Washfold Pot by Ian Cummins

Washfold Pot: Ian Cummins and Simon Beck (5th August 2007). 

The name says it all – no mud here, water aplenty means a good wash for all your gear on this trip. I was so keen to do this trip that I was considering trying it alone if nobody else was interested. Fortunately, Simon was as enthusiastic as ever and we were blessed with a nice fine day for this obligatory dry-weather trip.

The entrance is in a fenced-off shakehole with several entrances down to the streamway, which was flowing quite nicely. Relatively easy caving along a narrow stream passage leads to a flat-out high-level crawl above the too narrow watercourse and a nice calcited climb back down to the water. Following the water here leads to a big old bolt and the very wet old ladder route, so a retracing of steps and a climb into the roof was needed to meet the P-bolted SRT route. Mr Cooper’s book suggested a 50m rope would be adequate and we rigged first to a flake boss and 2 roof bolts on the traverse out to the pitch head. A few metres down the pitch it is possible to swing or traverse on sharp flakes to clip a deviation to get further from the water. What a pitch – a fine and round shaft, with the finely-fluted walls of Allotment pitches and the crashing of the water onto a clean ledge below. Arriving at the end of the rope, I was surprised to see it was dangling in space, about 10 feet above the spray-lashed ledge. Fortunately, there were sufficient flaky hold to allow me to downclimb after removing the terminal knot and the rope pinged off my Stop, upwards into the darkness. When Simon came down we were able to tie on some 7mm rope slings whilst weighting the main line with a Shunt to allow him to remove his Rack, enabling us to recover the end for the return.

I’m not sure how accurately my rope was measured, but it is probably worth using a longer rope for this pitch, or omitting the first belay point to the flake boss, since there was not much slack in my rigging.

The best part of the cave follows, with a fine series of free climbs down the rift, as well as some pleasant traverses along calcited ledges above the stream, where it is too narrow to follow the water. Thin, hawser-laid handlines are present on the longer climbs and we used these for bag hauling on the way out.

The final 2 pitches require ropes rigged from spits, with slings on flakes for rebelays. The final sump is just below the last pitch, with a big foam patch above it and we dropped a few blocks in to generate a satisfying thud. To maintain my gear-finding spree, I found a nice screwgate in the water here – fantastic! Found gear is always much more exciting than bought gear – and cheaper.

The exit was nice and smooth, but pretty tiring, since there is a lot of climbing to be done, but I love that sort of stuff. The only hiccup was at the top of the big pitch, when after unclipping the deviation, I remembered that the biner on the sling was mine and I had to down-jumar and traverse the flakes to recover it.

The trip took about four or five hours, I guess, with a fair bit of time spent sorting out the short rope episode, but we thoroughly enjoyed this trip down one of the finest stream caves in Yorkshire.

Washfold Pot – Updated

A correction to my report, where I noted that my 50m rope was too short to rig as described by Mike Cooper. Apologies to Mike – upon measuring my rope, it’s only 40m, due to an error by a caving shop that will remain nameless! A 45m rope will therefore just do the job, but a 50 will give plenty of margin.