Henslers Pot - Hensler's Round Trip
Sunday February 28th 2016
Members present: Alistair Rollinson, Peter Newbery, Will Scott
During training on the thursday Ali and I packed the gear and loaded it in into the car. Peter packed his club gear and also put this into my car. With the car already packed all that was left to do on sunday morning was collect Peter and Ali. This made for excellent efficiency and resulted in arriving in Ingleton at 0840. For the first time in my caving career I was getting worried about what time Inglesport openned. For reader’s information they open at 0830 on weekends.
With a swift breakfast and 0300 call out left with Rachel we left Ingleton at around 0915. Standard YUCPC faff saw us setting off for the slog up to entrance at 0950.
Chatting to a group of walkers on the way up made the walk seem very short and the entrance with protruding oil drum was easily and confidently found. Donning oversuits and taking a quick swig of water I set off down the surprisingly new ladder into a small sharp crawl at 1100.
A little 2 m climb down finds you at the ‘duck’. Duck? I don’t think so. More of a wollow in some muddy water. Five or so minutes of crawl traversing soon answered Peter’s question of ‘What’s crawl traversing?’. This ended rather abruptly at the first pitch (Buzzy Pitch 11 m). With a nice ledge to stand on it was quickly rigged. Constricted at the top the abseil soon opened out into a straight shaft. A piece of tat aids a 2 m climb down into a rift which quickly opens out and passes a decent aven on the right (Big Ben Aven).
Climbing some boulders and squeezing over a large block brings you to the top of the second pitch (Monica Pitch 7 m). Again a convenient ledge made of straight forward rigging. Landing in a small chamber with the way on being a stoop into some crawl traversing for 5 meters to the head of the third pitch (AC/DC 7 m). Rigging here involved sitting on a ledge across from the pitch head to fix the y-hang. Again although slightly constricted at the top this pitch quickly opened out into a decent shaft. A 3 m climb down and some more crawl traversing brought us to the head of the fourth pitch (Haigh’s Bottom Pitch 14 m). Some re-rigging was required here as the rope wasn’t quite long enough.
At this point we removed our SRT kits in lieu of the rift section to come. Stashing them into an emptied tackle sack, Peter took this bag with Ali pushing from behind. I went ahead with the final bag of rope. Crawling through some pools soon brings you to a sharp left hairpin. At first I didn’t see the continuation and thought we’d gone wrong but on rolling onto my back to get the description out I saw the obvious way on.
Several minutes of rather relentless crawl traversing soon becomes an hourglass rift. I was very anxious about the so called ‘strenuous’ thrutchy sections. However I needn't have been so worried. The first of these you can essentially walk through with the bag held in front of you. The second involves putting one’s knee onto the 2 inch gap, shoulders parallel to the passage and rolling the bag end over end. Not tight, quick progression. Peter and Ali followed in fine fashion both finding it equally straightforward.
Dropping down a slot lands you in the washed out shale floor of the rift and some minor squeezes emerge at the top of a 3 meter climb down. At this point I was riding on a high, I had conquered the apparent tight sections with ease.
Crawl traversing is certainly the order of the day with Hensler’s Pot. Finding the top of the next pitch I left the bag and went back to a small chamber where I waited for the others. In no time at all they appeared. Removing our SRT kits from the bag made for interesting problem solving. Peter dropped his rack down into the bottom of the rift. It lay in plain sight about 2 meters down but feeble attempts from both myself and Peter made no progress in collecting the chap. All credit for the retrieval goes to Ali, removing the hauling cord from the tacklesack he held the krab gate open with a cable tie and use this to hook up the rack. It worked a treat.
Moments after Peter had dropped his rack, the box containing my flapjack and spare batteries tumbled out of my oversuit… stupid warmbac zips. It was completely irretrievable.
Burnley Pitch (7 m) was rather interesting and had a piece of in situ tape for standing in which was invaluable. Lay on my chest to rig, I reversed to a bend where I could turn and go feet first to the pitch. Using the in situ tape I lowered myself onto the pitch head and descended.
The final pitch (Hensler’s High Aven Pitch 38m) is a short crawl away and the passage is surprisingly decorated. The final pitch was reached, rigged and got onto in much the same manner as the previous. The top of this pitch is rather pretty with large amounts of flow stone. A brilliant abseil and fun swing to rig the deviation quickly saw me land on the floor of the Aven with three obvious routes off.
Sitting on a small mud bank I removed my SRT kit and consulted the description as the others made their way down the pitch. Looking back at the rope, the passage to my right was mud Hensler’s and to my left New Hensler’s. Peter and Ali were soon down and after a little drink and some food we set off along New Hensler’s crawl passing the junction with Old Hensler’s on our right. Meeting the Hensler’s main streamway we took a right and head further down New Henslers.
Upon reaching a fork in the passage I took the right hand route as suggested by the description but soon found myself crawling into a quagmire sump. Obviously the wrong way. Back at the fork we took the left hand passage and then right hand passage with a wriggle through some boulders. Emerging in South East Aven I was in very high spirits as navigation was going strangely well. This brought us to the bottom of the Bar Pot Big Pitch. A familiar place.
Tanking it along South-East Passage we arrived in the Main Chamber at around 3 pm. Peter was suitably impressed with the spectacular sights of the Hall of Winds, which was comfortably warm. Quick assessment of energy levels proved we were all raring to tackle Hensler’s Old Crawl.
Backtracking slightly up South-East Passage we took a left turn and entered Booth Parson’s Passage. This comfortable crawl quickly degenerates into a flat out crawl in a solid scalloped bedding. We had entered Hensler’s Old Crawl. The continuous flat out crawling soon became tedious and I felt rather inadequate given that Eric Hensler discovered this passage completely alone wearing no knee pads.
Progress in this flat out crawl is naturally slow, it’s trying but taking little breaks is feasible, well until you get to the wet section. Catching my breath on the little islands between the pools and then pushing through the cool and intimidating water was only way to tackle the passage. It was truly relentless and probably the most exhausting piece of passage I’ve been through.
For future reference I would not tackle this crawl after or during bad weather. At one point I thought it looked sumped and the weather had been relatively settled in the week leading up to a our trip. The passage is also extremely winding, turning your head round involves wiggling around to find a large enough piece of passage to turn your head into the correct direction. At one point I can to submerge my face in order to see around a corner… not what I was expecting.
Feeling pretty exhausted and very cold we entered Hensler’s New Crawl. After some food we retraced our steps to Hensler’s High Aven. Ali realised he’s lost his water bottle and knife but no one was in the mood to go back and look for them.
The journey up Hensler’s Pot was a real slog but tired, relieved and proud of our achievements we emerged from the oil drum at 9 pm. We gazed at the stars for a short while before the cold hit us. Walking down the hill I felt physically sick with hunger. But we had done it and in a decent time of 10 hours. We all demolished our takeaway and day dreamed in the comfortable bliss of fresh underwear and pure achievement.
Hensler’s Pot combined with a Hensler’s round trip is ‘Not for the Faint Hearted’ but is an excellent trip with a true sense of journey.