Bar Pot to Far Country
Bob E, Chris, John, Jude, Richard, & Bob R (guest).
Photos by Bob Evans at http://photosbybob.fotopic.net/c1651550.html
We gathered in Bernie’s as usual, before making our way to Clapham for the walk up the hill, in cold conditions. Some changed in Clapham, some carried wetsuits up & changed at the cave.
An uneventful descent of the first pitch, the greasy slab, and the big pitch saw us all reunited for the crawl through Henslers to the Blowhole.
We dropped through the slot in the floor into New Hensler's crawl – distinguished from Old Hensler's & Mud Hensler's only by name, as far as I can tell – and headed off to Hensler's Master Cave with Richard bringing up the rear. We regrouped at the end of the master cave, where Richard caught us up, and told us he'd cracked a rib in the slot leading into the crawl. There was immediately a clamour of no less than three of our overly gallant party volunteering to escort him out, and a couple of minutes vigorous discussion ensued, as they all made their case for being the one to forgo the delights ahead. After a couple of minutes, Richard finally managed to get a word in, and told them he wasn't heading out yet.
We pressed on along the very fine passage (slightly reminiscent of the Minarets) down from the master cave, until we reached a fixed iron ladder up to the Blowhole. The Blowhole was quite impressive, appearing at first sight too narrow to be plausible, but actually not bad, with the worst constriction hidden just beyond it. John and Jude turned back with Richard from here, as the Blowhole was definitely not something to attempt with ribs damaged in advance.
This left us without our guide, so we lost no time in getting lost. Bob R led across an intriguing traverse (Salmon's Leap?) which was very greasy with about 40' exposure – the three of us were no sooner across than Bob R discovered it was just a dig, and we had to retreat. Reversing the traverse was much more exciting, involving hanging off and scrabbling behind me with my feet, followed by an assisted bold leap for the other two. There was a fixed line for protection, but hanging well below the traverse.
We then descended Echo Rift (the 40' pitch) and continued down the streamway, through a pool to a bit of a duck – a larger pool, mostly with good airspace, just a short section in the middle where it reduced to 4-6”. The Bobs seemed unenthused about bobbing about in this, despite my attempts to entice them through, so I went off for a little explore downstream. Some crawling, some stooping, some dry bits, some wet bits, but no noticeable features. Reading the description afterwards, I've absolutely no idea where I got to (no surprises there). I got bored and turned back to rejoin the others before they got too cold. Back up Echo Rift, along Hensler's Master Cave, and back into the crawl, where I got lost again – one Bob said maybe left, one said definitely right, and I thought right, so I went right, while one of the Bobs very quietly changed his mind. It was a while before I noticed I was on my own, and I persevered a bit in the hope that the passages would rejoin. But no – in an area full of wet and muddy crawls, I'd found “The Wet and Muddy Way” - so named for obvious reasons. Eventually I turned around, and found my way back to the others, who were waiting at the bottom of the big pitch. Out without further event at about 5.30, for a very snowy walk down to Clapham, with quite a few slips and falls.