Spectacle Pot P-Hangering

17 November 2010

Posted by
Matt Ewles

After our trip down Spectacle Pot in October 2009, this was a cave that was high on our priority list to return to and install P-hangers! Having completed the course, Mark and Gary were the installers and I was the bag carrier and general dogsbody! A team of Rich, Nikki, Cat and Andy also headed off down Vespers.

On our last trip we found several of the spits to be in very dodgy condition, and with the increased popularity of this trip thanks to the NFTFH guidebook, it was time to ensure the accessibility of this cave for the future (especially with the bottom trip of Vespers now P-hangered and an exchange being an excellent trip).

With four tacklesacks between three people, we set up a hauling line along Splutter Crawl, which worked well and all tacklesacks were efficiently passed through. Then the hard job of fitting ourselves through it began! The crawl last time was completely dry, and so it made it more intimidating with flowing water going through this time, resulting in a complete wetting from the off! However, with the one arm forward and one arm back approach we all popped through trouble-free (and in fact the water seemed to help lubricate us on our way).

Quick progress to the wet crawl which was very wet! We pushed through this, with tacklesacks jamming everywhere, and with water sufficiently high to force you to have to get your head quite wet in some extremely smelly and sheep-bone infested water! We were pleased to arrive at Dodd's Pitch and expecting to be unwell the next day!

Not making the same mistake as last time, we found the rebelay one metre down, however, rope rub was unavoidable, and again it took ages to locate the flake deviation. By the time the pitch was rigged we were suitably cold, and looking forward to getting down there! We arrived down to the pitch to the Great Rubble Heap to find Cat and Andy coming down from Vespers (Rich and Nikki had already turned around).

We didn't descend this last pitch to the Great Rubble Heap but instead set about installing P-hangers, including two for a traverse down to this pitch head, and one for a single hang down to the floor, which seemed adequate. Dodd's pitch was also hangered quicker than I expected, with two traverse line hangers placed, followed by a single bolt hang for a couple of metres down to a Y-hang above the main pitch. An anchor was installed for the deviation (just below the flake used previously), on the sturdiest looking bit of rock we could find of which there weren't many! This could also be used as a re-belay.

The drill batteries (and our energy levels) were now low and we decided to call it a day and return to hanger the first and second pitch tomorrow, but we were pleased that we wouldn't have to come back through the wet crawl tomorrow!

The wet crawl out was not pleasant, as we were all very cold and wet now and nothing could have looked more unappealing! At one point (the wettest bit near the end) I kept too far left and ended up with my head jammed between the floor and ceiling with water lapping against my mouth (I was pushing and pulling a tacklesack so couldn't see where I was going and had limited manoeuvrability). A moment of panic, but this was soon over and we were through the worst. We were out of the cave within an hour of this point, and at Bull Pot Farm for 9:30pm for curry and beer!

The following day we made short work of hangering the entrance pitch (one hanger backup, and one hanger on the wall opposite the knob for a clear hang) and the second pitch (one hanger backup near the ladder, and one above the pitch for a single hang). We were in and out in less that three hours, and very pleased with the job.

Therefore Spectacle should now be riggable for the foreseeable future, and provides a classic exchange with Vespers highly recommended, although if anyone has doubt about fitting through Splutter Crawl, they should try it for size from the surface size before committing to an exchange going down Vespers and out Spectacle! Spectacle is a great trip, and an efficient team should be able to reach the bottom in two hours from the surface, with an exchange taking approximately 4-5 hours.

The P-hangers follow almost the same line as the old spits, and therefore the rigging guide is relatively similar to that from NFTFH, however, it would be advisable to add an additional 10m to the length for Dodd's Pitch and 5 m to the Great Rubble Heap pitch to allow for comfortable rigging with the new hangers.