Sunday, 7 October 2012

Car Pot

6th October 2012

I'd been wanting to visit Car Pot for ages. Below the various awkward pitches and squeezes it's apparently really pretty. So Kathryn and I jumped at the opportunity to join Emma and Tom on a trip there.

A pre-trip Inglesport visit left me somewhat nervous ('Emma, if you die, can I have your oversuit?' among the reassuring utterances heard), especially as it had been so long since I'd last attempted a trip from the Black Book of Misery (and that attempt had ended about 10m into the cave).

We left Clapham and trudged up the lower flanks of Ingleborough in fine autumn sunshine and before I knew it I found myself at the bottom of the entrance pitch - so far so good.

Below the entrance pitch, a short, narrow crawl leads directly to the head of second pitch (of 7m or so). With a ladder in tow, I squeezed through the crawl feet first, not really able to see where I was going. I was glad when my legs popped out into a little bit of space, thinking to myself that rigging the ladder would be easier now. Unfortunately, as soon as I got my head through and glanced down, I realised that the 'little bit of space' was actually the pitch head, which I was straddling on some small ledges.  A rapidly passed lifeline through the crawl from Tom soon sorted my predicament, and all was well once more as we were belayed down the ladder.

Below the ladder the next obstacle was the Letterbox - a flat out traverse in a rift, followed immediately by a two and a half metre slither down the only section that's wider than one person's thickness. A wooden stemple half way down helped considerably and soon our tacklesacks were pushed into the tiny 'enlargement' below. We soon found ourselves contorted into a set of positions that would probably be illegal in many countries. There wasn't actually enough room for four people plus tackle in this bit, so Emma had remained perched on the stemple. Kathryn's head was a couple of inches from Emma's bum, whilst I had squeezed myself backwards into the rift to try and remove myself from the vicinity of Emma's groin. Tom, meanwhile had pressed on into the next section - the notorious Baptistry Crawl.

Tom in one of the wider sections of Baptistry Crawl
Baptistry Crawl is really not roomy at all. It's a flat out, sideways grovel in a tiny rift over a wet cobbled floor. With one arm pinned above you and the other in front, you can't pull yourself through, and it's too narrow to bend your legs, so you are reduced to squirming and wriggling to gain ground inch by inch. And there are 472 inches in 12 metres...

That being said, I don't think any of us found it as bad as we'd feared. Tom, who had been before, had bravely gone through first, shifting some cobbles (and sheep bones) out of the way so that we would fit, and pulling a rope behind him so that we could drag the tackle through. The rest of us were a little thinner so knew we would fit, and there was no danger of slipping into any narrower bits. It was just a case of being persistent and keeping calm.

After the crawl, we regrouped, donned SRT kits and Tom set off rigging the next two pitches, the first of which involved a squeeze onto the pitch head. There was now just one remaining pitch separating us from the large, pleasant and beautiful passages below, but it sounded wet. Tom and Emma abseiled down to the rebelay, 10m or so down but declared it too wet to be passable. We had negotiated all the difficult sections of cave but had been thwarted by the preceding week of wet weather! There was nothing to be done except head out.

The route out was largely incident free, the only issue being my foot jammer jamming into the rebelay knot at the constricted third pitch head. This necessitated removing it from my welly, rather than from the rope as is usually recommended.

Despite not making it to the bottom, it was very satisfying to have managed all the difficulties that Car Pot contains. A return trip after a drier period of weather is warranted.

4 hrs T/U


  1. Awesome blog, hope you get down next time!!

  2. Thanks Andy - it was a fun trip!

  3. It's definitely worth going to South Craven passage. Nice, steady trip and you've done the hard bit now.

  4. Hi Edvin - your blog is brilliant. Car Pot puts the fear of god in me and the picture is wonderful. Just been reading all about if in Howard Beck's great book on Gaping Gill. My own Three Peaks blog contains tamer stuff but you might like it. Just wondering, if I credit you and paste a link to your site when I do my section on Clapham Bottoms, would it be possible to include your picture to show what Car Pot is really like? No worries if not and keep up the great blog. Stephen :)

  5. Hi Stephen - thanks for the comment, and nice blog. I'm told that the bottom bit of Car Pot (which we didn't manage to get to) is spacious and contains many fine formations, but in the meantime you are very welcome to use the photo above!