Volume 40 Number 1 Article 1
The Magic Roundabout
Lancaster Hole - Stake Pot Area
Saturday 5th October 2002
Rick Scott, Andy Whitney and Ray Duffy
The day dawned well, unfortunately some of our team had stayed up to watch it, well to be honest, they were probably too drunk to see any sun. Rick Scott had made a rare but welcome return to the fold and with myself, Johnny, Andy Whitney, Andy Hall and the last rogue factor of Andy Pringle, you might expect a late night drinking sesh!
I had mooted four alternatives to the team in the Three Horseshoes in Ingleton earlier on Friday evening. One involved a pleasant stroll through the top level of Lancaster Hole to check the survey drawing so far. The second option was less inviting, a trip to the end of Maracaibo, surveying, whilst the third, a trip to the end of Maple Leaf surveying was even less attractive. The fourth and finally accepted option was a trip around the Magic Roundabout so that I could see it before I drew up the survey notes.
It must be almost ten years ago that I started off with Rick to try and re-bolt the Arson Shaft as a better way of getting back to the Roundabout, the Craven had de-rigged the shaft once they'd completed their survey. The task of bolting was soon contracted out to the much more efficient Toby Chilton, who reached the top of the shaft in no time. We then stormed up the pitch to find that the way on required more bolting to reach the top of the continuation rift, so I'd never got into the real top of the shaft.
Saturday morning arrived, dry and fairly sunny like the past month so the route would be as dry as it is ever likely to be. Greaaaaat!!!!!
Horrible looked like 'death'.
Pringle was still shaking.
Johnny seemed to have a large dose of apathy.
So our heroes, Rick, Andy W. and me headed off after several brews to Lancaster Hole.
Everything went smoothly although it wasn't until we reached Stake Pot that Andy actually opened his mouth and spoke, that'll teach him to gargle 160% proof rum with Johnny. Once at the window into the Arson Shaft we swung, literally into action like a well-oiled machine and soon all three of us were jamming up the rope in this tremendous water worn shaft. The interesting thing about this shaft is that you enter it 15m from the floor and the 25m climb up to the slit into the continuation shaft seems a long way on Black Marlow that's been in place for quite a while. The slit is nowhere near as tight as Slit Pot but still awkward and so is the top of the rift climb that takes off immediately from the slit. The belay at the top, a stal and bolt in the roof doesn't really inspire confidence but by the time the others arrived I'd had a couple of fags to steady the nerves. By now the air smelled like a taproom a mixture of alcoholic sweat and fag smoke, lovely.
The way on could have been left or right at a Y-junction, pitches can be disorientating, but I seemed to remember from Beardy's superb drawing that it was left, (The Old Kent Road). So I set off crawling until I recognised a crossover passage on the right that I thought joined back to the passage I'd discounted. After calling the others to follow, we de-kitted and only a few metres further found ourselves in a bowl-shaped chamber next to a pitch, with an airy looking traverse over to the other side. Now I'd heard tales of Kinghorn's weird and wonderful rigging of this traverse but it really almost defies description. There are two ropes, one is presumably the original explorers and because he couldn't get the krabs open Chris had threaded his rope through theirs to a high bolt in the middle. So there were two f-ing useless bits of tat to swing on. Of course being the bravest, or not wanting to be left alone on the wrong side, I set off across. This involved pulling Chris's rope down to take the stretch out and hooking an arm over it while moving cowstails along the older and lower rope to pass the belays. After several twangs!!! and boiiings!!! I reached the other side and proceeded to take a full metre of slack out of the rope for the others. I set off up the passage and soon confirmed that it was the expected Pristine Way, being a bit on the large size I didn't push very far (I didn't want Johnny the Conversation Officer giving me a "good talking to" for smashing off stals). Back at the traverse I had a little difficulty persuading Rick and Andy that it really was worth the effort to see but eventually they joined me and were suitably impressed. Getting back across proved much easier with a tighter rope to swing on and off we went down the pitch, already rigged thank heaven. So far, so good!
"I think Chris Kinghorn's right - it is a path!!!"
Rick was a bit put out after he'd washed his hands in the pool to get rid of the mud, to be told that I'd just relieved myself in it, but fortunately he's used to a bit of squalor. The next bit of passage develops quickly into a deep vadose trench and we were in the top when a rope appeared that lead down to the lip of another pitch, the notorious Aquarius Pot. Tales of the Craven bolting up this wearing two wetsuits can be easily understood when you see how clean washed everything is, it must really hammer down this in the wet. A smaller drop at the bottom of the pitch leads to Brass Monkey Passage. Now this was what I was worried about. You see the only people I knew who had done this trip are Beardy, Neil and a few others who are in no way dimensionally challenged. (Having done the round trip in Draenen, where I was severely put to the test in a Squeeze just before Agent Blorange Streamway, that nobody else thought was a squeeze, and having already pulled through, I get a little nervous about other people's idea of what I'll fit through.) Down came the rope and that was that, committed! A little further on and the rift lowered to a crawl and off came the SRT kit. First awkward bit negotiated and I was surprised to find that not only was the passage reasonably dry but that it looked as though I would get through with no problem as it was getting bigger all the time. God knows what this is like when Aquarius is pumping shed-fulls of cold water into it as it draughted fairly strongly in this drought. The others were really enjoying this as we hadn't made any wrong turns or got lost yet.
Again the floor developed into a trench and at last a pitch approached. Beardy had told me that a bit further out there was a better hang so we traversed out and sure enough there was the other rope and we were soon squirming off down a narrow stream canyon to low and behold a survey tag, mine. Yes a result!
We decided to climb up to Bob's Boss via the mud slope, chain and three-runged ladder and retrace our steps to Lancaster Hole. On the surface, handshakes all round to end a superb trip and it still hadn't rained and it was still light, and for a change we made the committee meeting on time.
The author wishes to retract and apologise for his unfounded assertion that Mr. Kinghorn was in any way responsible for the "difficult" rigging of the traverse. The real blame lies with Toby and Neil.