Saturday 24 July saw a group of eight cavers heading up Leck Fell to Notts Pot. I had heard epic tales of impossibly wet entrances, alternative entrances leading to very precarious positions and an entrance which Paul warned me I wouldn’t like! It was therefore with some trepidation that I looked down at the entrance pitch as we geared up.
For the uninitiated Notts Pot consists of a short entrance series with a couple of pitches and a climb which leads to a main chamber. From the main chamber the cave becomes a vertical labyrinth with many routes leading down and a huge number of variations. All the routes eventually meet and are then followed by two further pitches to the sump.
Having abseiled into the entrance hole you are confronted with a slot which looks a bit like the average letter box size (and felt it) just in front of loosely arranged pile of none-too stable boulders. On a good day, apparently, the water pours into this hole but happily it was dry this time. The trick is to go in feet first on your back and wriggle through the tightish bedding plane to the top of a climb. How Paul managed to rig the climb I can’t imagine but I was very glad of the rope as I wallowed over the edge! A short stream passage and a pitch followed ending in the main chamber.
We had decided to split into three parties with Paul Alison and Kirsty heading down BT route, James and Teri somewhat warily attempting Left Hand Route and Andrew, Jamie and myself on Centre Route. We were to meet up at the top of the lower pitches to complete the trip together and then chose an alternative route back up through the cave.
I rigged down Centre Route which consisted of long free hanging abseils with the occasional deviation and rebelay. As we descended we could hear the others as their voices drifted through openings in the vertical maze. We reached the meeting point quite quickly and managed to identify the duck where Paul and Co should emerge and the hole in the roof where James and Teri should pop out but all had gone silent.
Not quite sure whether we were in the correct spot we went off for an explore and found the next pitch nearby and so returned to wait for the others to join us. We waited for over an hour and there was still no sign of noise or activity and so we decided to plough on and start rigging the final sections. The head of the pitch was in a very awkward and constricted traverse with a fairly large drop below and, being on the large size, I got into a real lather as I tried to tie knots behind my left ear, under my legs and anywhere else that seemed inaccessible! To add insult to lather, I also managed to get totally tangled in the rigging left by a diving group and in the end decided to derig with Andrew’s help and retreat to see whether anybody had arrived.
James and Teri had just been down our route (as James had given up rigging Left Hand Route) and had disappeared back up to the main chamber. There was still no sign of Paul and so we decided to go back up and find out what was happening.
I had climbed back up three pitches when I heard Paul shouting up to us. Feeling pretty knackered, I couldn’t face going down again only to have to reclimb the pitches and so made my way back to the main chamber where I met James and Teri.
Teri and I made our way out (not without a struggle to get back into the entrance crawl!) to meet Alison back on the surface who hadn’t enjoyed the pitches on BT route.
Gradually we reassembled on the surface. Andrew had descended and come out via BT route. Discussion ensued on the meaning of BT and it was generally agreed to mean B*S*A*D TRAVERSE!
A good day out, despite the confusion, and a truly spectacular cave system. I look forward to going back again. Thanks James for organising it and Paul for twisting my arm to come!