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...

I just about managed some breakfast, and Becka, Emma, Tom, Jeff and I converged on Leck Fell for a cold, blustery 9am change. Boxhead Pot is an impressive 80-odd metre deep shaft. Ordinarily this would make it quite terrifying, but the rigging down to the Kendal Flyover (a rubbly ledge 10m off the floor) stuck to some slots in the side of the shaft, making for a fairly friendly descent. We could look out into the pitch, and later into the parallel Lost Pot shaft. From the Kendal Flyover, a somewhat confusing series of crawls and rifts (the Tate Galleries), including a delightful flat-out grovel through water, led eventually to an awkward climb up with an old hawser-laid rope to assist us.

We now split up, with Emma and Tom surveying up an aven to an old dig.  Becka, Jeff and I headed down a couple of climbs and then down a pitch into Lyle Cavern, just above the Lost Johns main drain, with Jeff taking a couple of photos on the way. We left Jeff to take some more photos whilst we surveyed up a couple of moderately squalid inlets for an hour or so. Afterwards I was very distressed to discover that my scotch egg had been mashed into a watery pulp and my packet of sweets had ruptured leaving its contents to either dissolve or make a bid for freedom. I settled for most of an unsatisfactory muddy Mars bar instead.

Becka and I expected Emma and Tom to have finished and have joined Jeff when we got back to Lyle Cavern, especially as we had taken a while. Instead, we were puzzled to find Jeff's photo gear scattered around the chamber as if he had left in a hurry. We figured they might have headed down the main drain to find us, as Becka had also mentioned a small amount of surveying to do in another inlet at the bottom, so we started splashing our way downstream and recorded a few very muddy survey legs in a particularly filthy passage whilst we were there. Back up to Lyle Cavern, still no sign of the others and Jeff's gear hadn't moved. Uh Oh.

We agreed, but never really said it out loud, that there was only one possible scenario that would result in a lot of very expensive camera gear being abandoned like this. One of Emma or Tom must have had a bad accident; the other had gone to get Jeff as quickly as possible. We hurriedly shoved flash guns etc back into drums and tied the big tackle sack to the end of the rope down into Lyle Cavern, in case there was a chance to haul it up later. Then, with some dread, we hot-footed it towards where Emma and Tom were surveying to see what was going on.

A psychologist would probably have had a field day at the frenzy we'd managed to whip ourselves into! Within 5 minutes we met Emma, Tom and Jeff, merrily heading back toward Lyle Cavern! Jeff had left his flash guns perfectly set up so that a photo could efficiently be taken once we had all finished our surveying. He had then gone to find Emma and Tom, whilst we dismantled all his gear. Oops!

With the photo taken, we set off in the direction of Notts II. The route took us through the final connection in the Three Counties system, a boulder choke a couple of hundred metres long. It's a hugely impressive digging effort, with scaffolding, cement and even builder's foam propping things up for much of its length. I was feeling pretty hungry and tired by now. After an hour of contortions, squirming up, down and around boulders, we emerged into walking-sized passage, with the Notts II stream audible close by, and the long climb up to the surface not much further on to really finish off my arms.

After an excellent 7 hours underground, a classic Leck Fell change ensued in the dark, as a strong wind lashed cold rain into our faces. I did however find a packet of Haribo in my coat pocket which made me exceedingly happy.

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