County to Lancaster

Jason reports:

A County/Lancaster exchange on a Wednesday night?  We wondered if we were being over-ambitious.  But a splinter group kindly volunteered to rig Lancs, have a shorter trip and come out the same way, so the rest of us set off remarkably promptly at 6pm.  We had a close encounter with a barn owl on the way, probably having disturbed his tea.  Oddly enough, a dead vole lay on the lid of County – we put it to one side in case the owl was still hungry.

I utterly failed to trace our route on the survey afterwards, but I can reveal that we went via Battle of Britain Chamber, the Trident series, dropping into Lower Pierce’s Passage (a nice free climb, though some faint-hearts called for a rope!), thence to Eureka junction where we stopped to rest and pose for some photos.  The water was still fairly low; the dry spell had broken a few days earlier, but there had not been much rain that day.

From there to Stop Pot posed the only navigational challenge – the dry route through the boulder choke seemed no longer to exist.  In the end, we just had to follow the water and get wet (the horror!).  Onwards through the high-level caverns (Monster, Snail, Corne’s and Oake’s – at least the survey told me that much), admiring the many stalactites, including the Halberdiers.  Apparently the French say that it’s raining halberds instead of cats and dogs, which arguably makes more sense…

John showed us the Minarets bypass, whereupon we all followed him rather than enjoy the usual delights of those passages.  Soon we reached Oxbow Corner, and having decide to take the wet route out, John announced that the next bit through the boulder choke was a bit complex, so keep together.  If I’d have said that, it would be the prelude to getting thoroughly lost, but he led us unerringly through.  A splendid romp through down the Main Drain followed. 

There was plenty of foam on the walls at the downstream sump, so water levels had been higher.  I scooped up some foam and applied it to my chin, trying for a Santa look, but it didn’t really work.

Up Fall Pot and to the entrance pitch, it was good to see that it was still rigged!  But looking up, what was that?  Blimey, daylight!  It seemed like we had been underground for ages, but it was not much after 9:30. The good time was less due to our rapid pace than to the expert route-finding – an excellent trip.

Photos courtesy of Darren.

Illusion Pot

Wednesday night saw us taking advantage of the dry spell for a bit of caving in Illusion Pot, Kingsdale. After exploiting a variety of parking options – mine as usual seeming to be the furthest away from the actual cave – we met up, walked and began the search for the covered entrance in a shakehole.  In this crack team of speleo-explorers were Darren, Ali, Jason, Tony and myself; Tony and Ali had the excuse of never having been down Illusion before, and I mumbled something about it ‘being all snowy the last time I was here’, leaving Jason and Darren to put us on the right track.  After some determined searching they found the way in, and we all descended the fixed ladders into the underworld.

Muddy passages led to a bailable duck, but today the water levels were low enough to get through without any difficulty. Refreshingly moistened, we continued into the impressive chamber of the Missile Silo, and then Ali led the way up into The Pretties…  Here are some beautiful straws, curtains and even helictites, which we were careful not to sully with our muddy hands.

We had a look at a dig in the floor that led to a flat out crawl, then retraced our steps into the Missile Silo.  At the far end, passing some fine orange speleothems, is the way down to the sump.  Jason, Ali and Darren went along the roped traverse while Tony and I waited and marvelled at the cobbles which were stuck to the chamber walls by only a thin calcite cement – the remains, we supposed, of a past floor at a higher level in the chamber.

The three returned with reports of a final squeeze (which Jason had explored), and we then made our way back out to the surface, emerging to a cloudless evening.  We bum-slid back down the steep hill to Darren’s car (which was great fun, so much that Tony went back up again!).
All said, Illusion is a good and varied trip, and definitely worth a look if you haven’t been before.  Thanks for an entertaining evening fellas!