Chris Sharman joined me for my Penyghent Pot trip at the CPC hut (Ivy Cottage) in Horton on the Sunday morning. Over a cup of tea, we discussed whether the trip was viable (given the rain/snow that had fallen the previous day) and packed tackle bags. We called in at the Penyghent Cafe to get a weather report. It was going to stay cold and windy but – most importantly - without the threat of a thaw. Given that the entrance was well above the snowline, and there was little water coming out of the resurgences in Horton, we thought it was worth giving it a go and so drove up to Brackenbottom to start the walk up to the cave.
After a 20-minute walk through the snow, it took us 10 minutes or so to find the scaffold entrance and we were underground by 12 o'clock. Crawling through the freezing waters of the Canal was a less-than-pleasurable experience (understatement). My hands were useless with the cold after only a few minutes. It took 20 minutes to reach the end of the 300-metre crawl
but I can tell you it felt a lot longer! Chris rigged the first pitch while I tried to get some life back into my dysfunctional hands. I was worried that I would not be able to continue - my hands were so painful - but they revived surprisingly quickly as we continued down Easy Passage (EasIER Passage would be a more apt name!).
I rigged the second pitch. The guidebook suggested 12 metres of rope but 10 metres was more than adequate (we'd had to cobble together whatever ropes we had available). I found a 'P'- hang which I took to mean that we were at the top of pitch 3 - the big pitch - but struggled to find the pitch head. It wasn't the obvious way straight on ahead. When I did eventually find the way (to the left, under the bedding plane) we discovered that the normally-dry pitch had got water going down It. Hmmm. There was enough water for Chris to feel that we should abort the mission and I bowed to his experience (having never been down PYG Pot before).
The Canal was even worse - if that's possible – on the way out and this time I'd got frozen feet to contend with as well as frozen hands. I was so glad I'd left a pair of warm mitts in a dry bag on the surface! It was about 2.30 when we got to the
surface. Conditions - dry, bright and windy - were much as they'd been two and a half hours earlier and there was no evidence of a thaw. The walk down the hill was painful with feet that felt like blocks of ice. I felt like one of Napoleon's troops
retreating from Moscow.
Not the most successful of caving trips but I think it was the right decision to retreat. I shall volunteer to lead a trip down it again but next time in the summer! We forwent the customary post-caving pint - lightweights, I know! - in favour of a frothy coffee and scone in Ye Olde Naked Man cafe in Settle.