Ian and Simon.
After some really foul weather following Boxing Day, I suggested a trip to Trapdoor Pot – one which I had been saving for a rainy day, although as we both later agreed, this is a fine outing and not just a wet day filler-in.
Following the description in Mike Cooper’s book, I noted that much of the rigging is from studs, rather than conventional fixings and having done the neighbouring Boggarts Roaring Holes in the wet summer spell, I packed a few Rocks on wire into the tackle bag to serve as hangers if any jammed nuts were encountered. Back in the mid ‘80s when we were free-climbing the Yorkshire aid routes such as Malham’s Main Overhang, we used to use wires on the old bolt heads for runners, so I’m not too worried by using them for belays! In fact on a few belays we found nuts on the studs, with no hanger. In Boggarts we had encountered a similar situation, where attempting to remove the nut resulted in a turning bolt – impossible to shift without more tools, so I resolved to leave any such nuts in place and use a wire for a hanger, sliding the Rock up for security.
The first problem was finding the entrance. Finding the landmark massive shakehole was no problem and heading off in what I reckoned was north-west, we were soon close to Boggarts Roaring Holes and a change in direction soon revealed a multitude of shakeholes to be examined. The first looked promising, but had only a minute sink, another had a decent, mossy entrance, not quite fitting the description, but I was curious anyway and climbed down to a flat-out crawl and a climb down a sharp, narrow rift to a choke. A later perusal of NC2 suggests that this was Sharp Pot – aptly named. As usual, Simon came up with the goods and we rigged a bit of climbing rope to the block at the entrance, where a slight squeeze in leads onto the pitch head. In fact this is well supplied with ledges and holds and we free-climbed the pitch on our exit, although an anchor on the block is handy for the bag haul.
The first real obstacle to be encountered is a squeeze in a vertical rift, best done with no SRT kit on, immediately followed by a nice 15m pitch, rigged from 2 studs, in an impressive situation, although with only a minimal trickle of water. Below the pitch, some terraced rubble leads to a drop down a small hole onto cramped ledges at the head of a small pitch. A scaffold bar, secured with expanded foam (!), allows a rope to be placed for the descent, which could be handlined and which we free-climbed on the ascent, using a self-belay. Narrower passage leads to a chamber at the head of the 12m ‘Ready to Roll Pitch’, rigged with a very wide Y-hang from studs and descending an aesthetic shaft.
Some short, free-climbable drops follow, leading to the most difficult obstacle in the cave, particularly when dragging bags out on exit. Slippery, narrow, downwards progress, where the bags must not be dropped (!), leads to a tighter horizontal section. We both generated a good sweat in our wetsuits, particularly on the return, when my tackle bag almost fell into the crevice below!
Rigging the next pitch is tricky, since with no really good anchor at the pitch head, a chockstone in the crawl preceding has to be used for the initial anchor and a wire on a bolt head at the lip allows some security for the drop over the lip. Wedging myself in a strenuous bridge here, 2 hangers were placed and the fine Electron Pitch was descended, landing in a slightly damp, airy chamber. This is pretty impressive, but the final pitch is remarkable, dropping through a window into a massive chamber, in total contrast to the passages above. We were both hugely impressed by this sight, although it’s worth remembering not to be too lavish with your rope on the top section, since my 50m reached the ground-just!
A very small stream runs into a choke and a large mud and rubble pile fills the back of the chamber. As usual it was Simon to de-rig and I enjoyed my Galaxy bar at the top of the big pitch, hoping for an energy boost for the customary struggle with the bags on the way out. With a lot of relaying of bags through the narrow sections, we made steady progress, therefore I was surprised to be exiting in the dark. The trip probably took us about 5 hours and I reckon effort-wise the cave was equivalent to Strans Gill, although the absence of any appreciable water makes it a much easier proposition.
Walking down in fog, I relied on Simon’s navigation skills and we picked up the path for the walk down. Curiously, neither of us recognised the gate at the bottom of the hill and we reckoned we had gone wrong somewhere. Following the wall, we arrived at some sheep pens, so we retraced our steps and decided that the gate was the correct one after all!
Despite my normal indifference toward dry caves, Trapdoor proved to be an enjoyable, testing trip, the only downside being the gear washing required when I got home. All in all this was a fine way to end what has been a very enjoyable year of caving.
Don’t forget those Rocks on wire!