Nettle Pot (Elizabeth) - Michael Holliday

Saturday, 6 January, 2018

Members present: Michael Holliday, Jolene Anne, Corin Donne, Alastair Gott, Simon Mee, Ben Tout

During the week prior some minor pestering convinced Gott to drive to a cave on Saturday, eventually settling on Nettle (though not on any more than that). The TSG members present on Saturday morning split into two groups: one to head to Longcliffe, and one to head down Nettle. Our Nettle bunch headed out at some point after I'd stirred, and drove to the layby. Those of us who'd gotten changed whilst at the TSG were pleased to have done so, as a strong and brisk breeze battered the hillside. After a series of toilet breaks, and several minutes of cowering in various divots in the hillside we all headed down the pot.

I'd visited Nettle before on a clean up trip with SUSS, but felt I'd widened an inch or two since then. The descent was impressively uneventful for all involved, and we made it to The (grimmer than I'd remember) Flats. After the “comfortably” enclosed entrance, the first pitch down towards Elizabeth shaft into The Gully felt exposed - some swinging onto the pitch head being unavoidable. Once Jolene in front of me had made it to the bottom, Corin emerged and asked Gott where we should go. Deciding on Elizabeth shaft, Corin went to fetch the rope and inform the others who had already headed towards Crumble and Beza. Passing by those returning, myself and Jolene enjoyed another toilet break then took a quick look down some of Stalactite Passage. Not knowing where it was heading, we turned around before reaching the end but the crawl wasn't unpleasant with kneepads.

Returning to The Gulley, we waited and tried not to fall asleep as Corin rigged Elizabeth Shaft. Unable to find the expected re-belay or deviation, and noticing a rub point above himself, Corin returned to us at the top. I was sent down, as it was decided that the youngest should have the keenest eyes. Descending ever-so slowly, eyes open for any glint of a bolt, I too was incapable of finding the non-existent in-situ. I rigged a slight deviation with a sling and a flake, which comfortably prevented any rope rub and didn't hurt my sling too much. After being joined at the bottom by Simon, we discussed the loose hanger at the top of the next small pitch. Once we realised that the next 'bolt’ was only a thread (presumably we should have brought hangers), we decided that we'd gone deep enough and would return to the surface once everyone had joined us.

In the meantime, I took a visit up a climb at the bottom and over into the next rift where some water flowed. Spying some side way in, I climbed down to a flat-out crawl that possibly allowed access to wherever the water was going. Observing that the stones around me were quite loose I gave some a poke before laying underneath them, and a small pile fell towards me pushing me into the back wall. I left in a controlled panic and sought company. I returned with Jolene, so she could tell me when I was being stupid, and re-stabilized the rocks somewhat. Still not quite daring to make the full entry, I took a brief glimpse inside to the water and decide that 'it probably just closes up… or at least gets really grim’. Maybe another day.

I was nominated to go up first. I felt I made good time, but I'm told Ben’s bothy was still a welcome luxury for the others. Everyone made it up the shaft in decent time, with several songs being bellowed in support. Nonetheless, I explored some of the small pots in The Flats that I'd helped clean previously and realised that I was probably the first person to have bothered to climb back into any of them. Exiting the entrance shaft went quickly, although Jolene requested a spare cereal bar to give a last boost, which I generously donated.

Simon and myself waited below the cap for Jolene to find her way through the Narrows, as we could hear the violent wind rushing above us. On the last re-belay we gave Jolene so much advice that we got her strung up, apologized profusely, then fixed the confusing situation we'd got her in. Running erratically to keep warm, alongside the walking Jolene, we eventually made it back to the first field which had filled with great hunks of muscle and anger (cows). Considering our options, we nobley waited to escort the others through the field (begged them to save us from the cows). Jolene helped me get changed, since I was very cold despite my nice new furry, and then regretted it as she realised her cold too. Eventually, we were changed and huddled in the relative warmth of the car. After a few more toilet breaks, a slightly worrying wait, and a very worrying dash of Ben through the cows, we all returned to the TSG safe-and-sound to spend the night absorbing the wisdom of Tony.