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Rowten Pot - 15 Feb 2009

Sunday February 15th 2009

Members present: Anna Barnard,  Catherine Moody,  Chuck Holder,  Jonathan Booth,  Mark Sims

Report by Catherine Moody

I was really looking forward to this trip after doing a bit of research and hearing lots of great things about the cave. Even Andy was jealous, and he claims not to like caving!

“Team Chemistry” had a fairly efficient start; despite a bit of messing around with a bungee cord found lying on the ground and debating what we might be able to catapult out of the container, we were away relatively early and were in Bernies for about 11. Breakfast was followed by some yummy banana bread, which Anna had made the previous day. There was a bit of faffage later on when Chuck and Mark couldn’t quite remember where we needed to park to get up to the cave, but after asking a couple of other cavers we eventually found it.

We entered Rowten Pot through the eyehole; Chuck started off rigging, and I followed next with the 2nd tackle sack. I’m still not a huge fan of descending pitches over ledges as I feel like the ground just gets in the way, and I don’t want to properly abseil over the edge incase my feet slip on the wet rock and I career into the side of it… I’d much rather start off properly hanging on the rope! Still, the first pitch was pretty cool, being able to see though to the waterfall in the main entrance. This took us down to the rock bridge, where there was a short traverse to the next y-hang.

Waiting at the top of the rock bridge I was starting to wonder what was taking so long. When I got the “rope free” and descended over the edge I realised why… After the rebelay was a swing under the ledge into a narrow rift, with a lovely big drop directly below. It was only after Chuck had got to the bottom of the main pitch and we could see his lights that we realised quite how big the drop was! It was a fairly terrifying traverse. Despite knowing that even if I did my cowstails would catch me, something psychological made me really not want to slip! Thankfully with a lot of arse- and knee-wedging I made it through to the Y-hang without incident, then descended the main pitch. I started quite slowly, admiring the awesomeness of the huge chamber I was dropping into… then decided to have some fun and zoom down to the bottom :D I was busy watching the floor and didn’t realise til I’d gone past him that Chuck was actually waiting on a ledge so I quickly stopped, locked off and pulled myself along the rope to join him (the bounce in the rope was very helpful in getting me off the ground onto the ledge!) Anna came next and I had to shout to her not to make the same mistake… It was hard to hear each other over the sound of the waterfall crashing into the cave.

We waited here for the others so that Mark could rig the final couple of pitches. At this point Chuck realised that he didn’t have his gloves on and must have left them at the entrance to the cave. I was ordered to remind him on the way out to look for them, otherwise I’d be abandoned at the roadside (a little harsh I thought..)

Further down the next pitch was a rebelay followed by an awkward swing round onto the ledge leading to the next traverse. This rift was wider than the previous and had less of a drop underneath but was still a little awkward in places. At the point where it widened out I found I couldn’t wedge myself in anymore and had a slight struggle getting down a ledge on the left without being pulled the other way by my cowstails. I just about made it without falling, but following behind me Anna wasn’t so lucky and let out a rather comical scream as she slipped off and swung onto her cowstails.

I got to the bottom of the final pitch to be told by Mark that we wouldn’t be able to go to the sumps and he showed me why… the way on was flooded with a torrent of water… hmm yeah probably not very safe to try and cross it! So once the others had joined us, back up we all went.

Having struggled in places on the way down, I decided I didn’t really fancy derigging the traverses and left Chuck with the honours, going infront to help pack the rope. I also wasn’t keen on doing the main pitch with the tackle sack, especially since some imbecile (who shall remain nameless ;) ) packed a 98m rope instead of a 60m… The only other big pitch I’d done was Hillocks back in November when it took me aaages to get to the top. But I guess the amount of caving since has helped, as I was rather impressed with the speed I got back up to the rift. There was a bit of a delay though as me and Mark weren’t sure if Chuck had heard my “rope free”. We’d heard an OK from somewhere but didn’t know if it was him or John who was on his way out the rift. There was so much noise in the cave that it was incredibly difficult to hear the shouts up and down the pitch. Eventually though after several more attempts at communication we saw Chuck ascending and Mark continued on while I waited. The rift traverse didn’t seem as bad on the way back and I reckon I would have actually been fine derigging it - Im quite gutted that I wussed out! Oh well, there’s always next time :)

Back up to the rock bridge and Chuck followed the others out leaving me to derig the final traverse line and entrance pitch. Undoing the final knot from the wall and swinging out into the middle of the pitch was great fun! Mark was waiting at the top to pack the rope but I’d already done most of it as I went so after collecting Chuck’s gloves (which he’d left behind again) we were soon off back to the car for a reasonably pleasant change. Made even more pleasant by consumption of the remainder of Anna’s banana bread, followed by my banana and oatmeal muffins. See, we organic chemists do have our uses – we’re good at baking things!!