Yokenthwaite Pot
Saturday, 4 April 2009

Having done the Langstroth through trip and with plenty of afternoon left over, we decided to make it a double-tick day. Dinny and Dave blobbed and went back to fester in Bernies (although they did really want to do Yokenthwaite – honest).

So Tom and me changed out of wetsuits into furrys and traipsed up the opposite side of the valley. After taking a ridiculously convoluted route around the fell crossing fences only at gates and stiles (due to presence of a farmer riding around on his quad bike) we reached the open shaft of Yokenthwaite Pot feeling much more apathetic about a second trip of the day than we did at the valley bottom.

Once at the entrance, Tom said “There’s an owl living in this entrance”. Needless to say I was still quite surprised when tom made an owl noise and a startled looking owl appeared from under a tree on the opposite side of the shaft and flew almost directly at us, nearly resulting on a premature descent of the entrance from me. Tom then calmly said “I told you so”.

The entrance was rigged from an initial belay around a large block in the entrance followed by a spit a little further down on the opposite wall. At the bottom of the shaft a low crawl through a sludge consisting of numerous dead animals was passed to a short series of small pitches all rigged from bolts at the pitch heads (or single bolt in one case). The fourth pitch is awkward to rig at the top and descends a few meters down the top section of a wet shaft before a low window through to a parallel dry shaft is reached. A sling and tackle bag rope protector were used to descend this rift to a climb up to the start of fossil passage.

This is an unlikely but entertaining section of awkward traversing and thrutching that finally leads to a low wet section that passes a couple of sharp bends to a short drop down to the start of the final s-bends.

Tom popped down the drop, took one look at the passage and climbed back out. I foolishly was not so easily put off. I thrust myself into the passage. The first bend, to the left is not too bad. An awkward wriggle then leads along a tight rift that leads to a small drop into a slightly larger section that then continues through a VERY tight section to the second sharp bend, to the right. With some effort I managed to squeeze through the tight section (right side down) and my chest popped out into the larger section at the right bend. Unfortunately the bend is very tight and my head and shoulders now had no-where to go.

Reversing was the only option. Unfortunately this wasn’t so easy as the tight section was sloping downhill slightly on the way in and my chest had dropped lower into a wider section at the end. The reverse move basically involved what felt like doing up-side down handstand push-ups into a tight squeeze lined with sharp rock. I eventually made it back to the larger section in a very sweaty and slightly sick-from-being-upside-down state. After a little rest it appeared that the next section would be even harder to reverse so I (foolishly again) decided to spin round with some difficulty so I was now left side down, in order to try the final corner again.

I squeezed through the tight part again but alas after a short attempt, the corner appeared too sharp for me to attempt to pass, especially with no help at hand if I got into trouble. So I decided the whole section would have to be reversed. This was easier said than done and this tight part seemed significantly harder this way round.

For a few minutes I felt quite worried. Pushing as hard as I could on the wall in front of me gained absolutely no movement back into the squeeze at all. The thought of a rescue distant in time popped into the back of my head and this (along with the fear of what Holly would have to say) inspired further pushing. After removing my helmet to allow greater arm movement I finally pushed and felt a slight movement back up into the squeeze accompanied by a ripping sound. It appeared my oversuit had snagged and now movement was easier. (for a few seconds I hoped that the ripping sound was my oversuit and not something inside me)

I wriggled back to the wider section and eventually back up-hill through to the first bend with some help from Tom who managed to get to the first bend to pull on my wellies. A few minutes sweaty rest was enjoyed before heading out.

Tom de-rigged efficiently and we were soon at the dead animal crawl. Here I obviously had enjoyed the decaying animal too much and set off up the wrong crawl through extra sloppy animal remains where I encountered a wall of boulders. My initial though was “The bloody farmer’s filled the entrance in with rocks” until I heard a voice from behind saying “Where the F*** are you going”. Doh!

The surface was gained (with me now covered un-necessarily in extra dead animal) in time for me to see the sun setting on a lovely evening over langstrothdale. Kit was washed in the river before heading home after a fine afternoon of Langstrothdale “classics”.

If anyone was thinking of trying the s-bends, I would recommend discounting it unless you are shorter (5’11”ish) than me. Also being very thin would be an advantage. As would be having explosives.