Report by Steve (Stik) Rider
Cavers: Steve (Stik) Rider (EPC), Paul (Paz) Vale (EPC), Bob Toogood (EPC)
This trip was supposed to be Top Sink to Lancaster hole - an official Eldon PC meet. With dwindling numbers due to all sorts of perfectly valid reasons, the trip was barely on, but we just managed to muster up three people including myself. The support should be there, you would think, a classic long through trip in one of the biggest cave systems in the country and a good old piss up in the Marton Arms to follow. That should be enough to entice any self-respecting caver to attend.
However, the list of excuses was as varied as it was long:
...On climbing holiday
...Revising for exams
So, those that obviously had nothing better to do turned up at Bernie’s at 10am. It was raining. It had been raining all night. Top Sink looked doubtful. We had to make our minds up about what trip to undertake – and indeed if one should be made at all. Paz looked like he would be happier staying put drinking coffee and eating toast than going down a hole, but I managed to persuade him otherwise. we decided that due to the unpredictable weather a dry trip would have to be made. The classic (and much over used) Lancaster - Wretched Rabbit through trip was chosen.
By the time we got to Bull Pot farm the weather was OK and it was not long before we were changed and making our way to Lancaster Hole entrance, being held up at one point by a group of Ramblers. One rambler announced that 'some people think we are mad, but not compared to potholers...'. Mmm, I thought. On arrival at the entrance we were met by novices and voices coming out of the shaft indicated that they were not altogether sure about the way to tie a figure of eight knot. This surely can't be the most suitable location to learn as the entrance pitch is over 100ft direct to the floor! We decided that as it was nearing 1pm by the time me, Paz and Toogood were all at the bottom of the entrance pitch we would simply go for it - not like 'the old days' where Paz said the Eldon record for this trip was under 1.5 hours - but just from the point of view of not getting lost or exploring 'other' bits. So, we proceeded a pace to Fall Pot where we were again held up - this time due to the fixed rope being 13mm furry Beal which would not go through our 'stops'. We duly sorted this out by abbing the old fashioned way and were soon off to Stake Pot on the high level Montague East passage. Passing Stake pot we soon reached the two big holes with difficult names and gingerly traversed round them on the right hand wall. This part of the cave is pretty impressive. Next comes Oakes Cavern and then the remarkable Minarets. It's as distinct a change of cave exiting them as it is entering them when Cornes Monster cavern is reached. This is big. And long. It eventually ends at a junction where the kind of middle left passage is taken - notable by its (relatively) narrow passage which is tall and floored by boulders. An awkward drop down is negotiated before the sudden and large expanse of Stop Pot is encountered. This has a good fixed ladder in place. The sound of water crashing over the boulders in the floor of Stop Pot is loud - and must have been responsible for drowning out the screams made by Bob as his battery got forced into his back during the decent of a boulder. This later became a great concern as the trip out through Wretched Rabbit is long and in places arduous due to the climbing involved.
From Stop Pot the main streamway has to be followed for a short distance of approx 50 meters down stream to Eureka Junction. This was fun as the stream way is deep and fast flowing in places. Eureka Junction is wide, and coming from upstream a left turn takes you into a dry hands and knees passage which soon lifts into a canyon at a junction. For County Pot take the right fork. For Wretched Rabbit take the left fork. From here on it is pretty straight forward. Just follow the meandering streamway which is tightish in places. One or two bits are a little confusing as the stream is lost at low level and oxbows are followed. Eventually a fine series of cascade climbs are reached, some with fixed hand lines to assist the weary (or injured) and the way on is always up until a long rift passage is reached. Again this is followed to the far end where a few more climbs are encountered until a scaffold bar and daylight are seen. This brings you out in Ease Gill Beck approx 150 metres up stream from Cow Dubs - a very spectacular bit of the beck - most of which looks like cave with no roof.
It has to be said that this is a good caving trip - and Bob Toogood did well in the end as his back injury - suffered at Stop Pot - was really hurting by the time we got out. From WR entrance, we walked down the beck, past Cow Dub, as far as the Mistral entrance to Pippikin, where a new footpath leads over the fell back to Lancaster Hole entrance where we pulled the abseil rope up. Before too long we were back in Bernie’s having large teas and food in preparation for a long drinking session at the Marton Arms and at the Braida Hut.