Sunday 5 May 2024

Lancaster Hole & Cow Pot

We had decided the night before that we will be splitting into 2 teams to do a transfer trip between Cow pot and Lancaster hole. We have looked at the rigging maps for both and realised that there is difference between the rigging maps we had for Cow pot. A 20m extra pitch appears on one of the maps. We decided to take a 20m rope in case we needed it. I have not been personally there before, nor have I seen the description of the cave. Last minute that morning we decided to switch teams so team 1 Bartek, Ann and Dave will go to Lancaster hole, while team 2 Dino, Paulina and I will rig the cow pot. Which means the 2 people who have properly looked at the 2 caves were now in one team. Paulina has been before long time ago at Eurospealeo where everything was pre rigged.

We started our trip with all off us walking for the Red Rose hut. All dressed up ready to go down. Aggi and Zeina were not caving that day, so they walked with us, a bit behind, until the track started going a bit inclined and muddy. Said our goodbyes and carried on till the stile. After the stile, Bartek had to call the three ahead to come back as we are going left beside the wall. Following the wall took us to cows pot first. Team 2 opened a gate on the wall to heading to Cow Pot. Team 1 went right at this point and heading to Lancaster hole which was few hundred meters away. As part of team 2, we followed the path around the bushes and trees where we suspected the pot would be. We reached the top of a big rock, clearly there was a long way down at the edge.

We could see the anchor points at the surface of the rock where we stood, which matched the rigging map we had. Dino and I started rigging. Then I took the rope and start the decent. there was a reply just few inches from the edge of the rock. Rigging this, i carried down looking for the deviation point which was on the opposite side of the big rock i was on. Threading a sling in the steel anchor and putting the deviation on the rope, after that it was a 20+ meters vertical drop in the middle of the shaft. I reached the bottom where it was properly lit with day light. Dino followed and when arrived, he directly followed the natural passage trying to find the way forward from there.

Paulina got down next. When she arrived, we started looking around for the other passage which she has used long time ago. In my mind I was looking for that 20m up and down passage on the rigging map that i have seen the day before, which was not with us that day. We saw a narrow passage on the floor going up and away from where we landed. It seemed the wrong way as it was too tight and we could not see any landing at the end of it, also it looked tricky if you get stuck there as there is no way you can pull yourself up.

There was a small climb opposite to that hole, which a thought it was the 20 m passage on the map. Anyway, we decided to follow Dino to see what he has found. Walking down that passage following the natural way the cave goes, reach a low celling chamber with a natural duct over, i went in the chamber where dino was looking down a hole with scaffolding, trying to access it. Paulina went up into that duct and came back as there is nothing up there. At that stage, we said that didn’t looked like the right way, so we thought we go back and this time with Dino to see if we can find the other way especially as Paulina thought that’s not the way she previously used.

Back at the landing area, we started looking again around, not much there except the hole on the ground level and that climb. I went up the climb and look around, nothing there except a very tight squeeze. Dino tried going down that tight hole, after naturally fixing the rope and using his hand jammer to slide down and threw a rock, we could hear it went down quite a drop. Then Paulina gave a go. Also, they both agreed it would be a risk if we go in and it was not the right passage, we could easily get stuck. I tried to give it a final go but had a similar conclusion.

So at that point, we thought we have spent more than an hour so far and it is too late to carry on, as Bartek was expecting us at 2 on the main chamber in Lancaster hole on the 60m rope. He was hopping to capture this mid celling 60m drop. It was 20 to 2pm already, so we decided if we go back now, derigging and try to follow them in Lancaster hole, to let them know what happens as they will be worried by then. Dino went up first, saying that don’t take the bag as he will pull it from the top. He reminded us few times and up he went. I followed, then Paulina. Paulina reached the deviation; a thought came to mind whether the rope was attached to the bag as i have not seen dino doing it an also I didn’t.

Dino asked Paulina if she tied the rope to the bag, she replied confidently that she thought Dino did, reaching the belay at this stage, she was double checking with Dino who was on top of the pitch at the edge looking worried and annoyed. Paulina at this stage starter to switch onto her descender as we will have to go down again for the bag. Dino did have a bit if shock until Pauling switched back and went up. Dino then started pulling the bag and us laughing. The bag finally at the top, we packed and started heading to Lancaster hole.

We reached the top of the hole, where we could see three ropes going down, its a busy cave. Dino went first, and then Paulina. While Paulina was midway, we heard voices, it seems Bartek has come back to the entrance as he was worried. I followed Paulina on our rope, it was tricky to get on the correct rope with 2 rebelays, especially the ropes were twisted over each other. Mid way down, I checked if I needed to carry on if they are coming up. Bartek said to carry on.

Reached the bottom of the first 30-4 drop, Bartek was there, while Paulina and Dino have gone ahead. There were three other cavers faffing around, waiting for me to get off the pitch to go up. I followed Bartek quickly as you need to with Bartek. He vanished and i had to call him back as i was not sure on the way, it was my first time in this place.

Walked for 10 minutes going in a stream at one point and going up muddy slops, over boulders and under till we reached a huge chamber, where we were supposed to emerge from the ceiling (the 60m pitch). Dino and Paulina waiting for us in the chamber, Dave and Ann were at the bottom of the chamber. There were few ropes already rigged at different placed to get to the bottom. Our ropes were rigged at the right-hand side wall of that chamber with a traverse to start with then a straight drop down. Bartek tried to see if he can take a good photo from that spot but after decided not to, and wanted to get to the incline opposite you where that starts from the bottom of the chamber all the way to the top of the ceiling for the chamber. I decided to wait there while the three of them went down on the ropes that Dave had rigged.

They all went up the incline, Bartek looking for photo spots, but then canned the whole way idea. I was not feeling great, so i said i will wait for them in the chamber and they can carry on from the top of the incline. After an hour of the gone, another team of four showed up from the same spot they banished from. When they reached the bottom of the chamber, one of them came up a rope that was rigged in the middle and the other three scrambler their way under the boulder then up two small pitches with ropes to emerge behind me near the entrance to that big chamber. They did stay long and vanished as well heading back to surface.

Still no sign of the team, I had couple of chocolate bars as i started feeling a bit cold, waited for another our, then thought they are late, they supposed to be back an hour ago. So, i decided to head out as if i stayed here i might be a liability. I was concerned if I will remember my way back, I started going back trying to trace my route, a lost my way once just for few meters and then found the way. When I reached the bottom of the entrance pitch i could see daylight. Wait a bit then stated prusiking up the rope. I reached the top, it was sunny and warm, I laid down on the grass and waited, at least now I’m warm and enjoying the sunshine. After 30 minutes, I heard some noise at the bottom of the pitch, it was Dino. When he reached the top, he suggested we go back to the hut and pass by the entrance of the Cow pot to collect the bag of ropes on the way.

We reached the hut and got changed, had a shower and sat down with Aggi and Zeina. The rest of the team then arrived. Waited for them to change then headed to the Kirkby village to get dinner.

Cavers: Paulina, Bartek, Dino, Firas, Dave & Anne
Trip Report by: Firas
Photo by: Bartek

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