Lancaster Hole to Wretched Rabbit: Tim K, Paul R, Dave C, Arran C, Jason
This trip is becoming traditional on the Christmas do, but I hadn’t done it, at least not for a long time. Tim claimed to be a little uncertain of the route but in fact led the way unerringly along the high-level route. Owing to the wet weather, we thought the main drain might be too sporting for the low-level route, though the noise drifting up from Stake Pot didn’t sound too alarming.
Navigation was easy (it always is if you’re following someone who knows the way) apart from a few moments’ pause for thought at Main-line Terminus (it’s the second exit of 4 which leads to Stop Pot). We were unsure of which Cavern followed which, but a mud sculpture gave us a clue when we came to Snail Cavern (although, by the same logic, it could also have been ‘Sausage and Two Eggs Cavern’ – at least, I think that’s what the other sculpture represented…).
We emerged at 5pm after about 3 to 3½ hours underground which wasn’t bad going, especially for Dave’s son Arran, a fairly demanding trip for someone his age.
After an unpleasant stagger across the fell, lashed on by the hail, we were greeted by the welcome smell of dinner cooking at the farm (thanks to Su, who nobly volunteered not to go caving!!). I was about to venture forth to retrieve the rope, but was saved by Barney who said he would use it in the morning. Maybe he just didn’t want a hypothermia case on his hands, but I didn’t argue.
An excellent evening of fine food, wine and entertainment (thanks to that reluctant guitar hero, Andy) followed.
Eventually we retired to the comforts of the bunks, disturbed only by the rain rattling the tiles and thunderous snoring from a certain gentleman. (No names, as long as the customary bribe is forthcoming!)
The Cupcake – Committee Pot: Richard M, Tim D, Jason
I’d been looking forward to this trip: the combination of one of the newer discoveries in the Three Counties system, some nice pretties and a through trip was enticing. But I knew my companions would take some keeping up with, they being well-known members of the species Homo Ferrous Troglodytes.
According to Richard’s informant, all ropes were in place except for the short entrance pitch, which was a bonus, so we were quickly at the bottom and able to see The Cupcake in all its glory
– along with many other pristine stal formations and a host of long straws. Care has to be taken to avoid these on the next little pitch, and more fine formations follow. The following pitch is aptly named “Mud” and is a portent of things to come, but the going is still easy although a generous coating of mud does nothing for one’s SRT kit. Then there’s an upward pitch, short but made longer by having to wipe gobs of gloop off the rope at each prussik step. The next section of passageway is reasonably roomy but requires great care to avoid breaking or clarting-up some more nice formations. It’s hard not to see this section deteriorating with more visitors.
From here the trip showed its less agreeable side; crawls in sharp hardcore, then mud, then some tight bits before we came to Bendall’s Dilemma. We had understood this to be a hard squeeze, but we passed it with only a little thrutching and cursing. We were rewarded by emerging into the fine large chamber of Hubert Carstairs II. Following on into Hubert Carstairs I,we were presented by a choice of ascending ropes. Richard took the right-hand one and after some doubtful mutterings, Tim investigated that on the left. I thought it important for someone to stay in the middle to relay messages (and avoid unnecessary climbing). After a while, Richard located a third rope, much shorter than the other two, which was the way on. There swiftly followed another short ascent in a rift. Short, but tight and awkward, bloody awkward – at least to me. Richard cheerfully said “you got your money’s worth out of that one!”
Not long afterwards is the “Inverse Superman”squeeze, a U-bend followed by a constriction with a lump of rock cunningly sited at chest level. A curious balletic episode ensued. Richard goes first, passing through like an eel. Jason makes a feeble and unsuccessful attempt to remove his SRT kit, attempts the squeeze, jams his croll against the lump, retreats, advances, jams and retreats again. Tim reaches over and manages to divest Jason of his harness. Jason advances – and passes! Two sets of SRT kit and a helmet are passed forward. Tim advances, jams and retreats twice, then calls for Richard to push from behind. Jason lies down, Richard crawls back over him. Somehow his mere presence encourages Tim to a final, successful push. Then Richard crawls over Tim and back through the squeeze to retrieve Tim’s descender which had parted company from him in the fun.
After that, I’d like to say it was all plain sailing. I’d like to, but it was actually a long grim crawl. Not without variety though; sideways thrutching, flat-out crawling in mud, flat-out crawling in water. And all the way pushing a ball of tangled straps and mud that was the SRT kit. Eventually – eventually – we reached the top of the pitches at the top of Count Lazlo Stroganoff’s Aven. At least one could sit up, just, though I found untangling my kit and putting it on in that position took so long that by the time I got to the bottom Tim was considering mounting a rescue. On the last couple of pitch sections, the noise of rushing water became more noticeable. Could this be the Notts II streamway ? It could – it was. Hallelujah!
Richard had already headed out to derig, so we were faced with the quandary of which way to go. Knowing the inlet (Sir Digby Spode’s) was between the exit and Curry Inlet, it should have been obvious to head downstream. But by this time, I was beyond rational thought, so we headed upstream for a bit against quite a sporting current (which cleaned up the gear a bit at least) before Tim decided we’d gone wrong. After rather more streamway than we’d been expecting, we found the familiar passage and headed out for the jumble of scaffolding, ladders and breeze blocks – and daylight.
I was quite surprised, having felt the trip to have gone so long I was expecting darkness, but it was only 4:15.
So, a trip I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone – as long as I don’t have to come with them!
PS – If, like me, you’ve wondered at the origins of the colourful names of the various inlets and chambers of Notts II, you can find some clues here: http://loveandliberty.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/rogue-male-in-trap.html