Langstroth Pot - Ben Wright

Sunday, 31 July, 2011

Since I've already written one epic trip report, I might as well write up the other epic trip I've had recently. Not that I only have epics or something, they are just more interesting to reading about!

Langstroth Pot (Via hole in the floor) to Langstroth Cave
Ben Wright, Steph Dywer, Chuck Holder (all BPC)

I'd been going through a phase at the time where I'd been freediving a lot of sumps, maybe a precurser to me doing some proper diving, maybe it was just me being stupid havn't quite worked it out yet. I'd done a fair amount of free diving before this, Swildons, Lake Sump, Rowten Sumps, the Sleets Gill 68 series sump and the Langstroth Sumps was the final one - the hardest and most dangerous series of sumps to free dive. In the 1970s 3 members of ULSA were killed in these sumps, so I was rather nervous about the entire thing, but went for it anyway.

The 3 of us drove up to Langstrothdale and got changed in the sun, me and Steph wore as much neoprene as possible (Steph a 5mm full wetsuit and an oversuit and me a 3mm with a 2mm jacket) and walked upto the entrance. We decended to the sumps very easily - if you dont go in via the original entrance langstroth really is an easy trip, a very fine trip non the less. The rigging in the cave is fairly scetchy at times, and you often find yourself rigging on either badly possitioned screwed spits, or really dodgy naturals, but we got to the bottom safely anyway.

At the bottom Me and Steph prepaired ourselves for the sumps. We packed away our srt kits into a tacklebag, as well as stephs oversuit and a few rocks so the bag didn't float and donned neoprene hoods and a mask each. We then tied the middle of a 20m rope onto the bag. The idea was that as I was going first (why is it always me that goes first into these stupid situations, someone trying to tell me something?) I would tie the rope around my wrist and once through I would pull the bag through, but Steph could keep a hold of the other end incase the bag got stuck. Simples. Chuck quickly realised that he wasn't going through as with no neoprene and no mask he was very much unequipped for the sumps, a wise decision, so decided to head out, waiting 20 minutes before derigging.

I quickly dived through the first sump, a nice easy, even plesent, 2m dive to a huge airbell (Hilton Hall), pulled the bag through and gave steph the signal (3 pulls on the dive line) to come through. She came through no problem and had a huge smile on her face - her first proper sump. She gave me a big hug and we got ready for the next two sumps. These two are longer about 3.5m and 4m and deeper and only seperated by a tiny airbell and a much more serious proposition. So the idea is to dive through the first one, take one or two breaths then dive the 2nd, pulling the bag through them both in one go. Any more than one or two breaths and you risk using up all the oxygen for the rest of the party - which is what happened in the 1970s. So I set off, the first of the 2 requires you to dive down to about -2m then go through. I had an epic going through this sump, there was loads of flakes in the roof I had to push off and as I was way to boyant I kept on hitting them. Also I'm fairly sure the line wasn't rebelayed in the airbell, so I had to grappel around in the roof trying to find it. Once I was safe(ish) in the tiny airbell I had a bit of a moment, then quickly gave the bag a good pull and dived through the last sump (much easier and fairly plesent) into Langstroth Cave. I then tried to pull the bag through. It was stuck. Fuck.

I waited a long while (probably about 10 mins) for something to happen, hoping Steph wouldn't just dive through as there would be a bag in the way and not enough space to turn around. Eventually there was an almight pull on the rope, which kept on pulling for a long time. The rope was tied onto my wrist and I was being pulled into the sump. Looking back at it it was stupid, but I was 100% convinced that she was diving through, pulling herself on the wrong rope, the bag rope. She was gonna hit the bag, not get through and drown. In my mind at this point, she was dead. So I let go, properly finishing her off. Obveously this was a little upsetting, but I still waited at the sump for about 20 minutes hoping she'd come through. I only headed out once I was violently shivering and very cold. I sat on the surface for a while, very upset that I'd just killed a friend of mine and the girlfriend of another good friend of mine and an intergral member of a club I'd just joined that weekend. I worked out what I was gonna say to Adam, what I was gonna say to the rest of the Bradford when I got back and what I was gonna say at her funeral, bad times to say the least.

I couldn't even go down Langstroth Pot to go see if she was okay, my SRT kit was stuck in a sump with a dead body. There was also no way I was risking going back through the sumps! I felt completely useless. There was also very little point in calling rescue, she was either dead, or alive and fine so I wandered up to the entrance and sat for a while, probably an hour of so. Decided that I'd go down to the first pitch and wait for Chuck, grab his SRT kit, rerig the cave and at least dive through the first easy sump to see if she was stranded in the first huge airbell. As I approached the first pitch I could hear singing. Chuck doesn't sing. That feeling was one of the best I've ever had, she was alive. Not only that, but she'd deriged the cave herself as well as pulling out all the insitu crap in there and my SRT kit. I gave her a hug, took a bag off her and went out a very happy man.

On the surface she told me her story. I'd dived though pulled the bag a bit, then nothing - the rope she was holding didn't move. She then pulled on it and it came back to her fine (after a bit a a pull - pulling me into the sump). So the bag didn't get all the way through, but she could pull it back fairly easily so she didn't think it was stuck. So she also thought that I was dead. She wasn't as convinced as what I was, but she thought it was possible. She was also very happy to see that I was okay!

I've not freedived a sump since.