Pippikin Pot by Adele

Pippikin Pot

Round 1 and 2.

Ian Cummins, Adele Ward.

4th Febuary 2018

I cannot express the pleasure derived from this Pot. Cave names can be so evocative – some fill me with dread others, sound rather welcoming. Pippikin Pot conjured thoughts of little people sat around drinking cups of tea on red and white spotted mushrooms. Still being new to this malarkey of caving, I discussed this trip with me mate. Ian hasn’t been to this place so plans are made. Having subjected my friends and family to watching Sid Perou’s Pippikin Pot, the level of excitement I had about this trip was extreme.

A club meet is planned to Pippikin; it seemed prudent to have a little recon mission to facilitate a smooth trip. Feeling excited we set a date and Project Pippikin was underway. Rotten with cold we debated the virtues of this trip. Formulating a plan to try and find the entrance and have a look at the first few pitches we are Inglesport sausage sandwich-bound.

Having experienced occasional route finding issues, I managed to photo copy just about every guide and survey available to humans, semi obsessing now, purchasing a laminator to process the paper copy. We are prepped, driving from Yarm to Richmond I announce to Ian my wish I had brought the dining room table, puzzled Ian asks why …. erm the laminated plans are on it.  My mate is used to these little fuck ups, hay ho we will cope!

With a lot of effort we acquire an electronic version of the description, turning every possible app on my phone to off apart from Google Earth to conserve battery life. I feel excited that we are heading to our chosen playground – but I feel totally rank with cold.  So thinking we might have a vague idea where Pippikin may be lurking, the search party begins to spread out, and up and down the fell. 

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Inevitably just at the point I feel exhausted, from fell scouring duties – Ian pops up “it’s over here mate”. Gulp – suddenly with neither of us feeling healthy, on unfamiliar ground this seems an undertaking; sniff, sniff, cough, cough – get on with it Adele – that tiny violin is working overtime.

Confirming there initial pitch is rigged, should we best carry this bag of rope just to be careful or just to be a ball ache – who knows –  but Ian seems to have it covered, so that suits me just fine.  Amazed that the initial pitch head is blissfully easy, we land in a rather spacious chamber. I’m feeling a little nervous – not sure why. A crawl to the right – soon lands in Cellar Pot.

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Ian is aware I might find this intimidating, given my lack of love for the blind pot in Simpson’s. Remarkably there are plenty of things to grab; soon I’m perched on the metal bar. This feels ok, which I have to announce to Ian – “ere mate – I thought I would be having an epic here but it feels rather comfy”.

Quick exploration of the entrance series goes relatively well, apart from one particular squeeze. It looks roomy enough but after 3 attempts I think I might have talked myself out of this before I really tried. Ian tells me to drop a shoulder, yep that would work mate if only I could fit my ass through. Looking back on this time – thing is I kind of thought if I just tried a bit harder I would fit by moving up a bit.  Whatever the reason is – today it’s not happening for me, so we retrace our steps. Feeling tired, slowly prussiking up the rope to the surface – upward movement motivation is found in the form of what look like giant spiders….. eek! Walking back up to the car on Leck Fellside, its bloody freezing, but just warm enough to allow the bog not to be frozen over. Curse curse curse.

Round 2.

11th February 2016

Returning to Leck Fell a week later felt unfamiliar. Having previously been struck how this place felt so welcoming and friendly, I opted to abandon my Warmbac wetsuit favouring the slimmer 2 ml wetsuit; it would be easier to walk in and offers me more wiggle room. The forecast of snow lead to me investing in some Dachstein mitts – these are really good, totally love them! Walking downhill (bog), this time armed with all necessary kit and cave location stored in my memory, I could jump in the air and click my heels! Spotting Pippikin, kit on realising I’ve forgotten my underground gloves much is my excitement with my mitts. Avoiding the arachnids, quickly down – it seems a little soggy down here. Having gravity and an idea of the obstacles here is a bonus. Moving to Cellar Pot, again staggered I’m not having a wobbly lip moment. Sitting on the bar feels comfy enough.

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Ian prefers a feet-first movement through the next tester. Hurling myself down head first, it seems easy to move, given at the bottom Ian assist with a human hand hold. Sliding through the window, the next bit is on my radar. Having reflected on this next squeeze – last time I just wouldn’t commit, cos it was dropping down squeeze. This time bollocks to that – feet first, stay high- quick slide erm that seem rather OK. Well best press on, ‘cos that looks a pain in reverse!

Letting out a giggle when the next belay is spotted – a small metal bar…. really ?  – Ian assures me it’s bomber.

Arriving at the Stemple Rift squeeze – this can only be tackled traditionally for me, head-first – eek that seemed OK. Ian seems equally astonished that I had no wobbly lip moment. This cave is brilliant. Feeling buoyant, but soon my bubble of excitement might pop when Ian informs me a traverse is next. Knowing this is only slightly above the stream way only leads to the odd whimper, wanting to stay in sight of Ian – this doesn’t seem so bad.  Pitches follow and all seems to be good. Checking the description, nagging doubts that we are heading in the wrong direct are encountered; follow the stream or head right?  Ian pops his head in the low streamway and quickly wiggles out “well you wouldn’t enjoy it in there mate, must be the other way “.  Joyfully it’s a short dry bypass and we’re quickly moving forward. A little further on to the right, crawling over some smooth blocks, the stream is soon regained and the way up soon apparent.

Heading up into The Hall of the Ten, we are met with the described boulder slope, emerging in large chamber that is coated in mud – lots of the stuff –  and the muddy slope is observed with some apprehension. With Ian spotting me (pushing me) realising my feet have better traction than my slippery knee pads, I kiss the top.

Dusty Junction reached and I consult the description again – which appears to make perfect sense ….. this all appear to be going well. Feeling focused, a strong draught is noted and feeling bomber about our selection of the 1 of 4 passages, the exit is known to be 20 mins for this point and it’s only14:37.

I’ve previously noted some squeezes on the next section that remarkably failed to materialise- what I hadn’t figured was the climb out.  Ian hops around spotting my progress, which is remarkably easy. It’s hard to explain my delight at exiting Pippikin – it took 2 attempts but every moment was enjoyed.

Kissing the ground, hugging me mate – that was monumental!  It’s pub time.

Waking back – quick smoke – it’s Marton Arms-bound. Meeting up with some fellow cavers in the pub is great news! The arrival of my caving hero almost sends me into a spin – well he is a legend. A chatty drive back to Yarm is had.