Saturday November 13th 2010
Spectacle Pot P-Hangering
Mark, Gary, Matt
After our trip down Spectacle Pot in October 2009, this was a cave that was high on our priority list to return to â€“ and install P-hangers! Having completed the course, Mark and Gary were the installers and I was the bag carrier and general dogsbody! A team of Rich, Nikki, Cat and Andy also headed off down Vespers.
On our last trip we found several of the spits to be in very dodgy condition, and with the increased popularity of this trip thanks to the NFTFH guidebook, it was time to ensure the accessibility of this cave for the future (especially with the bottom trip of Vespers now P-hangered and an exchange being an excellent trip).
With four tacklesacks between three people, we set up a hauling line along Splutter Crawl, which worked well and all tacklesacks were efficiently passed through. Then the hard job of fitting ourselves through it began! The crawl last time was completely dry, and so it made it more intimidating with flowing water going through this time, resulting in a complete wetting from the off! However, with the one arm forward and one arm back approach we all popped through trouble-free (and in fact the water seemed to help lubricate us on our way).
Quick progress to the wet crawl â€“ which was very wet! We pushed through this, with tacklesacks jamming everywhere, and with water sufficiently high to force you to have to get your head quite wet in some extremely smelly and sheep-bone infested water! We were pleased to arrive at Doddâ€™s Pitch and expecting to be unwell the next day!
Not making the same mistake as last time, we found the rebelay one metre down, however, rope rub was unavoidable, and again it took ages to locate the flake deviation. By the time the pitch was rigged we were suitably cold, and looking forward to getting down there! We arrived down to the pitch to the Great Rubble Heap to find Cat and Andy coming down from Vespers (Rich and Nikki had already turned around).
We didnâ€™t descend this last pitch to the Great Rubble Heap but instead set about installing P-hangers, including two for a traverse down to this pitch head, and one for a single hang down to the floor, which seemed adequate. Doddâ€™s pitch was also hangered quicker than I expected, with two traverse line hangers placed, followed by a single bolt hang for a couple of metres down to a Y-hang above the main pitch. An anchor was installed for the deviation (just below the flake used previously), on the sturdiest looking bit of rock we could find â€“ of which there werenâ€™t many! This could also be used as a re-belay.
The drill batteries (and our energy levels) were now low and we decided to call it a day and return to hanger the first and second pitch tomorrow, but we were pleased that we wouldnâ€™t have to come back through the wet crawl tomorrow!
The wet crawl out was not pleasant, as we were all very cold and wet now and nothing could have looked more unappealing! At one point (the wettest bit near the end) I kept too far left and ended up with my head jammed between the floor and ceiling with water lapping against my mouth (I was pushing and pulling a tacklesack so couldnâ€™t see where I was going and had limited manoeuvrability). A moment of panic, but this was soon over and we were through the worst. We were out of the cave within an hour of this point, and at Bull Pot Farm for 9:30pm for curry and beer!
The following day we made short work of hangering the entrance pitch (one hanger backup, and one hanger on the wall opposite the knob for a clear hang) and the second pitch (one hanger backup near the ladder, and one above the pitch for a single hang). We were in and out in less that three hours, and very pleased with the job.
Therefore Spectacle should now be riggable for the foreseeable future, and provides a classic exchange with Vespers â€“ highly recommended, although if anyone has doubt about fitting through Splutter Crawl, they should try it for size from the surface size before committing to an exchange going down Vespers and out Spectacle! Spectacle is a great trip, and an efficient team should be able to reach the bottom in two hours from the surface, with an exchange taking approximately 4-5 hours.
The P-hangers follow almost the same line as the old spits, and therefore the rigging guide is relatively similar to that from NFTFH, however, it would be advisable to add an additional 10m to the length for Doddâ€™s Pitch and 5 m to the Great Rubble Heap pitch to allow for comfortable rigging with the new hangers.
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.