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Passages Named Pooh

by Dave Yeandle

During the summer of 1972 I spent several weeks caving in the Pierre St Martin in France.  At the time it was the deepest cave in the world.  Our Expedition planned to make it even deeper.  One day Dave Gill, Paul Everett and I were pottering around near the bottom of a series of shafts called the Maria Dolores.  These shafts were completely separate from the Puits Parment series of shafts, which led to the deepest point in the cave.  Our plan was to push the bottom of the Maria Dolores to below the depth of the Parment and become "The deepest men in the world".  On an earlier trip Dave had found a pitch in amongst some nasty boulders at the bottom of a 35m pitch called Puits Sauron.  On that occasion he did not have sufficient ladders to explore further. As Dave now prepared to descend the new pitch I decided to have a look around the boulder choke.  I found that I could do a tricky, traverse over the new pitch and reach a continuing rift.  My carbide light was very dim by now so I stopped to fettle it.  To my mild surprise I soon had a lovely bright light and could appreciate the nastiness and exposure of the traverse I had just done. I was glad I had had such a poor light earlier as I seriously doubted whether I would have made it into this continuation had I appreciated what I was actually doing.  Still, new cave beckoned so I set off to explore.  After a few metres I reached another pitch.

I set off back to Dave, quaking a lot this time on the traverse.  By now Dave had laddered his pitch and set off down.  I quickly followed and we explored several short, sporting wet pitches to a rift that became too tight.  Still keen for more exploration we rushed back up the pitches and over the traverse to the new pitch.  We hung a ladder down and I set off.  At first it was tight and I thrashed around to make downward progress. Soon though the rift widened and I excitedly zipped down the ladder for 20m to a fair sized downward sloping passage. The walls of the cave were clean white limestone and decorated with pretty cave flowers and calcite crystals. I was very pleased with myself and scampered off downwards.  Soon I came to another pitch, but I had run out of ladder and that was it for the day. This was great, a wide-open cave that was obviously going to go deep.  The icing on the cake for me was that we would not have to carry all the ladders back out as we would clearly be returning.  Unencumbered we could make a rapid exit to our wonderful little world of campsite, sun and cheap wine.

Back at Saint Engrace, word soon got around that we had broken through in the Maria Dolores. Soon a group of most of the cavers in our rag tag expedition were gathered around to hear our tale.  I felt really chuffed for amongst this group were some of my caving heroes; Dave Brook, Mike Boon and Mike Wooding.  I gave a dashing account of our explorations and announced that the word depth record was going to be ours.  This produced a round of cheers.

"Hooray! Well done Pooh" exclaimed Mike Boon.

"We'll call the new pitch, Puits Pooh," announced Dave Gill.

"Good old Pooh, Puits Pooh!" the whole group shouted.

Caver in PSM

All a bit over the top really, but that was how we used to carry on and we were happy enough!  Guess what, we didn't actually break the world depth record.  In fact it all went a bit pear shaped and ended in epics on dangerous, but not deep enough pitches and silly grovellings in passages that refused to go.  At one stage Boon ended up lowering me over the edge of a 30m pitch on a rope because we both thought that we were only above a short drop.  This caused me great alarm and it took a while to sort the problem out.  Boon thought it hilarious.

It was a good expedition though and we had many caving adventures, found quite a lot of new passage and kept getting very drunk and falling over in the field in St Engrace. Apart from that there is a little bit of France that will forever be Puits Pooh.

In 1975 I dived two sumps at the bottom of Pippikin Pot.  These dives happened as a result of a heavy drinking session I had at the Hill Inn with Tony Boycott, Bob Churcher and Tessa Pearse.  After too many pints I had mentioned that I would like to dive these sumps some time in the future.  Somebody outside of our group must have overheard me and started a rumour. Imagine my surprise when later in the evening a guy came up to me and offered to help me carry my bottles on my diving trip down Pippikin the following morning!  The conversation went like this.

"Are you Dave Yeandle"

"Afraid so"

"Can my friend and I come on your trip down Pippikin tomorrow.  We'll help you carry your gear"

This was shocking! " Thanks mate, but we haven't got enough ladders to do the trip"

(Relief an excuse!)

"We have plenty of ladders, don't worry we'll ladder it for you"

Very worried, "Oh great, see you tomorrow"

In the morning I managed to scrounge a line reel off Bob and eventually we got going.  The party consisted of the two guys we met in the pub, Tessa, Tony and myself.

I think our two new friends (J Fox and J. L Preston) were a bit disappointed by the disorganized nature of the venture they had so kindly become part of.  In any case they set off to Leck Fell ahead of us to start laddering up the tight entrance series.

After a large breakfast in Bernie's Cafe; Tessa, Tony and myself drove up the road to the Lost Johns car park and staggered down Leck Fell to the entrance.  We were laden with diving gear and wondering how on earth we were going to manage it all underground.  We were very pleased to find our new friends at the entrance who informed us that they had teamed up with two other cavers.  They did not know who they were but they had volunteered to help.  These new people had gone on ahead into the cave and were laddering it up.  So now we had five of us to carry the diving gear and the ladders for the lower pitches. This trip seemed to be just happening on it's own.  All I had done was to say I was going to dive both sumps at the end of Pip.  People were so willing to help me that it was now actually getting done.

We just seemed to zip down the cave and the diving gear was not a problem.  I suppose we were young, fit and on form.  It was all going rather well.  At the junction with Ratbag Inlet we caught up with our new members and made our introductions.

"Pleased to meet you Pooh, I'm Dave Savage"

I was astonished. "Not the Dave Savage, who pushed Wookey Hole!!"

"Well yes, I haven't done much caving for a while, I fancied a look at Pippikin but we didn't bring enough ladders; it was lucky for us we met up with your party."

I was getting even more amazed now.  Here was one of the cavers who along with Mike Wooding had been first to Swildons 12. He had been one of my schoolboy heroes. Now he was helping me to do a dive and he seemed to be nearly as disorganized as I was; and also a really nice bloke.  Upon reaching the final pitch we discovered that we were still short of one ladder. Dave Savage was still above the previous pitch and agreed to stay where he was and lower a ladder from that pitch, to enable us to reach the dive sites.

I decided to dive downstream first.  The sump was tight and wide and becoming disorientated I did a U-turn and started to swim back the way I had come.  I surfaced one metre away from where I had entered the sump.  I did not know this though as my friends upon seeing that I was coming back had hidden and turned out their lights.  My light was a bit dim and I did not realize what was going on. Even so I could hardly believe that I had broken through so easily so I tentatively called out, "Can anybody hear me".  After the inevitable merriment at my expense I dived again and found the way on into an apparently large underwater passage, which I followed in poor visibility for about 100m.  I turned back before reaching the third margin in my 40 cubic foot bottle, in order that I would have sufficient air for a dive in the upstream sump.

The summer had been dry and water levels in Pippikin were low.  This helped with my second dive of the day as the upstream sump started much further along the inlet passage than it had back in 1970 when I had been with a party exploring this part of Pippikin.  When it did sump, it did so decisively and I easily followed a small but comfortable sump, in good visibility.  I passed two air-bells in mounting excitement and reached a slight upward constriction, about 50m from where the sump had begun.  I had now almost reached the third margin of a bottle that had been well depleted on the previous dive.  A desire for self preservation now started to dampen my urge to continue.  I felt very strongly that I was about to break through into something big and yet I knew I would be taking a big risk going into what may turn out to be an underwater squeeze, with a low air supply.  My explorations were usually like this, an almost schizophrenic battle between two personalities; one needing comfort, safety and an easy life. The other needing massive adrenaline hits, success and adventure.  Pooh version one won this little battle and I turned back.

I returned to base, I think in retrospect, near hypothermic but then feeling weak and despondent at having turned back.  I gave an account of my dive to my excellent supporters.  Tessa gave me some of her food and a hug and we set off out; everybody but myself well pleased with our efforts.  We made a short side trip on the way leaving the narrow streamway and climbing up into the spacious Hall of the Ten.  This is the place where my mates from the Happy Wanderers had realised that they had hit the jackpot with Pippikin Pot.  While resting, I told my newer friends some stories about the Wanderers and my adventures with them, underground and on the surface in the Dales, in Europe and in Asia.  As I spoke it dawned on me that I loved this crazy game called caving and that I was soon to combine this with my passion for world travel.  In a few days time I was finally leaving for New Guinea as an expedition member.  I now felt not so bad for having turned back in the sump.  New adventures beckoned.

It was three years in later, in 1978 that I returned to England and I was fortunate enough to get involved with the filming of the Yorkshire TV film, The Underground Eiger.  Better know to us as "The Keld Head Film"

During the period we were involved with filming in Kingsdale exciting discoveries were being made by the Northern Pennine Club over in Easegill.  They had dug open a shaft in Easegill Beck and dropped into a large passage that they rapidly explored to the top of Echo Aven in Lancaster Hole. Meanwhile other passages in this new cave they had named Link Pot were being discovered and some of these were heading towards Pippikin Pot.

Andy Eavis had a few years previously climbed Echo Aven and if at the top he had only entered a hole over the other side he would have found Link Pot.  Not wanting to miss out in a similar manner I felt I should return to Waterfall Chamber in Pippikin and do another dive in the upstream sump. This dive kept on getting delayed partly because I was busy with the filming and partly because I had trouble getting enough helpers.  I knew I had probably left it too late when I heard that Bob Hryndyj had dived at the end of a passage called Easy Street in Link Pot and got through to an underwater passage which sounded from his description to be the same place I had been in 1975.

One Saturday morning, shortly after hearing about this imminent connection between Pippikin and Lancaster / Easegill / Link, Geoff Yeadon and myself were in our sleeping bags at Henpot's caravan.  Once again Henpot had given us accommodation after a night in the Craven Heifer pub.  I was not feeling well and things got even worse for me when Bob Hryndyj unexpectedly burst into the caravan and said to the already arisen Henpot:

"Hey Henpot, can you lend me a line reel?  I need it to clinch the connection from Link to Pippikin before Pooh has a chance to do it the other way, upstream from Pippikin".

He then noticed to his surprise that the very same Pooh was glaring at him from a horizontal position in a sleeping bag.  Somewhat embarrassed at this discovery Bob for once was lost for words.  Unlike me Henpot was most amused and was laughing too much to reply to Bob's request.  I could hear quiet chuckling coming from the direction of the Yeadon pit.

"Go on, let him take it Henpot", I said in ill humour.  "I'll get my revenge on you Hryndyj," I added in frustration. "Now get out of here and leave me to die in peace".  I concluded illogically in reference to my unmanageable hangover.

Bob made the connection that day and I never did "Get my revenge".  A few years later Geoff pushed the downstream sump in Pippikin. The one I had dived immediately prior to doing the upstream sump.  He broke through to a dry passage and named it "Pooh's Revenge."

I hope that some of you readers enjoy reading these adventures.  If you think you can put up with more of this sort of thing, why not visit The Adventures of Another Pooh Website at www.veandle.co.uk


Left A photograph of the EDF hut which is inside the tunnel bored by EDF to harness the waters of the underground river- they don't use the tunnel apparently! !

Right La Vemain in PSM