Present: James and George
A late night in the Helwith Bridge meant a late start for our favorite cave. Things got off to a good start – just as we were just about to set off we realised that yet again we had left the spanner at home. A quick change for James, and a drive to Bernies meant we were soon on our way again however. A group from Burnley Caving Club appeared and asked for a reccomendation, they were advised against Crescent Pot, and towards Illusion Pot.
The entrance was rigged with minimal fuss by myself, before a quick break at the boulder choke where I took the oppertunity to have a good look at the state of the shoring (the considered analysis was that the wood has the structural strength of a damp sock!)Unlike last time the flat out crawl presented no problems having scraped most of the gravel away two weeks previously. Then it was down on through the now very familiar thrutchy bits and onto the fifth pitch. A bolt was placed for a deviation about 2.5m below the main belay – a vast improvement on the previous rig. Deviation placed and it was down to the bottom of the pitch. Well almost, the rope was 15′ too short. A quick prussik and through the squeeze at the head of the pitch, and a quick think and re-rig produced the necessary amount of rope required for a complete descent. All that was left was for James to bring down the tacklesack, unfortunately James could only manage to get himself throught the squeeze so after a bit of struggling I set off up the pitch yet again to fetch the rogue tacklesack.
A bit more messing around was needed at the 6th pitch to cut some old rope. This would have been easy had we had a knife but unfortunately we only had a collection of sharp rocks which aren’t quite as efficient at the task. A monster stretch to screw in a hanger for a deviation soon had us down at the bottom of the pitch, which is actually a series of rather nice (by CP standards) cascades. Up till then Crescent Pot is only awkward, but it is here that according to one trip report ‘the misery really begins’ I have to say I’m in complete agreement. A shortish section of crawling crawling lead to what we assumed to be the 7th pitch, although we weren’t totally sure as we had not yet passed the inlet mentioned in NC3 (more on that later!). The belay for the 7th pitch is a little dodgy, and so needs to be treated with care. It is at the bottom of this pitch that the misery really really begins. The passage is chracterised by both being a completely shit shape for crawling, forcing you to thrutch along on your side, aswell as having a viciously fluted floor which tore both my kneepads, and somewhat more painfully my hands to shreds. This drags on and on, until a short climb is reached which leads down into yet more delightful passage, similar to that above but half full of water, and with nasty stals on the roof to avoid. Thanfully this passage is short lived, before arriving at the duck.
Now I’ve heard a lot about the duck. I’ve been advised that a straw is helpfull, we’ve heard tales of people who’ve been down twice only to be repulsed both times. NC3 describes it as being ‘very awkward in deep water’. I’m not sure how deep the water is meant to be, the passage is only 2′ high. Anyway I can safely say that this was probably the single greatest anticlimax of myself and James’s caving career. Whilst it does look quite intimidating and once the shock of the cold water has passed it’s a doddle! Personally I found it significantly easier than the horrors of Tutman’s Hole, or Hydrophobia Passage for instance, and only a tad harder than the delights of the infamous ducks in Dissappointment Pot.
After that a short section of passage leads on down to the 8th pitch. It was here that I realised I’d made a bit of a cock-up by leaving the tacklesack containing the rope and rigging equipment on the other side of the duck, James nobely volunteered to fetch it – perhaps poetic justice for earlier leaving the sack at the top of the 5th pitch? Anyway, he soon returned and we were quickly down the 8th and final pitch which signifies the bottom of the Pot – if not the end. Unfortunately we had run out of time, so we decided not to visit the sump (about 1/2 hour of h/knees crawling away). A sharpish turnaround lead to a slow and rather painfull exit from the cave – most of the obstacles being harder on the way in than out. Anyway, they passed (slowly) and we eventually reached the entrance again at midnight almost exactly 10 hours after we had enetered.
The feeling of relief, and satisfaction at the entrance was quite remarkable, and was well worth the 10 hours of discomfort and sore knees, as well as the previous 4 failed attempts (mainly due to shagged bolts). It was undoubtedly the most rewarding caving trip I’ve done yet.
The inlet mentioned in the guidebook actually enters above the 4th pitch, not below the 6th as mentioned in the description. This is probably due to an error on the survey, presmably made when it was copied from the original. There are numerous other innaccuracies in the description in NC3, but I won’t spoil the suprise!