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Photograph of the volcano formation in Witches II Cave

Stop Pot to County via Ignorance is Bliss

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This series of articles is intended for the guidance of experienced cavers, who may not be familiar with the details of the best routes through the more complex systems in the Yorkshire Dales. To echo the sentiments in Northern Caves, it "is intended as guidance for the wise, not the obedience of fools"

This route is fun, and well worth using as an alternative route back to County Pot. Don't be put off by the name, which is a pun on the name of one of the original explorers, rather than a comment on its nature. For some reason, it's a route that's been ignored in the literature, being barely mentioned in Northern Caves, and not mentioned at all in the 1967 Cave Research Group description of the system. It is the original bypass to the Poetic Justice pitch, but one that never caught on.

The hardest thing about the route is finding it, and the surveys are exceptional obscure round this area. From Stop Pot make your way downstream. This is best done by following the water, but in higher water conditions, a low bypass crawl may be found a couple of metres above the water on the left hand side of the choke (not recommended!). Once back in the stream, make your way to Eureka Junction, and turn left. This passage soon divides into two, the left hand branch leading into Wretched Rabbit Passage, and the right branch leading into Pierce's Passage. Turn right, and after a few metres you'll drop down into the Pierce's passage streamway. Make your way upstream for a couple of minutes, until the floor changes from boulders to bedrock with a couple of prominent parallel calcite veins running along it. Just before the corner, climb into the roof and look round. You will see a thin rift formed between the (true) right wall and a fallen block. Enter this rift (take care, the ledges are horribly greasy) and shuffle along it for a couple of metres to where it emerges into a roof bedding passage. Ignore the spacious area to your right - your way is to step up into a small continuation of the rift above your head. This leads immediately to a cross rift. To the left is blocked, but up to the right there is a hole through to a chamber - clamber into it.

This lands you in a sandy chamber, with the hole from which you emerged behind you. Climb the sandy slope away from the hole, and wriggle through a couple of constrictions into a higher level of Cotton Chamber. It's an impressive place. Continuing in the same direction over an overhanging sandbank, takes you into a rift passage – Upper Pierce's Passage. Follow this for a few metres and turn right at the next junction over a couple of small boulders. Now keep your eyes peeled for a bedding plane passage on a shelf to the right - there is a small rampart of boulders below it. Enter this. It's flat out, about 15 metres long, and exits in the roof of a small rift passage. You are now in County Pot.

Follow the rift passage to the right ("downstream"). It's a little constricted, and at one point there is a contortion round a boulder, but after that the passage starts to get bigger. Soon after the boulder there appears to be a route to the right - ignore it, and follow the main passage to the left, which is full of breakdown. You will probably hear the sound of the stream in Spout Passage which is meandering around somewhere below you. The route round / over slabs fallen from the roof is not always obvious, but you can't go wrong. At one point the floor disappears, and you can either traverse across, or descend into a boulder chamber. Following the boulder slope down takes you to the stream.

If you choose to traverse across the hole, the original descent into Spout Passage is marked by three prominent fallen stalagmites in front of you, with a slope descending from them. Carefully descend the slope to a 3 metre drop. This can be made easier by lowering yourself from a sling slipped through a convenient eyehole. You are now in Spout Passage, a few metres downstream of the entrance into Poetic Justice, and two minutes downstream of Spout Hall.

The most direct route back to the surface is to turn left towards Spout Hall, but more fun is to turn right down Spout Passage and follow the stream down to Platypus Junction. Here Spout Passage combines with Razor Passage to become North West Passage, down which the stream flows. Turn left up Razor Passage, and follow the stream back to Broadway. Route finding through some breakdown chambers is a little challenging, but you can't go too far wrong. At one point, the impressive Butterfield Passage brings in most of the water from the right, with the entrance being marked by a prominent limestone pillar (The Toadstool). Ignore it and keep to the left passage.

Once you get back into Broadway, you will find the climb back up to the County Pot entrance series on the wall opposite.

Note that if reversing this route, the descent into Pierce's Passage is horribly greasy, and not recommended for novices, although a drilled hole in the fallen boulder may be used as a belay for a travelling rope.