Monday, 16 March 2015

King Pot

This was the first article i wrote after returning from London during the summer of 2010 it was originally posted on in August of that year.

A few weeks ago I bid a relieving farewell to my existence in the urban giant and moved back to the dales. I've sworn to myself and the dales that I will never leave again, although I fear my betrayal may cost be dearly. I am glad to be back, but the resulting circumstances relating to my return offer very little in the way of comfort. I have no job, no car, no home (crashing at relatives) or my female companion. She is in a similar boat to me in her home town.
I used to fantasize back in my moronic full time employment days about being on the dole, caving full time with not a care in the world or anything to hold me back. Well here I am!, it's not all it's cracked up to be, but there is still time.
The first week was hell, I kept almost packing my gear in preparation for some lonesome trip to the Far Waters, Langcliffe or Quaking Pot, but just couldn't see how some vacant empty trip would benefit me in my present state of disquiet. The weather didn't help either, being likened to my mental state, all over the bloody place!
Fortunately the day did arrive. One which offered me a glimpse of reprieve. Maybe something positive could be gleaned from my present locality after all.
I'd hardly say the hardships of that Sunday were the kind to create waves, but nonetheless it was an unexpected outing in Kingsdale that brought me round a little.

The venue for the day was mean't to be Vespers Pot, but four other individuals had beat us to it when we arrived at Braida Garth. Not that I cared anyway, they were welcome to it. A good trip yes, but lacking too much of everything but rope work, plus I was in the mood for something tougher. 
We discussed the alternatives and had a flick through the very up to date 70s copy of northern caves 4 we had in our possession. It also helped that Ian (Cummins) had a car boot full of rope, how prudent of him.
I was ecstatic when king pot was decided upon. The last time I'd been down king was in a large group on a club meet and I'd disliked the experience hugely, not because of the cave, but mostly those aspects of club related battalion style caving which I had seriously begun to despise. Plus over the course of that particular period my arrogance ambition and curiosity had made me realise I could do stuff on my own, or with a partner in half the time it took most clubs. On many occasions, but especially after that club King Pot trip I had vowed the next time I did it would be in a small group or preferably a pair. 

The loads were light, mostly 8mm, my companion is a minimalist and would never use a rope or a point of aid unless it was absolutely necessary and impossible without one. We also had his oversized tackle bags (larger diameter) which in certain circumstances in the past had been a pig, but today they were a welcome choice. In the t-shaped traverse prior to Queensway they jammed nicely in the top of the Vadose section allowing one the use of both hands. Unlike regular sized tackle bags which jam and just beg verbal abuse.

Queensway felt homely, possibly down to it's similarity to another piece of passage in the dales, one I've been longing to re-visit. 

Due to the previous day's rainfall, water levels were above average, but not as bad as I'd expected. The sky had looked a little sinister beforehand, so I was excited at the prospect of water levels rising, making the exit a little more challenging. 

King pot is one of those trips where in the initial stages and due to the variety you don't feel you're making very speedy progress, albeit the landmarks did eventually begin to pass by in quick succession and on arriving at king henry hall, I felt we were beginning to get somewhere. 
After Bloodaxe the shortage of rope became an issue so basic rigging prevailed. 
On Elizabeth we just chucked a piece of tat round the natural bridge and used the flake deviation, the bottom half of the pitch was wet and the rope just made it. Here we should have jettisoned all our gear, but due to me thinking there was another pitch we continued on with our very light, but unnecessary luggage. 
Jane's pitch being the pitch I had expected, not realising this trivial obstacle was classed as a pitch, was passed without a 2nd thought.

I'd forgotten how long a trip king Pot is and at this point was thinking wow!, it's quite a long way. 

By the time we reached the master cave, muscles I hadn't used in ages were beginning to protest. My lower back, which I had pulled the previous weekend and my bad wrist, which still hasn't recovered since my crash on Oxford Street 3 months ago, were causing some discomfort. This being the longest trip I've done in more than a year. I was fit from all the cycling I'd done in London, but not caving fit.

The river cascading down the master cave was an intimating sight, brown swollen and quite warm. Signalling to unfamiliar eyes that it had possibly thrown it down earlier. 
I think we both lost our footing due to the current on a few occasions. We visited both the up and downstream sumps then got out of there. 
On the return through the crawls I spied a little aven in a cross rift just in case water levels suddenly rose. Such a gruesome end failed to materialise but the ascent of Elizabeth pitch made up for it by being especially grim. This is where with 1/2 climbing, 1/2 SRT kit and no hood I had quite a struggle getting the 8mm rope to pass through the chest ascender, with the deluge falling upon my head I was frozen stiff in no time, probably a good job the water was reasonably warm.

The return overall though was great! I really suffered and enjoyed every minute. It reminded me why I'd been so drawn to this pursuit in the first place. Something I lost touch with when the diving side of things began to take precedence, though some of the lonesome carries I did I actually enjoyed more than the diving.

By the time we arrived back at the T-shaped traverse my arms were like Spagetti and my lower back was agony, but the going was easy and I really didn't want it to end. During the traverse over the pit and due to my carelessness I dropped my tackle sack, which Ian quickly retrieved.

A beautiful evening greeted us on the surface and after doing my calculations later on I think the trip took us between 7-7.5 hours. 

After a 1/2 pint in the Marton I stuck my thumb out on the south bound A65. It was 9:30pm on a sunday evening and I didn't think I stood a chance of getting a lift and predicted I'd either be walking to Brackenbottom or sleeping rough that night. Fortunately though after 30-40mins of getting ignored I finally got a lift all the way to the centre of Skipton.

I then spent the rest of the evening daydreaming about being back in the Master cave, watching those raging waters tumble past and tried to forget about the other shit I should be worrying about, like money and the hope of future employment and all that bollocks! I'd choose the pain and suffering expected on the most brutal of pothole trips over the pressures of living in today's society. Stripping myself of a majority of my material possessions and the stuff i take for granted has made me realise that; I endeavour from this day forward to suffer in the underground like never before. 

© Simon Beck, 2010. The copyright for this article remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.  


  1. Really enjoyed reading this article - such openness in the writing - and I can recall my one and only trip down King Pot and I found it chastening.

  2. Thanks Adam. It's rather odd you (someone) commenting on this particular piece. I read only the final paragraph after your reply, which reminded of a period in life similar to my present. These periods appear to have come in tens with me. Although the situation seemed pretty acute back then it was nothing compared with hindsight.
    I'd lost direction at the time, taking a few years to re-evolve, adapt....

    My pledge to 'suffer like never before' came eventually, and with a ferocity even I hadn't predicted. In the end it came at a cost. What I found, gained was far from what I assumed I sort.