Scanty Upstream Extensions by Steve Woods, Roxanne Ramsey & Andy Chapman

Scanty Lardos Pot: Steve Woods, Roxanne Ramsey & Andy Chapman (Jan-May 2018). 

SW: When Joe​ and I first got to the bottom of Misery Pitch we were eager to get upstream to find the source of the thundering noise that had led me and Chris and the gang to dig Scanty in the first place. The passage closed down quickly with no way-on. With downstream needing considerable work four years later upstream still beckoned and two friends were both keen to help. Having asked them to write-up our exploits, Andy and Roxy take up the story..

AC: Whilst pushing the downstream leads in Scanty Pot, Steve and I had both noticed what appeared to a rift going off at the pitch head of the first pitch. With nothing better to do, on the 15th January 2018, we packed a drill and bolting gear into a tackle bag and Steve bolted across to the sandy rift. We both wedged ourselves into the rift and looked onwards. The continuing passage pinched up slightly but appeared to widen a bit further on, providing some motivation to continue. We spent some time trying to widen out the squeeze and almost succeeded in getting through but discretion proved the better part of valour so we decided to enlarge the passage a little more next week.

RR: 2 weeks later Steve and Andy decided to head back to the lead so I decided to have a look too. Steve was very enthusiastic that I should come, making me slightly worried about what he had in mind. It had been snowing pretty heavily in the Dales over the last few days, so as we drove to Halton Gill, I was not looking forward to the trip but was looking forward to parking next to the cave and being underground as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the snow was completely covering the road, making driving look impossible, so we started a slow walk up in blizzard conditions. As we plodded up through the deep snow, 2 mountain bikers shot downhill, making us think they must be completely mad. Eventually, we arrived at where we thought the cave entrance was. We dug around to try to locate the steel lid and found it after a short period of digging in entirely the wrong place. 

We wriggled down the short blasted section, onto the short handline, dropping into Monsoon Chamber. I attached myself to the rope on the left-hand wall and posted myself through to the pitch-head. I could hear the water rumbling below but we were not going in that direction today so I pulled myself over to the far wall, clipping myself into the traverse line. Steve was at the end of the rope, looking into a narrow section of passage. Andy arrived shortly after and we were ready to go. It was decided (by Steve and Andy only!) that I should try to push the passage to see if it was worth continuing. I wriggled out of my SRT kit, making sure not to drop it down the rift below and prepared to push myself into the narrow slot. As I moved head first into the section, I felt knobbly protrusions catching my oversuit, making forward progress tricky. I had to be careful to keep my feet high in the rift as if they dropped into the narrow section below, they might get caught. With one final push, I popped out of the squeeze into a slightly wider passage, with the floor falling away a few metres below. Carefully, positioning my feet on slopy footholds, I looked ahead. The passage continued on in a similar manner but the best footholds seemed to further up, meaning I would have to climb upwards to carry on. Rather than pushing on, I decided to head back so Steve and Andy could get themselves through too. However, neither of them could fit through when they tried so we decided to come back another day to try again.

AC: After a long period of time, Steve and I finally got round to heading back on the 5th March 2018. Steve spent about half an hour enlarging the passage and then decided he was going to have a go. Taking his helmet off and pushing it forwards, he began shuffling through. Suddenly his light shone back through the constriction, he was through!! I pushed myself through the tight section, briefly considering how difficult it might be on the way out, but making it through eventually. I looked ahead, remembering the passage Roxanne had described. Steve climbed higher up and began to traverse along. I followed, taking time to place my feet carefully. As the passage floor crept onwards, we moved on, passing short corners, watching the water trickle by our feet as we walked through. 

Whilst I considered how pleasant this walking passage was, Steve shouted out. It had all of a sudden become far more unpleasant. The roof had dropped to a hands and knees crawl and the water had formed a cold pool which almost touched my stomach as I moved forwards. The floor of the pool seemed to consist of deep gravel, making an unpleasant situation much worse as my hands sank into the fine sand and stones. The passage seemed to continue on forever, until I heard the flow of water ahead. There was a right-hand corner with a very narrow inlet on the left-hand side. Hoping this would be the end of the grim passage, I looked onwards. The passage ahead was an hour-glass shape, with Steve almost wedged in the bottom in a deep stream, fighting his way through. He shouted back, “It doesn’t seem that bad”, I didn’t believe him though. It was my turn for some misery. I angled my body on the side and wriggled forwards. By using my legs carefully, I could just keep my torso out of the pools beneath, so I continued in this way until the neck of the hourglass opened up slightly, enabling me to push upwards into the now easier top level. Walking my feet through the bottom level, I shuffled my way towards Steve.

I found Steve shining his light in a large chamber, with two avens in the ceiling and an upstream lead at the top of a calcite flow. Unfortunately, this tight lead was blocked with calcited boulders but the chamber appeared to carry ahead. The lack of tools to work on the blockage was the deciding factor in turning round so we sped out, excited by the progress made.

RR: Andy came home on the evening of the 5th, talking about how they had finally broken through the squeeze, how they had found some upstream passage and how I should come along next time. I agreed but immediately suspicion started to creep into my mind. These thoughts were confirmed as Andy was caught packing a large amount of surveying gear and a large hammer into a tackle bag. “There’s a tight lead at the end which I think you’ll fit into……..and we need to survey the passage too.” 

Roxy & Andy packing the surveying kit (Photo © Steve Woods).

This was not sounding like the pleasant trip I was promised and as I lay in one of the numerous cold pools, trying not to drop the Disto X, I was beginning to regret the decision. Things only improved as we got to the awkward passage before the final chamber where Andy was forced to shoot a survey leg from the tight squeeze, discovered he could not get himself facing forwards and then found himself shuffling out feet first with the DistoX lanyard gripped between his teeth, making muffled attempts to swear as he tried to make forward progress.

The final chamber was a welcome relief, Andy and Steve decided to push the upstream lead, so I watch from the bottom of the slope as rocks and boulders were passed down. Eventually after almost ten minutes of activity, Andy slotted himself through and by pushing himself with his legs, popped through into the continuation. An tight inlet flowed in from the back wall, but no obvious continuation could be seen. We had killed the lead. A couple of quick legs were shot to complete the survey and then we headed out, looking forward to being back out in the bright sunshine.

First draft of the survey (Scanty Upstream Extensions © Andy Chapman).

You can read about the discovery and exploration of Scanty downstream by Chris, Steve, Joe and the gang here

Scanty Lardos Pot remains an ongoing project. The entrance is in an active stream and will become impassable in wet weather. Downstream the final boulder choke is very unstable and should be treated with the utmost respect.

For more info about this project please feel free to contact us.