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Lancaster Hole - Pippikin Pot - 20th Feb 2010

Saturday February 20th 2010

Members present: Catherine Moody,  Chuck Holder,  Nicola Gover,  Richard Gover

Report by Nicola Gover

This trip nearly killed me!

The first half went fairly well. Got to the YSS hut in time for a quick breakfast then headed straight out, and the Echo Aven pre-rigging team (Rich and Chuck) were off by 11.30. Me and Cat followed after a little sunbathe and lovely warm change, getting to Lancaster Hole about half 12. The others arrived shortly after and we set off down. A quick stomp to Stake Pot and off down the EPC71 route to the 88 ft pitch (I forget the order of the passages in between so might fill this bit in later!). Got to Rat Pit chamber in plenty of time, pausing along the way to see where we got lost on the Top Sink-Link trip (Brew Chamber and evil Equinox Hall!). On down the very echoey 88 ft pitch and quickly to the wormway. Love that sumpy smell in there! We also found (possibly) Andy T's mars bar lost on the previous trip-it did not look tasty! Not long til we were at Echo Aven, and up the pitch (aided at the top by some very useful slings on the traverse line-recommended!). We resisted the urge to head out Link, and tied our bags to the Link pitch to be hauled up later.

On through the link to Mistral, which is much grimmer than I remember, lots of crawling on gravel and cobbles, some of it wet and all of it just lower than comfortable crawling height. This tired me out quite a lot but again managed to resist the call of daylight (perhaps a mistake this time!).
On to Hall of the 10 and the Pippikin streamway and we were at the bottom of the 6th pitch and ready to go.

The first (last) pitch wasnt as bad as I remembered and a managed to avoid getting wedged at the top like last time which gave me confidence. Removed most of my SRT kit and attached it to a cowstail in anticipation of the rift, but it turns out we really were at the wrong height last time (we crawled along at floor level-which is very small and sends you down into a dead end!), so space wasnt quite so tight. A fairly awkward and tiring traverse though. Next is a very awkward sling climb and tight rift, which Rich helped me up. The second pich follows after, then a couple of easy squeezes and the third pitch, which takes you to the bottom of Stemple Rift. Scene of my undoing!

We'd decided it was best to go me-Rich-Cat-Chuck in order, in case anyone (me) needed pushing up stuff, so that meant me first. This was perhaps not such a good plan! I got to the top and on to the Stemple, and with a bit of wimpering managed to get onto the stemple and take my jammers off, then with help from Rich pushing below I got into the rift squeeze. Unfortunately I managed to get just far enough that Rich could only just reach me before becoming totally wedged. I think the main problem was not getting enough height (tall people may actually find this squeeze easier) to get me into the widest bit, so I kept slipping down and wedging again. After a lot of struggling, wimpering and pushing from both me and Rich (the wimpering from him every time I stood on his neck or kicked his head!) I was truly wedged, not sure I could even back out and contemplating that I might have to be properly rescued (which would be a long cold painful wait!). All of this with my head and arms pretty much out of the squeeze, and using the next pitch's rope to pull on! Luckily after resting for a bit I managed to wiggle back slightly and was able to remove my harness (thank god for Omnis!) and cowstails. With this extra centimetre or so of size reduction and a big last push from Rich I finally managed to pull myself free! Not sure how long this took-at least half an hour-but it used up pretty much all of my strength (and most of Rich's) and pulled every muscle in my body. Seriously scared me too! Never going to look at tight rifts in the same way again!

Cat was next to try and managed much much better (a mix of longer legs, smaller bum and probably more skill I think!), getting through with only minor struggles (at the same place I had issues). Then it was Chuck's turn. He tried very hard (again with Rich pushing) but couldn't get enough push with his legs at the right angle (I think-I was mainly shivering round the corner at this point!) and eventually had to give up. As I wasnt at all confident I could manage the rift lower down if we backed out, and REALLY didnt want to go in the squeeze again, it was decided that me and Cat would continue out of Pippikin, then head down to Link to derig and meet the others, who would go back and come out of Mistral.

We took a long time getting out of Pippikin as I had zero strength left (even getting off pitch heads was incredibly painful and hard!) and had to attempt each squeeze several times, standing on Cat a lot! These squeezes were much easier, but the fear and weakness made me find them really hard and scary. Eventually got out the last squeeze that I hadn't done upwards before (on a previous trip we got to just after the eyehole before turning back) and I knew we were safe! Got through those two with not too much struggling, and had a brief panic when I couldnt immediately see the entrance pitch rope (we'd talked earlier about how it was of dubious health and might get removed soon), but it was just a couple of metres off the ground so all was well! After a brief rest we put our SRT kits on(passed along since the previous pitch) and headed out into the cold.

Very cold and frosty outside, so we headed quickly downhill towards the others, veering right when it started to get steep. We were just beginning to wonder where to try to get down, when we heard shouting, then saw lights. It was the others come looking for us as they'd got out much quicker and were worried. They'd brought a rope to rescue us and everything :-). Relieved to see them, we slipped down the slope to emerge by Link Pot, where we accidentally left the "rescue" rope. A slow, tired walk back, via Lancaster Hole to retrieve rope, then a very cold change, with our gear freezing to the floor! A very slow, tired drive back to curry and tea.

Dont want to go up Pippikin again, I think I've found my limit! Might consider down again one day..
Moral of the story: don't assume you can get up what you can get down and if you get stuck dont tire yourself out struggling-rest and rethink! Oh and buy an Omni. Worth every penny!