Saturday, 7 June 2014
A trip to Penyghent was planned for this day, but the forecast was appalling so we had to abandon the plan for the second time this year. Trapdoor was suggested which seemed like a reasonable idea.
We woke up on the morning of the trip in the YSS hut. Shezi had been to the Red Herring Series in Large Pot the day before and Kristian had done Rowten Pot via the gully. I had only been to work and then the Helwith Bridge.
We spent a while obtaining the correct tackle for the trip from the ULSA and YSS collections. We made it to the parking area near Cold Cotes despite our lack of knowledge of the roads in the area. Our change was not too pleasant in the rain but the weather improved for our walk up. The shakehole was easily located by walking from the path to the huge shakehole then straight to the Trapdoor shakehole.
Shezi rigged the entrance pitch, stopping only to express her displeasure at the eight legged inhabitants of the entrance hole. We followed and had fun in the low section from the bottom of the pitch. Shezi started climbing down Foam Pitch and declared that the bottom section was not free climbable. We rigged a rope and she reached the bottom, telling us it was free climbable after all. We tried to pull the rope through from the bottom but it got predictably stuck. I climbed up to derig it.
We removed our SRT kits at the bottom of Foam Pitch as the Black Book implied it would be necessary for the next section. The Ripper presented little problem to any of us, but we passed the tackle bags through separately. This was the common theme of the trip: frequently stopping to ferry tackle bags through obstacles. Trapdoor Pot is probably a different experience if tackle is not carried.
Shezi rigged Thats Better, which would be even better if the bolts were at a height any of us could reach without climbing up above the pitch. I was last down and found the others at the bottom contemplating the FTSE choke. The shoring did not inspire much confidence. Some of the shoring remained wedged in the rift where it had been placed, while any supported boulders had since said screw this and hurled themselves down anyway.
We ferried the tackle between the different stages of the choke. Shezi was unimpressed with the small size of the chamber in which she belayed the pitch rope. The opening of the pitch head was not sizeable either and both Kristian and I managed to get ourselves stuck.
The Gripper separated us from Ready to Roll. This feature was unremarkable except for a small trickle of water in it, which was the only water we had seen in the cave so far. Shezi and Kristian rigged Ready to Roll, which has an oversized Y hang. The trickle of water was again seen next to the lower half of this pitch.
The following crawl was fairly spacious, even with tackle bags. Kristian put a sling around a flake for Millennium Pot and we removed our SRT kits for a second time at the bottom.
We made our way along the rift towards The Stripper. Kristian was heard complaining that he had slid all the way to the bottom of the rift, directly against the advice of the Black Book. After a while he managed to get into the short crawl. We followed and slid down Hammerhead Pot. The jammed boulders for the Electron backup were non-existent so Kristian used some convenient bolts instead.
I was given the privilege of rigging Megatron. The top Y hang was quite big but the Y hang rebelay was even bigger. Reaching this involved traversing from the ledge and I had to stretch to reach the far bolt. Tall people will not have this problem but may find The Stripper a little more challenging instead.
The pitch itself was stunning. At the bottom Kristian and I discussed the size of the place in relation to the rest of the cave and agreed that undiscovered cave passage must lead to the top of the chamber. A small stream entered from one side of the chamber and flowed through a narrow space between boulders at the other side, through which some space could be glimpsed.
While Kristian and I were talking and refuelling (Kristian drank all of Shezi s sweet tea), Shezi abseiled to the bottom of the pitch. She removed her descender and immediately attached her jammers, before ascending back up! We followed and got to Hammerhead Pot, where all holds were out of my reach. I moved several rocks to the base of the climb and stood on them in order to reach the holds at the top of the climb.
Subsequent investigation has revealed that Hammerhead Pot used to be a pitch before the following crawl was blasted. The debris from this was used to fill the bottom of the pitch.
I spent a while sat on a spike in The Stripper moving tackle bags then continued onwards. In the rift beyond Shezi thought she was stuck but had instead just gone the wrong way. The water at Ready to
Roll sounded much louder than before but didnt look like the amount had changed much.
From the pitch head, I heard Shezi shout from ahead that the next bit was hell. I had a look around the corner and saw that the next bit had indeed become damp. Shezi shouted from the wet section that she would take one tackle bag and then run. She did this and I waited for Kristian. After a while I got bored so I grabbed a tackle bag and Shezi s bag and headed through The Gripper. A lot of water was coming through. I stood up in the chamber above which was now like the bottom of Niagara in Penyghent Pot. I went back to collect Kristians bag then waited in the short section of passage between the wet chamber and the bottom of the FTSE pitch.
The choke had some water dripping through it but was not too bad. The pitch head was easier to pass through on the way up. Thats Better was interesting to derig and I got through The Ripper easily with my SRT kit on.
We arrived at the bottom of the entrance pitch expecting the weather outside to be atrocious. I got to the surface which was bathed in sunshine, giving an excellent view all around. Birds were singing, lambs were running around and the last cumulonimbus was sailing eastwards, proud of the downpour it had unleashed on Ingleborough.
A very pleasant walk took us back to the car. Soon we were back at the hut, where some of the others had been getting worried about us. Alex Ritchie had even been hoping to rescue us. The trip had taken no more time than is suggested in the Black Book, but the others must have expected any caving trip to take the Sam Allshorne amount of time as it takes to run around Long Churn. A very welcome meal was eaten then we headed to the pub, which was full of various characters.
Information for anyone planning to visit Trapdoor Pot
Read through the feedback on the Not for the Faint-Hearted website.
There is a lot of loose rock in the cave. In some places, the risk is obvious and can be easily managed. In other places, including most pitch heads, it is easy to dislodge rock without realising it, even if you are being careful and watching your feet. For this reason, it is best for people at the bottom to wait well out of the way, and to have only one person on the whole pitch at once (i.e. dont shout rope free when passing a rebelay).
The cave is suggested as a wet weather alternative in the introduction of Not for the Faint-Hearted. While we were underground, a significant increase in water levels in part of the cave was experienced. Shezi felt this part was very unpleasant, while Kristian pointed out that it was no wetter than many other caves in the Dales in dry weather. The cave was still easily passable. Im not saying that the cave is passable in all weather, but it was not impassable during very heavy rain while we were there. Note that the FTSE choke has been observed to become dangerous in wet weather as described in the page linked to above.