Pippikin-Link-Lancaster-Easegill

As with many good trips this was arranged last minute in the pub. Indeed, considering the number of pints consumed at the Helwith the night before, it all seemed unlikely that five of us had reached Pippikin's entrance well before noon. It was not so much the fine weather but a few strong words from Gordon that had driven us out of Greenclose so early.

Armed with little more than one-hundred feet of rope we slithered and rapelled down Pippikin with varying degrees of ease. Within an hour or so we had reached the Hall of Ten, from where we sped to Dusty Junction. Following a brief rest here we plunged headlong into the Link Crawl.

Link Crawl was undoubtedly the filthiest passage encountered on the trip. For much of ots length it was flat-out or a hands and knees grind in a passage half full of glutinous mud. A small chamber was reached about half-way through where a descending phreatic passage joined a cross-rift. Hidden behind a boulder in the floor, the crawl continued as a flat-out duck (The Wallows), then the passage height gradually got higher before meeting one of the main routes of Link Pot at Squid Junction.

The way to the left led to the Night Shift Series and Serendipity, whilst by turning right, or virtually straight on, a phreatic walking-size passage continued past some false stal floor to end at a slot in the floor. This dropped into Hylton Hall, an impressive tunnel perhaps fifteen feet by fifteen feet cross section, running parallel to the Easegill Beck. Almost opposite the point of entry from the slot, the fifty-five foot entrance shaft of Link Pot enters from the bank of Easegill. Derek Brandon joined us here for the rest of the trip.

The head of Echo Aven lay downstream from Hylton Hall. The wide stream bed soon degenerated into a clean cobbled crawl beneath some very loose boulders, and great care was required in this section. One boulder, in particular, resembled a loose fang. Ignoring the initial holes in the floor, the route became a familiar winding vadose passage to the head of the pitch. Once descended we found ourselves in the far reaches of Stake Pot Series in Lancaster Hole.

Having never been in the Stake Pot Series before, we found ourselves in a unique position. However, we were confident that Maple Leaf pitch had been laddered for us, so we plodded downstream along Wormway. After approximately thirty minutes from Echo Aven, we found ourselves at the foot of a ladder hanging down from Maple Leaf Pitch. The top part of the pitch was found to be narrow and awkward; one of the wooden stemples at the head of the pitch is now missing.

The correct way on from the top of the pitch was to turn right and traverse in a rift which led almost immedaitely to Rat Pit Chamber. From here a climb upwards of about twenty feet led to a decorated roof passage which was followed to reach the floor of Long Gallery. Various climbs led up to the next level where an ascending crawl connected with Brew chamber, a low sandy cavern. Turning right hre the passage increased in height and a pit in the floor was reached. A climb up on the right hand wall, beneath a small trickle of water, led to Bridge Chamber. Clambering over the boulder bridge, access was gained to a number of interconnecting sandy chambers with fine formations. From the final chamber a strong draught was followed up a crawl to the right to reach Canuck Climb. Another short crawl followed the fixed ladder descent to meet a narrow walking-size stream passage. Turning left led to Razor Aven and from here the stream bed was followed until holes appeared in the floor. Keeping at a higher level a maze of roomier passages eventually connected with Stake Pot.

At Stake Pot it is tempting to exit from Lancaster entrance pitch and, probably, this will be the most popular route for future trips. We had originally intended to exit from Top Sinks but uncertainty that Walrus Pitch was laddered led us to choose County Pot instead. This was not laddered but no great problem to free climb out of, although we did have to use combined tactics and a borrowed stemple for the entrance pitch. After approximately ten hours underground the last man surfaced and we stumbled back to Bull Pot Farm through freshly fallen snow; tired, but elated with having completed the first through trip.

G.Smith


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