Having done the Langstroth sumps a couple of times before with ropes fixed, we were keen to do the pure pull-through trip. We also wanted to get some practice with the ‘underwater breathing apparatus’ and used this to check out the level of the sumps and the flow of the water down the final pitch. After a spell of wet weather and encountering rain near Aysgarth, I was unsure about the wisdom of attempting the pull-through, so the diving practice was definitely handy in allowing us to determine the feasibility of the trip.
Donning rather a lot of complex kit, we slogged up to the cave manhole cover and hauled our clanking loads to the rather high-looking and murky sump. Simon dived first and I followed, trying to go as slowly as possible and switching off from free-dive mode. Finding the water to be pleasantly warm, I emerged in the big passage at the bottom of the pot in a rather large pool of scummy foam, much to Simon’s amusement. De-kitting, we walked upstream to check the flow down the final pitch, finding it to be much greater than on any of our previous visits, but not too bad, providing it was going down, not up! A committee meeting was held and we decided to go for the descent of the pot, leaving the bottles in the alcove below the pitch and free-diving out with a weight belt each. I dived out first, reverting to deep breath, rapid pull mode, finding the process to be almost automatic and actually very easy now, having a quick gulp in the air bell and after meeting up with Simon in the cave end we picked up the ropes and headed uphill.
Since the skies were clear and we reckoned on only 1.5 to 2 hours for the descent, we felt pretty sure of ourselves and we had minimal loads, wearing the weight belts and having only 2 x 20m ropes, 1 of 9mm, the other 8mm and I used only a sling for a harness and a belay plate for a descender. With the weights only removed for the head of the first big pitch, we motored down the pot, arriving at the gear stash, before kitting up for the dive out.
The only hitch of the trip occurred when the tackle bag got jammed in the upstream sump and I arrived in the cave to find that I had to return to release it! This performed, the dives were again leisurely done and we were soon out in the bright, yet cool afternoon.
A spicy trip with plenty of water down one of my favourite pots – what a great caving experience!