Mountbatten Pot, Derbyshire: Denis Bushell (2 April 2015).
Mountbatten is a narrow rift shaft 46 metres deep and is rarely visited due to its reputation of being tight in the lower sections. Gear for the day: a 30m rope and a 20m rope which I tied before descent knowing it would be awkward in the shaft. SRT minimal: Fig. 8 and jammer. Entering pot from a small awkward rift to side of main shaft via an iron lid-capped 2m drop which was in a poor state of decay. I attached the rope via two slings.
Only rigging gear needed immediately above the main shaft is a deviation. I fed the full length of rope out to save problems with a bag of rope lower down and opt for a descent on a battery belt leaving my harness jammer and spare light in SRT bag clipped to my side.
Approx. 25m down things started to become interesting in the form of tighter and, looking down, still reducing in size. I noticed a window into a parallel shaft – slightly more spacious. Shuffling to the side I managed to pop the rope through, on a slight angle now. With the shaft being vertical, and no particular sharp ledges, abrasion on rope negligible. A purist would probably be knocking in a another hanger here and desecrating yet another cave descent. Became easier now and on reaching the bottom still not huge by any standard. I had a few minutes to reflect in total darkness.
Battery belt off, harness on and away we go. A familiar rumbling sound, yes, a cascade of stones: but from where and how? Trying to avoid was futile in this tight shaft.
Unfortunately in a natural reaction against normal safety measures I looked up and yes I was struck in the face: my front upper two teeth had been pushed through my upper lip. I had to pull my lip down so as to facilitate a release for my teeth. Plenty of blood and upper lip the size of elephants trunk, this before I had even reached to awkward section.
On ascending I noticed the upper section closing in and I thought I must have passed the window so I struggled like a very poor circus contortionist to enter the parallel shaft. After an eternity had passed I was through. It felt tighter than before and on ascending further I realised I was early and the window must have been further up and out of sight. LetÕs sort this problem out. Jammer waste of time: answer shuffle up breathing in and out and allowing croll to hold me in place. This achieved I progressed up slowly noticing the window on my right. Hopefully starting to become easier progress which it did. At this point I elected to haul the rope up. Within a few metres it jammed. Three more attempts and still a no-go. Realizing the problem, I had left the safety knot in causing it to keep jamming in the narrow slots. Blooded and tired I proceeded to the join in the ropes which I managed to undo letting the last section plummet to the depths.
On exiting I was shocked, a section of the iron frame came away in my hand showing the extent of decay. Back to the Woodbine CafŽ and tea and crumpets which I dribbled down my face due to the state of play of my mouth. Plenty of sympathy back home: straight to the walk-in-centre for stitches.
I will be going back for my rope: if anyone would like to accompany me, please get in touch.