan opted for a wetsuit and oversuit combination for the wet crawls and canals of Penyghent Pot. I didn't bring my wetsuit because I reasoned that we would be moving so fast we wouldn't get cold, I also decided to not bother with a spare lamp as we would only be underground for four hours at the most.
At the entrance to Penyghent we found a laminated note left by Chris the previous week. In it he explained with diplomatic tone that we would be here that Saturday and basically to get out of the way as we had miles of caving to do. Penyghent crawl was passed easily as we all had our "head down and go for it" mentality at the time (6.30am). The match-fit team rigged in one smooth operation from the first pitch to Myers Leap with only minimal waiting at pitches. When we did stop every effort was put into rationalising the tackle carriage, no one person was allowed to be burdoned with all the gear, that could compromise us later.
At the bottom of Myers Leap pitch I was gripped by an uncontrollable urge. Since the start of the crawls my guts had been moving and the greasy breakfast was making itself felt quite severely, there was nothing for it. Much better for my offence, I pursued the rest of the team catching up with Stan just before the sump.
This was no time for sight-seeing and we "set the controls for the heart of the sun" and left for the surface. Again, the rolling-ball mentality was adopted with minimum hanging around and maximum effort in getting tackle to the surface at a steady rate. We surfaced at around 11 am and blasted off to the van in fine spirits.
After a fine elevenses of Rice Crispy Cake, growlers and fruit juice we set off to Ingleton where we hired FX cells for the rest of the trips. We all trooped into Pals in oversuits, dripping muddy water everywhere and making a nuisance of ourselves before we left for King Pot.
At Braida Garth the Saab team emerged as we sorted the tackle requirements, what timing! They had done well to do King in six hours and it provided a benchmark for us to emulate. Spirits were high as we started to take the piss out of the other team and they responded with some invective. If we were being nice to each other then it would have been clear that someone had screwed up!
We all cursed the tackle through the first two pitches and arrived at the Tortuous Traverse, things had slowed down a little. For some unaccountable reason we all started to recite a few lines of poetry. Stan chose "Albert and the Lion", Beardy gave a fine rendition of "The Ballad of the Southgate Duck" and I chose "Slough" as its the only one I can remember. Amazing, there we all were halfway down an East Kingsdale Grade 5 and we were reciting poetry! The Tortuous Traverse was a little pig but we soon made our way through to Queensway and stomped through to King Henry Hall, Kakemono Hall, Elizabeths and crawled with knee grinding soreness to the East Kingsdale Master Cave. Here the Saab team had kindly left us a can of Boddingtons Draught for us to quench our thirsts. It had obviously reached the parts other draughtflow bitters fail!
We were all on the surface for 6 pm and were surprisingly fit considering the last few hours exertions. At the van we were confronted with curry, bread, roast chicken and brews and brews of tea. Fluids were the big problem, I was starting to get dehydrated easily and chose every opportunity to drink something. Meregill Hole next.
After the last two potholes Meregill should have been an easy refresher to round off the day. Chris Kinghorn had assured me that it was a "f**king path to the bottom!". Unfortunately we had to rig off the Elliot bolts in the roof which required lots of traversing and wallying around. Both teams met up at the third pitch to much jeering because "It's not a race but get a grip!"
After two grade fives in twelve hours we were beginning to become a little jaded to say the least. It was all right when we kept moving but if we stopped to wait for the riggers to find the red bolts it was easy to "drop off". One minute I was bridged across the canyon streamway in the roof next I am waking with a frightening lurch to get back to safety. Quite literally "nodding off'" Soon we were at the bottom and traversed over the pool and entered the streamway, battled on past the Black Shiver inlet and crawled with bonecrunching agony to the static sump. No matter how you arranged your kneepads it always felt like there were stones underneath them. With lights fading we made our way to the surface, Stan was behind me in complete darkness, caving by Braille and our lamps. Deep below the derigging had begun and a fine trip was drawing to an end while on the surface small groups bumbled along to the vehicles in the balmy, close summer night.
As we came into view from the road Linda ran out of the van shouting "WELL DONE, WELL DONE!!!" as if our lottery numbers had come up. Most of us were too knackered to rejoice so enthusiastically but after a couple of gulps of juice and umpteen brews of warm, sickly tea it all seemed well worth the effort. Yes! We had done the Three Pots Challenge.
Back at the farm Stuart had laid on some small barrels of beer for the thirsty speleologists, totally pumped but pleased to get out of wet kit and slump into the luxury of a Bullpot Farm armchair with a pint.
Thank you to all of the team that helped organise the trip and made it happen but a special thank you to Stuart and Linda our caterers and victualers. Well Done Red Rose!!