Ignorance is definitely Bliss, the quest for the Golden Fleece!
Three were in attendance on this trip, with no ideas in mind other than something in County. (Alex, Scaife and Sharman)
First we had a look at the top of Oxford pot, which is located in a rather large chamber just off the main drag, very loose and it’s evident where the entrance used to be from down here.
We then continued down the main drag to the pitch where I first noticed a horrible yet familiar smell of a dead ovine. I expected to see the dead sheep around the corner but alas there was none, and despite the smell turning up all over, we never saw one.
Above the passage leading down to County pot pitch
We then went down the pitch for which Shaman had brought a ladder I opted to use the in-situ rope due to my track record on ladders. We then turned right and then right again to enter the bottom of Oxford pot, we all stood in awe of the eye shaped shaft.
From here we continued our offbeat adventure following squirmy passages to a small drop that looked like a pitch. After a lot of squeezing and traversing in the rift above, Sharman or Scaife eventually found us a way down right at the start of the rift, only for us to follow the very same rift again towards a very tight squeeze that end’s at a calcite choke that only Scaife bothered with and almost got stuck in, if he did not manage to turn around.
Downstream was a Crab walk style passage called the “Snake” necessitating crawling in water and a few slightly awkward corners.
This soon opened out onto the main drag and we re-joined the main stream at Confusion corner, the smell I noticed in the entrance still prevailed, where was it coming from? We headed downstream down the Spout and had a quick look at the passages above in “Poetic Justice” before returning the way we came due to lack of SRT kits to get down the pitch.
The main drag, at confusion corner
Side passage near Poetic Justice, above the greasy climb
Next we headed down and I just took a random turn left where the guys stupidly followed me, to enter what turned out to be “Ignorance is Bliss”. I think this was a rather apt name as I chose this passage and random and had no idea where we were going, or what we were in for. A few climbs up and down led us to a junction, we of course ignored the big obvious passage to our left, Scaife suggested the passage ahead so that’s where we went. This soon became a crawl and an easy squeeze past a block, followed by yet more crawling. A climb up led through some flat-out passage into a much bigger rift. We realised we were getting quite deep into unknown territory for us, I don’t think any of us had ventured up here before.
Chris Sharman going through a Squeeze on Ignorance is Bliss, photo taken by Scaife
We were soon stopped by a large drop which we thought would be where we were forced to turn around, but I managed to find a hole to the left-hand side and squeeze down. Scaife ventured down the next hole below that and led a traverse over a hole where we could hear water. Some hard climbs up a large rift led us up into a passage that reminded me of what it must look like inside of Pyramid of Gysa, we felt like we were entering an ancient tomb, we were raiders entering somewhere we should not be, would the gods be kind to us? It was evident that the passage up here had barely been trod, their was still soft uncompacted sand here. We then came across a carbide dump. Graffiti on the wall seemed to indicate the FPC (Yes I have no idea who they are either!) discovered this place in 1961, and I would wager not many have been here since, this place is not mentioned in Northern caves.
The end of the pyramid rift (whatever it’s actually called?)
However, our adventure into the almost unknown was short lived, it was a dead end unfortunately and we re-traced our steps back to the hole in the floor with the sound of water emanating from it (which is mentioned in Northern caves). Scaife led the descent and this deposited us on a slippery though easy climb down into Pierces passage.
We did not want to go back the way we came and I knew there was a pitch upstream. So lacking ascending gear we decided to let me lead the team out the only way I knew which was via Stop pot, Snail cavern and through Manchester bypass back towards Battle of Britain chamber. This route was a bit awkward, there was quite a bit of crawling, squeezes and boulder obstacles variety. We dropped down into a chamber I think it was called Brown and Smelly chamber (Aptly named at the moment, as that smell still prevailed!). After another fixed ladder we were in the Battle of Britain chamber. It was at this point I was sure I knew where the smell was coming from, it was from Shaman, had he trod in a several dead sheep on the way over, or was he wearing the “Golden fleece” perhaps? Scaife thought so. In any case Sharman could not smell it as he had been blessed with Covid several weeks ago taking away his sense of smell.
View out over stop pot
Trip time four hours we think maybe 3 and a half, it was still daylight and we were back at the cars by 3:30pm, well in time for Sharman’s rather early 5pm call out.
“a very tight squeeze that end’s at a calcite choke that only Scaife bothered with and almost got stuck in”
I’m going to rewrite that bit in the style of Alex writing about a squeeze if he had been the only one to manage it.
“I was ahead at this point and saw a very tight squeeze in front of me at head height, with a skydive on both sides. Fearlessly, I used my skills (and the fact that I’m slim and fit) to pass this extremely difficult obstacle. Needless to say, the others were unable (or shall I be kind and say unwilling?) to follow me. I was thus alone in this extremity of the system, where few have ever dared to tread. So difficult was the squeeze that it was impossible to retreat headfirst, meaning I had to do an acrobatic manoeuvre and return feet first. I am the greatest caver who has ever lived.”
My text just said what yours did but more succinctly lol, you are of course completely taking the piss. Where have I even written like that before, you are thinking of Pete Dale. If it went anywhere I would have followed, but it was a rather pointless squeeze to nowhere.
in other clubs you may get a little praise for taking the time to write the full report and attach photo’s, but not this one. I won’t bother next time and just stick to my videos and posting on Facebook.
Sorry, Alex. I hate it when we fight.
A fine trip, and some good photos Alex.
No idea where the ripe sheep smell was coming from – didn’t seem to be my gear when I got home.
Oh, and a mention to Scaife for forgetting his srt kit. Lucky I’d brought a ladder.
No idea who fpc was – not mentioned in NC (’88 onwards) – may be in the earlier paperback editions which I no longer have.
Sorry, Alex. I hate it when we fight.
Lover’s quarrel, should we kiss and make up, Chriss ;)
Oh yes I forgot about the SRT Sharman, well remembered.