21 April 2022

Easter Grotto at Easter, Scanty Lardos, and Yordas Pot

Fiona Hartley

Saturday April 16th - Pool Sink

When Clive suggested Pool Sink to Easter Grotto because it was Easter, my ears perked up instantly. Pool Sink! An Easegill entrance I had not done. Ana also hadn’t, obviously, so we agreed eagerly.

Pool’s a fine, easy, quality Yorkshire streamway. Its most awkward parts are right at the top. The entrance crawl is not roomy, but nor is it tight if you keep your wits about you. An obvious S-bend is a nice way to get caught on your tacklebag if dragging it behind you. After a short flat-out wriggle the crawl improves to stooping. A climb down is easy on the way in, harder on the way out with a bag trying its best to obey gravity.

It’s all easy navigation in the downstream direction. Ana rigged all the pitches and only the top one provided any entertainment in the form of a swing to a single-bolt rebelay. The second and third we did on one 55m rope and it provided the usual amusement when a rope extends through a completely safe passage. The fourth pitch starts with an ascending traverse which in my opinion could do with one extra bolt since we aren’t all long-in-the-arm.

From the base of the pitches, Clive set off into the lower passages at his usual good pace, always steady, always moving. I passed the sharp rocks and climbs and crawls without, I think, learning much of the actual route. The Bacon Slicer is really quite impressive, though. We joined the master cave and went off up Thackray’s Passage. This looked familiar but not enough for me to stop Clive going into a boulder choke instead of the White Way up towards Top Sink. I later read this is very dangerous. Alas. At least once we were in the White Way, I remembered clearly the two handline climbs up to Easter Grotto, where Clive set about taking the photographs that illustrate this report.

I would like to crawl all the way through to Gypsum Cavern at some point, I think. After the photos, we reversed our steps back to Pool Sink, by which I mean we followed Mr Westlake to the correct wriggle exiting the streamway. Ana derigged the fourth and first pitches; I derigged the combined third/second. We investigated the way towards Magpie Chamber while Kheelie was negotiating the tricky rebelay, but we went down the wrong branch to not Magpie Chamber instead.

Out on the surface at 7pm. Walking back across the fell was lovely in the setting sun.

Sunday April 17th - Scanty Lardos Pot

Scanty is an ideal two-person cave, easy but fun. I’d had my eye on it since winter. A short climb down the entrance goes into a narrow bit. I rigged the first pitch, a descent down a grabby rift. The pitch deviates off a weird looking flake which felt like it would come off for all but the rigger. Except it didn’t. The pitch can be loose so it’s a good idea to hide downstream out of the shrapnel zone before yelling rope free.

Downstream follows the water through cross rifts, so there are lots of right and left turns, but the way on is always obvious. It’s vaguely disturbing to think about the place in high water conditions. After many turns back and forth the passage increases in size and cuts down a cascade to the second pitch, a fun y-hang out around a corner onto a ledge for a drier hang away from the water. Ana rigged this and declared that I had to derig it for value.

A short climb and crawl over a rift led to a traverse to the third pitch head. I rigged this one, which drops into a chamber full of flowstone, Cloud Chamber. We ignored the various insitu ropes as instructed by the CNCC description, had some water and chocolate, and began the ascent. In this direction, Ana derigged the third and first pitches, while I derigged the second. I believe it was much less wet than normal as the first pitch was barely even drippy and Monsoon Chamber, the first ‘chamber’ of the pitch which is obviously named for spray, had very little water.

The car parking for the cave is literally just across the road opposite the entrance – perfect – and thus I had time to grab my phone to photograph Ana exiting.

Monday April 18th - Yordas Pot

We had planned to Hardrawkin it up with Mark and Clive. So prepared were we that the ropes had already been packed. But Mark wisely checked the forecast in the morning and it betrayed us by predicting showers on Ingleborough. It was a shame we couldn’t continue our weekend of new caves only but that is caving for you. In the interests of speed we perused the rigging guides for a cave we could do with our prepacked ropes. Our team, reduced to a twosome, quickly settled on Yordas Pot.

Yordas is the very first Yorkshire cave Ana ever did, and also the cave in which we first met. She was highly competent on the Chapterhouse Traverse as a novice and three years on I expected she would be very good at rigging it too. I was correct.

We switched things up a little by doing the Top Entrance, a simple 20-25m pitch down a daylit shaft. On reaching the bottom I looked unenthusiastically at the wet crawl carrying the entire streamway onwards into the cave. When Ana joined me, she dived in with nary a concern about carrying wet caving gear across London. I had rather hoped it might dissuade her.

Brrr! Some moaning over the coldness of water and lowness of ceiling later, we reached the traverse and Ana set to rigging. All went well, with Ana moving swiftly and me following, until the pitch down in the centre of the traverse. I use a Simple descender and a Raumer Handy braking krab, which attaches to the central maillon (Omni) with a steel link. I hardlocked my Simple as usual and stood up to release my short cowstail. As I sat back down in my harness, I realised the rope was slowly running through the descender and noticed that my braking krab had somehow unclipped from the steel link attaching it to my Omni. It was still clipped through the rope as part of the lock.

I made an undignified noise and yelped at Ana. My long cowstail had been in the loop of rope above the whole time, as it should be on an untested descender, so I was safe; still, I felt very unhappy. I quickly put my hand jammer on the rope and stood in my footloop, then awkwardly bridged across the rift for footing to fix the issue. I reattached my braking krab and rerigged my descender, testing a few times before finally trusting the krab and dropping down to the next bolt. Always test your descender!

I began the process of moving across the tension traverse, in the sense that I attached both my cowstails as normal and derigged my Simple. Then I considered my short cowstail and my mind went blank. I looked around and saw Ana had just reached the floor. I looked at my watch, at the traverse ahead, again at my short cowstail - which felt very immovable - and then yelled for Ana to ascend and derig. I was certainly thinking about the time and being out well in time for Ana to catch her coach. But I was certainly also thinking, “I’m no longer in the mood for caving.”

Ana derigged as I made my way back up the traverse. I remained calm, as one must in this situation, until she reached me on solid footing. I’d said, “Yes,” to every called, “Are you okay?” because again, one needs to stay calm, but a short hug was incredibly welcome. Hopefully there won’t be a next time.

We wriggled out, wailing about the cold water once again; our faces got much wetter because we were moving upstream against the flow. We were shortly back into daylight and shivered while changing at the car. However, we were rewarmed by hot chocolate at Inglesport, and even had time to spin our gear dry while tidying up at Greenclose.

Overall, an excellent and relaxed Easter weekend.

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