RRCPC Newsletter
Volume 34 Number 3 Article 6
December 1997

Alum Pot - The "Flash & Splash" Trip

Sunday 25th May 1997

Party: Ray Duffy, Tim Eastwood, Mark Savage, Pete Grant, Paul Wilkinson, Lizzie Boyes, Alan Kerr, Sam Carradice, Zig & Zag.

Alum Pot ('Heiln Pot' ='hell's mouth') has had a special fascination since the early beginnings of cave exploration. Two famous early cavers, John Birbeck from Settle, and William Metcalf from Wethercote House, with others, attempted two descents using ropes, belts, and a 'lowering bucket' via the Dolly Tubs and the Bridge, in 1847 and 1848. The first successful direct descent was made by William Boyd Dawkins and 12 others (including 3 ladies in long skirts) in 1870 using a windlass and a large bucket. Dawkins then climbed down to the sump using rigid ladders; he discovered the waterfall pouring in from Diccan Pot, and found the dry oxbow on the way out. Since then thousands of potholers have made the same trip - but the story is never the same - its always an adventure.

The Bank Holiday Sunday was very quiet; ideal for the Red Rose photographic trip - a chance for Ray to take some photographs from the Dolly Tubs of his willing volunteers going up and down the Big Pitch. As the Elliot SRT book says, Alum Pot is one of the few places were caving becomes a spectator sport! Mel, Sandra, Sam's parents, Peg the dog, and others, all came to watch!

Zig and Zag had a mini-epic; having done the Big Pitch before they were confident that their super new virgin 80 metre rope would present no problems! However after a very fast descent Zig remembered the manufacturers warning that washed new rope can shrink by 10% - it had; which is why Zig's rope, now 72 metres, didn't reach the bottom! Not to complain (much) Zig found another 15 metre length in the bag and tied a knot. Alan (now at the bottom) watched with interest, after some helpful discussion Zig reached the bottom, followed by Zag and Alastair, using a new I verbally assisted' knot-passing technique.

The master plan was for Tim, Mark and Pete to rig the Dolly Tubs and the Bridge, so Ray could set up his camera and flashes, while Zig, Zag, and Sam rigged the Big Pitch. Alan's job was to rig from the Southeast Tree Route to join the Big Pitch party at the bottom of the daylight shaft. No problem, Alan was as keen as mustard; first down, hours before anyone else! He rigged everything in sight from the SE Tree - if he saw an ecohanger, he put a rope on it! Eventually after using up all his tackle, he had a smoke and waited for the rest of the team.

By now 'deviation Tim' and the others were going up and down ropes from all over the Bridge! Julie, Lizzie and Paul prussiked up the Big Pitch for their photographs; Alan used his own camera to trigger Ray's flash sensors, much to Ray's amusement. A quick visit to the sump, (does anyone know what the big metal tub at the bottom is for?), and then a smooth epic-free de-rigging exit. A fine day all round - but did the photographs come out?

Peter & Julie Mohr

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