After the usual long and boring drive up to the Dales we finally reach Bull Pot Farm, where we find the Oxford Caving Club and a few locals cavers are already rather merry. In order to prevent them from having an overly disgusting hangover the next day, we bravely butt in and try guzzling beer and port as fast as the narrow neck of a bottle allows to flow. The evening quickly degenerates in a drunken orgy of burning and smashing stuff with axes. The only element preventing a maelstrom of destruction and carnage is Geregely and his soothing violin skills: rapidly the sweet sound of music turns turns the axes from an instrument of destruction to a surprisingly unirritating musical tool
Good to be back - back in Yorkshire, back for some new caving experience. It is been a month since the club go caving again. The previous trip to Wales was canceled because of the floods. Bull pot farm looks very lovely plus the new central heating system: one that actually works.
Before we went underground we had more primal matters to resolve - what we thought was the last roll of toilet paper had been dropped in the bowl the night before, yet the deliciously strong fresh Espresso was rather forcing our hands (so to speak). Luckily a few extra rolls were found hiding in the fridge (proof we were in BPF) and they arrived at the cubicles lofted high. Alas for some it was too late:
The usual morning faff was otherwise short-circuited by the fact that the caves were in walkin distance of the hut!
The entrance pitch is an open shaft, we quickly find ourselves squeezing and falling through FX5 inlet: a narrow steep opening with an awkward bend which will prove rather challenging on the way out. After walking through a beautiful meander we reach a roof traverse, which Rik bafflingly manages to rig using his telescopic arms. At the end of the traverse a Y hang leads on to an impressive second pitch leading to a large hall, part of the vast East Gill upper system where we meet
Team Lanc had a more gentle time. Shed rigged, loitering on the rebelay ledge to check the freshers. Once all down, an easy stumble in time to find our seats on the three-story-house sized rock and see Gergely send fall pot, arriving with his warm carbide glow and drift down the rope hanging in the dead center of the cavern.
At this point we were all reunited and having had our fill of sweeties, malt loaf and water we continue exploring Montague West. A brief climb out of the Hall leads to the a large Passage, strewn with boulders and covered in mud. The way is wide and airy and highly decorated: we admire the delicate spaghetti formations, numerous stalactites and a the painters pallet, a truly weird collection of technicolor pools. At this point we split into two groups.
When I start ascending all I could see were few blood drops. After a while long blood leeds, but when I get to the rebelay was blood everywhere. It was impossible to pass the rebelay and not to get any blood on the over suit. On the plus side, we saw some amazing pretties, hundreds of straws hanging from the sealing. Nice place to sit and relax.
We follow a fixed rope up a spacey and airy shaft. Before the first rebelay James slices his left middle finger on an exceedingly sharp flake of rock: it's only a shallow cut but it bleeds like a freshly gutted piglet. James keeps prussicking up, smearing the wall with blood and dripping on Tim, who as a medic is bound to enjoy the sight of blood! James reaches the top, a narrow 1m tall passage adorned with the most beateous and delicate formations. The world and its woes suddenly disappear and one cannot help but think how privileged we are to view these amazing spectacle. Soon Tim and Jana reach James and they all meander to the right, where the decorative spaghetti are most dense. This turns out to be the wrong way to continue to the magic round about, but none seems to mind and keeps admiring the magical place we are in.
Meanwhile, G has managed to have a pretty unfortunate time: he is having difficulty squeezing through a narrow window, just below the last rebelay. His Petzl is almost out of juice and his backup Tikka breaks, dropping a battery. After swapping around some batteries and having another go at squeezing through the tight window he gives up and starts descending in the dim light of his Petzl. Jana, James and Tim follow suit and we quickly catch up with the others who have continued down the main passage and explored the lower passage, where a fast flowing stream is jetting down. The level is presently not exceedingly high but the foam on the 2.5 metre ceiling testifies that this passage was recently flooded. After some more exploring and walking about in the muddy Main passage we all prussick and crawl back out of the cave and into Bull Pot Farm.
The rest of the team went the high level route to Oxbow Corner, where they popped down to the stream once more and admired the rushing sheet of water.
Sedate trip out, Lancs derig party and the Cow Potters coming out with perfect timing, walking bag together and admiring the Curry that Shed & Tim were concocting.
An evening of mulled wine, debauchery, smashed crockery, axe wielding championships and OUCC port followed. And then the carbide came out: bins were launched skyward and balloons disappeared in whoomps of orange flame. A little collateral damage and then to bed.
After not having much time left to go to Wretched rabbit, we decided to go to the closest cave from Bull pot farm - Aygill. I have made some quick notes on a piece of paper, since nobody had been there before. After 5 min from the hut we already pop in to the cave. Quite a lot of crawling and two short pitches. Did not have much work with rigging, because both of them were found to be permanently rigged (well, first one was a little frayed, and so I rigged anyway). We went a bit downstream - which continue into water cascading down, possibly more pitches), then upstream a bit. Quite a lot of water down there after heavy rain, so it is worth going down again to explore the beautiful streamway of the cave.
At breakfast Hilary (from the Oxford union caving club) manages somehow to convince James and Rik to descend the first three pitches of King Pot in order to rescue a 20 m rope they dropped at the bottow of a rift. The plan makes no sense whatsoever: James and Rik are told about how 9 people from the OUCC spent 13 hours underground in King Pot the night before, breaking a few students' will to ever leave the comfort of sky open land and wedging a poor unsuspecting member in a nasty rift. On top of that the purported aim of the expedition, to rescue 20£ of rope, makes no financial sense: this mission will cause James and Rik to miss the minibus to London and to spend a similar sum on a bus fare back to the Big Smoke. It is clear that the only reason the OUCC want us to retrieve this rope is so that someone else does not get it, see the OUCC mark and think: those Oxford pansies! The scene is so pathetic that Rik and James decide to step down and come to the rescue.
We are provided with rope etc, a plasticated guide of the pot and driven to Kingsdale. The map we are given makes it look as though finding the entrance of the pot will be easy: walk up the track and look for the 8m x 8m x 3m shake hole: easy! At 2pm, having clambered around in the mist looking at dozens of bloody shake holes, we finally find the entrance to King Pot. Call out is at 8 pm, with an ETA of 4 pm: James and Rik better be fast.
King Pot proves to be a rather enjoyable trip: it starts with a short hand over hand descent on a rope which reaches a ledge and through an awkward crack, another short rope climb. Quickly we reach the first pitch: a short 8m drop which leads to a wide hall. We climb over some boulders and soon reach a short traverse over a large drop: the way is charitably pre-rigged and is even provided with a hand line secured with some rather dubious hangers. After the traverse we reach what the guide refers to as a "blasted rift", which must been a fucking narrow crack. James stares horrified as Rik's body is seemingly swallowed up by the rock and dumbly follows.
Amazingly we get through to a crawl which enlarges to a small passage strewn with small pebbles (but surprisingly blunt). Eventually we reach the passage where the poor oxonian got stuck and where we will find the rope: a V shaped grove topped by a horizontal crack 8'' high. The plan is to keep to Hilary's advice: stay high in the upper level resisting the siren call of the V shaped rift, which will lead to certain sticking. Halfway along this passage, disaster: James did not tie Rik's tackle bag properly and its contents start pouring out. James quickly alerts Rik and starts retrieving objects: the malt loaf and Sig bottle are saved, the carabina held open with Gaffa tape is still in the bag (we will use this as a hook for fishing out the rope).
Unfortunately, two important pieces of fishing equipments have gone AWOL: a rusty wire hanger is nowhere to be seen and the fluorescent 4mm cord which will form the line of our fishing equipment is currently situated at the bottom of the rift. At great personal danger James dives in, shouts "go-go gadget arm" and manages to retrieve the cord. Pheew! A Snicker bar is also somewhere down there but is not deemed important enough to merit more death defying wriggling.
We thrash around for another 5 minutes or so and reach the end of the passage: a 2 m wall above a small chamber. Here James and Rik regroup, build their fishing rod and prepare to wriggle some more. After some undignified crawling Rik reaches the blasted rope, dangles his kit around and eventually manages to hook it. Success! Elated we continue out, managing on the way to find a Casio with a broken strap (which also turns out to belong to a OUCC member) and dropping an OUCC mallion.End Score Imperial: 20m rope + 1 Casio; King Pot: 1 mallion and 1 snicker bar. Exit time: 6 pm.
Having missed the ICCC minibus which left prompty for London at 5pm, James and Rik were carted off to Oxford, force fed beer and left in an inhospitable downie bed.
An hour of book reading, then an ineffecive three hours of various cleanings to redeem the bombshell of a kithen, tackle store & scorced Earth outside.