Lost Johns pull-through, out Notts II
Wednesday, 18 October 2017

After a good day of poking around on Leck Fell, we decided to round off our visit to the area by undertaking what should be a classic trip: pulling through down Lost Johns to exit out of Notts II via the dug connection between Lyle Cavern High Level Series and Sir Digby Spode’s Inlet. The recent publication of the excellent Northern Caves, Three Counties book (highly recommend buying one) provided much needed impetus for this trip by offering a good route description and a simplified survey. Armed with photos of this, along with a rigging topo and Mike Coopers NFTFH description of Boxhead, we set off at around 5pm carrying a group shelter and with a 7am callout in case things went a bit wrong (none of us had done the connection beforehand).

We decided to keep things simple and take the Mud-Centipede route, as this looked like the easiest one for pulling down. We knew that the bolts probably wouldn’t be ideal for a pull-through so did a few practise yanks on each one before the last man came down. All of them were incredibly smooth, however, and I think the use of a biner block (instead of alpine butterfly krabbed to the live rope) was a key reason for this. When there are in situ artificial anchors present (ie not natural threads), I really can’t see any reason not
to use a biner block. I had forgotten how excellent and fun the canyon-style vadose passages of Mud-Centipede are.

Soon we arrived at Battle-axe traverse. We were armed with 60m, 45m and 28m ropes. I used the 28m rope to hard-rig the traverse, followed by Nathan carrying the 45m and 60m, with Luke de-rigging the traverse after us. There are 2 high-up Y-hang bolts at the head of Valhalla which make good choices for the pull-through as they are closer together and offset slightly compared to the lower ones (which are directly opposite one another). This pitch is still great fun four years on from my first descent of it. The 60m and 45m rope are quite excessive, you could easily get by with two 40m ropes. Two 40m ropes and a 30m rope would be an ideal combination for this trip I would say.

Groundsheet Junction came and went and soon we were at the top of the in situ rope on the Lyle Cavern pitch. The navigation to the choke from here is very straight-forward: go up Helictite Rift, then at the T-junction for the Tate Galleries go straight on along West Passage. Keep to the right wall and follow your nose upwards until you go through a crawl into a small chamber, after which descend a narrow calcite chute on the left wall. Keep descending and soon you will see the first scaffolding. From here progress is surprisingly straight-forward, and you really have to marvel at the engineering that has gone into the passage. It is quite a phenomenal achievement. The route finding as well is just incredible.

Popping out in the Notts II streamway was a great feeling, and soon we were out on the surface after quickly washing our gear a bit. Someone was digging at the bottom of the Entrance series of Notts II. Overall, a very efficient and extremely enjoyable 3 hour trip. There are so many possibilities for pull-through trips in this system now, I really can’t wait to try out more!