Report by Pete Pollard
Cavers: Pete Pollard (EPC), Dave Gledhill (EPC), Bob Toogood (EPC)
The idea of a trip to Brown Hill Pot was suggested by Jules as he had previously attempted it with a friend but had not managed to get through the initial tight section with the rope only divided between the two of them. The party who wanted to attempt the trip were Jules, Bob Toogood, Dave and myself. I started to have the feeling that we were being stitched up when Jules called me on Friday night to say he would not be able to make it.
To add to my doubts about the trip one of Bobs mates we met in Inglesport Café told us that although the survey showed a very simple route the reality was somewhat different and a friend of his had taken three attempts to finally get to the sump. Undeterred we set off in the glorious sunshine up East Kingsdale to the entrance which we found dead easy thanks to the guide (Not for the Faint Hearted). The entrance was a 3m drop through rusty oil drums which immediately led to a narrow rift, interesting but nothing difficult. The next part was described as challenging and it lived up to this promise. Bob decided the easiest way to get his bag through the constricted passage was to empty the ropes neatly into a pile and pull them through the rift. One came through no problem, but the second got snagged. Me and Bob were having a bit of a dilemma about going back to sort out the rope as we didn’t want to knacker ourselves out too much at this early stage by going through the tight bit twice again. Luckily the first pitch was not far ahead and Dave had found it rigged, so we decided to risk it and leave the rope and our other bags and carry on. The head of the first pitch is described as narrow and awkward which is pretty much as we found it. We were grateful we had decided to don SRT gear earlier on. Mon Petit pitch follows almost directly and again it was rigged with 8mm and had an interesting deviation which would have been pretty hard to put in otherwise. Not far from the bottom of the first pitch is a big aven (Gallerie Pas Mur) with a waterfall flowing down it. It was just what I needed, a respite from the thrutching and a fantastic view. The rift now opens out and we took the opportunity to stretch our legs a bit. The stream runs in the bottom of a tall rift reminiscent of Dowber Gill This is the only part of the system which we noticed was decorated, with some very fine helictites.
We knew that there were several routes to Puits Ian Plant, the upper one being simple to navigate but very tight, we followed it part way out of interest and then doubled back to find the lower route. We managed to find the route pretty easily although reversing some of the climb downs was difficult on the way back out on account that we were pretty tired, well I was anyhow. We found Puits Ian Plant rigged as two fine descents and I just had to whoop on the way down, partly out of excitement and partly in relief that I had space around me. Back into the rift at the bottom of the pitch and this time an easy walk down to the last pitch, this was again rigged. Immediately at the bottom of the pitch is a sump and a dive base, which looks to be in current use. After 5 mins looking round we set off back – all went well until the top of the first pitch where again we had the rope bags to contend with. I made my way to the other side of the tight bit without gear but accompanied with quite a bit of cursing. We used the rope which had snagged to pull the remaining gear through this bit. I think Dave had the toughest job here attaching all the equipment in a very restricted space and I can honestly say I have never heard him swear so much. Once all the gear was through it was just the small matter of Dave and Bob getting themselves through whilst I relaxed.
From this section up to the entrance is only a few minutes of fairly easy caving, but the oil drum entrance was a bugger to ascend. We left the cave at about 21.00 into the cold but calm and dry evening and had a leisurely walk back to the cars. Dave went home but Bob and me went to Settle for a curry and then back to the Helwith Bridge for a few pints and finally left about 1.30 to go and disturb some cyclists at the YSS hostel.
All in all a very good trip which we could do again much easier and quicker now that we are familiar.