Report by Jules Barrett
Cavers: Jules Barrett (EPC), Pete Pollard (EPC), Jase Rider (EPC)
The Dales had been dry during the previous week and the forecast for the day was promising with rain supposedly arriving in the evening. Three of us drove up to the Dales early on Saturday morning and met at 10:00 a.m. in the Inglesport cafe for a caver's breakfast. There was light rain floating around and lots of low cloud. It didn't look as though anything drastic was going to happen but the weather didn't look as promising as I'd hoped. Radio 4 had chosen this particular Saturday morning to broadcast an interview with Les Hewitt (he of the Sleets Gill rescue), which struck me as particularly insensitive given that we planned to be in the main drain later that day and it was raining. We drove to the parking at Braida Garth and squeezed in amongst the minibuses offloading their cargo into Valley Entrance. The rope and hardware got packed into three bags and we walked over to Braida Garth to ask permission. On the way we stuck our heads into the old NCC hut which is more-or-less derelict now. The old hut book is still there and Jase found an entry that he had written years ago as well as entries by John Taylor and Tony Revell. A short walk up the hill, found the entrance to King Pot and set off down the entrance climb. This leads to a small chamber with a P-bolt and Pete rigged a handline down the Rope Pitch. This led to the top of the First (Perfect) Pitch - a nice hang from double P-bolts in a pleasant circular shaft. From the bottom of this pitch a bit of a scramble leads to an easy traverse (with in-situ rope) and then a short, tight, blasted crawl. This emerges in a chamber and the top of the second pitch is at the far end. From here the rigging is all on Spits and the second pitch has a double-bolt rebelay on a small ledge. A bit of scrambling and crawling leads to a strenuous crawl-traverse. This is very awkward with a largish bag but fortunately doesn't last for very long. By this time we were down to two bags of rope, hardware and SRT kits which were a bit too fat for this kind of thrutching. Three smaller bags would have been better here. After that we dropped into Queensway and made our way downstream to eventually arrive at Emma's Pitch. This is a nice pitch down a rift and leads to a narrow winding passage (Festina Lente). At the end of this is a good-sized boulder choke. A devious route through this leads to King Henry Hall which is a very impressive chamber. Bloodaxe Pitch is at the far end of the hall and drops into another large chamber. Victoria Pitch follows quickly on and we set off crawling down towards Elizabeth Pitch. This is a tremendous pitch with a big limestone bar to protect the rigger who balances on top of a narrow rock spike just out from the pitch head whilst trying not to drop bolts and hangers. The pitch itself is a bit wet (especially near the bottom) and soon leads on to Jane's Pitch which isn't really much of a pitch. It's a short wall of rock that you climb up over and down the other side. Once past this the crawling starts and we headed downstream past some largish inlets. Soon we arrived at the impressive main drain and headed downstream to the final sump. Because of the weather we opted not to find the Grasshopper series so that will have to wait for another trip when the weather is a bit more settled. After a quick change of batteries we set off back out. De-rigging went without any problems and we exited the cave after eight hours underground.
We followed the description in Mike Cooper's book 'Not for the Faint Hearted' and found it to be excellent. King Pot is a brilliant trip which reminded me of Pen y Ghent Pot except King Pot has more caving between the pitches.