Dependably Damp by Steve Woods

Scanty Lardos Pot: Mick Ellerton, Steve Woods, Olly Rees (Over and Under) & Rich Hudson (BPC), 28th July 2020. 

It’d been a protracted abstinence. Various new ‘guidelines’ and details were now in place and to be followed. It was exciting to be heading underground finally though; a return to some semblance of normality. Anticipating this ‘non-club trip’ in advance, I’d been reminded how digging had stopped for July and August successive previous years (except the warm one). How the entrance stream had returned and why the initial parts of Scanty had gained their names: Spin-cycle, Monsoon Chamber, Misery Pitch. Would the stream be running today or not? Trips always started with this thought which always followed with the walk across the road on arrival to check. 

Cars and cavers assembled we chatted as Mick’s van with tailgate open was creating a very effective windsock as a howling gale was off to find out about the goings on down and beyond the best of the dales. The stream itself had found a new sink to play with and was very much in evidence. And whilst reality it seemed had permanently altered elsewhere, the world at Scanty was dependably, for July at least, a constant. Phone held in the air pointing to the mast at Hebden and snatching the briefest of signals, I sent a quick text to our callout and joined the others now getting sorted.

With plan slightly altered and Sam sadly unable to make it, Rich, Olly and Mick joined me across the road to try and sort things out. I’d popped briefly underground to confirm how damp it really was. The stream no longer running past the entrance and off down the dale had relocated itself via said new sink, and was now running with gusto across the floor of monsoon chamber and with similar enthusiasm down the pitch instead. With a bit of work up top, the water diverted into every available alternative orifice, things began to look marginal.

Observing strict social distancing we set off underground. Mick up in the entrance, me sat in Lardos Rift, I watched a scene straight out of the subtropics as Rich below shouted above the din to Olly out in front rigging. Possible became the order of the day as Rich headed forward off down the pitch and I climbed down into the noise to wait my turn. Crawling forward through what could only be described as a bath without a bath I looked down the pitch, rope suspended above the now vertical stream, spray, and pretty much nothing else visible. Longer than I’d have preferred and now down and stood waiting with Olly and Rich, the three of us looked back to see Mick stood at the bottom of the pitch his lamp illuminating what in retrospect I can only describe as ‘a lot of water’.

Main Stream-way: Olly waiting, looking back towards Misery Pitch.

Having lost count of the number of times I’ve been up and down the stream-way in SLP it’s always nice to be reminded by folks on their first trip of something I take for granted. Heavily jointed, Ann Summers’ Passage makes its way through a reoccurring sequence of right angled turns, something Olly and Mick commented they’d only seen in Knock Fell Caverns. In its latter stages the stream-way is very well decorated and both Olly and Rich commented how enjoyable this section of the cave is. Reminiscing about the early days I shared a few tales from when we’d first got here. Rich asked me about the name and it was only the following day I remembered the full story. Sat on a boat in Greece discussing suggestions with Rocket and Caddy we were chatting about the initial proportions required to gain access before widening was undertaken. Lardons begat Lard Arse begat Lardos.

At the end of the Stream-way we briefly organised our secondary plan: removing the digging ropes. Olly rigging again was soon round to the head of Joe’s pitch and joining him the view looking down was spectacular. I’d seen the chamber below in all conditions but nothing like today. Only the block leading to the way on was visible in the spray. Pointing this out to Olly he set-off into the noise and I soon followed. Reaching the bottom little was really visible and I was glad to be out of the water. Crawling along the passage Rich soon joined but behind us there was no sign of Mick. A light appeared below. Rich shouted directions. Mick eventually joining us understandably missing the way, instead exploring the tight stuff below: the original route. Olly confirmed he’d been glad of directions.

Down in the final boulder choke we had a quick look round and I removed a few bits of tackle needed elsewhere. We chatted about the significant possibilities beyond. The Office is an intimidating obstacle which for some time now has stopped play altogether. Various leads have been pushed and motivation and enthusiasm have fluctuated. With a fair bit of limestone below, a considerable draught, and the noise of the stream continuing forwards the potential will remain until a route through is found.

We were soon heading back out with Rich ahead stripping out the digging ropes, me following, and Olly and Mick de-tackling our ropes behind. In the chamber below Joe’s pitch the three of us temporarily came to a halt and sat and watched as Rich illuminated above was clearly struggling with rusty maillons a no doubt reasonable task as below the significant spray similarly presented the marginally appealing prussic up to join him. Crawling forward through a sheet of water I pulled the rope to the back of the chamber and did my best as I climbed to stay out of the worst. Joining him I was reminded of how cold a trip Scanty can be. Round the traverse and with the rest of the digging rope stripped out me and Rich headed out.

Rich had lost his descender on the way in so back in Ann Summers’ I kept a close lookout thoughts of the final prussic never far away. Descender spotted sat in a pool and with Rich understandably chuffed to be reunited, we reached the way out. Rich headed up and I waited for Mick and Olly. With them just behind I stepped forward into the inevitable.

Misery Pitch: Me having fun.

The climb lived up to all expectations. Crawling back into Monsoon chamber I climbed up again still following the course of the stream in reverse and was soon back at the entrance. Popping my head out the wind had been joined by a carbon copy of the weather below. I stayed were I was waiting for things to improve enough to make changing more reasonable.

Back out and changed with sunshine and views restored, the weather was on its way to have its fun over on WRPC B-team territory. The plug back in the main sink, we relived a bit of our shared fun and made plans to return and finish things off. Back in respective cars Rich headed off and me Olly and Mick made more immediate plans to relocate to the nearest pub with a fire.

Sat in the Queen’s Arms we chatted some more as the fire did its best to send me off to sleep; mug of tea in hand, longer abstinence still in place. Between the cold and the spray we’d shared a great trip. Despite the damp bits, Scanty had dependably delivered.

Pics by Mick

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

For the survey of SLP check out this link, for more info about this ongoing project please feel free to contact us.