Volume 37 Number 2 Article 4
Saturday 8 April 2000
Members present: Peter Dale, Andrew Whitney, Bruce Stone, Duncan Jones.
I was sat at home watching television when who should walk through my front door but "Cougo", alias Mr Bruce Stone. "Where the hell have you been hiding?" I asked, (knowing full well it was his loss keeping him from coming round; women eh!!) Anyway, apparently he had been ill and off work for two weeks. (Soft twat, as if being ill stops you caving.) Well, the reason he'd come round was to see if I was going caving tomorrow. "Yes" was the reply, and since I had arranged to meet Andy at the farm and Chunks (Duncan) was picking me up at 10am, (more like 10:30am), I volunteered him to give Bruce a lift up there as well.
Well, after not a lot of sleep and an early start, (6am - dogs need walking you know), Bruce had said he would be at my house about 9:45am. Sure enough, he turned up and didn't have any excuses not to go. Chunks turned up eventually and we sped off to Bull Pot. After an exciting drive we arrived at the farm, finding Mr Whitney just about to give up on us and go home.
The team was assembled -we just needed a trip. Bruce wanted an easy trip to break him back into caving since his last trip was Peak Cavern back in January. (There's a lad with a lot of commitment to his hobby). Andy wanted to discover something, Chunks was up for anything, and I wanted excitement. We decided on Craftman's Pot in West Kingsdale (I decided!).
Gear packed, and we were off. Upon arriving in west Kingsdale we where confronted with fog, (great!). We found the entrance quite easily, removed the lid, which consisted of an old wheelbarrow and a sheet of metal, then nominated Chunks to go down first. (Well, it could be dangerous!)
The entrance shaft of 4m is free climbed on scaffold bars. At the bottom you are greeted by a flat out crawl in muddy ice cold water, which regretfully is the only way on, Duncan first again. After 3m of what can only be described as pleasant crawling a boulder run in was encountered on the left, (scary!!). Next there was a tight squeeze down into a rift. Chunks had a go first, and after three or four attempts ending in a comical head first approach, I said "Stand aside and let a proper caver try." "First attempt and straight through. Easy!" I sarcastically shouted back, and told them to come on down; but Chunks had to take his SRT kit off.
Three of us down and one to go. Unsurprisingly, Andy must have gone at it wrong, because he got stuck half way down the rift. Since there wasn't anything Duncan and I could do, due to the tightness of the passage, we decided to carry on down the cave. After negotiating another awkward bit we where at the top of a roughly 4m vertical slot which lands precariously at the top of Hickory pitch, 14m space at last.
As Chunks descended the pitch, Bruce caught me up and, after listening to his complaining for a moment, Chunks shouted "rope free", and off I went down. As I abseiled down the pitch, I noticed quite a few menacing boulders in the rift that were supported by what could only be described as fresh air! Once Bruce reached the bottom I asked him where Andy had vanished to. Bruce had helped him back up out of the squeeze; it seems that Andy's nerve had made a sharp exit from the cave, so apparently he went to retrieve it, (chicken).
The way on is down through a lovely loose boulder choke onto a very loose boulder slope with only one solid wall in sight. (The guidebook says "extreme care needed", no kidding). I lost count of the number of rocks we dislodged just by breathing on them. At the end of the slope you are confronted with a 30m drop, Dickory pitch. Luckily you only have to descend the first 8m onto a boulder bridge. I didn't feel like the full 30m since you would have been abseiling next to walls of hanging death! Once on the ledge you traverse along the rift across the top of Dock pitch to another boulder bridge, which is followed. Unusually this is where Bruce's courage got up and left. At the bottom of the pitch, a stream enters which flows off down the cave into the sump. Chunks and I had a quick look around and decided to make a hasty retreat after it started to rain rocks from above! Must be Bruce knocking them down.
The exit was going well, apart from me being the last one. When I reached the top of Hickory I vacated the rope and clipped onto the traverse line from the pitch above, which was just in time because what I was standing on decided to part company with my feet, (very scary!). After regaining my footings I quickly made my way up the pitch. Looking up at the slot it appeared tight and tricky, but was surprisingly easy due to lots of hand and foot holds. I eventually caught up with Bruce and Duncan at the first tight squeeze. After a lot of grunting and groaning Chunks was at the top. Then it was Bruce's turn. He struggled quite a lot (probably because he's a bit dimensionally challenged). Personally I don't know what they where complaining about. I found it remarkably easy. As I crawled through the muddy bit Andy greeted me with his camera for some snapshots of me in the mud. Photos taken, we emerged into the daylight.
The fog had lifted and it was quite sunny. As we set off walking back to the car I asked Bruce where he had put my SRT kit. Great, he had left it down the cave on the other side of the muddy bit. (He'll pay for that one day).
SRT kit retrieved, muddy crawl passed four times, (I know how a turd feels now), surface reached again. We met Andy's dad who had been walking in the area while we where caving and went back to the cars to get changed. Once changed we had a quick look at Andy's photos, then set off home, after stopping at the chip shop of course!
Craftman's isn't an easy trip to say the least, but if you can negotiate the first 20m then you will be rewarded. It is also worth noting that its characteristics are completely different than those of Bull Pot, which is only about 50m away. All in all, it's a good trip, well worth a visit with some possibility of extending it since it ends about 25m above the sump level in Rowten. Go do it!