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More Adventures of Another Pooh!!

When I read my article in the 60th anniversary BB, I could only think "Did I really write that Drivel."  I had liked it at first, but seeing it in print, somehow made me more critical. So, I was very chuffed, when just after Jingles had narrowly beaten me to some choice Albums, on sale by Andy and Angie Cave; he told me that several people had told him how much they enjoyed reading my offering. "Could I give him some more, within a week ?"

We left Pooh, at the tender age of eighteen, about to embark upon a rather disastrous academic career! We rejoin him ten years later; older, no wiser, but a seasoned World traveller! This is Pooh in his prime! .....

I returned to England; in the summer of 1978; after spending nearly three years working as a labourer in outback Australia.  I had managed to save up a bit of money.  Some of it already spent, wandering around South-East Asia on my way to England.  I was planning to stay in the UK for perhaps three months and thought I would fit in a few caving trips during this period, just for old times sake, of course, and nothing very difficult or dangerous.  I had almost convinced myself that I had no desire to do any more hard caving, and as for cave diving, well that was quite out of the question.  I intended to return to Australia and make a lot of money in business, although my plans were somewhat vague in this respect.

Up on the Mendips, I went into the Hunters on a Friday evening.  As I walked in the door, I was greeted by several of my old caving mates shouting, "It's the Boy!!" and demands for pints owed from previous years. Roger Dors, greeted me as if I had last been in his pub the weekend before.  It was good to be back and very soon Chris Batstone of the BEC had offered to accompany me to Swildons sump 2 the following day.  We had a lot of fun, splashing around the streamway, which was in a sportingly wet condition.  I decided to stay up at the Belfry that night as I was having such a good time.

In the pub that evening, I heard that the NCC had pushed King Pot, in Yorkshire, to a series of pitches and crawls, that lead, eventually to the East Kingsdale Main Drain (or Master Cave!!)  Getting quite enthusiastic about caving, after a few pints, I told everybody that I would descend this new find at the first opportunity.  Shortly after this decision, I was delighted to see that Pete and Alison Moody had arrived.  They told me all about how Pete was planning to Dive a sump in Lionel’s Hole, the following day, but they were in need of transport.  I offered to drive them over to Burrington, and well, I could even help carry the gear down the cave!  The evening continued in a jovial fashion, and then Pete announced, that perhaps he didn't really want to dive all that much.  Would I like to do the dive instead?

"Definitely not"

''You wouldn't have to carry any of the gear"

"No Way, Bugger off Moody"

"I'm sure this sump will go, it's nice as well"

"Ohh, all right!!"

Come Sunday morning, feeling unwell, I was appalled to discover that Pete and Alison were still very enthusiastic about the trip.  Very soon, accompanied by several other cavers we were forcing our way down a horrible, cold, tight, muddy cave.  Mercifully it didn't take very long to reach the sump.  As far as I was concerned, the one redeeming feature of this cave was it's short length.  Lying in a squalid pond being helped to kit up by Pete, I resolved to only go in for a meter or two and then pretend the sump was too tight, if indeed it wasn't anyway, as seemed rather likely.

I entered feet first, on a base fed line.  Once under water I felt more relaxed and even though the sump was tight I didn't stop, as planned, but kept going and passed the sump after 6 meters.  After only a few meters of cave passage I reached another sump and dived again.  After going down vertically for 3 meters, the way on was too small to follow.  To my surprise I realised I was enjoying all this!!

We emerged into bright sunlight in Burrington Combe.  A family was having a picnic, outside the entrance.  I think they were a bit shocked to see us seemingly appear from nowhere.  As cavers will, we started to peel off our muddy rags.  We had no intention of causing a fuss, but I think our antics rather put the picnickers off their lunch as they quickly relocated, further up the road.  I was having a lot of fun being back with these outrageous caving friends and I realised that I was very quickly fitting back in to British caving.  I now wanted to do some hard trips!

A few days later I went to Yorkshire.  I met John (Lugger) Thorpe and Derek Crossland in the Craven Heifer, and they kindly agreed to show me their exciting new finds in King Pot.

I really enjoyed the several sporting wet pitches.  I was elated to be rediscovering caving, and although King Pot is actually quite a strenuous cave I felt quite at home in this newly opened system.  The crawls didn't seem too arduous really and the squeezes not ridiculously tight.  The loose boulders, I didn't like at all.  When we popped out at last into the East Kingsdale Main Drain I was a bit disappointed as it was smaller than The West Kingsdale Master Cave.  I soon became impressed again when we reached the upstream sump.  I really wanted to dive it!  The water was very clear and I could see straight down a wide flooded shaft. There was an excellent place to tie off a line, and kitting up would be so easy at the spacious sump pool.  I immediately started to enthuse about the possibilities of this site.  My enthusiasm was met with a cool response from my companions, who informed me that Derek was planning to dive both the upstream and downstream sumps and I would have to wait my turn, should I have plans to dive!

Back on the surface I found that Geoff Yeadon was interested in these sumps too, and I offered my services as support diver.  We both accepted that Derek should have first crack at them.  A few NCC stalwarts were prepared to carry for Derek, but not enough, for such a hard carry.  We were prepared to help the NCC carry the diving gear, in order to get involved in the operation.  Our motivation was, of course, far from altruistic and we planned to get involved in the actual diving as soon as we possibly could.

Dave Timmins and Bob (Henpot) Emmet were keen to join Geoff and myself in helping the NCC dive King. This meant that Derek now had enough carriers.  The date was set for the dive and we vaguely arranged with Derek and Lugger to meet in the Craven Heifer the night before, to discuss our plan of attack.  Nobody from the NCC actually turned up to this so called "planning meeting".  To make matters worse Geoff, Dave, Henpot and myself, drifted into a heavy drinking session.  We ended up more or less collapsing into Henpot's ramshackle caravan, to awake Saturday morning, feeling very ill indeed.

We found Lugger, Derek and other NCC wandering around Ingleton.  They still intended doing the dive but had failed to organise any air supplies!  Fortunately, Henpot had two 50 cubic feet bottles available and after a greasy breakfast and several pints of tea in one of the cavers' cafes we set off to King Pot.

I suffered a lot on the way down the cave.  We were all carrying heavy and awkward loads through this tortuous system.  Dave, Geoff and myself had very severe hangovers and someone complained that the air in the cave smelt of stale beer fumes. Unlike me and in contrast to my continual moaning, Geoff bore it all in silence.  Years later Geoff admitted to me that he really suffered on this carry, saying, “King Pot carrying bottles is quite horrible enough, even without a hangover".  I just could not get myself going into a relaxed flowing rhythm; so essential on long caving trips, and I was wasting energy thrashing around.  Derek and Lugger, as usual were caving very powerfully and had great fun pointing out that I only had myself to blame for my pathetic state.  I was in a dreadful mess by the time we reached King Henry Hall.  I lay around amongst the boulders, groaning.  Vowing to lead a more healthy lifestyle I concentrated on not being sick.  The NCC loved this melodramatic performance and in their delight, started to throw rocks at me.  I thought this so outrageous that I just had to laugh, I immediately felt a bit better, got to my feet and started to cave properly.

We reached the downstream sump quickly and Derek kitted up.  The sump looked very uninviting and intimidating.  The walls of the streamway were covered in slimy mud and the water was dark and cloudy with peat.  The sump pool was covered in froth.  I was glad I wasn't doing this dive.

Upon diving, Derek discovered he was wearing too much weight.  Unfortunately this realisation came too late as he had already begun a head first fall.  The sump was steeply sloping and Derek tumbled down, rapidly gaining depth and bouncing off small ledges as he went.  At a depth of 15m he was stopped by a wider ledge.  Derek could see the shaft going on down, but wisely chose to turn back.  He returned to base by pulling hand over hand on the line.

I think most divers would have felt they had had enough excitement for one day after such a frightening experience.  Derek, dedicated and determined explorer that he was, wanted to continue with the diving and we helped him walk fully kitted to the upstream sump.  He entered with less lead than downstream and had a much happier dive in two meter visibility.

He found the sump pool to be 8m deep and the way on down a shingle bank to a depth 11m.  A horizontal bedding led after 70m to a large circular passage which started to decrease in depth.  Derek, who was wearing only one wet suit was by now very cold and turned back to base.

We were very excited when Derek told us of his dive.  The end sounded most promising.  I was feeling a little hungry and remembered that I had packed a Mars Bar in my ammunition box.  I opened up the box and was confused when I couldn't find the Mars Bar.  I noticed that the NCC were watching me and that Lugger was grinning.  I came to the conclusion that they had pilfered my rations and accused them of this theft!  Nobody owned up, I started to get annoyed and tell the NCC that they really should be more organised and buy their own food.  Lugger responded by pushing me into the sump.

We decided to leave most of the gear in the cave, to be used for future dives.  We stored this equipment on a ledge, high above the stream, as a precaution against flooding.  We were well pleased with our efforts and made a rapid and enjoyable exit from the cave.  There was much hilarious banter as we raced against one another, all trying to be first back to the surface, with everybody attempting to get away with carrying as little as possible of the remaining diving equipment.  It seemed likely that the King Pot sumps would turn out to be long dives and so we unanimously decided that Geoff should dive next, wearing his dry suit.  This meant that we would have extra gear to carry in.  However, interest in these sumps was growing and we had no trouble getting extra people to join our team.

The following Sunday the original team along with many others assembled at Braida Garth.  Most of us had spent Saturday night at a disco in Ingleton, so we weren't all in prime shape.  I had somehow managed to strain a muscle in my leg, while attempting to dance to the Stranglers, and had a bit of trouble walking to the entrance. Once underground I was OK as King Pot is mostly crawling.  A fresh cylinder and Geoff's diving gear were taken down very quickly, due to the large number of people available to carry.

At the downstream sump, Geoff kitted up very smoothly and disappeared, slowly and in perfect control. He went down the shaft to a depth of 24m in very bad visibility to a point where he perceived the sump to be complex.  Geoff now had to return to base as he did not have sufficient air for a long dive at depth. Cutting the line, he deliberately left the end free, as he suspected that the line had been pulled into tight spots and would perhaps be impossible to follow if tied off at the far end.  He surfaced after five minutes underwater.

We then helped Geoff to walk fully kitted to the upstream sump.  While I was tying off his line, I foolishly put my ammunition box down and while I wasn't looking the NCC stole another one of my Mars Bars.

There was only just room at the sump to comfortably seat the large numbers of cavers who had turned up on this trip.  Geoff made another professional departure and we settled down to wait.  After about five minutes some of the group announced that they had pressing business to attend to on the surface, and set off out. Over the next forty minutes several more people apparently lost interest in the fate of our diver and disappeared without a word.  After an hour only Derek, Dave Timmins and myself were left.  Another, fifteen minutes passed, Geoff was now overdue and we were getting cold and starting to worry.  I started to hold on to the end of the line, hoping to feel it twitch. We turned out our lights, so as to be able to see the first faint glow of our Geoff's lights as he returned.  We started to say things like,  "Well either he has surfaced or he is about to run out of air".  I hate waiting for divers to return to base.

We were very relieved when we saw light coming from the bottom of the sump pool.  Geoff emerged shortly afterwards, somewhat surprised by the lack of carriers remaining.  He explained to us how he had surfaced after a dive of 80m in an underground lake in a large chamber.  A clean washed walking size streamway wound on for 250m to another sump.  He had noticed a low wet inlet and a dry side passage but explored neither to any conclusion.  A superb find.  We stored about half the gear for future use and set off out carrying very heavy loads. We eventually emerged totally shattered after a twelve hour trip ...........

That's your lot for now! If you want to find out more about our adventures in King Pot you will have to buy the book.  I intend to use any money I make from the venture, saving Rain Forests and don't want to cut profits by giving everything away for free!!

Dave (Pooh) Yeandle