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