NPC Newsletter 40, May 1996

Notts Pot

Nearly 10 years after the original exploration of Notts II, the NPC have returned. Rick Stanton, Andrew Goddard along with Martin Holroyd and Dave Morris have been looking at various leads beyond the sump.

This has included trying to get a connection with the nearby Gavel Pot by Diving Sump 4 which is now very close to the upstream Gavel sump. This sump saw the attention of the NCC's Rupert Skorupka last year and more recently he has been working in upstream Gavel. Unfortunately further dives have revealed that prospects do not look too good for a connection. At the Noots end Rick found that the water disappears into a narrow shallow slot. However at the Gavel end the passage plunges to 60m+. The vertical separation is probably more of a problem than the horizontal separation !

Mincemeat Aven has the best prospects for the long awaited dry connection, being located close to surface digs. There is also the prospect of finding some nice cave. The bolting up Mincemeat Aven has been going well. The previous week Rick and Andrew had climbed the first 15m pitch to 20m of sloping passage only to find another 25m+ pitch. Whilst Rick was diving in sump 4, Andrew and Martin were making good progress up the aven. The climb was within 5m of the top when later disaster struck. As normal, the next bolt had been placed and the ladder clipped in and the bolt tested by standing in the ladder and leaning out. Both the rock and the bolt appeared to be a good placement. Just as Andrew's cowstail was removed from the previous bolt (to move up) a large area of rock, including the ladder and the bolt, broke away from the aven. This sent the climber falling onto the safety line which was fed through all the bolts below. By the time the safety line had tensioned up the fall was probably 4-5m. Unfortunately this was enough to allow Andrew to clip the calcited passage on the back wall of the aven sustaining a compound fracture of the right elbow and severe bruising to the backside. 'I've broken my arm' came the cry from above, the words no-one wants to hear the wrong side of a sump. I don't really think Martin believed the words. 'I've really broken my arm', Andrew repeated. The climber knew things were serious when he poked into his elbow and his fingers went right into the centre of the joint, coming out pouring with blood. It hurt a bit as well ! The hospital later found that the end of the elbow (olecranon) had snapped off, being dragged up onto the upper arm bone (humerus) by the muscles (triceps). Getting down from the aven was not too much trouble as there was enough rope to lower down to the ledge. 'I feel sick' said the injured diver. 'Well, face the other way' came the reply. You could call the reply practical! Andrew was not sick and within a few minutes his composure was regained and the Holroyd efficiency took over. Andrew was soon lowered to the floor of 'Mincemeat Aven'.

Whilst Martin assembled gear, Andrew set off and made his way to the first aid dump at the start of the canals in record time. Martin arrived and patched up the arm with a dressing, a plastic bag and surgical tape. As well as stopping the wound flushing in the water, this provided an excellent splint and significantly slowed the bleeding. The only significant problem during the dive back is that in some places the line is in a low area on the right. Normally a diver would just reach the line with his hand. With a broken arm this is not really possible and hence the diver had to leave the line. If anything had gone wrong on the right side there must have been the potential for the diver to have been unable to sort the problem out. Fortunately this did not happen. Meanwhile Rick and Dave caught up after following a trail of blood from the downstream sumps with much worry. They did not know what had happened and probably feared the worst (this sounds like things were not that bad !)

Fast progress was made out of Notts 1. The injured caver was prussicking one-armed, with Martin keeping the rope taut on pitches with an easy takeoff and going ahead on pitches with a tight takeoff. By the time the last pitch was reached, Andrew was getting tired and the arm had completely seized up making any body movement agony. By this time, Rick and Dave had caught up and a tight lifeline was used on this pitch. The entrance crawl was interesting and the divers arrived back at the car exactly 4 hours after the accident. Martin drove Andrew directly to hospital where the arm was operated on next day. It was pinned and wired and Andrew was kept in hospital for 5 days.

To state the obvious, no matter how good the rock looks, there is always a chance that there may be an unseen line of weakness. When leading a climb, it is always possible that a climber will be injured when falling onto a rope.

Both members of the CDG and CRO have been saying that an accident beyond a sump was inevitable sooner or later and dumps beyond sumps were justified. They were right !


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