Volume 42 Number 1 Article 1
Team: Dave Thompson and Andy Whitney
Being a totally committed and focussed member of the close-knit Ease Gill re-surveying team, I had a bit of a moral dilemma facing me when offered the possibility of something known as a 'tourist trip' with Dave. I had heard about these 'tourist trips'. You go down a pleasant cave with bags of rope, have a wander around, ooh and aah at formations, have a laugh, a chat and then go back out. This seemed odd. No BDH? No compass, clino or tape? What was the point? More to the point, what would the survey master say if he found out?!
With some scepticism I agreed, and on a cold and frosty Tuesday the week before Christmas we found ourselves on a snow covered Leck Fell for a trip down Gavel Pot. Dave hadn't been to Gavel before, so I was looking forward to showing him the fine formations in Glasfurd's. We also decided on a potter down to the final two pitches although we weren't going to descend these today on the grounds that the temperature was forecast to increase during the day meaning a possibility of meltwater raising water levels.
Arriving at the entrance shakehole we pondered on whether we should rig a safety line down the steep descent to the first pitch, but we didn't have quite enough rope and the climb didn't prove too dodgy. We got safely down to the bridge and I began rigging around to the Y-hang, which seemed in a rather dubious location for a sensible hang. Abbing over the edge it became apparent that the choice of bolt placements was poor to say the least. An old iron bolt (installed years ago for ladder descents) on the opposite side of the hole is used as a deviation to stop rope rub, but the angle of the rope is so acute that it is very awkward to pass. Dave commented that I was faffing, but he soon withdrew that statement when his turn came!
At the bottom we admired the impressive fluted walls and commented on how nice a descent it would make coming down from that side of the shaft. Unfortunately, the walls above were far too shattered to make this possible. Dave rigged the second pitch behind the big block and a rope was rigged for the 'climb' down into the streamway. It is worth mentioning at this point that the climb on stacked deads is not entirely stable and should be treated with great caution. A proper SRT rope should be used here as the in-situ washing line string is very suspect.
In the streamway water levels were found to be low, probably due to the fact that most of it was still frozen on the surface. Hopefully it was going to stay that way for a while! Stomping down to the downstream pitches was very pleasant - no sign of any surveying instruments of torture yet. A high level was spotted and demanded a look. I hadn't been up here before and didn't know where or what it was. Climbing up a Moonmilk slope a high joint controlled rift was entered, continuing for a reasonable distance, with fine formations, before splitting into two smaller chocked inlets - shame. This I later identified as Southbound Passage.
Next we headed for Glasfurd's via the small connecting rift gained by a short, easy climb up out of the main stream. Glasfurd's Chamber is of impressive dimensions, but sadly only for a short distance. A climb up a mud slope near the downstream end enters the stunning Glasfurd's Passage consisting of a number of richly decorated chambers broken by some low slithers through ascending mud floored scoops. At the end we reached a deepish pool with a couple of feet of airspace. I had been beyond this point on a previous trip and definitely hadn't seen this pool this deep. We noticed a hosepipe coiled on the floor and guessed this was used to siphon the water, but it hadn't been in operation so we decided we wanted to stay dry and turned back.
Ray Duffy in Glasford's Chamber
The journey back out was uneventful, apart from the deviation from hell, which received a unanimous vote of 'pain in the arse'. A rebelay immediately over the edge of the drop would have prevented rope rub and made the deviation unnecessary. Ho Hum.
A brief attempt to walk over to have a look down Nippikin Pot was made, but brief is the operative word here and we soon agreed on the foolishness of this idea and headed back to the car.
I have to say that this 'tourist trip' idea seems a good one, and could catch on. After all, there is no hanging around getting cold while each and every cobble position is noted and drawn, no lying flat out trying to read instruments in beddings so low that you can't even turn your head and we didn't even have to go down County Pot to get there.
Reality check - Monday night, Bullpot Farm, usual time. County Pot, here we come!