Bull Pot of the Witches
Saturday, 6 February 2016
I woke up debating whether or not a cold, wet cave was more enticing than the warm bed I was nestled in. Apparently the cave won, and so George, Brendan, Nathan and I set off from Woodhouse. We left the chapel car park in unusually good time, but as we turned the corner we were surprised to spot Nathanael walking down the road. We exchanged obscene hand gestures before continuing our journey. Surely, no-one had left without him? Oh dear.
Our journey was rather lovely, with only one minor detour. Credit to the excellent performance of Georges KA Basic, and Brendan for being quiet and typing his personal statement.
We were intending on caving at Lost Johns, in memory of Paul Lyons. However, upon arrival, it appeared the “slighty iffy weather Rachel had warned us to prepare against was now fairly bad. Not bad enough to stop Katey from jumping on the bonnet of the KA and hitching a lift up the hill, but bad enough to have to retreat to Bull Pot Farm. An unimpressed George got back into the car in full kit, having been the only one keen enough to get ready in the gale and rain.
At the Farm, as I got ready, it was decided there would be three groups, the larger of which I was to be a part of. It was a trip only needing cows tails; wed be using ladders and legs to navigate County pot (Ease Gill system), a trip which would allow Brendan to further his growing niche cave-photography portfolio. Seeing I was quite gutted that I wouldn’t be able to try out the SRT I had been practising, Nathanael kindly offered an alternative- to take Yuko and me down Bull Pot of Witches for a sort of tutorial session, allowing me to carry out SRT for the first time and allowing Yuko opportunity to rig, as well as helpfully narrowing down group sizes.
Round the back of the cottage, and there we were. The first descent was the hardest, quite literally: I underestimated how much I would swing and my leg went straight into a rock. Apparently knee-pads are a worthwhile investment. In spite of getting rather twisted with a group-shelter bag and what felt like my shattered kneecap, seeing the trees overhanging above and the impressive waterfall at the Witches makes for a really pleasant descent down to the entrance. Once down, we decided to attempt some pitches inside the cave rather than take the much wetter crawling and climbing route. All went successfully, as we negotiated a short traverse, followed by a few re-belays and a deviation, scattered down past several ledges and passing some interesting rock formations, all rigged well by Yuko. Nathanael helpfully pointed out interesting bits of rock, putting his degree to good use. Yuko and I admired the glittery bits.
After ambling along, we climbed down into the streamway, crawling to the end of the tunnel to find but another place to rig a pitch: the tunnel dropping down into a deep cavern. Sadly it seemed, one 70m rope only gets you so far in. We tried to find another way of exploring further ‘ Nathanael thought maybe the Angel Wings? ‘ but our resounding lack of knowledge of the Witches meant heading back up was best. It was at this point Nathanael remembered telling someone that the Witches could be free-climbed, and so climbed back up to test this. He ambled at a humiliatingly quicker pace than my ascent up the rope, but it went well, and Yuko de-rigged confidently. We emerged from the relatively warm cave into the evening dark, and it was back to the Farm for hot chocolate.
I would like to thank Nathanael for taking us on what was a really productive, focussed little trip; Yuko for her support and patience, and the committee for overseeing the day. Also, shout-out to the drivers, for navigating past the man in flatcap/sheep-dog convention.