Cavers present: Chris Scaife, Chris Sharman, Don Miller, Alex Ritchie
Weather: wet for several days beforehand, plus rain most of the day
The forecast for this Sunday trip was hardly inspiring, and weatherproof(ish) trips were suggested, such as Pikedaw Calamine Caverns. I would like to say as a disclaimer here that, as anyone with even a slight knowledge of the book of Genesis will testify, there is nothing on Earth that is truly weatherproof. Don Miller, often unfairly accused of failing to understand irony, said he was certain that FOUL Pot on Fountains Fell would be dry. He said there was no streamway in the cave and we would be dry. We were later to find out that he had in fact become a master of speaking ironically.
Don went down the 4m entrance climb first and, while Sharman was peering over the edge, emitted the sort of scream he normally reserves for arachnophobia. Silly old Sharman had knocked some rotten wood down onto Don, who had rightly assumed the whole world was collapsing around him. Anyway, it might not have been much, but there was definitely a stream entering the cave. The first section was therefore a wet, flatout crawl. A short way from here was a wooden ladder, followed by the 16m pitch. At the top of this pitch I saw a bat skeleton. We rigged the pitch with two deviations to stay mostly dry. Immediately after this pitch is a section of rift, which was easy enough, a handline climb and some crawly bits, some of which were a bit moist, into pleasant meandering streamway with some wonderful calcite and very long straws. This cave is only 210m long, so there was never very far between pitches.
We soon arrived at the 40m pitch. Don rigged from 3 bolts on the left wall and a deviation at a similar height on the right wall. When he was rigging I thought he was faffing a bit, but when later I had the opportunity to de-rig this pitch I realised that a long reach is useful. There was a lot of water going down this pitch and I have to admit that if I had been rigging it, I would have turned back before the lower section. There is a ledge part way down the pitch, where Don stopped for a while and we all thought he would retreat. Nonetheless, courageous Dr Miller eventually shouted, ‘Rope free!’ and our hearts sank. Sharman followed and tried to re-rig the pitch out of the water, but found no suitable anchor. I followed and, while it was dry down to the ledge, the deluge in the lower section of the pitch was unrelenting. I carried on to the bottom because I knew Don and Sharman were there, and because once I was in the really wet section I didn’t fancy doing a change-over. I think this may have been the first time I have ever hit the floor of a pitch without seeing it; my visibility rendered so poor from the raging torrent.
Alex Ritchie of the YSS decided to end his journey here and did not descend this pitch.
Two more short pitches followed and then a walk and crawl led to the sump. In this final section of the cave there was little enjoyment, as we all quietly contemplated the return journey and an ascent that would at best be very cold and very wet. We were to find out just how fast it is possible to prusik when required, and once up this pitch the rest of the cave was a breeze. I kept my SRT kit on for the entire outward trip and had no trouble at all. Back in The World, water levels and wind speeds had risen and temperatures had dropped, meaning that getting changed was just awful. We soon headed to the Craven Heifer in Stainforth for hot chocolates and Cointreau.
This is not an all-weather cave.
I disagree, Mr Scaife, with your assessment that F.O.U.L. Pot ‘is not an all-weather cave.’ I am of the opinion that it is MOSTLY an all-weather cave, as long as one doesn’t mind getting a little wet. Well, ok, drenched to the bone. But at least there was no risk of anyone drowning. Well, ok, I suppose if a stupid person were to ascend the big pitch with their head pointed straight up at the water then there would probably be a pretty high risk of drowning. But as long as one keeps their head down, there shouldn’t be any problems.
I agree entirely.
I tried to edit my post when I realised what a ridiculous final paragraph I had written, but was unable to.
I am very sorry. I have let myself down with this trip report.
I also disagree about the bit about me not descending the pitch, I did, just not all of it and actually ended up changing over in the waterfall. I would say if I knew it was not going to get any wetter i.e. the forcast was not for heavy rain I would have descended to the bottom. That and if I had a pantin for a quick ascent.
But as long as one keeps their head down, there shouldn’t be any problems.
Except for Hypothermia of course, or more water coming down the pitch, due to rain storms (If it did what it did this morning, we would have known about it I am sure!)
However if that big pitch was re-rigged down the dry shaft it would make an excellent wet weather choice (with exception to the flat out crawls).