Arun Paul, Cecilia Kan, Dave Kirkpatrick, Dave Wilson, Edith Huebner, Isha Kaur, Jack Hare, Kelvin Choi, Kenneth Tan, Kevin Li, Rhys Tyers, Will Scott, William French
Arrived in stores at 6ish to pack up the van. Only 12 of us on this trip so we threw all the kit on the back three seats and didn’t have to faff with the roof rack. Drove to Telford, picked up Dave, eventually found the Tescos, bought everything but milk, continued to Yorkshire, arrived at the NPC (first time for me) and I promptly fell asleep having had a late night on Thursday.
It's a Cracker to Boxhead Pot: Edith Huebner, Jack Hare, Kenneth Tan, Will Scott, Arun Paul, Cecilia Kan, Dave Kirkpatrick, Kevin Li, Rhys Tyers
We wanted to try some new and exciting caves this year, to shake things up for the leaders and prepare people for Slovenia. I'd recently found Simon Wilson's excellent rigging guides for caves that he has placed resin anchors in, and the idea of an exchange on Leck Fell was tempting. We had to wrangle for permits for a bit to find an available weekend, but the CNCC were helpful and we were able to go ahead with the trip.
I'd laminated up the CNCC rigging guide for Boxhead (Simon's version came out the day after this trip!) and Simon's guide for It's a Cracker, and despite the slightly contradictory advice for directions, we quickly found Lost Pot by climbing a style in the Lost Johns' enclosure and following the obvious path. Boxhead and It's a Cracker are extremely close to Lost Pot, both with obvious entrances in deep shakeholes.
The entrance to It's a Cracker is a well braced shaft, far more orderly than the chaos of Notts 2, but quite hard to climb down with two tackle sacks. At the bottom is a wet chamber, and I looked around for the way on, a rift traverse a metre above the streamway. It took me a while to realise the rift traverse was above the streamway, and not an oxbow off it. I dropped my bags and went in head first. The cral is tight and unpleasant, and I quickly felt the fear and backed out. The others were down at this point, so I took a breather, calmed myself and went back in, feet first.
After a few minutes of grunting I felt myself slipping down into the streamway, and, unable to stop myself, slipped and fell into the water. Looking up, there was a P bolt by my right eyeball. I'd found the first bolt. I began to rig, shouting encouragement and advice to the others, which they solidly ignored, leaving Will in a situation where taking his helmet off seemed necessary. I was oblivious to their ries of anguish as I was sitting in a fast flowing streamway, trying to rig a y hang off two bolts pressed up against my left and right shoulders. Tricky.
I eventually go the y hang in, rigged my descender and tried to crawl backwards, dragging a tackle sack and feeding slack through my simple. Some acrobatics were required to get the tackle sack beneath me, but as I traverse out along the rift (the streamway having become a waterfall immediately) the passage opened up to a large chamber with no floor. Braced on opposite walls I rigged a short traverse and then a big y hang. Will caught up and kindly gave me the next tackle sack (we had one rope per bag to keep things lightweight).
Looking down, it was obviously a wet pitch. I knew there were supposed to be two deviations, so I descended, and just spotted one. Swing out, I clipped in with my short, but couldn't feel a sling through at the same time. I foolishly unclipped in the hope I could descend and find a better position to brace myself, cowstail free, but in doing so I swung back into the waterfall. There are no foot holds or hand holds here (how one earth was it bolted? Perhaps when dry it is easier) so I swung backwards and forwards, getting incredibly wet and deeply regretting not bring a PVC oversuit. Eventually I clipped in with my short again and managed to wiggle a sling through the bolt, and put the deviation in.
The next deviation was easier to reach, especially as it had some in situ tat. I was very cold at this point, so whizzed to the bottom, where the water churned noisily before the next shaft. Calling 'Rope Free' I silently consigned Will's soul to the Gods - those deviations has been tough, and I suspected he'd have trouble. I was wrong, and he was down before I could finish rigging the first y-hang, which is up in a dry oxbow on the right. I spent ages adjusting rope lengths to make the hanging rebelay just below the first y-hang more straightforwards, and my cold numbed fingers weren't helping matters.
Descending this second pitch (Park Bench) I paused to admire the beauty of the shaft, and its dryness. To my horror, I saw that below me the waterfall came in and over the rope. I hardlocked and checked the rigging guide - no deviations here! So I just plumetted through the waterfall, rapidly derigging my ascender and taking the obvious way out of the damp chamber, down the streamway. This is not the right way, so I had to backtrack through the waterfall and climb up onto the boulder choke over the streamway. Will followed me down quickly, and I left him as a human sign post for Edith whilst I scouted ahead.
The boulder choke became a calcite flow and sloped downwards to a small chamber with a waterfall. The way on looked grim, so I waited for Will so he knew it was the right way. After a little crawl we reached a dam (we found out later this belonged to the diggers, see Rhys' report) with a piped that lead out over a rift traverse. This pitch head was surprisingly tough, and rigging it took me way to long. I could hear Rhys' group in the distance, and hurried to join them. At the bottom of the pitch it was extremely wet and drafty. Waiting for Will to join me, I explored the passage under the Kendal Flyover, a stopping streamway that leads to another waterfall filled aven. I spotted the famous Tube that leads to Lost Johns' - in this weather, the tube was filled with water, with no air gap. Probably not a fun crawl.
Rhys came down and I pointed out that his group would have to ascend through a waterfall, so he agreed to take our rope end up and change the pitch so it ended on top of the Kendal Flyover. Will and I followed him up, and the two groups reunited over hot blackcurrant juice (no added sugar, with plenty of added sugar). I was freezing at this point, so I bravely volunteered my freshers to de-rig, and taking only my small camera bag (unused, far too wet and cold!) I began to prusik up. The diggers (see Rhys' report) had left their ropes in, so I waited for them to clear each section before I ascended, not wanting to get tangled.
Boxhead seemed a lot more fun, but possibly because I was getting warm again finally. Some truly epic shafts, and the constant thrum of water added to the excitement. Edith was close behind me, and the progression of rebelays and deviations becomes a blur. On one particularly tight deviation, my left thumbed cramped up, curled over my palm, and I had to pass the deviation without its help. I waited at the top of an unstable boulder slope to check Edith had passed that deviation, and headed out as soon as I could so as to avoid kicking rocks on her head.
On the surface I wandered around, noting the thick fog, and waited for Edith to arrive. I saw no point in freezing to death waiting for Will and Kenneth, so we headed back to the minibus, and they arrived shortly afterwards.
Boxhead Pot to It's a Cracker: Edith Huebner, Jack Hare, Kenneth Tan, Will Scott, Arun Paul, Cecilia Kan, Dave Kirkpatrick, Kevin Li, Rhys Tyers
My team, Cecilia, Arun, Kevin and DKP, followed on a little way behind Jack’s group on the way to the caves. Walking right past Lost John’s and along a relatively subtle path brings you to the South side of a fenced enclosure, the entrance to Lost Pot. As we got there Jack waved us over. Boxhead was the obvious concrete tube sticking out of the adjacent shakehole.
We hurried down and I got to work rigging. There was already a rope in and we were afraid that someone else was pirateing. At least it made spotting the bolts a lot easier. I secured the rope and dropped down the tube, immediately dangling above a waterfall with no sight of a floor. The route down involves an immediate Y-hang, in the sloping rift of the roof, to stay out of the water. Dropping past this a deviation serves the same purpose. The whole way down Boxhead you skirt along the waterfalls, just in the spray.
At the bottom of the first pitch is a loose steeply sloping pebbly floor which surprisingly had a sheet of water running across it down into the next pitch. Above me I could hear the clatter of metal and rope and occasional flashes of light as Kevin followed. I rigged along the wall to the next pitch-head and sat for a while dangling off it as Kevin approached. As he did I descended again.
Here I think the rigging topo suggests a deviation, and a y-hang in the rift before dropping onto the Kendal flyover. I think I ended up with 3 deviations and 3 rebelays before getting down (including an acrobatic mid-air rope refueling from Kevin). I reached the flyover, and noticed lights. Awfully quiet for Jack, I thought. As I approached it became quite clear that it wasn’t our other party. Pirates!
I arrived next to them, my rope running out half a metre above the floor, requiring a small amount of ballet to get the rope off (I assume the “pirates” were impressed by my exact rope length). It turns out the pirates were in fact diggers which I think is fair enough. Trying to make new cave is a worthy exploit. There were a few of them, and me, on quite a small ledge. Along with a huge amount of piping and tools (including a pipe collecting water from It’s A Cracker used to blast a choked streamway clear of mud!) it was pretty crowded. They were heading out so I decided to wait for them. They kept appearing though, one by one, out of the small crawl in the wall. Before even half of them had gotten out Jack appeared in a rift above and was quickly down the bottom of the shaft. I inched my way round them and rigged a very dodgy traverse round all the piping.
I dropped the last 10m hang and amongst the wind and spray at the bottom it was decided to get the It’s A Cracker rope landing straight onto the flyover. I prussicked up and tied their rope off to accomplish this. One by one Jack’s team arrived, and one by one the diggers left. We got going as well. I had to do another dodgy traverse as Kenneth had (corrctly) derigged my last one. Keen to get moving again I shot up the rope first, quickly shouting some instructions about bags to Kevin and Arun and demonstrating the correct method for getting onto the bottom of a rope with a big swing.
Rowten Pot: Dave Wilson, Isha Kaur, Kelvin Choi, William French
Notts Pot 2: Arun Paul, Edith Huebner, Jack Hare, Kenneth Tan, Kevin Li, Rhys Tyers
Woke up reasonably, headed downstairs and there were a handful awake, but not Jack! We started to cook breakfast as people slowly joined us. I was feeling pretty tired but still wanted to go caving. It was decided that a group of 8 of us were going to walk through Notts 2.
I was leading pretty much the entire way. Having never been into Notts 2 before I was impressed at the tangle of scaffold in the entrance. The streamway when we got to it was higher than anyone had seen it before, at parts above my waist and frequently halfway up my thighs. The water was increasingly harder to get through, and was tiring. We stopped to take a break when I noticed a rope, used as a handline up to one side with a sign saying ‘flood bypass route’. We went up to investigate and after Jack required pulling back out of a slick, muddy crawl we thought it may actually be a bypass for the flood water itself. We proceed, but eventually decided to return as the water was beginning to make it unreasonable to continue. The way back down the streamway and to the surface was uneventful but for one part when my legs were swept from under me and it took me for about a 5m water slide before I managed to get a hold to pull myself up. Undamaged but considerably wetter.
We found Cecilia asleep in the minivan as she had been unable to cave with us (forgot her helmet), changed, headed to the NPC where we ate, tidied up and left just before 4.