Saturday, 28 June 2014

Magnetometer Pot

28 June 2014

On my only previous visit to Magnetometer Pot we'd managed to miss all the good bits by sliding down a tiny slot quite close to the entrance and spending a couple of fruitless hours exploring some small and scrotty passages, so I was glad of a chance to go back and have a proper look around today. It was also my first caving trip for over a month and my first blog for even longer. Mea culpa on both accounts!

Nine of us converged on Fountains Fell. Adorned with varying quantities of neoprene, we made our way down the laddered entrance pitch and a couple of hand-lined climbs. A long crawl in elbow deep water was the next obstacle. This was quite pleasant in a wetsuit as the water could take some of the weight of my torso (which is not a lot of weight admittedly, but these days is more than my arms can manage). A long dry crawl followed, and my arms were already feeling tired due, in part, to the resistance of my wetsuit. And also my puniness.

We now entered the River Styx - a fine stooping-height stream passage with an elliptical cross section and decorated ceiling. Eventually we reached the ladder down into Caton Hall, where Steph and Phil turned round.

Below Caton Hall, the character of the cave changed considerably. The 'Rough Crawl' was crawling or flat-out, but with a sharp floor full of milled potholes (some of them over a metre deep) and flowing water. Neoprene was a boon here, not just for warmth but for padding too - oversuits took a battering. The interesting if arduous passage eventually led to a duck, with a flat-out bypass.

I decided to challenge myself and try the duck. I'm usually rubbish at them - by which I mean they are too scary. But today I had specifically packed my secret weapon - a neoprene hood. The water was chest deep, but the ceiling pinched in overhead leaving only a small triangle of airspace, a few inches at most. Attempt number 1 resulted in unpleasant coughing and spluttering as my head bounded off the ceiling and I ended up underwater. I rapidly realised that the advice to tackle ducks on your back does not mean 'reverse into them with your head above the water'. For attempt 2, I floated on my back and ever so slowly edged my way through, pressing my nose and mouth into the small triangle of airspace. Success! This felt like a major achievement in my caving career and, frankly I was expecting great plaudits and perhaps some sort of ticker tape parade. I got 'indifference' instead - humph! Nevertheless, I'm very pleased with myself!

A few minutes of crawling and stooping later, we emerged in a large passage containing 'The Whale', a huge broken flake on the floor. Emma, Tom and Becka headed deeper into the cave in search of further misery (I wonder where they are as I type this a few hours later...) but Jess, Ian, Julia and I turned round and dragged our tired bodies back to the entrance. Great trip!

T/U 6 hrs

Monday, 17 March 2014

"Did I Mention I've got lurgy?"

15/03/2014 - The Psychotronic Strangeways, Daren Cilau, with Tom and Emma

I'm lying on the sofa feeling quite broken typing this on Sunday evening. I guess that's what happens if you go caving in Daren Cilau when you aren't very well (actually I think that's what happens when you go caving in Daren even when you are well). The thing is, trips to Borrowed Boots Streamway and the Psychotronic Strangeways don't seem to happen that often and we'd been planning this one for months, so I thought I'd soldier on. Plus it was my birthday the day before. Anyway, that's enough whingeing for now. I'm sure I'll mention my man-flu again later, but stop me if I keep going on about it.
The finest birthday cake a caver could wish for.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Another trip down Titan

It's good to do Titan now and then to remind myself of how scary big pitches are. This time I had also claimed that I might be able to find my way through to Peak Cavern. The others on the trip (Kathryn, Matt and Sophie) didn't know the route so the potential was there for a bit of a stressful day!

The first challenge was finding Titan. Thick fog at the top of Cave Dale had reduced visibility somewhat, and finding a small manhole cover in one of the nondescript fields was going to be tricky. Luckily, a team was heading in ahead of us to go digging (they were also doing the rigging and derigging, which was useful) and I spotted them on the surface just as they were about to drop down the entrance shaft - great timing!

Unlike my last trip here, I was the first from our group down, which meant no waiting around at the top of Titan. This reduced the buttock-clenching terror I usually associate with big pitches to merely hair-raising discomfort. Titan swiftly dispatched, I settled myself at the bottom to wait for the others, and watched as pin pricks of light became visible on the Event Horizon and torch beams swivelled around the shaft as Sophie, then Matt, then Kathryn slid down the rope to join me.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Sidetrack Cave

Sidetrack Cave has an unusual access procedure which involves abseiling down the side of a quarry to get to the entrance. Kathryn and I decided that this was enough of a novelty to warrant a trip in itself.

After half an hour of wandering along some dodgy ledges in completely the wrong part of the quarry, we eventually found the right spot for the abseil. Watching the rope sawing across sharp edges of quarried limestone was a little perturbing but we made it down safely.

The cave itself starts off with 100m of flat out crawling, with a few puddles thrown in for amusement (well I was amused anyway...). The passage was probably once 2-3m in diameter, but it is now full of mud to within a few inches of the ceiling, so there's no choice but to squirm through on your belly. Eventually we reached a T-junction with a walking-sized passage. We explored in both directions and looked at some quite nice formations, although I think they are starting to get a bit muddied and damaged in places.

After a few photos we headed back out and prussiced very gingerly back out of the quarry.

T/U 2hrs



Monday, 16 December 2013

Surveying in Boxhead Pot

We had originally planned on a trip to the Eastern Front, Becka and co.'s new section found recently in Large Pot, to help Jeff take some photos. But after a wet week, and more rain forecast for later on Saturday the trip was a non-starter.

As Friday night at Bull Pot Farm wore on and started to look worryingly like Saturday morning, Becka suggested a trip from Boxhead Pot to Notts II. There were some odd bits of surveying she wanted to finish off around the bottom of Boxhead. The prospect of a first trip to Boxhead and through the new connection to Notts II was too good to turn down so somehow I agreed to be ready to go to Leck Fell for a 9am start. It was now approaching 2 am and the beer Holly and Noel had got for their party was really very more-ish indeed... I suspected I might regret this in the morning. Some vintage snoring and sleep-talking in the bunk room later was not particularly conducive to a restorative night's sleep either...

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bonfire Night Caving

2nd and 3rd November 2013
 
It was a scene from a war film. Clouds of smoke billowed around us. We choked on the acrid smell of gunpowder, as we cowered from the rockets screaming overhead, temporarily illuminating the murky gloom as they exploded close by. Yes, it was another typical bonfire night at Bull Pot Farm, and yes I'm probably exaggerating a bit.
 
Over the din of the outdoor-fireworks-inside, we managed to establish that the weather forecast was terrible, and that our planned trip from Top Sink to Link Pot should probably morph into a trip from County Pot to Lancaster Hole, avoiding any potentially dangerous wet bits. So on a chilly Saturday morning (it would be warmer underground than above for the fist time in months) Tony, Kathryn, Emma, Nial, Aiora, Kayla and I dropped into County Pot. The climb up to Poetic Justice was as entertaining as ever, and soon we found ourselves in the Main Drain at Eureka Junction, where the water was still very low - presumably the rain hadn't arrived yet.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Late Summer Tomfoolery

21/09/2013 - King Pot


Emma, Tom and I spent a misty Autumn day bottomming King Pot. With vague intentions to look at the Middle Sump Bypass and the Grasshopper Series, we'd packed neoprene hoods. We made fairly serene progress through the early obstacles, including the T-slot. As expected, we found that since our last trip there the whole of the cave is now p-hangered, which sped things up a bit.
 
As we descended and entered some of the damper crawls in the lower part of the cave (which is otherwise large, impressive and very pretty), resolve weakened and I found myself hoping that it would be too wet for the Grasshopper Series. It probably wasn't - but I was! The 1 inch airspace over the flat out crawl was enough to deter all of us. After looking at the impressive sumps that bookend the East Kingsdale Master Cave, we started the trip out, the official line being, 'we really wanted to go through the horrible ducks, but thought it was too wet'.