Saturday May 16th 2015
David W, Gary, Laura, Matt
FOUL has been on my list of caves for some time after YUCPC members did it a couple of years ago.
Following my newly found dislike for caves in "the black book" (Not for the Faint Hearted), I was keen to be sure that it wasn't going to be 5 hours of tight thrutchy awfulness so I started looking through some reports online... maybe this cave wasn't such a good idea after all!
The reality however was that I was pleasantly surprised.
After seeking permission from Neils Ing Farm we headed off up the valley to park by Dale Head as it's quite a bit closer than walking from the farm - and not up hill all the way either. A quick change in the brisk wind of the fell and we had soon completed the nice 1km or so walk along the track leading back down dale.
The path takes a very obvious bend to the left then right again over a dry valley and FOUL pot is located about 100m over the wall. There is no good place to cross the wall in the dry valley so we headed back along the path a bit where the wall crosses some large boulders and it is possible to step over without causing any damage.
The entrance is an obvious shake hole with corrugated sheeting covering some rather rotten timbers above a 3m shaft. The way on didn't look to appealing at first sight as it starts with a flat out crawl but it is only short and followed by a wriggle up some blocks and into a good sized chamber. Another wriggle down through blocks leads to the top of an old wooden ladder which we had brought a hand-line for but it really don't need one. Just adjacent to the ladder is a very fine flowstone formation.
The way on is behind the flowstone at floor(ish) level. There is a way over the top but it looked a bit loose and dodgy. This leads to the head of the second pitch (30m rope) which is pretty easy to rig from a natural boss and a rather old anchor in the roof above the pitch (what could go wrong with that?) I backed up the rope around a large boulder just before the pitch head too. The descent is a fine shaft with a deviation part way down, however I did have a little "moment' when I realised I had clipped my Stop onto my harness leg buckle rather than my main mallion!
Following the pitch was the infamous squeezes. They look awful at first glance but actually are absolutely fine. The first is the smallest and is a sideways thrutch in a vertical rift, however the walls are smooth and the gap in the bottom is big enough to get your hand in but not for a bag to fall through. I took my SRT kit off to make it easier but could probably have done it with it on. The squeeze is only a couple of meters long and opens out to a much wider rift followed by a second, easier, squeeze.
More larger rift and a climb down which had an in-situ rope on it so we didn't need the 10m hand line we brought. It's a bit awkward climbing down so probably worth having a hand line with you just in case. This drops in to a very nice large chamber with a tall aven above and a load of bits of pipe, probably from an old dig. Again the way on looks awful but actually isn't at all. A wriggle under a block lands in a small stream passage and some easy crawling in a small amount of water then a 90 degree bend to the left where it gets bigger before dropping into a very nice vadose stream passage. The first thing you see ahead is a fab flowstone and further on, some very fine long straws (see photos).
The passage ends in some easy traversing up to the top of the big (50m rope) pitch. It looked like some new(ish) spits and hangers had been installed not that long ago so you can get a nice but large Y hang backed up from a couple of old rusty bolts further back. The pitch is spacious but steps out part way down so it took some adjustment of the Y hang to get it right but it's possible to get down without any rub. There is a bit of spray from halfway down but it wasn't bad at all (although there hadn't been much rain).
Just around the corner is another very short pitch but actually could have been free-climbed really. There is a hanger on a ledge on the right and a good place for a sling in the roof.
Immediately after is a very unusual lead-up to the final pitch. Rigged from a spit before a climb up over a tight bit of rift then a steep awkward descent down to the top of the pitch proper. This took the most amount of time to rig as it is very hard to get a free hang and we ended up with some mad tri-hang thing going on, but it did the job!
This pitch descends down the side of a very nice large chamber and lands onto a steep sloping block floor followed by a climb down (dug?) into a bit of stream passage and good size chamber. It's possible to follow the stream further and I was hoping for some more horizontal cave to explore but the passage soon ends in a sump. It looks like this area floods to the roof.
A very good days caving in a very under-visited and under-rated cave!
RIGGING (based on the TSG description - http://www.tsgcaving.co.uk/trip-reports/159-trip-to-foul-pot):
Unless otherwise stated, all bolts are spits and all hangers are insitu.
Pitch 1 - 10m rope reccomended by TSG but we didn't find it was necisary at all. The wooden ladder is fine.
Pitch 2 - 30m Rope, backed up to chockstone. Y-hang of stal boss and old eye bolt in roof. Deviation at top off stal then deviation at -4m with insitu sling.
Pitch 3 (optional handline) - 10m rope, rigged to obvious flake. Rope in-situ when we visited.
Pitch 4 - 50m rope, initial y-hang off insitu angle-iron bolts, then main hang off bolt around left corner. Then either a deviation off the bolt on the other side of shaft or a large y-hang. Deviation/y-hang needs careful positioning to avoid rope rub further down the pitch.
Pitch 5 - 10m rope, backup to bolt, then thread in roof. Again could be free-climbs really.
Pitch 6 - 35m rope, backed up to bolt before slippery climb up, then y-hang of bolts at pitch head. Deviation off flake at -10m. Y-hang needs careful positioning to avoid rub. TSG recommended 30m but we only just had enough at that.