It was ages since any of us had done one of the classic pull-through trips in Kingsdale, where you enter a cave at the top of the hill and pop out of one at the bottom a few hours later. So last weekend we decided it was time to do one again. The weather for Saturday was forecast to be wet, which might have made parts of the underground journey rather more interesting than the wise would seek to experience. So we settled for Sunday, when more or less dry weather was promised and water levels would be falling rather than rising. We chose Simpson’s Pot rather than Swinsto. It has more variety, less crawling, an entertaining duck, and the fun of the big pitch into Slit Pot.
The trip proper was preceded by a quick gallop in and out of Valley Entrance to install an all-important ladder. Without it, your options at the end of the trip would be either to set about an alarming free climb or to sit in a cold stream for many hours and hope for rescue. Having put the ladder and lifeline in place we set off up the hill. To our considerable pride, we found the entrance almost at once. Or to be fair, Gary found it. It lurks inconspicuously among the vegetation, and I have not forgotten the ignominy of wandering about on the fell for the best part of an hour looking for it on a previous occasion.
The cave starts out unremarkably with meandering passages that alternate between inconvenient stooping height and crawly bits. Interest picks up with a traverse over the top of a pot. Restricted headroom reduces you to a low crawl across a gap that you at first think looks a bit longer than you are, but which turns out to be all right once you set about it. Thereafter some short climbs – some with an abseil alternative for the less brave – bring you to the first real pitch. We did not pull the rope after us immediately because we knew what came next. Martin descended Storm Pot on our second rope and checked the duck that connects with the way on from the bottom. In wet conditions the air space can disappear and if that had been the case, we would have chosen retreat. It turned out to be the way it usually is. It looks alarming because the rock is so shaped that there is only just enough room to get your head into the gap above the water, but if you go feet first you find that a step down allows you to adopt a comfortable stance and the distance forward before you can stand up with head and shoulders well above the water is less than half a metre.
A few more pitches and a surprising variety of stretches of passage led us to the top of Slit Pot. The passage we were in terminated at a high crack, mostly narrower than the thickness of a man, but with one bit as wide as a slighly squashed man lying sideways a metre or so up in the air. On the other side is a drop of about thirty metres. Having rigged a rope by reaching through the slot, you attach yourself to it and then struggle head first, sideways, into space. Assuming you are successful, you are all set to abseil to the bottom (having never witnessed failure, I am not sure what you are set to do if you are not successful, but I guess it is to starve slowly where you are). We were all successful, and each enjoyed a wet descent under the modest waterfall that takes the same route.
A clamber down a slope, another one down a hole in the boulders, and a short crawl, brought us to the master cave where we followed the stream down to where we had placed the ladder earlier in the day. Soon after that we were back in daylight and it only remained for us to spend the evening trying to sort out a car problem with the RAC. But that is another story.