Saturday 18 December 2010

17th December 2010 Diccan Pot

The Awesome last pitch of Diccan Pot

A very cold night saw Lawrence breaking ice as he drove up the track to Alum Pot (Lawrence is a VW campervan).  The temperature when we stepped outside was well below freezing so the change into caving gear and sorting out the ropes was conducted quickly.  Just as we finished packing, the cream team arrived back at their bus, cold and wet from their day of training for their level 2 cave leaders award, TNC member Ali having been there learning new techniques to speed up our trips underground so we can arrive at the pub quicker.

The entrance to Long Churn was icy and icicle festooned as we slipped underground, the air temperature difference immediately noticeable. The water level was quite high despite the freezing conditions outside and the water temperature was low.  Our feet were wet by the time we reached the top of the first pitch of Diccan Pot.

Descending the main pitch

The first pitch was spray lashed but quickly dispatched once the third re-hang was rigged.  Once at the bottom of the second part of the pitch in the dry away from the spray it was time to watch the water lashing over the rocky ledge in the backlight from Tom's Scurrion light.

The second pitch was passed in the dry followed by the final awesome pitch that requires a traverse above a huge chasm leading to a technical descent that involves pendulums to catch deviation slings in the sloping roof in order to guide the rope away from the thundering water falling down the back of the pitch.  A single re-hang off a ledge led to a final icy-spray lashed pitch landing in a pool about 5 metres away from the terminal sump of Alum Pot.

A quick look at the sump pool and then off up the passage towards Alum Pot and the daylight (now dark as it was nearly the shortest day) shaft where we had heard from the cream team that icicles were falling  down the shaft.  We were brought up short by the short pitch leading up into the open air where ice pearls were forming on the rocks, formed from spray splashing off the rocks.

Ice covered rocks at the bottom of Alum Pot

Back at the foot of the ropes it was Tom's turn to de-rig.  The awesome pitch caused some wild swings  as the rope was freed from the deviation slings, the light from above and from Tom's Scurrion showing that he swung into the water falling  down with the stream.

At the last pitch Tom went up first as his hands were really cold and the rope was spray lashed for 3/4 of its length.  Climbing the pitch brought us soaked and cold back to the re-hangs, which were fortunately above the spray.  Once back the head of the pitch the 80m rope wouldn't fit back in the ropebag so it was  coiled on top but with the water in the bag and weight of the rope the final 50m back up the stream passage was hard going.

Returning up the main pitch

Once back on the surface the cold hit us.  Wet gloves froze to metalware, the rope bags formed hard ice carapaces and our suits froze hard.  

Back at Lawrence a quick change led us to the warming drive to the once famous caving pub of the Craven Heifer in Ingleton where generations of cavers have drunk the night away.  If only we could say that a warm welcome awaited but .... well that is another story.

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