With Chris Scaif and potential new member Carol wanting a gentler trip somewhere easier it was left to Me (Alex) and Chris Shaman, to do Echo pot. We have been wanting to tick off this trip for ages.
So with 2 full bags of rope (a bad idea really) we headed straight to the cave with no issues in finding the entrance. Straight away the cave seemed to show its teeth. A short crawl leads to a pitch with a narrow take-off, we rigged off a solid block at the drop and a backup in the shakehole but the main hang was at floor level, meaning the return would not be easy! If we had the description on us we would have read about the roof thread.
Down that we saw the cave was quite wet and now and thanks to spray coming down the pitch so were we. Surprisingly easy passage led to the second pitch and I was starting to think wrongly this cave is not that bad, it even has walking passage. The second pitch loomed into view, again well watered we rigged it and I abseiled down as I could not see were I was going to the bags between my legs.
At the bottom of here the fun really begins or so Chris announced “This is why we go caving”, he confidently stated. The “fun” began with a flat out crawl in shallow water not too bad, but then passage then turned left and the floor dropped under water and mud. An arch of about 4 inch air space was the way through I took my helmet off and went on my front. Chris went through on his back (You should see the state of his hair!). As I pushed on with my helmet in my hand I was dropped into darkness several times as the water was that thick with mud, light failed to penetrate even if my light just dipped below the surface. A second arch of similar dimensions passed and there was short relief on a slab of rock. The next section was just as wet, and required another brief immersion after a short canal before finally we left the water behind “easier” passage, well it was not that wet I guess.
After a bit of crawling we reached yet another bloody duck, the bird bath. If you are careful though you can keep your head out of the water, it was also tight-ish with gear on so if your bigger then me take it off. A short stand up section allowed us to fully de-kit before tackling the slot. Chris tried first, feet first but had issues with pulling the bag with him then when I took that off of him and he got a little further but could not find a way through. He said he also said he was not feeling “cave fit”.
So I gave it a go, it looked intimidating head first but at least I could see what I was doing, the main issue was getting me and my arms through. “Arms in-front” I was told but I just ended up kissing my elbow as my arm got jammed in a narrow crack in the squeeze. I backed out and searched for a bit of space, to put my arm. I found it there right where my bollocks were, so I grabbed them and went through, with just one arm in front.
I crawled through to the pitch head however I had no SRT gear and only the strand of rope I brought with me. So after a very interesting contortion involving the removal of my helmet so I could sit backwards and kiss my knee in the process I had managed to turn around. I grabbed the rope and pulled, the bag jammed. I pulled again and the bag got stuck again. I saw Chris was now visibly shivering by this point and I was not far behind him so we said feck it and decided against my solo descent.
We headed out, despite being extremely cold we were doing okay, the squeeze was easier on the way out and arms in-front works going this way. All was going well until my bag got stuck in the ducks. This caused me to holler to Chris “Free it” “FREE IT!!”. I was not wanting to back up into that darn arch to do it my-self. (Pushing the bag ahead in the mud would not have worked, I had to drag it). Thankfully after what seemed like ages (probably only about a minute) Chris freed it and I was out of there like a rat with a Starbug up it’s bum.
Running not jogging on the spot failed to improve my body temperature much but free climbing the second pitch did. Chris was too cold to climb it on account of not feeling his hands and prussiced up.
At the first pitch I really wished we had read the description, I struggled like heck and was not thinking that straight. I had gone up too far and jammed my chest jammer into the knot, doh! I only eventually got off the pitch head by de-rigging the anchor, you won’t find that in any caving manual! I rigged it again for Chris and called him up. He did not fair much better and could not get off the pitch head. I had to pull up the bags past him so there was no tension on the rope and then pull him off the pitch head, I was surprised I had the strength left.
So quite tired now, despite only doing half of it. Maybe I should have gone down GG, but I learned a few things:
A) Bring a wet suit for this cave!
B) Bring a third person to split the bags down a bit.
C) It would have been possible to get the tackle through the squeeze but only if I pulled from the one side of the constriction and Chris pushed the bags up to the constriction, pulling them on ropes did not work.
D) Do the bloody cave in summer, for warmer and perhaps less water.
E) Bring the darn description along.
F) Lesson for Chris don’t push for Echo if you have not been caving for almost 2 months lol.
Aching like buggary today.
Not sure why we had such trouble on the 1st pitch – probably just way too cold by that time. Alex asked me to come up and give him a push – it was only when I got there he decided he’d prusiked into the knot, and what he really needed was me and both bags off the rope, so that he could derig it to get up.
I found a nice little alcove to sit in near the top of the pitch while he played – bits of me were almost out of the water.
As Alex says – I’ve had nearly 2 months off, so I need lots of practice to get cave fit again – who’s coming out next Saturday?