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Lost Johns New Roof Traverse

by Martin Webster

The Lost John’s System has long been one of the caves on our visiting list, and in February, our little group of fanatics decided it was time to cross it off.

The sun shone brightly as the transit van slowly ground up the narrow winding lane.  Behind us stretched the gentle slopes of Leck Fell and in the far distance the rugged Lakeland hills sought prominence on the horizon.

We soon found a place to park and rapidly changed into our caving gear.  The cave lies in a small rocky depression only a few yards form the lane, so it was quickly located.  The New Roof Traverse was passed without any difficulty, and Number One Hole was soon reached and descended.

The next two pitches, Vestry then Pulpit, which followed shortly afterwards were both quite tight and ladders were used on both although they could be free climbed with difficulty. Pulpit Pitch ends on a large ledge at the top of Cathedral Pitch.  There are two obvious ways down, one to the right as you face the ladder and the other one straight on down.  As there was very little water in the cave that day, we used the ladder, belaying to a large flake of rock.

The passage at the bottom is, again, quite constricted but the seventy foot deep Dome Pitch was soon reached.  On this we set up a double lifeline, as it is quite difficult to lifeline from the top. As soon as we were all down, we set off along a large passage to the left; down a twenty foot pitch; through a sandy chamber and then down a thirty five foot pitch into a chamber with a large stream entering.  It was at this stage that we began to have doubts as to which route we were doing. Our fears were soon realised when it turned a corner and the passage disappeared into a sump.  We were, of course, in Sink Chamber at the end of the Shale Cavern Route!

We were soon back in Dome Chamber, where we found the correct way on was through a small obscure hole at the end of a short traverse to the right of Dome Pitch.  The passage soon widened out and descended a series of short pitches, all of which could have been free climbed if need be. Battle Axe Pitch, which we were expecting to be quite wet, was virtually dry except for the last fifteen feet where the main stream is met coming from Shale Cavern and the Old Roof Traverse routes.

Wet Pitch, which follows almost immediately, lived up to its name, although in wet weather it can be laddered further out in the rift to make it easier.  A short length of passage followed to the final pitch which again could be laddered dry, through the eyehole on the right.

We were soon at Ground Sheet Junction, which marks the entrance to the master cave system.  The Main Drain was very much smaller than expected, although the passage was excellent for speed caving.  At one stage we almost broke into a run.  As one of the team had forgotten to bring his wet suit, we didn’t bother going right to the downstream end although on later inspection of the survey we found we must have got very close to the terminal sump. The upstream was followed to see if we could get into the new dry master cave above Lyle Cavern, but we found that some quite difficult climbs were involved, so we had a look at Lost Pot Inlet instead.  The formations in Lyle cavern are quite impressive, mainly being in the form of large cascades.

The trip out was interesting but uneventful and, although the master cave had proved disappointing, the very sporty nature of the entrance system more than made up for it. The entrance was finally regained after a very fine seven and a half hour trip.

July Committee Meeting

Owing to the absence of many members of the committee due to annual holidays, there was no quorum for the July meeting and thus no meeting was held.