Just in case you thought that caving with the MPC was a precarious occupation, below is the story from a member of the club who went as a guest on a trip with Dave Ottewell and Liverpool University Caving Club. Those with a nervous disposition should read no further!!!
Hammer Pot - 16 August 1997
2.00 am we exit the cave, phone call to cave rescue beneath the stars, it wasn't meant to happen this way. We missed the pub!
I had water in the car to quench my thirst after 12 hours underground. The local copper decided against a call out. He lent us a maglite torch and a big search light with a sweeping beam. We took the shiny new gear together with an FX 2 back down to our stranded friends atop of the first pitch. By now it was 3.45 am. The walk to and from the cars had exhausted a lot of time. Hammer Hole was more like Hammer horror!
Dave O, in the absence of a survival bag, which lay unfortunately at the foot of stemple rift, was very cold. Ali and Steve, sharing the only bag fared better. With all lights extinguished they must have been so keen to see our search light come to their rescue. With renewed enthusiasm, lights aglow, the stranded trio, plus Gareth and myself exited the system through the short time, difficult rift, flat out crawl, a mere 15 minute journey-so close yet so far. Now it was about 4.30 am. We were all out - well done to all concerned!
Stemple rift was the focus of our nightmare, about 30 feet tall and insect-like width, meagre footholds, this mean bit of cave gets narrower and, not content with that, it also goes around corners, there is no rest from pain and suffering through here. Mars bars, survival bags, even the full tackle sack were dropped and lost into its jaws. We almost lost a caver - on our return Ali got stuck here for the duration. Sadly she was second, so Gareth, Steve and I, stuck behind her, for what felt like an eternity, against the rock, on microscopic ledgers willing her to climb onward! Fortunately she did, with assistance and footloops from Dave O. Don't underestimate stemple - take time, patience and a helping hand with tackle bags. Get your SRT kit away from your crutch, keep edibles tucked away, expects to trash your knees and elbows.
Beyond, look forward to sludge crawl, a peaty, gritty, sewerage-smelling, flat out, splashy crawl - it's only 90 metres long, easy except for the corners! Make sure you get through Out-Fell master cave and reach the "fearsome object" - its spectacular! The party, (myself excluded) abseiling, with drama, around said object and then we began our retreat, dogged by light failure, time against us, and the sequence of events as described in the introduction.
But it's a great cave and an awesome trip - you have to go there at least once, seen to be believed. Allow 10 hours. Take spare light.
Now it's 7 am and we all pile into Little Chef and drink eight consecutive cups of black coffee, each. We stretch out this recovery session until fountains, 9 am when we all pile in here for breakfast. Morley cavers turn up, keen to do a trip underground! Please, leave me out of it - I'm a physical wreck, haven't slept for 27 hours, knees batted, elbows turned to mush! I tell Dave Roberts I'll never go down Hammer again!
The shiny new torches went back to the police caked in mud. Our Sunday caving trip became "the Marton Arms". Driving home was not easy. One week later Dave O returns to the system with others to rescue the full tackle bag, but not the Mars bars - on a Sunday, after a party - brave lad!
The party - Dave Ottewell, Gareth, Ali, Steve and me - Phil Higgins.