As part of a compendium of some of the club's more entertaining trips underground over the last twelve months, this certainly is not an account of a typical day's caving, but then, who cares?
A few days before the now traditional 'alternative' Annual Dinner at the Brass Cat in Settle, Yorkshire, it was decided to avoid the June sunshine with a Spectacle - Vesper SRT exchange trip. Mark Dougherty and Adam left a verdant and sweet smelling East Kingsdale via a rotting and foul smelling sheep carcase inside the entrance to Spectacle Pot, covering the entrance behind them so that no other sheep would try to imitate the pot-holing habit.
They quickly reached the top of the 140 ft Dodd's pitch, where Mark noticed the rope would just touch the wall. To avoid this rub point, he put in an elegant deviation in the form of a sling wrapped around a large projection from the wall. He also put in a vital rebelay half-way down the pitch, consisting of a large loop of rope around a large natural belay.
Meanwhile, the writer, together with Mark Fearon and Jeremy, descended Vesper Pot. Having misinterpreted the guidebook, they at first ignored the obvious way on and followed the main stream inlet. Chris flailed around shifting gravel in a '..degenerating crawl..' which did, however, draft extremely strongly.
"But surely it must go somewhere, with a howling gale like this coming out of it!" said Chris, excavating gravel from beneath himself.
"Maybe, but obviously not to the bottom of the Great Big Boulder Heap" was the gist of the reply.
So they returned to the obvious way on and rigged down to the bottom of the cave, meeting up with the rather chilly 'team Spectacle'. Mark D. started to prussik up the last Vesper pitch, with 'team Vesper' hanging around eating chocolate, until a pebble falling randomly from the roof galvanised them into exiting through Spectacle. Jeremy and Chris sat chatting, a safe thirty feet from the bottom of the rope hanging down Dodd's pitch while Mark Fearon went up it. After prolonged grunts from the pitch head followed by a cry of "Rope free", Jeremy started up until he was hanging beneath the deviation. He was saved the bother of passing it because, having held his weight for 139 of the 140 foot pitch, the four foot long section of the wall to which the deviation was attached decided now to give up the struggle against gravity. Fortunately the boulder shrugged off the tape fastening it to the rope as it skimmed past Jeremy. From the logbook: ... an elegant deviation by Mark detached itself giving Jeremy a surprise and Chris a shot-blasting, as it fell 140 ft, smashing off the rebelay and disintegrating into a million pieces and showering the chamber below in rock fragments...' two skull-sized ones landing just where Chris had been sitting a moment before.
An age later, he poked his head out from the overhang after repeated assurances from the two at the top that the pitch was now safe, and the minor rub point at the top was now protected with a tackle sack.
The writer, not realising that the pitch was supposed to be rebelayed halfway up, thought the falling boulder had simply bounced away from the rope and that the rope would probably have been untouched gingerly ascended the pitch. Expecting a simple free hang, he was surprised to meet an ex-rebelay seventy feet up. In its place was the sort of abrasion point that all good textbooks recommend against in capital letters, usually with skull & crossbones just to make the point. The rope took a 45 degree change of direction over some of the sharpest rock around, so it was with disbelief, on examining the rope later, that we found it completely unscathed!
Morals of this tale: