Volume 38 Number 3 Article 2
A Bridge Too Far - Vesper Pot
Friday 24 September 1999
Short arm cavers : Duncan Jones, Pete Dale.
After a couple of discussions during the week, we finally decided to do Vesper Pot on the Friday afternoon. We stuffed all the gear into my car and headed over to Braida Garth Farm. I drove down the track to the farm so Pete could ask for permission to go to the cave and of course to ask if we could park at the farm, which the woman kindly granted us. (Pete will do anything to shorten the walk to a cave.)
After getting changed we made our way to the pot and found the entrance straight away. Pete suggested I should go down first and on entering the pot I met with a sideways crawl, which quickly gives way to hands and knees crawling. Eventually the crawling ends and you get to stand up, all be it sideways, and the top of the first pitch is reached. I set about rigging the pitch, (the spits werent as bad as we had been led to believe), and started to descend the pitch, which is narrow at the top. It was at this point I started wondering how Pete had talked me into doing this pot; I wasnt impressed by it so far!
From the foot of the first pitch, a twisting narrow canyon passage continues for some distance until you reach the second pitch, which looked more awkward than it actually was. At this point things get vertical with the second, third, fourth and fifth pitches following in quick succession. All the pitches are spacious and easy. At the top of the fourth pitch I managed to thread my descender the wrong way and nearly set off on it. (I think it was the tiredness setting in.) After sorting out that problem I abseiled down to the rebelay, which is a large Y-hang. Knowing that Pete had packed a 40m rope, (the length it says in a guide book), and the rigging guide says you need a 45m rope, I opted to just deviate at this point and continue straight down to the bottom. Having a small amount of rope left over it was probably wise not to rebelay it.
Upon reaching the top of the fifth pitch I tried looking for the spits. At first I had great difficulty in seeing any, but suddenly I noticed two small holes on the far side of the shaft. At this point I just laughed because I had read in the selected caves guide book a long reach reaches a y-hang. I knew now what it meant. You need six foot long arms just to reach the bloody things; alternatively you can lean across the shaft and prop your head on the wall and try and rig it that way. I offered Pete the chance to rig this pitch, but he refused when he saw the location of the spits. I told him Id rig it if he spread himself across the shaft and form a bridge so that I could stand on him and rig it easily, but that idea was also politely rejected.
We had been beaten by a big gap. Neither of us wanted to lean across so we had no choice but to make our way out.
"Keep it steady, Pete"
Things were going fine until the top of the second pitch. I derigged it and then Pete set off along the narrow passage thinking I was right behind him. I wasnt; I had trouble moving at the top of the pitch - the bag was attached to my harness and dangling below me, wedged. The narrow passage made it awkward to move anywhere and I had a hell of a job trying to sort myself out. Eventually I sorted my problem out. Unfortunately I managed to totally knacker myself in the process. I slowly made my way along the narrow passage fighting with the bag all the way. (This pot was defeating me at this point. I was hot, tired and I just wanted to give up.) Pete tried to encourage me along saying it wasnt much further to the first pitch. He was right. Finally! The first pitch was ascended without problem.
The hands and knees crawl started and both of us shuffled our way along struggling with the bags, muttering about the pot being bloody awful and saying that we werent coming back. At about half way along we both collapsed and decided to have a rest. This pot was getting to us, and its only a grade 4. We thought if this is grade 4 then what the hell are the grade 5s like round here! At this point we didnt know why we were so tired until I looked at my watch - 6.30 - getting late and we hadnt eaten. Ahh, one source of the problem found, all we needed to do was get out and get to Ingleton for some sausage and chips. The thought of food helped us concentrate on the task ahead and we continued along the crawl and soon reached the sideways section, where upon Pete got his bag wedged in the passage and started complaining some more about the pot. After a comical act he managed to pass over the bag and left the bag for me to deal with (thanks). After a fight with two bags we managed to force them through the passage and get the hell out of there. I vowed never to return again, though I might be persuaded sometime in the future - but not on a day when Ive been at work.
I was staying at the farm that night and I got talking to two lads who said they had been down Vesper before. I asked them how they managed to rig the last pitch - they didnt do it either. They are bloody awkward spits to reach - its definitely not a pitch for those people who dont like leaning....