CHRISTMAS DAY DOWN HAMMER POT by Frank Barnes:continued
After this we decided to leave the next two pitches laddered as we would need all the energy we had to get ourselves out without carrying tackle as well. I found both pitches quite easy, but I was dreading the tight rift. Oggy was first to go up into the rift and I watched him swing into the hole in the roof of the small chamber. When he was through, he waited for me as it was my turn next. Now I had to stand on Kenny’s shoulders until I managed to squeeze my arms and shoulders through. But the hard part was still to come: that was getting my gut and rear end through. It was obvious after what seemed to be half an hour's struggling that I would not have got through without the help of the other two. I had to be pulled by Oggy and pushed by Kenny.
I was completely helpless and felt like crying, but my friends managed to haul me through, although I gave Ken a nasty kick in the eye while I was struggling. He was so pleased to see me through that he never complained about it. I found the stemples a godsend for gripping on to.
By the time I was at the top of the first pitch my light was almost out. I shouted to Oggy in front of me who said to keep to the stream bed, but I could not get through. Kenny had a look with his light and saw that I was trying to squeeze through a two inch crack. The correct way was a small mantle-shelf into the entrance crawl. I could now feel the gusts of cold air blowing through the entrance and I know our trip was nearly over. We pushed through the snow which was now nearly blocking the entrance, and found the blizzard still blowing. It was only a matter of an hour to the warmth of the cars and our friends. As we walked down the track towards the shooting hut, the three of us knew we had had a hard fight against nature. We were cold, tired but satisfied.
A team went down a week later to de-ladder but found Sludge Crawl completely flooded, and so just de-laddered up to there. Incidentally Dave Taylor broke his ankle walking across the ice covered clints on the way to the entrance that night. What an excuse!
A fortnight after this another team went down but found the water in Sludge higher than on the original trip, there being only two to three inches of air space over the last fifty foot. As it was sleeting outside when they came down they returned through Sludge Crawl as soon as they reached the Master Cave for fear of the water rising, so the tackle still remained at the top of the last pitch! Everybody by now was fed up of night trips down Hammer Pot, and it was decided to postpone recovery of the tackle until Spring.
However, when another de-laddering party went up they found the entrance blocked by a rock and mud fall. Hopes of an early recoveryof the tackle were given up.
It was Easter 1966 when H.W. members returned to Hammer Pot with picks and shovels - and permission - to dig out the entrance. Two hours work saw the entrance open, but it was very wet and sludge would obviously be flooded. Some members went down to the start of Sludge for fun but the tackle could not be recovered, The next Friday night though the rope was finally brought out, the ladders being useless, It was a dry weekend and Sludge Crawl found to be almost dry which greatly surprised those of us who had almost drowned in it!