Recent reports

Trapdoor Pot - 21 Dec 2008

Sunday December 21st 2008

Members present: Adrian Turner,  Mark Sims,  Matt Ewles,  Natasha Durham

Report by Mark Sims

A rather faffy start, it has to be said, the morning starting with a message from Ade at 8 saying “Running late, alarm failed to go off” (although it was later revealed that he may have woken up & turned the alarm of in his dozy state…!) followed by Ade & Tash arriving from the container with the rope packed the previous day. The problem was, they’d missed my note in the container to say we still needed metalwork & slings, so back to the container we went! Finally we got to Matt’s at about 9 and an hour later than planned we were off to Bernies. After a good journey, however, we’d made up some time and a quick(ish!) breakfast (with a brief pause whilst Tash justified an SRT bag purchase!) we were driving to the cave before 12.

Cold Cotes, where we parked, proved to be an amazingly windy spot and a few minutes were taken to sum up the courage to leave the warmth of the car but it made for a very efficient change and we were off up the hill, thankfully with the wind behind us. Unfortunately the mist was down and we were slightly concerned about the sound of apparent shooting somewhere around (!) but despite the adverse conditions we found the cave without much difficulty, the entrance exactly as described in 50 harder caves as a triangular slot with a boulder wedged above.

The unanimous decision was that Ade should rig and down he went through the triangular slot with me following soon after leaving Tash & Matt on the surface to strategically place rocks to show us which direction to walk in once we surfaced in the probable combination of dark and mist! In the chamber at the bottom we had a reshuffle with me now at the back of the group being the smallest and therefore (in theory) the least likely to need a shove through any of the squeezes to come!

After an interesting Pippikin-esque squeeze into the top of a climb we reached a climb down through some loose boulders with expanding foam (yes, really!) in combination with some unknown force holding the boulders in place above our heads! (Forget your scaffolding and Acros for holding up digs – foam is the way forward!) After this climb I think it’s fair to say we were all slightly apprehensive when we first saw “The Ripper”, described as a “tight squeeze” in the guide but after some groaning and pushing and removal of SRT kit for the other three (it’s nice be the small one!!) we were through to “That’s Better” pitch which lived up to it’s name, although it would have been appreciated (by me at least) had there been at least 1 extra bolt in combination to the Y-hang!

There had been discussion earlier about why the next section was called the FTSE choke, and once we saw it, it seemed the most likely reason was due to frequent fluctuations (unfortunately fluctuations of the rock rather than the route!). Trusting very little to take our weight we were fairly cautious through this section, but on the bright side there was a distinct lack of foam here(!) and the supports were in the more orthodox and reassuring form of scaffold bars, and the somewhat less reassuring pieces of wood. This lead us straight to the top of the FTSE choke pitch, another open pitch to follow a restricted section. This dropped us into a wet chamber where apparently we were supposed to follow the water through “The Gripper” (an “easy squeeze”) which looked less than appealing.

As I reached the bottom of the pitch I looked across to see Tash suddenly drop a short distance as the sizeable rock she was standing on suddenly gave way. After a brief session of cave reconstruction we were content that the way on was stable, so Matt braved the water and tried the squeeze. After not being able to feel the way on with his feet he decided that sitting in a slightly less than body-sized gap with a fair bit of water wasn’t the place to be and made his retreat, so it was generally decided that being the smallest, I should be next to try. I gave it a go and wriggled my way through and was somewhat relieved to find that the water disappeared almost immediately afterwards and the next pitch immediately followed.

Tash braved the way down next and got through first time with everyone feeling slightly better in the knowledge that the passage enlarged immediately afterwards, so the tackle sack followed and I started rigging Ready to Roll pitch whilst Matt had his second attempt. Unfortunately for Matt, after much thrusting & wriggling, he didn't manage to pop out below the squeeze, and with Ade waiting above decidedly not looking forward to it (understandably, being a non-PVC wearer) we decided that this wasn’t a cave to split into pairs for, so started our ascent.

Caution was definitely the way forward up the FTSE choke pitch (the pitch head proving to be much more awkward on the way up than the way down), with everyone keeping well out of the way until the person above was out of the coke. This proved to a very good decision based on the regular shouts of ‘below’!

The rest of the ascent was fairly uneventful, possibly with the exception of my surprise when one of the wooden supports was removed by a gentle nudge from the tackle sack below me. It didn’t appear to be structural however, so we carried on with the squeeze proving to be easier on the way out than the way in. There were a few amusing moments at the climb-squeeze combination below the top pitch – have you ever tried to go through a hole ~2m above the floor head first on your back? Nor had I!

We emerged with a tiny bit of daylight left so made our way as quickly as we could to the path as the mist was still very much down, but luckily we found it with very few problems and made our way back for an efficient change at the car.

A really enjoyable trip overall despite not reaching the bottom (we think we got a bit over half way down). Not being a massive fan of tight caves I was slightly apprehensive, but any small sections are short lived and all the pitches we did opened out quite impressively. Definitely a cave I’d like to return to and it’d be good to see what the “esoteric squeeze” involves and to see Electron and Megatron pitches.