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Vesper Pot

Sunday February 2nd 2020

Members present: Jean-luc Heath,  Martin Albacete,  Paulina Poterlowicz,  Rosie Marshall

Report by Jean-luc Heath

The morning began with uncharacteristic efficiency, however, it soon slowed to a gentle meander, with Liv appearing to 'definitely' have a virus named after a well known Mexican beer. Eventually, it was concluded that she probably didn't really want to go caving, so was sent home with Ade. Faff concluded, we headed to a quite uninspiring Kingsdale, where a rapid change was had, before we began our supposedly easy plod up east Kingsdale. GPS, and hand-copied description in hand, we trundled into the threateningly empty Braida Garth farm, where some strange unattended machinery munched away at some sort of hay/straw. Cow eyes looked on us with a sympathetic gaze as the dogs began to bark, two of said dogs then rapidly tore down the path and harassed us as we bimbled around the farm trying to figure out exactly where we were meant to be going. Just as we were beginning to figure out what we were doing, the dog situation escalated, with one small brown hound launching itself at least twice its height into the air to bite Paulina's kneepad - !Perros No! -

Dogs aside, the way to the cave was soon found to be a very steep hill. Up we trudged. Leaving the bad-mannered Baskervilles behind. The steep hill was soon conquered, and a bimble across open fell soon led to a big pile of stones, what they are for, no one knows. From here a short wander around the dry valley soon located the quite dull entrance to Vesper Pot. The seeming pointless metal square around the entrance perfectly framing an awkward headfirst dive into what soon became a somewhat awkward sideways crawl, which seemed to last much much longer on the way in. This soon opened out into a crawl in a fairly low stream which eventually led to a taller passage and a short traverse over a tight winding streamway. Dropping down after a short while soon led to the head of the first pitch. Somewhere during this process I spotted a strange object in the stream, this turned out to be a smartphone of some sort, which when fondled asked to be charged, so apparently very waterproof. On the rigging topo, the first pitch is shown as a Y hang, however, I couldn't quite fathom how, so rigged it as a single hang with traverse line. this single hang hung nicely in the thundering waterfall, and ensured a thorough drenching for all. From here the way to the second pitch was yet more winding tightish streamway, with a slight traverse to the first bolt of the pitches. This bolt was awkwardly located, and again, was unlike the topo. This meant that instead of rigging a traverse line, I instead rigged a series of small pendulum rebelays, which were far more convenient than the proposed traversing. Beware though, as this obviously requires more rope - we used most of a 60m where a 45m is indicated on the topo. A short traverse led to the third pitch, which descends through a very narrow, and rather sharp slot. It would probably be possible to rig this as a very careful Y-hang, however, a quite cheeky tri-hang allowed for the rope to be positioned in a much wider, smoother section of the rift.

From here a quick step through a rift leads to the head of the third pitch, a fairly moist place, with the majority of the water to be avoided by a deviation from a natural. The natural I sound was a pillar type thing, which was just thin enough to get a 120cm sling around, this meant extending the devo using a chain of crabs, bit cheeky, but seemed to work - a 240cm sling would be better. A the bottom of this pitch I had some faff finding the bolt for the traverse line to the 5th pitch head, which was hidden in a little recess round a corner. With this found the Y-hang for the final pitch was rigged, the anchors for which are placed quite strangely on the opposite side of the rift, requiring a quite intimidating lean out to reach/rig/get on the pitch. From here the single hang rebelay was rapidly placed and the pitch descended to the very moist, very uninspiring, rubble heap. A quick look down the hole that continues to a sump revealed it was definitely not somewhere we wanted to go. Therefore, as soon as Martin landed, I started on my way out of the cave, closely followed by Rosie, and Paulina, who were then sent up the next pitch to ensure maximum efficiency. Martin then soon joined me, and began packing the bag as I derigged the awkward pitch head, the bag was packed pretty much just as 'rope free' was called by Paulina, thus sending Martin flying up said pitch with the bag to hand it over to Paulina, who would then head out to the first pitch with Rosie. Oddly, as Martin headed up this pitch, the deviation crabs and sling slid down the rope to join him. It was quickly decided it was too much effort to put it back in just for me, so I just made do with a very thorough wetting. Martin and I then followed closely behind the other two on the remaining pitches, with the derigging being much more efficient than the rigging. The cave seemed much much much shorter on the way out, and we were soon with the other two at the base of the first pitch. I headed up first to ensure the awkward pitch head wasn't too awkward. The pitch head was fine, however, the waterfall was not, and I once more received a good soaking. With the pitches over, all that remained was a short crawl, then a sideways slither to the entrance. The sideways slither, however, was much harder on the way out, with tacklesacks pushed in front soon becoming immovable due to the small space, and tacklesacks pulled behind getting stuck on the rocky floor. This made progress a tad slow, but it was soon over, and the persistent drizzle of Kingsdale stung my cheeks. I was soon joined by Rosie, and Paulina (who I'd forgotten had a tacklesack, but who'd made an excellent effort regardless, despite the bottom of the bag disintegrating rapidly). Martin then wriggled out in usual fashion, and we began our trundle through the now dense fog - GPS useful - Once at the farm, we were assailed by the small brown terror for one last time, before soon reaching the car for a speedy change and a drive back to the Craven.

Overall, a bit of an odd trip. I'm not quite sure how to feel about this cave, it certainly was a challenge, and the SRT was satisfying, but there was a universal feeling of a lack of achievement amongst the team, which seems odd considering just how much of a great effort everyone put in.