Diccan Pot, Ian and Brian, 08/08/09
Imagine the scene- the middle of winter, freezing weather, with a dusting of snow and you are stuck at the top of the last pitch in Diccan Pot, one of the windiest, wettest holes in the dales. I can’t remember why, but for whatever reason, our leader didn’t have any hangers and we frantically tried to fashion an anchor before hypothermia set in. After a while, with some of the party showing signs of giving up hope, a minor miracle in the form of another bunch of cavers came down the pot, fixed a belay and we were soon scrambling down the pitch to push, drag and shove some of the colder members out via Long Churn. All this happened nearly 30 years ago and soon afterwards I started climbing and gave up caving – but the memory needed to be banished!
I had a look down the cave last winter, by myself, but having got frozen in the pools above the first pitch, I descended as far as the top of the last, only to take one look at the fierce spray and decide to go home for a sit by the fire.
With a few dry days recently, I decided to try again and I was pleased to have Brian along to carry one of the bags. With my wetsuit on, the water in the pools felt quite warm and I was soon rigging down, with 20m of rope for the initial diagonal descent and a 50m for the main hang. Brian followed behind from re-belays and we were soon on the ledge below – still a hostile place, even in mid-summer, before rigging down the corner for the final 10m drop to the walking passage – just enough rope with 20m + 50m.
This section gives some respite from the noise and spray and the traverse and short descent to the final pitch were soon passed, although Brian did comment upon how easily (!) 8mm rope ran through his bobbin descender. The final pitch is the meat of the cave, with the water crashing down into the gloom at the bottom of Alum Pot. This is actually very good fun to rig, and 80m of 9mm meant I had rope to spare. Slings for deviations pull the rope into the back of the rift and locking off my Stop, it was possible to traverse along some holds, rather than swinging on the rope to clip these, before dropping down to the final easy-angled cascades at the bottom.
After inspecting the sump pool, we climbed up towards Alum, to enjoy the classic view of the trees framed by the rock, with the spray swirling around – brilliant stuff. I zipped up to the base of the top pitch, pausing at the re-belays to enjoy the sight of Brian’s light in the wild surroundings. Grabbing the bag containing the de-rigged ropes, I was soon jugging up the top pitch, again hanging off the belay to enjoy the view as Brian appeared out of the gloom.
We both agreed that the cave had been great sport in the wet conditions – it must take a long dry spell to make things friendly down there, but with the spell broken I’ll be back again for sure.