Saturday November 13th 2010
Cat, Nikki, Richard G
Sunday October 11th 2009
Spectacle Pot - Vesper Pot (not quite an exchange!)
Gary, Matt, Chad, Thomas, Chuck, Mark
After a leisurely breakfast at Helwith Bridge we made our way down to Kingsdale for a Vespers - Spectacle exchange. Chad, Tom, Gary and I were on Spectacle and Mark, Cat and Chuck on Vespers. We arrived at our respective entrances around 1pm ready for action!
The entrance pitch to Spectacle is pleasantly easy, although the knob of rock to rig off requires a close eye to make sure the sling stays on there! The pitch lands in a small chamber with a rift leading downwards into the distance, littered with several sheep bones (one skull placed high up in the rift for dramatic effect). Very soon (after only around 20 m) Splutter crawl was reached. We expected this to be a flat out wet bedding, however, to our surprise, it was actually a tiny tube at floor level, barely body size, for approximately 4-5m. It really does look frignteningly small!
Gary pushed on into the crawl, one arm forward, one arm back to streamline his bones, and with SRT kit pushed ahead with the tacklesack. On several occassions he nearly lost his nerve but after a couple of minutes struggling he slipped through to the ladder which he descended head first! I nervously adopted the position ready to come along the crawl. I initially tried to go along with both arms ahead outstretched but there was no chance this was going to work! I retreated from the crawl and repositioned my arms, one forward, one back, ready for my second attempt. This seemed to work well, however, once into the tighted part, all you could do was propel yourself with little pushing motions of your feet. You are totally constricted at this point and movement of your arms, torso or head is completely impossibly - it's down to wiggles of your feet only to push you through, literally half a centimeter at a time. After a terrifying few minutes it opened up slightly before the ladder. The head-first descent seemed a breeze by comparison!
To add insult to my struggled, Tom then slipped through and barely touched the sides, popping out with his infamous comment of 'that wasn't too bad'! Maybe I need to go on a diet!
Gary rigged the next pitch, although as one of the spits was knackered, it was a one-bolt wonder backed up off the ladder (which itself would not have fitted down the pitch). The short pitch lands in a chamber, yet more bones from unfortunate woolley friends. A short flat out crawl reaches a flow of water followed by a shorter easier section to a large aven where SRT gear could be removed ready for the crawl ahead.
The following crawl was approximately 30-40m long, constricted, wet, and very sharp and jagged, very unpleasant indeed, involving a complete soaking and many tacklesack jammings! However, our guidebook estimated 6-8 minutes, and so I was relieved after only a couple of minutes of struggling to see Garys light ahead say at the end of the crawl just prior to Dodds pitch.
Dodds pitch provided some rigging dilemmas. We were unable to locate the rebelay bolt one metre down, and so Gary descended without it. However, while swinging around looking for the deviation about 15-20m down, the rope started rubbing badly at the pitch head. I had to perform a constricted pitch head manoeuver (the pitch is reached flat out) to remove my kneepads and jam them between the rope and the wall where it was rubbing, and Tom then held them in place. Gary slowly ascended back up and we finally found the rebelay to avoid the rub. He then descended and after much searching, the less than ideal (given the crumblyness of the walls) deviation flake was found.
We could hear the others by now and assumed they were already down at the Great Rubble Heap waiting for us... we didn't want to miss the exchange (I was looking forward to a nice easy trip out of Vespers) so we hurried to the head of the pitch to the Great Rubble Heap which was easily descended and saw the other group rigging the last pitch of Vespers above.
Unfortunately, one of the spits at the top of the Vespers pitch was knackered, and could not be tightened - and so all that was availably to rig off was one less than perfect spit and a dodgy natural as a backup. Mark made the sensible descision not to descend, and so we were faced with the prospect of a painful trip back up Spectacle, which actually didn't seem so bad on the return.
We returned to the surface still with daylight at around 6pm, feeling pleased to have bottomed this difficult cave! The others were only minutes behind in coming out of Vespers. This was a great trip, would love to complete the exchange once the final pitch of Vespers has been P-hangered.