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Caving in April – For Persons Measuring 8 Inches or Less

~~Trapdoor Pot, on the slopes of Ingleborough, is not on the list of caves for an easy day out.  It is, however, a cave that is little affected by wet weather and wet weather was what we were promised for Saturday 26th April.  So, despite having with us one member, Paul, who had relatively little experience we went for it.  He did have the advantages of being very fit and of modest construction.  There are several tight squeezes in Trapdoor Pot and you will not get through them unless you are small and compressible in at least one dimension.  While there may be persons of great girth but only a few inches tall they must surely be rare.  The dimension that counts in practice is from front-to-back.  You need to conform at chest, stomach, and hip level if you do not want to become a permanent feature of the cave.
The entrance is a short, straightforward descent on a rope, followed by a bit of easy grovelling and twisting that leads to an interesting climb down into a small chamber.  The way on from there is through the first of the squeezes, located at about head height so that you have to climb up and then squirm sideways in mid-air.  I discovered that my hat would only go through slighly tilted and at the widest point in the vertical slot.  After I got home I measured the hat and thus had a measure of the slot at its widest point – a fraction over eight inches.  We all made it through, including Dave who, while by no means large, was the best-upholstered member of the team.
The descent beyond involved a series of short, straightforward pitches except that the top of one required some constricted manoeuvring over the drop, which would present a distinct challenge later, on the way back.  Between the pitches there was a good deal of sliding sideways down slopes – mostly not tight but threatening to be strenuous on the return trip. There was just one squeeze en route almost as tight as the one at the start, until we came to what is described in the book, “Not for the Faint-Hearted”, as “an esoteric squeeze”.  It requires you to descend a near-vertical slot until you get down to a side-passage.  The side-passage starts with a tight squeeze and to enter it you need to descend more or less past it.  The problem is that the vertical slot widens a bit below and seems to become devoid of footholds, inspiring a dread of slipping down never to return.  Martin, ever-intrepid, made it.  The rest of us turned the invitation down.  It was a pity because beyond the squeeze, after one more pitch and a bit of thrutching, the book promised we would come to a final, dramatic, long, rope descent in a wide shaft.  Be that as it may, we reckoned that by the time we got out from where we were we would have done enough.
The sideways upward slopes, the aforementioned weird pitch-head, and the two squeezes certainly put stamina and strength to the test but we emerged into bright, evening sunshine happy and fulfilled.  To the West, storm clouds and rain framed darkly the sparkling sea in sunshine far away.  The storms did not hang around and the sunshine that warmed us was quickly replaced by rain and hail as we walked back to the cars.  Kind fate brought back the sunshine as we got there and we changed in comfort.
On the Sunday we took a more leisurely trip into Valley Entrance in Kingsdale.  We had come out of the entrance many times after descending on “pull-through” trips from Simpson’s Pot or Swinsto Hole but had never wandered away from the direct route through.  Bumbling around for a couple of hours we found some sumps, a big chamber with interesting formations, and a variety of stream passages connecting them.
Many thanks to Gary for leading the visit to Trapdoor Pot. We had not been there before and so even the regulars in the caving group got an exciting trip to somewhere new.  Hard work but well worth it.  ...And a reminder to limit our intake of suet puddings.  Not that our resolve to stay fit for caving and to stay cave-fitting stopped us having tea and cakes before we went home.

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