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Trapdoor Pot - 21 Dec 2008

Sunday December 21st 2008

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

Report by Matt Ewles

A first class trip to a pothole that not many people have done before! One of the '50 hardest' and for good reason!

The shakehole is quite tricky to find but the map in '50 Hardest' is pretty accurate. Follow the vague path up from the car park at the Cold Cotes junction on the Ingleton-Clapham backroad, until just past the limestone outcrops near the top of the hill. Bear left off the path and locate the HUGEMONGOUS shakehole. From here bear left again towards the large shakehole of Trapdoor Pot, only 50-60m away, visable from the huge shakehole. TAKE A COMPASS FOR THE RETURN JOURNEY IF COMING OUT IN THE DARK!!!

The entrance is rigged around a jammed slab in the top of the first pitch and is easily negatiated feet first. The first short pitch lands in a bouldery chamber with a way on downwards through some shored up boulders. This is essentially a vertical slot that turns 2m down into a horizontal thrutch, and feet first is essential. Beyond here drop a couple of metres into a boulder area with a climb through to the head of Foam pitch. It was here that we realised how this pitch got its name! Some very large blocks are suspended in the rift just prior to the pitchhead, held up only by expanding foam! We slithered under them delicately, to reach the head of the pitch.

The pitch itself is actually just a 3m free climb (no tackle) down into a narrow rift. The first constriction is then reached at high level in this rift. The squeeze is a vertical slot, widest at the top. Ade struggled through and I was doubtful I would fit, however, following removal of SRT gear I slipped through relatively troublefree. Mark being very thin managed to slip through with his gear on! A small ledge beyond provides a place to get SRT gear back on again.

The head of the next pitch is immediately reached, rigged by a Y-hang from spits. This is a nice descent of around 15-20m to the floor level above the FTSE boulder choke. An emormous hanging block above the choke is truely terrifying, as are the crumbling walls that appear to be supporting it. A climb down a shored up shaft (equally unstable) reaches a tiny chamber from where the traverse line for the FTSE pitch is rigged. The traverse line runs down a tight squeeze and straight onto the awkward head of the short pitch, rigged from a scaffold bar. Make sure anyone below is well clear of the bottom!

From there, a heavy shower of water entered the chamber and flowed down a slot in the floor, which was unfortunately the way on. Mark and Tash carried on an made the squeeze at the bottom of the slot look easy. I then attemped it, and just couldn't get my hips through! I spent a couple of minutes of struggling but failing to get my ass through, by which point the water flowing down my suit was making me rather chilly and I had to retreat. Ade, not in a PVC suit, sensible declined to proceed.

So that was game over! Mark derigged, and a struggle out (the top of FTSE pitch and the boulder choke are particularly challenging with a full tacklesack!) brought us back to the surface at 4pm (three hours underground) with a glimmer of daylight remaining. However, there was thick fog, only 10-20m visibility! We didn't have a compass but had left a tacklesack and some rocks at the entrance to point back towards to the large shakehole. We then navigated back to the path (with only one wobbly moment of feeling completely lost) and had a cold and unpleasant change back at the car.

This was a first class trip, with lots of great challenging bits. The tight bits are short lived, and the trip provided an excellent balance of squeezing, climbing and ropework. It was a shame to turn back, and I could have probably fitted through that squeeze, so it would be good to return in dry conditions (when there'd be no water whatsever thus allowing me to take my time in negotiating it). Would be great to get to the bottom, or at least to have a look at the 'esoteric squeeze' that the guidebook promises!

A warning however, this pothole is VERY UNSTABLE INDEED! Only very experienced and competent (and slim) groups should attempt, and a major amount of respect for the boulders and climbs is essential throughout.

First class, and nice to do something a bit different.