Trip Members: Alex, Don
This was my fourth attempt to bottom Trapdoor in the past seven years, so I was very eager to finally put this big demon to rest. It took us 6.5 hours to complete the trip. There were no real issues, though it’s worth highlighting a few things:
1. The trip is obviously doable with two people, but very tiresome – we had a total of 2 big bags and 1 small bag.
2. The Ripper is easy if you take off your oversuit and undersuit.
3. The FTSE chock isn’t as scary as I remember, though the pitch at the bottom of the choke is tight at the top and a real bugger, both going down and especially coming up, particularly when trying to haul tackle bags up.
4. The Gripper is easy. The two free climbs beneath The Rizla are easy going down, but a lot more difficult going up, as you don’t have gravity to assist you and there’s nothing to push off of as you thrutch your way up. In my view, climbing up these two climbs was the most difficult part of the trip.
5. The Stripper doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. Yes, it was awkward, but I’ve been in far more awkward passages where my legs felt like they were going to break as I tried to go around an awkward 90 degree corner. I never felt like my legs were going to break. I also didn’t find it difficult to get into. The trick that worked for me was to climb down the rift below the crawl, and then insert myself head first on my left hand side, keeping my right leg largely straight and bending my right knee in. The only ‘tight’ bit is really the first couple of feet, which I would describe as thrutchy, not tight. I got through the first time I tried. I have to say though that coming back out was more difficult, though not too bad. I exited feet first. The trick for me here was to stay as low down in the passage as I could. It was a lot more thrutchy on the way out as there was nothing to push off of, except with your hands. Getting the bags through The Stripper and back up the narrow rift into the narrow passage above was very challenging and tiring.
6. The climb immediately after The Stripper, Hammerhead Pot, was piss easy going down, but I found it really hard to get back up, even though it’s only about 10-12 feet high. Alex had to help me by giving me a boost. I have no idea how he got up as there is only enough space for one person in the tiny room/chamber between Hammerhead and The Stripper, so I couldn’t help him. The walls of the pitch are completely smooth, it’s very narrow, and there’s nothing to put your feet on to push off of.
7. The final pitch, Megatron, is quite possibly the most spectacular pitch I’ve ever been down. It starts off big and gets even bigger. It’s a 38m free hang into a massive chamber with a huge sloping wall of mud and rock which you can climb up to get a good view of people going up and down the pitch. The most exciting part was a) hoping the pile of large boulders held up by mud immediately above the pitch wouldn’t free themselves whenever Alex shouted, and b) hearing Alex shout down to me as he was halfway up the pitch ‘mumble, mumble mumble, rope rube, mumble, mumble, left, mumble, mumble’. I had no idea what he was on about and naturally assumed as I ascended that the rope at some point would cut in half on a sharp rock and I would fall to my death. Thankfully that didn’t happen.
In sum, Trapdoor is a fantastic trip. The entire trip is basically pitch, 30 feet of caving, squeeze, pitch, 30 feet of caving, squeeze, pitch, repeat. I’m really happy to have finally completed it. The last demon to conquer is Bosch Rift, if Knacker Trapper ever becomes accessible again.
P.S. Apologies for making the trip all about me – there is a lot of ‘I’ and very little mention of Alex. He was there though.
I agree that the final pitch in Trapdoor is spectacular, especially considering how narrow everything else is in that cave. I think another trip that has a similar feel of being all narrow and thrutchy, then opening out on to a huge pitch is Corky’s Pot. Well done for completing the trip, you’re a gnarly caver now!
Finally, the recognition I deserve.
If anyone wants to go back, I’d love to do They Think It’s All Over, the alternative pitch to Megatron. Alex and I saw the passage you have to swing into to get to it and it doesn’t look that difficult. It’s not a massive swing or at a severe angle. The only question is whether the bolt at the pitch head is any good. According to NFTFH, the main pitch is only rigged from a bolt and a small thread.
Alex has his own bolting kit now, so you don’t need to worry about things like that.
From what I understand, he’s very assiduous and meticulous with his bolting.
You’d have to be pretty brave to rig the top of the pitch as it sounds very loose. As the old saying goes, Fortune favours the bolt.
He is assiduous and meticulous – just look at the concentration:
Glad you had a good trip.
How was Marble Steps? The Lost Steps route is one I’d really like to check out.