Ian Cummins, Simon Beck, Ed Tapp.
We were hoping to get down Penyghent Pot, as Simon had a permit, but the torrents during the week and the changeable forecast put paid to that. However, I reckoned we could still have a day out and Nick Pot was the goal. We parked up at South House as usual and had a warm walk up in lots of gear. I was anticipating a lot of water and wind in the bottom of the pot, so I had my oversuit over my wetsuit – unpleasant to walk in, but later proving to be just right.
Walking past Sulber Pot, with its dodgy-looking iron ladder and assorted benches in the base, we arrived at the complex of sinks and holes in the region of Hangman’s Hole and Nick Pot/Cave. We decided not to go for the Vulcan Pot pitch, as we reckoned that in the high water conditions we would no doubt encounter at the bottom of the pitch, communications would be impossible, whereas if we took the Traverse in The Gods route, at least we would have some view of the Trouser Flake section. After a through trip of Nick Cave in error, with a lot of water en route, we found Thornber’s Entrance and were soon at the first 30 m pitch, rigged from P-bolts with a single deviation. From the base there is only a short distance to the big pitch and the roar of the water was already apparent. The Traverse in The Gods is a crawl along an incut ledge to the left of the water for about 20 m, allowing a dry hang until the water is met at a big projecting nose – the Trouser Flake - about 50 m down, with a further 30 m to the base of the shaft. The traverse has a fixed rope and although covered in slippery yellow clay, there is only 1 spot that is sloping and slick enough for alarm and leads to a nice stance on some clean ramparts where one can peer into the gloom below.
With my 100 m rope for company, I fixed the first Y-hang to 2 P-bolts above the ramparts and made a similar rebelay about 10 m below. Then it was down and down until I met the force of the waterfall at the Trouser Flake. It was too wet to use the normal rebelays here, but I had read that a dry hang was possible by climbing up the flake and traversing over to the left wall (looking into the back of the pitch). Climbing across was fine on the big holds and a scan of the far wall revealed a P-bolt. Once this was clipped another was found on the opposite side of the cleft, about 2 m away and a wide Y-hang was arranged. From here it was possible to see Simon and Ed’s lights a long way up and I continued down to the base of the shaft. The bottom of the pitch was wild, wet and windy, with swirling clouds of water droplets and the noise from the fall was incredible. With a few whistle blows and light flash signals, Ed came down, followed by Simon. I felt well enough protected to enjoy a shower under the fall, but Ed was feeling the cold and sheltered in the lee of a flake up the slope.
Once Simon was down, Ed was straight back up the rope to warm up and once past the rebelay, I followed. We had a smooth ascent and I had a good wash in the dam pool to remove the ‘Mud of The Gods’, before ascending the 30 m pitch, where Simon waited to help with the bag haul. From here it was about 1 minute to the surface. Although Nick Pot has very little horizontal caving, we really enjoyed its spectacular pitch on such a wet day. Emerging into sunshine we reckoned we could have done Penyghent after all, but the fickle nature of the weather was demonstrated on my return to Bishop Auckland, where a fierce thunderstorm had dumped an awful lot of water.