Sunday August 7th 2016
Boxhead Pot - Lost Johns Pot
Chuck, Gary, Matt
Sunday September 22nd 2013
Boxhead Pot - Lost Johns Pot
Gary, John D, Laura, Margot, Matt, Toby (YCUCP), Luke (YUCPC), Andy H (YUCPC)
John D wrote...
Boxhead to Lost Johns is a cracking through trip, which included the Tate Galleries and the Lyle Cavern series, both hugely remote areas of Lost John's pot during the early 80's. Before the relatively recent discovery of Boxhead pot, a trip to the high level Lyle Cavern and back out through Lost John's on ladders was always a major undertaking.
The team assembled at mid-day and, after some faffing, located the correct shakehole. At this point, a local team of three arrived - with an intention of surveying new passages. The lead surveyor seemed surprised at the YCC's comments about the magnetic switch on a Stenlight affecting compass readings - so the rumours of a Three Counties passage heading towards Exaclibur may indeed be inaccurate. At this point, I noted the 50:50 male to female ratio and quite frankly I have never seen so many hard core female cavers underground at the same time.
The pitches into Boxhead proved to be similar to the final pitch of Juniper Gulf and were very impressive. The engineering at the head of the 33M entrance pitch was very impressive. Especially considering that, at some point, someone was prodding foot level boulders at the top of a choked 100M shaft - with a crowbar.
At the point where the Tate Galeries run off from a ledge on the big pitch one can look into the huge parallell Lost Pot shaft. This infamous scene of a major digging effort collapsed many years ago in an incident that almost killed a member of the Red Rose. Seeing the huge amount of rubble at the bottom of the wet shaft (which used to reside at the pitch head) was sobering.
The Tate Galleries were unexpected and proved to be interesting "Northern Dales" type caving, including small keyhole passages, tight little rifts, crawls through pools and an abundance of mud. Routefinding was interesting and awkward, especially since the smallness of the passages was unexpected. At one point (while inserted into a Jenga type tube) Gary threw a hissy fit and Mat had to extract him rearwards, feet first, without the SRT kit he was wearing when he entered.
The next main obstacle was the Quote " Fascinating" climb as detailed in "Not for the Feint Hearted". This was a slippy, just off vertical, spiral climb up a very smooth scalloped passage. Even given a hawser laid handline this proved difficult for those with short legs and it proved safer to drop an SRT rope down from the top so those of smaller stature could reach the much larger passage above.
This point on the reverse journey is a critical point to identify and would be very easy to miss. Larger abandoned passages followed until a drop down into a immature streamway led downwards to the top of the Lyle Cavern pitch.
An in situ SRT rope was in place (as this is needed to reverse the lower Boxhead round trip through "The Tube" as detailed in NFTFH.
Some discussion was had as to the suitability of the rope and old exploratory spits. JD, being an old guy, thought the tackle looked immensely strong - being more used to abbing off single half drilled bolts, tied off pegs and rotten fenceposts.
The Lyle Cavern area of Lost Johns is very impressive, huge soaring avens coated with flowstone and an immense rift passage lying just above the Lost Johns main drain. A twenty foot handline climb down vertical flowstone proved tricky but dropped onto a boulder ruckle which, previously, a YCC team had reached from the Lost Johns end earlier in then year.
With no sign of the York University team from Lost Johns there was a fifteen minute panic as the Boxhead team contemplated having to return back through the delights of the Tate Galleries. Garry and John set off in the search for unsuspecting students and found them having just decended the final pitch of Lost Johns. Delivering our charges to the Boxhead team they were given precise route descriptions "turn left at the sunglassess" "Don't miss the two foot of hawser going into a boulder ruckle" and "the arrow made out of straws pointing to a hole were you don't want to go IS the way on" and finally "when you reach the blue plumbing follow it to the surface". Then the Boxhead team legged it towards the safety of Lost Johns, before the three hard core students could mutter "Sunglasses?".
The journey up Lost Johns (essentially a repeat of the earlier recce trip) proved uneventful except for a couple of points. Firstly the physical effects three hugely heavy tackle bags on the more aged male members of the YCC whose memories of being fit hard core student cavers were to say the least "distant".
The second point, was that four out of five Yorkies have clearly never perused "Potholing beneath the Northern Pennines" by David Heap which, published in 1964 clearly illustrates Quicksand passage as leading to the now blocked "Old Entrance". After unsuspectingly checking the blocked old entrance passage the intrepid team (s) returned to the easily mistaken junction with the existing entrance and were greeted with "been to see quicksand cave?" from JD (a Dave Heap trained "Old Timer").
Another period of panic set in when it started to get dark (and the YCC team started to feel guilty with respect to the, sunglasses, hawser, stal and plumbing instructions given to the unsuspecting student team). This time, discussions revolved around having to put wet gear on And go back into the Tate Galleries. Despite many halucinatory (wishfull thinking) sights of lights on the fell, an eventual "confirmed sighting" of the University team in the darkness was happily recieved with Car Headlights - to guide them to the safety of the road and prevent the YCC tackle dissapearing the wrong way into the darkness.
In all this was a hugely enjoyable trip, and although well planned and organised - still left sufficient doubt in place to retain an element of uncertainty - which brought just the right level of tension. A similar "Head to Head" (Boxhead pot to Deaths Head pot) exchange would be an excellent addition to a future meets list.
Sunday February 7th 2010
Boxhead Pot - Lost Johns Pot
Mark, Matt, Gary, Richard G, ,
A superb trip, one of the finest I have ever done!
We were really efficient, arriving for breakfast at Bernieâ€™s for 9:45am! Mark, Gary and I were joined by Rich, Steve and Ellie. The intention was originally just Boxhead Pot however the decision was made to go for the exchange with Lost Johns (via Centipede route). I was sceptical, owing to the complicated nature of this exchange however we decided to give it a go, and after a quick breakfast we were on Leck Fell, cold but thankfully not raining.
Gary, Mark and I went down Boxhead. The spectacular entrance pitch was amazing, and Gary quickly headed down to start rigging the main pitch and into the Kendal Flyover. We had a failed attempt here last year, however, conditions were much drier this time, and after 20 minutes of searching, Gary found the swing into the rift, and we promptly made our way down. The pitch is amazing, a beautiful free-hang down a spectacular shaft. As I abseiled down I wondered if there was actually any bottom to it (the spray from the water made visibility poor)! We reached the rift, on the right hand wall, about 20m up from the actual floor (which we could just see by this point), and we swung into it without any difficultly. Another short pitch, followed by a final 3m pitch to a muddy ledge was followed by a crawl leading off at floor level (the Kendal Extensions). Route finding along this crawl and the subsequent network of passage all the way to Lost Johns was much easier thanks to the excellent â€˜Not For The Faint Heartedâ€™ description. A short way along the crawl, you take the right branch and the passage becomes keyhole shape, requiring traversing high up until a constricted downward climb is reached, with an in-situ handline. Below this a crawl through water reaches a refreshing low wallow to pop up in a decorated chamber. More crawling and stooping followed, with a sharp left hand bend shortly after a very high aven, to eventually reach a broken climb up using an in-situ handline â€“ the book described this as a fascinating climb, and it certainly was! At the top, squeezing through blocks brought us up into the huge passages of the Leck Fell Master Cave, where we met the other group and exchanged navigational instructions.
Onwards from there, the passages remained impressively large, and then the next pitch was met with an in-situ rope in thankfully good condition (we had brought a rope for this however we sent it back with the other team when it turned out not to be needed). Abseiling down this brought us into probably one of the most spectacular huge and well decorated chambers in Yorkshire, which was both breathtaking and awe-inspiring. The roar of the Master Cave stream could be heard below. A climb down blocks gained the stream, and a short stomp (via a short stoop/crawl), reached the junction with the Lost Johns water on the right (marked by a cairn). Just up here the roar of the water increased and the bottom pitch of the Lost Johns was soon reached. We were so happy, not only to have successfully navigated the trip, but also to have found such a gem underneath Leck Fell that we previously had no idea about! Iâ€™d done Lost Johns several years back but only to the bottom of the final pitch â€“ I had no idea what amazing passage lay only just beyond here!
Lost Johns was a slog upwards â€“ weâ€™d been going for nearly four hours without stopping for more than a minute, and derigging Battleaxe traverse was highly draining, especially after the prussic up Valhalla pitch (approx 40-50m). However, the satisfaction of completing the trip overcame the tiredness, and we rattled up Lost Johns in no time, exiting the cave with a total trip time of only about 5.5 hours, arriving to the surface for the last glimmer of daylight. The other team had emerged only half an hour earlier.
To finish the day off in the best possible way, we went to the Game Cock in Austwick for pizza, beer a warm fire and great company (you canâ€™t ask for any better an end to a hard days caving), and then arriving back in York at a very civilised 9pm.
This was a truly amazing trip, with a bit of everything. You get a stunning entrance pitch, followed by a spectacular main shaft in Boxhead, some pleasant crawls, some route finding challenges, exciting climbs, a short but refreshing wallow in water (which turns out to have been greatly welcomed in advance of the extensive horizontal cave ahead), an amazing master cave with stomping streamway, huge chambers and flowstone, and then a superb ascent up Lost Johns with the infamous Battleaxe traverse and then easy going pitches to the surface. Probably my favourite trip in ages and would definitely like to do it again perhaps in reverse this time.
Matt & Gary arrived 10 minutes early, and amazingly I was already packed and ready to go. After a diversion back to their house (!) to pick up the rest of the descriptions, we were on our way to the Dales. Bernies was reached 20 mins ahead of schedule, and after weâ€™d long finished breakfast, the others met us (about 20 minutes behind scheduleâ€¦!). There was a bit of indecision as to whether to go for the exchange or whether to just have an explore at the bottom of Boxhead, but having done neither I was keen to do the exchangeâ€¦and thankfully that was the decision!
Off we went down Boxhead, which was pretty stunning to say the least. In hindsight, perhaps not the best cave to experiment with my Simple on, but isnâ€™t hindsight a wonderful thing?! The rocks perched above the 70m pitch were a bit unnerving, but nothing slipped so all was good!
After waiting a little while for Gary to rig the Kendal Flyover we heard a shout of, â€œI canâ€™t find the p-hangersâ€, but we didnâ€™t really fancy prussiking back out, only to go and do a different route down Lost Johns, so we stood and waited. After a while there was a shout of, â€œItâ€™s time to goâ€¦!â€. I thought that was a pretty odd way of phrasing things when youâ€™re half way down a 70 odd metre pitch, so I yelled down assuming Iâ€™d mis-heard. The reply came back up: â€œIâ€™ve found the p-hangersâ€¦but itâ€™s time to go!â€. By this point I had no idea what Gary was on aboutâ€¦talk about a defeatist mentality! One more go and the reply again came back: â€œIâ€™ve found the p-hangersâ€¦but Iâ€™ve gone too lowâ€. That made much more sense and in no time at all I was on my way down!
We were soon at the bottom of the stunning pitch and negotiating our way on; the first challenge was a tight climb downâ€¦and once weâ€™d popped through that I was keener than ever to do the exchange! I really didnâ€™t fancy going up that. The next section was described as a wet crawl ending with a brief wriggle through water. The crawl was annoying, but the wriggle wasnâ€™t too badâ€¦until we popped up into the little chamber at the end and realised that the way on was a squeeze under a block about 6 inches above the water level! Once weâ€™d all thrashed our way through this and had been suitably fascinated by the climb, we met the others and I realised how long it was since Iâ€™d seen carbide!
Spirits rose even further at this point â€“ if theyâ€™d got that far having followed the description backwards then there was no way we could fail! The abseil down the fixed rope was stunning â€“ I had no idea there was so much cave down there! An equally impressive stomp down the streamway soon lead us to the Lost Johns inlet and up we went. My legs were still hurting a bit from my run on Friday (poor decision), but the real challenge came doing Battle Axe traverse for the first time with a monster bag of wet rope hanging below me. All good fun though :-)
The rest of the ascent was a stunning exhibition of derigging by myself & Matt, and we were soon emerging into the failing light, 5 Â½ hours after going underground. What a fantastic day! :-)
Saturday July 25th 2009
Gary, Matt, Chad, Ade, Laura
With our long-awaited permit for Boxhead pot, we arrived at the dales as it started to rain. Of course this is nothing unusual, especially for Leck Fell! So, being a load of wimps, we decided to pack the ropes INSIDE the car, having been too un-organised to pack them before we left York.
After wasting as much time as possible sitting in the car, hoping it would stop raining we made a dash for it and got geared-up. We made the short walk over to Boxhead and climbed down into the rather wet shake hole with an impressive plastic pipe sticking out. Ade started to rig the wet and rather awkward tube. We waited at the top listening to the expletives emanating from the tube and moaning about how wet it was. Things werenâ€™t looking good but we all gave it a go anyway. We made it down to to the top of the second pitch and Add went off to rig. Shortly, he appeared again, unable to find the way on so I took over making the descent down the even wetter second pitch. I decided that it was too wet to continue so told everyone to start heading out.
Rather annoyed that the day had been cut short, we thought weâ€™d have a go at Lost Johns seeing as the permit covered that too. We split into two groups, Ade and Chad went off down Centipeed route while Matt, Laura and myself did the center route. We rattled down and met up with the others at the bottom in excellent time, made the exchange and headed out.
Not quite the day we had planned but half of two caves makes for a good days caving. Boxhead is defiantly one to go back to when its dryer as it is quite an impressive entrance shaft.
With the weather being typically wet on the Leck Fell Microclimate system, ropes were packed in the car. We eventually plucked up the courage to venture out and get changed and made our way over to Boxhead.
The entrance is an impressive plastic pipe sticking out of the ground, below which an amazing entrance pitch bellows out - it was a bit drippy but one of the most impressive welcomes to any cave! We quickly got down to the head of the second pitch, which Gary went down. Unfortunately and not unsurprisingly, it was perilously wet and so we retreated out to do a quick venture down Lost Johns instead. Definitely one to return to in better weather.