Ian Cummins and Simon Beck.
I knew back in my student days in Bath, that Langstroth Pot was a classic Yorkshire through trip, with the sting in the tail being the dangerous sump at the end. I still held the desire to do this trip, as did Simon, and despite not having done a sump for 25 years, I suggested we go for it while water levels were low. I twisted Simon’s arm to bring along an air bottle, with the aim of recharging the small air bell in the sump series. With masks, hoods and as much neoprene as I could muster, we checked out the sump from the cave end. Disturbingly, my feet were numb by the time we had made the short trip to the fixed line and a test immersion in the pool sent shockwaves through my system. I immediately had doubts about my ability to free dive in water this cold and control my breath in the small, rucksack-sized air bell. Simon also had a few problems with his bottle, so we decided to get more ropes from the car and do the return trip down the pitches and carry hoods and masks to check out the first sump into the larger air bell from the bottom of the pot. Finding the entrance high on the hillside opposite the stone circle, we free-climbed the easy entrance pitch, with the most difficult part of the cave being the long crawl to the very tight head of Pitch 2. This is a tight squeeze down to an enlarging chamber and nothing else in the cave is so awkward. A short traverse to the next pitch revealed a hung-up rope, in very good condition, presumably from an improper pull-through rigging arrangement – but there was no sign of anyone around and we continued down the pleasant series of short, wet pitches to the final big pitch. Here again was a new Mammut rope and again no cavers in sight. Continuing to the sump we still had seen no other cavers and were soon at the clear, shallow sump pool. Again dipping into the water was a shock to my brain and I declined to test the dive, so we set off back on the return up the pitches. The exit at the top of the tight pitch was tricky and the crawl beyond to the surface was tiring. After a 7-hour trip we were back at the roadside. A fine trip, but we were both a bit frustrated not to have done the dives. I was left hoping for some increase in water temperature later in the year for another attempt, wondering if Mendip sump water was ever this cold, or if I was getting soft!