Volume 44 Number 1 Article 2
Gaping Gill Main Chamber from Bar Pot Entrance
You've got to have balls to be a caver: Part 3
The Crew: Andy Macdonald, Tim Eastwood, Malcolm Starkings, Helen Titchmarsh
Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It is four years since my last trip report. The last report was of an ill-fated trip to Bar Pot, which you may remember was called off at the entrance due to a bout of epididymitis on my part.
This trip was hastily arranged on a Monday night at the Woodlands Hotel, Silverdale, whence we go to celebrate the long-standing engagement that is Brownies. The fact that our children are no longer young enough to attend Brownies and haven't been for years seems to be a bit lost in the mists of time.
As Helen has not visited the main chamber, and has not got her kids for the weekend, it was decided that this would be the perfect time to go and do after that morning's Committee meeting.
I decided to get in a bit of training, as I haven't done much caving this year due to work commitments, by taking the dog for a few evening walks then relaxing in front of a roaring log fire with a glass of wine or two. Training done, I was due to meet the other three at Clapham, as I am no longer on the Committee (A story for another time). So at the prescribed hour I set off from home full of apprehension and nervous energy hoping that this trip was not going to be a repeat of the last attempt, as it is a pigging long walk carrying all that gear to the entrance just to turn round and come back down.
Meeting time was arranged as 1 o'clock in Clapham and I arrived at just before to check out the ceramic facilities at the National Trust car park, then walked back to the car, to be greeted by three committee meeting worn beings who didn't look like they wanted to go caving. Greeting over they started walking away from the cars towards the New Inn. Oh! Great, I thought, I've just driven all this way to spend the afternoon in the pub (which on any other occasion is an action I can find no fault with), but no, it was their lunchtime, so we hasted to the Brooklands café where I watched the other three have their respective lunches. Knowing that the entrance was a bit tight last time we were there, and that I may have spread out a tad since then, I had a chip, just to be sociable, and a square of Kendal mint cake.
Lunch over we went to the cars and got changed and began the long walk to the entrance. The conversation flowed as the distance from the entrance lessened pace by pace. The formula for the conversation was set from very early on. Someone would say something, Malcolm would say something, Helen would say, "Shut up Malcolm!!"
When we arrived at the entrance a quick word was exchanged with some walkers who wanted to know what was down there and then gear on and away we went. Tim rigged, Helen next down, then me (gulp!), then Malcolm. The first two slipped away in to the darkness, then it was my turn. Cow's tails on the traverse line, rope fed onto the stop, soft lock on, and step into the abyss. Big mistake! I didn't have enough room to take off the soft lock, so I thrutched about a while, then enlisted the help of Malcolm, who managed to get me untangled then finally I was away on a very slow rope. It was so slow that Malcolm, who had declared at the entrance that his stop was a go, even had to squeeze the brake handle to get down.
Onwards, and downwards, then to the head of the big pitch, which, as Malcolm and myself arrived, Tim was preparing to descend. Him away, Helen edged to the head of the pitch with her usual prayer of thanks, "WHY do I do this? You know I don't like stepping off into thin air with nothing but a bit of string to keep me up". Then she stepped off, swung around a bit, and the string did its job, again. That bit over she descended followed closely by me then Malcolm.
All assembled at the bottom of the pitch it was off to find mud Henslers, Tim leading the way down the little squeezy hole in the floor. As he disappeared Helen said, "We aren't coming back this way, are we?" "No, no, this is a round trip, we will be returning by a different route" came the response from ahead, albeit muffled to Malc and myself who were waiting in the chamber above for the traffic jam to dissipate.
Having crawled through a trickle of water for what seemed an eternity we arrived at a junction which, to the left was declared to be Hensler's crawl and the right was allegedly Mud Henslers, Tim started crawling along the shingle through some tight bits, followed by Helen, with me lying in the little stream waiting my turn, feeling a little like Captain Kirk, who's five year mission was about come to an end, when a voice from behind said, "I don't think this is right. I don't remember this bit". After a bit of discussion we all backed out, shared a 'sports mixture' or two and returned the way we said we weren't going to come back, to do the trade route to the Main Chamber. Tim did admit later that he was quite glad that we had not gone down Mud Hensler's, as it was damp squalid and miserable.
When we got to the Main Chamber, which we managed without incident, it was a three-waterfall day. We bumbled about a bit then went off to look at Mud Hall, which is impressive in its own right. Tim and Malc went to have a look at the way we were supposed to have come in, if it had been a proper round trip. (This may not be correct as I have slept since then), while Helen and myself shared some more 'Sports mixtures'.
When they returned from their foray we headed back to the bottom of the big pitch and one by one ascended. At the entrance pitch I rested as I remembered what it was like coming out the last time, and prepared myself for the wrestling match ahead. Having taken some advice I headed up facing the opposite way round to that which I was on the way down, and apart from getting slightly stuck in a thin bit and having to reverse prussic a bit and banging my head on a slight overhang it was a fairly uneventful exit.
Tackle sacks loaded up, we were off to the New Inn at a gallop. Once changed we entered the aforementioned establishment to find it full of cavers, Bradford, Craven, Earby, Red Rose. It was like the old days at the Marton Arms. Lots of noise and tales of derring do, getting through two-inch squeezes and other fishing style tales. A couple of beers then away to have a late tea, which was ready at 9 o'clock, leaving the New Inn at 10.20 I could see dinner being in the dog, but no, being kept warm in the oven it really yummy. Tim and myself regaled our wives with tales of the trip, and then after a quick shower to ease those aching muscles I was away with the fairies as soon as my head hit the pillow.
This does mean, however, that our mission to go through Mud Henslers was thwarted yet again (Boo!!) but we will have to have another trip to get in there (hurrah!!). I am looking forward to that already.
I am now going to do my penance, two bloody Mary's and a pint of Golden Pippin.