Sunday 24 July 2016

Langcliffe Pot - via Oddmire

Today's trip was only my third time beyond Nemesis, yet I couldn't shake the feeling I'd been there more often. I've obviously spent a great deal of subconscious time in there.
When ever I see Great Whernside either in passing or from afar, I always struggle to place Langcliffe Pot within that hillside. Like Mossdale, there is a mysterious, incomprehensible element to those environments. This begins to fade the moment you exit, leaving an indelible sense of other-worldliness.

We arrived at Hammerdale Dub exactly a week since we were last here. Prior to that it'd been six years since we were both here together. I stopped to make some much needed repairs to the only tackle bag we had with us, while Ian headed off downstream. Ten minutes later I was on my way, but didn't see Ian again till Boireau Falls Chamber. The traverse of Langstrothdale Chase is a cave trip all on it's own and a tick worthy for any caver. The urge to explore every nook and cranny is strong but when heading for the far end, looking ahead is enough.

Our load increased slightly at Boireau Falls, including some equipment for an ongoing project. The first choke was then easily passed. It's been brought to my attention, that there may be those who wish to minimize this particular obstacle, by enlarging the opening. I would like to ask that no such action is taken. If altering the cave is necessary to accommodate your size or abilities then I suggest finding somewhere else to cave and desecrate, and not a classic test piece like Langcliffe Pot.

It was with shared SRT kit and care that we descended the Nemesis Pitch on anchors that had appeared dubious ten years ago. My memory of the route ahead was surprisingly fresh... that is until we entered the Nemesis Choke. The route through this obstacle is obvious for the most part; the alternatives you wouldn't dare poke with a stick. At one point we happened upon what appeared to be a major blockage and I wasn't convinced we'd taken the correct route. Ian began to excavate the blockage, while I tentatively turned to seek another possibility but found nothing. Fortunately, Ian's perseverance paid off and a squeeze over the blockage was created; quite a feat with no tools in such a squalid and spray lashed environment. The devious route finding continued, with the fear I could be crushed never far from my mind.

With the choke behind us, the sprawl of the Sacred Way lay ahead. Having heard no reports from other cavers, there is little doubt we were the last two people to visit this part of the cave six years ago.

The high water mark left from the major floods at Christmas were obvious and not surprisingly very high. A lot of the rubbish from the old camps had been washed away and scattered quite a distance. The smell due to the festering waste is pretty awful in places. 

We were both beginning to feel tired and a little spaced out at around this point. With travelling very light we'd brought little food and drink. Langcliffe Pot presents a constant stream of hazards and the real dangers I feel lay beyond Nemesis and not within them. A serious accident in this part of the cave doesn't bear thinking about and like Everest, you may as well be on the moon.

We passed the now infamous Aven and turned around just short of the Dementer Sump. We'd both been to the bitter end on more than one occasion and lacked the need to do so again today.

It was with considerable further care that we made our return, being glad to put the nasty traverse of the Agora behind us and the time sapping entirety of Nemesis. The most awkward part of the journey came while trying to re-enter Boireau Falls where we both got badly stuck in the bottom of the choke. I'm well versed with this unchanged feature but tiredness can make all the difference.

We made our exit after around ten hours of caving, glad it was still summertime light.

I began taking pictures at the head of the Nemesis pitch. The majority are from beyond the Nemesis choke.

Nemesis Boulder Choke (video) 

Sacred Way - Old camps (video) 

© Simon Beck, 2016. The copyright for this article and photographs remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.


  1. Hi Simon

    I just chanced upon your blog which I really enjoyed. Then I looked through the photos.

    And there it was - the Acrow!

    As part of the 1974 rescue Dave Checkley and I were asked to take it through to the collapse beneath Nemesis. We managed it, and got it down Nemesis pitch just as the 'victims' came out.

    So we dropped it and I never expected to see it again.

    The 'victims' then took my last fags and left fast. DC and I were the last in the system and when we finally got to Kettlewell my clothes and money had gone to Clapham courtesy of the CRO. Happy days.

    (You probably know this - one of the 'victims' was Vern Unsworth who did so brilliantly in the Thai rescue and then fell out with Elon Musk.)

    Anyway - it was real fun seeing my Acrow again.

    Many thanks for the blog and photos.

    Very best regards.

    Chris Baxter

    1. Excellent! So glad to put a story to them. I take it your talking about the two in the small chamber? Previous visits, I must have taken a slightly different route, because that was the first time I'd ever seen them.
      We returned a few months later to climb an Aven (u/s of Dementer) with Brian Judd (a feature he'd spotted many years prior) I'm fairly certain we missed the acro chamber that time as well.

  2. My brother Danny and I have just seen your scurrilous slur on our characters. As everyone is well aware we only smoked roll ups. You will be hearing from our solicitors.