An attempt was made in the final days of 2018 to begin the project to dive Hammer Pot’s most recently discovered sump, the Water Butt, found in 2007, but unfortunately water levels were too high for us to want to try and pass Sludge Crawl (less than 10cm airspace in the small bit and most of us quite low on neoprene with no hoods). So Mike’s 3l cylinders were left at an appropriate point above the 5th pitch, and after taking some photos in Showerbath Chamber and laughing at Olly for having to abandon his dropped main light in Stemple Rift, which Lydia then decorated with both her wellies, we left the project for next year.
Three weeks later, we were back again with a reduced size team and slightly smaller bags (at least for the start). It was a snowy day on Fountains Fell and we judged it to be suitably cold enough that we wouldn’t be trapped by flooding from possible meltwater, so begrudgingly packed up and headed across the moor in cold but calm conditions. We were again able to change at the Shooting Hut; maybe on the next trip we will pluck up the courage to leave our things in there? Perhaps we can come to an arrangement with the landowner?
The trip began easily enough at around 11:30am, with relatively light bags through Stemple Rift. Adam, however, emerged from this tedious and testing obstacle slightly roasted due to him wearing a wetsuit and furry suit to avoid chafing around his ringpiece arising from contact between it and his oversuit. A large hole had developed in his wetsuit as he changed, through which his entire arse was entertainingly visible. After picking up the bottles, progress slowed and we reached Incline Passage after around 3.5 hours caving. This is where the cave changes from a clean and laborious experience to a muddy and laborious experience, and we were all very muddy on reaching Goggle Drop.
After a chocolate break, Mike headed through the crawl to the pitch-head. Peachey attempted to follow, but approached the bend in a manner which was not compatible with his ‘abseilers back’ so had to withdraw, leaving me to help Mike kit up. We had planned to try and survey the upstream inlet, but since I had been drafted into divers assistant duties this already forlorn aim was fully abandoned for another day.
Mike mutated into his submarine alien form with relative ease, but in his haste forgot to put his neoprene vest on beneath his 5mm wetsuit, and since we were behind schedule he forewent dekitting to put it on. Soon he was in the water swimming to the east and a dim orange glow faded to black, with only occasional twitches of the line and the gloomy sound of air bubbles rising to indicate his continued existence. After 20 minutes or so he returned, reporting that he had surfaced in a large airbell after 15m and that just beyond this was a cross rift. He sounded very cold. He then went to inspect beneath the north wall and I ascended the pitch to inform the others of progress. Soon Mike returned sounding even colder, and after a brief foray under the west wall to encounter no way on he surfaced and we began to pack up. Mike had surrendered control of his limbs to large shivers by this point so I feel that this was a wise time to abandon for the day. Soon we were both the other side of Goggle Drop, where we left one cylinder (still full), fins and mask, with the 20m line reel left at the bottom of the pitch. With reduced weight we began to head out at around 6pm.
The exit was rather slow and quite tiring overall, especially Stemple Rift which is much more of a twat in the outwards direction for a number of reasons (more uphill, scallops face the wrong way to be used as handholds, more tired than on the way in). Peachey and I arrived at the surface just before 10pm, with only an hour to spare before callout, so we began to march back to the car, on the way encountering Rachel who had the callout, Happy Days. A very tired journey back to Leeds ensued and despite being filthy and stinking of piss I had to postpone showering till the following morning, then again what’s new there.
So, good prospects for the next trip. More neoprene needed, and maybe some lead (apparently Mike is quite negatively buoyant?) so we can inspect deeper in the sump, but on the plus side less to carry in. Thanks to all in attendance and particularly to Rachel for driving home after quite a long day.