~~Caving News June 2015 – In Car Entertainment
The word that sprang to mind as we trudged up the path towards Trow Gill was “foreboding”. I had been reading the descriptions of Car Pot in the caving guides: “...the original tight deep hole”; “a constricted crawl, a letter box squeeze, and some awkward pitch heads ...”; “cavers who are not physically or psychologically excluded by these difficulties should have a peaceful time...”
The slopes of Ingleborough are punctured by multitudinous entrances to caves of every kind from benign to “we must be mad.” They include the impressive Gaping Gill, which non-cavers can visit when local caving clubs set up a motorised winch. Cavers with only basic experience can enter Gaping Gill via Bar Pot, Wade’s Entrance and two or three other entrances. But close by there are caves that are included in the guidebook, “Not for the Faint-Hearted.”
We found the entrance to Car Pot – a deep hollow in the moor – without extensive searching. Alex had been there before and he took exactly the right line across the featureless moor. The first pitch starts immediately inside the entrance and it got us off to a good start, being as easy as any you could find. Bright optimism was already sweeping away the sense of foreboding.
That was when a large boulder shifted under Alex’s weight and slid into the tiny passage that was the way on, leaving insufficient space for us to get through. Alex tried kicking at it and hooking it with one foot to pull it back but it did not move. He managed to contort himself enough to reach over the boulder with one hand so that he could thread a sling round it. He attached a rope and we all pulled. The sling came off. We recovered our dignity and tried again – lots of times. I took Alex’s place and we continued our tug-of-war. The boulder moved a centimeter and got stuck in an even more inconvenient place, but the sling stayed on. We kicked and heaved for close to an hour before we dragged the boulder back up the slope just far enough. The brave Alex got onto the far side and packed smaller rocks under the boulder until it could be described as “stable” – the term favoured by the medical profession for subjects who have not fallen into final collapse but still might.
The short passage beyond the boulder was small enough to require us to lie on our sides, and round a tight corner it ended above a hole – the second pitch. It was easier than it looked because some footholds just the right distance down the hole allowed you to stand while you finished sorting out your gear. From the bottom of the pitch things got harder. The books advised that, to descend a narrow slot and then shuffle the length of “Baptistry Crawl,” you needed to take off your harness and associated gear, and that tackle bags should be hauled through. Why it is called “Baptistry Crawl” is not clear since at no point is it possible to crawl. For most of the way you lie on your side or your back with one arm stuck out ahead of you, Superman-style, and push as best you can with the foot at the end of whichever leg you are able to move. We hardened crew like to think we shot through it, nevertheless, in no time at all.
Getting onto the pitch beyond the crawl involved an inelegant backwards squeeze over a ledge but from the bottom of the pitch everything changed. The remaining pitches were airy and delightful, although the elderly bolts from which we were suspended caused slight unease. The books said you could explore the walking-sized passage at the bottom in both directions, allowing forty minutes in one direction and thirty in the other. Having spent so long boulder-shifting we did not have time to do both. We chose the thirty-minute option. Soon we reached the features that attract cavers to Car Pot. Above and around us were some of the best formations to be found in Yorkshire: snow-white stalactites, stalagmites, and columns; multicoloured curtains of flowstone – one especially large and spectacular; distorted helictites – even one that had grown right round on itself to form a closed circle. The effort of getting to these grottos really had been worthwhile and we marvelled at everything we saw.
All that remained was to get out again.