Trips & Reports for FOUL Pot

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Sunday October 15th 2017


Pete, Matt E, Les, Gary, Aileen

Matt E wrote...

It was too wet for our planned trip to Magnetometer Pot so after a brief discussion over breakfast we decided on FOUL Pot. It has been a few years since our last trip there. I remembered how good and wet weather compatible it was. Furthermore, it has recently been resin anchored meaning it should be an even more efficient trip now than it was previously.

The cave lived up to its reputation for wet-weather compatibility and despite a considerable amount of rain the day before (the river in Settle was fast flowing and peat stained and the fell was very wet), we had an excellent trip to the sump, only getting out legs a little wet.

Clearly the chamber just before the sump does flood but I find it hard to imagine anything but the most serious of flood conditions making this trip totally impassable. We managed a total trip time (car back to car) of only five hours which is pretty good, and we were taking a steady pace.

Overall FOUL Pot is an excellent pothole; it has some challenging obstacles, but nothing that most moderate build cavers will struggle with too much, and most importantly, the narrowest bits are very short and quickly open out into much larger passage beyond.

I’d say it would be a ‘Grade 4+’ pothole using the old difficulty grading system.

The three longer pitches are excellent; clean, spacious and impressive, and so overall this is a pothole well worth visiting and worthy of any meets list particularly now that it’s been resin anchored (thanks to Sam and the IC anchor team).

The following description should be useful to others planning a visit:

Call at the farm and parked up at Dale Head (honesty box for car parking). Follow through the gate and along the track across Fountains Fell (i.e. away from Penyghent). After 10 minutes, pass through a gate. About 5 minutes later (well before you reach the shooting hut), the track turns down to the left into a shallow dry valley. Before dropping into the valley, leave the path and cross the limestone pavement on the right towards the wall, to locate one of the few places it is possible to step across the wall thanks to some conveniently located limestone outcrops.

Head away from the wall towards the dry valley. FOUL Pot is located about 200m down the dry valley away from the wall (not to be confused with Echo Pot which is much closer to the wall). The entrance is at the base of the shakehole and is covered by metal sheets and rotten pieces of wood.

The entrance is an easy free climb of 5m but care is required with the stacked walling.

At the bottom of the entrance, a cramped passage leads away. After several metres, the way on is a downward slope into a narrow and flat out crawl through some puddles or a small stream. After 4m this crawl ascends awkwardly through blocks into a small chamber with some straws. We managed this crawl fine with SRT kit on but removal may be easier.

If you find this section excessively troublesome then you may wish to reconsider your choice of cave!

From the chamber the way on is to keep right into an awkward crawl-traverse over blocks in a rift (perhaps best tackled feet first). After three metres the passage enlarges and it is possible to drop down onto a shelf which overlooks the fine chamber below (Octopus Hall).

Take note of where you have just come from (it is easy to miss this later!)

This is a 4m pitch however at present there is an in-situ ladder which appears in perfectly good condition which avoided the need for a rope. However, it’s worth taking one just in case.

The chamber is very nice indeed; small but predominated by a large orange flowstone (please be careful to avoid muddying this). The way on is next to/beneath the flowstone, through a low wriggle under/through some blocks (a little loose so care) and into the ongoing passage. Immediately, another wriggle through blocks reaches a tiny chamber with a white calcite pillar.

From here, the way on is under the right wall where a 2m crawl reaches a 1m drop down onto a balcony overlooking the first (proper) pitch. The first anchor for this is near the roof and is reached just before you need to drop down from the crawl (clip in before you drop down as the balcony is only small and is directly over the pitch head.

We used a 29m rope and had a few metres to spare for this pitch. It’s an excellent descent of a lovely spacious shaft.

The spacious nature of the cave doesn’t last too long. At the bottom of the pitch is a very narrow section of rift leading off. This should prove passable for most cavers, but those of medium build or above will need to remove SRT kits. The rift must be passed slightly above floor level at the widest point so it is necessary to squeeze along on your side using one hand for support on the ground. The rift if only 4m long and it is fairly easy to pass tacklesacks through to someone else on the other side (who can reach in to grab them) without any trauma.

Don’t put your SRT kits on just yet, as a short drop down then reaches another 3m squeeze along a narrow rift, slightly easier than the first and again easy to pass tacklesacks along.

At the end of this second narrow section a 3m climb down (in-situ handline currently present but would be easily free climbed if the rope was absent) enters a spacious chamber, Keel Hall, with plenty of space to regroup and put SRT kits back on (although they are not actually required just yet so you may choose to keep it off for the following easy crawls).

The way on from here is at floor level under a jammed boulder and into the ongoing passage. This passage is an easy sideways crawl in the stream, which turns sharp left after 15m. A short but easy flat out section then eases to a muddy crawl for 20m, which soon enlarges into a proper passage.

Downstream in this proper passage is an excellent flowstone which you must duck under (care please, the vulnerable prongs of this have yet to be broken off and the flowstone is fine and white, please keep it that way). Beyond here are some excellent straws in the roof, some over 1m long.

An awkward 1m drop down under a block quickly leads to a traverse as the floor cuts down on the approach to the big pitch. A very nice large flowstone sits above the start of the traverse line (if you reach this flowstone at head height you are slightly too high and you will need to take a slightly exposed climb down a metre or so to locate the anchors for the start of the traverse).

An easy traverse reaches the muddy head of Man O’ War pitch. This is rigged from a large Y-hang. Careful positioning of the Y-hang is necessary to avoid rope rub further down the pitch, the first part of which is not a perfectly straight descent. About 15m down the pitch, swing across the shaft to a Y-hang rebelay (careful, the left-hand anchor is a little tight to the wall and a Karabiner is hard to get in and out; a maillion is recommended). The final descent is a magnificent drop of about 20m, landing in a spacious passage. In extremely wet conditions there may be a little spray near the bottom but nothing of too much concern.

Around the corner is another short pitch (Pool Pitch, 4m). It is then necessary to climb up a few metres into the ongoing passage, where the final pitch is approached.

Just before the final pitch, the passage abruptly narrows to a rift as the water cuts down in the floor, and it is necessary to take a slippery upward traverse to the top of a ridge of rock. Here, two anchors on the right commence the traverse line down the equally slippery downward slope to the pitch head.

Again, care with the positioning of the Y-hang at this pitch head is needed to avoid rope rub on the rock buttresses just below the take-off point. The pitch descends via a few ledges (no rebelay required) into a splendid chamber of large blocks (Fastnet).

A scramble down loose rock leads down towards the stream, and an easy scramble/climb drops eventually into a sizable chamber/aven with lots of mud. A stooping height passage (with scum on the roof to indicate that this part of the cave is not passable in very wet conditions) reaches the sump after only 25m; which is well worth getting to for the sake of completeness.

Rope lengths (updated from previous YCC trip report in lieu of new anchors):

10m for first pitch into Octopus Hall (ladder currently in place, we didn’t need this rope)
28m for second pitch
50m for Man O’War pitch (third)
10m for Pool Pitch (fourth)
35m for fifth pitch

Karabiners: 17 minimum (recommend 19) plus one maillion for the left anchor at Y-hang rebelay on Man O’ War pitch (anchor is too tight into the wall to easily get a karabiner into)

Large sling perhaps useful for climb down into Keel Hall in case in-situ rope is absent.

16th October 2017

Matt Ewles

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Saturday May 16th 2015


David W, Gary, Laura, Matt E

Gary wrote...

FOUL has been on my list of caves for some time after YUCPC members did it a couple of years ago.

Following my newly found dislike for caves in "the black book" (Not for the Faint Hearted), I was keen to be sure that it wasn't going to be 5 hours of tight thrutchy awfulness so I started looking through some reports online... maybe this cave wasn't such a good idea after all!

The reality however was that I was pleasantly surprised.

After seeking permission from Neils Ing Farm we headed off up the valley to park by Dale Head as it's quite a bit closer than walking from the farm - and not up hill all the way either. A quick change in the brisk wind of the fell and we had soon completed the nice 1km or so walk along the track leading back down dale.

The path takes a very obvious bend to the left then right again over a dry valley and FOUL pot is located about 100m over the wall. There is no good place to cross the wall in the dry valley so we headed back along the path a bit where the wall crosses some large boulders and it is possible to step over without causing any damage.

The entrance is an obvious shake hole with corrugated sheeting covering some rather rotten timbers above a 3m shaft. The way on didn't look to appealing at first sight as it starts with a flat out crawl but it is only short and followed by a wriggle up some blocks and into a good sized chamber. Another wriggle down through blocks leads to the top of an old wooden ladder which we had brought a hand-line for but it really don't need one. Just adjacent to the ladder is a very fine flowstone formation.

The way on is behind the flowstone at floor(ish) level. There is a way over the top but it looked a bit loose and dodgy. This leads to the head of the second pitch (30m rope) which is pretty easy to rig from a natural boss and a rather old anchor in the roof above the pitch (what could go wrong with that?) I backed up the rope around a large boulder just before the pitch head too. The descent is a fine shaft with a deviation part way down, however I did have a little "moment' when I realised I had clipped my Stop onto my harness leg buckle rather than my main mallion!

Following the pitch was the infamous squeezes. They look awful at first glance but actually are absolutely fine. The first is the smallest and is a sideways thrutch in a vertical rift, however the walls are smooth and the gap in the bottom is big enough to get your hand in but not for a bag to fall through. I took my SRT kit off to make it easier but could probably have done it with it on. The squeeze is only a couple of meters long and opens out to a much wider rift followed by a second, easier, squeeze.

More larger rift and a climb down which had an in-situ rope on it so we didn't need the 10m hand line we brought. It's a bit awkward climbing down so probably worth having a hand line with you just in case. This drops in to a very nice large chamber with a tall aven above and a load of bits of pipe, probably from an old dig. Again the way on looks awful but actually isn't at all. A wriggle under a block lands in a small stream passage and some easy crawling in a small amount of water then a 90 degree bend to the left where it gets bigger before dropping into a very nice vadose stream passage. The first thing you see ahead is a fab flowstone and further on, some very fine long straws (see photos).

The passage ends in some easy traversing up to the top of the big (50m rope) pitch. It looked like some new(ish) spits and hangers had been installed not that long ago so you can get a nice but large Y hang backed up from a couple of old rusty bolts further back. The pitch is spacious but steps out part way down so it took some adjustment of the Y hang to get it right but it's possible to get down without any rub. There is a bit of spray from halfway down but it wasn't bad at all (although there hadn't been much rain).

Just around the corner is another very short pitch but actually could have been free-climbed really. There is a hanger on a ledge on the right and a good place for a sling in the roof.

Immediately after is a very unusual lead-up to the final pitch. Rigged from a spit before a climb up over a tight bit of rift then a steep awkward descent down to the top of the pitch proper. This took the most amount of time to rig as it is very hard to get a free hang and we ended up with some mad tri-hang thing going on, but it did the job!

This pitch descends down the side of a very nice large chamber and lands onto a steep sloping block floor followed by a climb down (dug?) into a bit of stream passage and good size chamber. It's possible to follow the stream further and I was hoping for some more horizontal cave to explore but the passage soon ends in a sump. It looks like this area floods to the roof.

A very good days caving in a very under-visited and under-rated cave!

RIGGING (based on the TSG description -

Unless otherwise stated, all bolts are spits and all hangers are insitu.

Pitch 1 - 10m rope reccomended by TSG but we didn't find it was necisary at all. The wooden ladder is fine.

Pitch 2 - 30m Rope, backed up to chockstone. Y-hang of stal boss and old eye bolt in roof. Deviation at top off stal then deviation at -4m with insitu sling.

Pitch 3 (optional handline) - 10m rope, rigged to obvious flake. Rope in-situ when we visited.

Pitch 4 - 50m rope, initial y-hang off insitu angle-iron bolts, then main hang off bolt around left corner. Then either a deviation off the bolt on the other side of shaft or a large y-hang. Deviation/y-hang needs careful positioning to avoid rope rub further down the pitch.

Pitch 5 - 10m rope, backup to bolt, then thread in roof. Again could be free-climbs really.

Pitch 6 - 35m rope, backed up to bolt before slippery climb up, then y-hang of bolts at pitch head. Deviation off flake at -10m. Y-hang needs careful positioning to avoid rub. TSG recommended 30m but we only just had enough at that.

22nd May 2015

Gary Douthwaite

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7 photos by Gary...

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