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Penyghent Pot

By Martin Webster

During December, Dave Turner (BEC), Brian Woodward, Brian Talbert, Bob Craig (SMCC) and myself, spent a weekend in Yorkshire with the aim of bottoming Penyghent Pot. Although this cave is no longer the deepest in England, it still ranks as being very severe if tackling and de-tackling is to be competed in the same trip.

Our first problem occurred on the M6 when the throttle cable on the dormobile, in which we were travelling, broke.  Two hours and a tow from a rather disgruntled R.A.C. man, later we were on the move again; cable being joined with string!

After various stops we eventually reached Skirwith Farm at 5 o’clock in the morning and in sub-zero temperatures we quickly erected tents and tried to get a few hours sleep.

The next day, after sorting the tackle and having breakfast (which was in fact lunch by the time we arrived at the café) we set out for Penyghent.  The game-keeper was informed of our intentions and then we drove slowly up the track onto the fell.

The weather by this time was quite good and there seemed little likelihood of rain, so with high hopes we rapidly changed and started off across the moor top the cave.  At the cave entrance Dave sadly decided that he could only help us as far as the end of the canal, as the wet suit he had made out of very thick industrial neoprene was acting like a straight-jacket.  We all agreed that, in the circumstances, Dave was probably right and so we resigned ourselves to the thought of having to carry all the tackle with only four people.

It took 25 minutes to get along the canals to the first pitch.  The passage after this, which leads to the second pitch, is called the ‘Second Stretch’ and was most probably the most backbreaking place in the cave. The top of the main pitches was soon reached and the 60ft. vertical was found to be climbable, although a ladder was hung for the return trip.  For the 70ft. pitch, the ladder was hung under a low ‘roof’ of rock on the right; in this position the pitch was quite dry.  At the bottom we entered the Main Chamber though not as large as I had expected, was still and exhilarating place.

The way continues as quite a tight rift, broken at regular intervals by short pitches, some of which were possible to climb without tackle.  At one stage belays had been forgotten and so a return trip, through an extremely nasty, wet crawl had to be made to fetch them.

We made rapid progress, and after a chest deep walk through freezing water we emerged in Boulder Chamber, the only fairly dry place in the cave!  The following pitches seemed to get wetter and wetter and the waterfall at Niagara (the final pitch in the cave) was a fantastic sight.

The lower main stream did not really seem to take on the ‘ Master Cave’ proportions we had been expecting, although the water does get quite deep in places.  When we finally reached the sump it appeared so suddenly that Bob jumped in to make sure we had really got there!

The return to Boulder Chamber was quite fast and here we munched our way through a pile of chocolate and mint cake.  The short pitches were soon passed and the main pitches were found to be not quite as bad as we had feared.  By this time we were carrying nearly as much water in out tackle as tackle, and so ‘Second Stretch’ was found to be particularly arduous.  A welcome change of technique came when the canals were reached, however, by the time we eventually reached the tight entrance shaft, after 6½ hours underground, a distinct dislike for canals had been developed!!

Feeling suitable pleased with our efforts we raced down the hill and reached the dormobile in record time. Following a quick change we were soon enjoying pie and peas in one of the local pubs.

In retrospect, the cave was just as severe as we had thought it was going to be.  If a team with previous knowledge of the cave did it, very much less tackle would be needed, as we found the shorter ladder lengths and belays (than listed in P.U.) were sufficient and some of the pitches could be climbed, although great care in the far reaches should be exercised.  The cave appeared to be extremely liable to flooding; great quantities of foam were seen in the lower passages! To a strong team however, in dry weather the bottoming of this pot would be very pleasant and technically rewarding trip.

Just a Sec

With Alan Thomas

‘Thank you’ to all hose who have contributed either their own cash or their ingenuity in wresting cash from others for the Hut Fund.  Most recently Robin Richards got £2 in the Hunters by passing the hat round after a short burst of drunken carol singing.  Any bright ideas for 1969?  Thanks also to Joyce and Pete Franklin for catering so admirably for the Belfry Christmas and to Robin (of the carol singing fame!) for donating a barrel of beer for the same cause.

I don’t know if any of the B.E.C. met Hans Siegls son, Wolfgang, at the 1966 Raucherkar Expedition, but we learn with regret of his death in the Dachstein in October.  Older members will also be saddened to hear of the death of Les Browne.  Members will remember Mr. Browne’s activities at Browne’s Hole.

Dave Smith has taken over the Postal Department of the B.B. and we should be grateful to him for volunteering for this arduous task.