An e-mail from Richard Bendall asking for a hand with his explorations soon had me replying in the affirmative, with the addition of a request to tell me where Cupcake could be found!
Avid Descent reader, Phil Ryder, put me right the next day and for the benefit of you all, Cupcake is a new entrance to Notts II, being found after explorations from bottom-up ended at a prominent surface depression that was subsequently dug.
The plan was for me, Richard and Dave Ramsey to investigate a roof inlet that had been reached by a bolt traverse, with the Misty Mountain boys digging a choke, whilst I de-rigged the traverse and a host of other chaps would work on the entrance shaft.
After negotiating the well-decorated entrance series, complete with much tape protecting sensitive areas, a rather sporting section of caving followed. The cave was already rigged, with a series of short, up and down pitches separating some arduous slippery going, with RB advising the way through his eponymous dilemma, although the worryingly-named Sludge Crawl didn't turn out to be as bad as its namesake in Hammer Pot and upon arriving at a large chamber, a hanging rope was reached. Ascending this, the diggers went right, whilst I traversed left along a bolt ladder, returning from its end with hangers and rope. This turned out to be pretty enjoyable stuff - high up in the roof, with darkness and silence all around, a few strenuous positions had to be held to remove 1 or 2 hangers, but I managed to return to base just in time to meet the Misty boys in search of their rope, having found more passage through the choke.
Following through, a number of avens were apparent, with the most promising being ascended by Dave on bolts, after my free-climbing efforts were quickly abandoned in the face of much disposable rock. Feeling hungry and a bit chilly, I headed out by myself, finding some of the muddy sections to be much to my distaste - no running water here and the transfer of mud from body to cave cannot be avoided, no matter how one tries.
Emerging totally brown, with my colour-coded SRT kit a uniform muddy unrecognisable mess, a thorough wash in the Lost John's stream was required to satisfy my desire for cleanliness.
A few days later, on my first visit to Lancaster Hole, despite having caved for over 30 years, on and off, I was reminded why I had avoided it for so long. I think I'd rather see a photo of a pristine Easter Grotto being admired by that bespectacled chap many decades ago, than see whatever remains today and the sad sight of the ravages of Homo sapiens on the still impressive Colonnades made me fear for the integrity of places such as the recent Leck Fell finds. So in conclusion, do your bit for cave conservation - don't go down Cupcake or Shuttleworth, admire the photos and go to Long Churn instead, unless it's raining of course!
Thanks to the Misty boys and their chums for a fine day out.