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Diccan Pot/Alum Pot Through Trip

Towards the end of last summer, Roger Wing, Keith and Derek Sanderson, who wrote this article spent a week camping in the Yorkshire dales.  One of their trips is described here.

Ever since we had clustered in the narrow passage and peered into the first pitch of Diccan Pot, it had been our ambition to do this trip.  Being familiar with Lower Long Churn, we quickly laddered to the bottom of Alum Pot carefully traversing round a bloated dead cow just above the final 25' pitch, and regained the surface in about an hour.  We then crossed the field over to Diccan Pot.

The entrance to Diccan Pot is similar to all the cave entrances in the Alum Pot area, being formed by a collapse into a horizontal stream passage about eight feet below the surface.  A low, wide entrance soon develops into a square shaped passage formed in light grey smoothly scalloped rock over which the stream swiftly flows.  The passage contains two deep pools - one chest deep. After about a hundred feet one comes to an abrupt halt as the stream plunges sharply over the first pitch of 105 feet.

The pitch looks narrow at first, with the stream seemingly filling the whole cavity.  We quickly belayed 150 feet of rope to a prominent spur of rock about 15 ft back from the lip and prepared ourselves for a single line abseil.  I went over first and dropped 15 feet to a narrow ledge, keeping out of the main flow of water.  Deciding that all was well, I dropped another 20 feet to find myself in the full flow of the water, hanging free from any rock surface.  From here, the descent to the floor of the pitch is entirely free hanging.  There is something awe inspiring in dangling free on a single line some eighty feet above the floor.  All one can see is the fan of water as it pours off one's helmet, and the noise is deafening.  The descent was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever had underground.

The base of the pitch is a wide ledge.  Here, some of the stream has become fragmented during its fall, filling the whole area with fine spray - rather like the fragmenting of Fell Beck as it reaches the floor of G.G.  Once on the ledge, I gave two blasts on the whistle to indicate that I had landed safely, and the others descended.  Communication is only possible by whistle due to the noise of the water and the depth of the pot.

From the ledge, a twenty five foot drop to the floor of the chamber was soon passed using the end of the same rope.  Crossing over a boulder strewn floor, we came to the head of a thirty foot rift with wedged boulders across the top.  This is meant to be a climb, but we were probably over cautious and descended on a double line fed through a pulley attached to the end of the previous rope.

Having retrieved the line, we followed the narrow, high rift passage over shallow pools for about seventy feet to the head of a twenty five foot drop.  This we found we could free-climb by chimneying.  At the foot of the drop the rift widens slightly and leads on for about fifty feet over uneven floor to the head of the final pitch of a hundred feet down which the stream cascades.

This pitch is not a smooth exhilarating pitch like the first one.  It is broken by ledges and is not quite vertical.  To descend it is hard work.  It is difficult to know where the pitch starts as it does not drop suddenly. We could not find a suitable belay from which the abseil rope could be retrieved, so we fitted up a crab and sling to a spur of rock on the right.

The descent consists of dropping from ledge to ledge in the full force of the stream, kicking the rope down as you go.  Care should be taken not to allow the water to force you off your feet as it tends to do. On the first pitch one could live with the stream, but on this pitch one has to battle against it.  Twenty feet from the base of the pitch is a wider ledge where one can rest for a while and look out into the final chamber of Alum Pot into which one has just descended.

We experienced some communication trouble here, and it was some time before all three of us were down and the rope retrieved.  It only remained for us to climb out via Lower Long Churn, de-tackling as we went. We reached the surface tired mentally as well as physically.

Although it is not a long cave, Diccan Pot is a formidable place.  The total trip was just over five hours but we were very deliberate and careful at each stage, not knowing quite what to expect next.  We could probably reduce this time by more than an hour on our next visit - and we certainly intend that there shall be a next visit!