Paul Pot Memorial Trip 2023

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The Paul Pot memorial trip was upon us but the students weren’t actually planning Lost John’s – just a Notts 2 trip so that had to change. Friday night party at ours because Nadia had returneth to the UK (wooooo) and to celebrate being older, so Luke was also in Leeds for the weekend.

After some phone calls on Saturday night, who was packing which ropes, and Nadia telling the students we were going to meet at chapel at 9am not between 9am and 10am sometime, things were falling into place. On the morning Nadia showed up to chapel at 9.10am (tut tut) but we headed off in four cars and had brekkie at Inglesport before continuing on to leck fell.

Last minute alterations but we ended up with 5 of us: Luke, Kristian, Nadia, Mike and I (3 of us had driven). This was not ideal given we had 6 bags of rope but Mike did the good thing and said he would carry two. A fitting call out was left with Rob Watson as we intended to head down Monastery and Dome routes, convening around battleaxe traverse before carrying on down Valhalla and the final pitch to the bottom.

I had been unsure about the trip as the last time I was in Lost John’s I came up Cathedral and found the rope stopped whilst still over the pitch head. This was deeply distressing for me and left a terrible imprint which means I’ve complained about it all the time. So yes back to the trip. I agreed to go because I thought I could overcome this fear but only by not derigging that route. Nadia hadn’t done Monastery hence that suggestion, which I was cool with. So the plan was Mike, Nadia and I heading down Cathedral and Dome, Mike going on to rig battleaxe traverse and Nadia rigging two pitches from Shale caverns to Sink chamber so Luke and Kristian could join us (they were going down Monastery). On the way out we would exchange.

I rigged the first pitch, Vestry, Cathedral (noting the horror I had previously endured at the top of the pitch, much to Mike and Nadia’s annoyance no doubt) and the traverse above Dome along with the rope to the bottom of dome pitch. Generally I enjoyed most of this as it was dry, quiet and I kept warm carrying the bag and rigging. Overall I seemed to be going at a decent pace and although I received no praise, I believe my rigging was adequate. Nadia went down to carry on rigging to the bottom and Mike took over rigging and swung into the window on dome pitch.

Dome junction and Candle and Shistol were passed in good time and I noted the change in temperature and noise as we reached battleaxe. So as to keep warm I left Mike to rig and went back to the pitch before. After only a minute I heard Nadia above me. She showed off her squeezing skills at the bottom of the pitch on a narrow section of cave and we went to join Mike. This was good timing as he was on to rigging Valhalla. I only had to use my foot loop once on the traverse so I consider that well rigged and a success. As Nadia followed we heard Luke behind us which was even more excellent news.

Mike had made a point of putting the tacklesack with the Valhalla rope in a puddle when he could, but despite this the rope was very dry and creaky which is always fun. I used an extra breaking crab because 8mm and I’m always scared. Everyone was swift down this and the final pitch and soon we found ourselves in the master cave. We had a minute’s silence in the dark and then went upstream to look for how we would get to the students in Notts 2. We didn’t actually intend to do this and we’d left our SRT kits behind but we found the rope and contemplated what a joy it would be to surprise them. Then we turned around.

It was agreed Kristian would derig to battleaxe but that our group would take the tacklesack to make it easier for the two of them on the way out. Mike and Nadia were speedy prusikers. I timed Valhalla and managed 4 minutes which I was happy with though I feel there is room for improvement. Mike spent quite a while trying Nadia’s squeeze below Candle and Shistol and eventually got there after taking his SRT kit off. (He denied this and claims he only “loosened it”). As we were waiting for the bag there was also some time for photos on Dome pitch. I made everyone faff lots and the results were meh. Kristian caught us up and so we headed on. Mike complained it was counter intuitive taking this extra tacklesack further down into the cave as we descended another two pitches with Luke following us.

Luke then waved goodbye as he removed the ropes and left us to our Monastery fate. Nadia and I watched Mike get soaked on the bottom pitch. His pantin kept coming off and it took so long to go up that I got numerous photos. Jokes were on me though as I had exactly the same experience despite trying to avoid it. I shouted to Nadia that the pantin was useless but apparently not using it was also just as bad. All round we got soaked.

Thankfully, we were going up so I stayed fairly warm but man was I slow with the tacklesack. Mike came back to help me with some of the climbs and suggested he stay to help Nadia too and I could go on ahead. I never like completely fucking off out of a cave without people, so I said I’d probably wait at the top of the next pitch or one after to check they were ok. Mike thought there was only one pitch left but when I checked the Topo later on my own I found that we hadn’t actually done Monastery pitch yet which is pretty big so worth waiting at the top not bottom.

I continued on very slowly on my own with the bag and struggled with an awkward narrow climb before Monastery. I pushed the bag ahead of me before having to find another spot to climb up. Got to the base of the pitch and slowly started my ascent. Only after about 5m did I look down and see the tacklesack still on the ground. I’d unclipped it for the climb. Fool. Down prusiked which was terrifying on such stretchy rope and eventually retrieved it. This pitch definitely did not take 4 minutes.

I was getting pretty worried by the time I had got to the top. I hadn’t been caving quickly but hadn’t heard anything from below me. Thankfully this was dismissed just as I got off the pitch. Mike said they were ok so I continued to the end of the traverse line and had a rest. He was still happy for me to go on out, so we switched bags so mine was actually full and I went on up.

As I continued (slowly) up multiple climbs (one of which I slipped on and splashed back down into thigh deep water), a horribly exposed traverse and another small pitch, I had the weird feeling like I’d been there before. Upon review I have realised I’ve done Lost John’s 3 times previously not 2, though I don’t remember the first time well at all. So this is why I write up trips now.

Not gonna lie, I was exhausted when I got out. But I made it with the tacklesack in one piece. Luke & Kristian were already out and changed back at the cars. About 25minutes later Mike and Nadia appeared and it was an all round successful trip.