Updated 9th, 16th January 2022
The original description from 1992 reads: "A rift to the northwest of site 2080. A large boulder hangs over a hole where rocks can drop about 30m. The boulders need digging out." Clearance and the first explorations in Mistletoe Pot began on Boxing Day, 2021.
The 24m entrance pitch (Himalayan Balsam - ledge at -8m; rebelay at -14m) has been cleared of much rubble and stabilized with scaffold bars but still requires care with explorers using the rope one at a time with others out of range. The landing is in a fine passage: NE and up a slope chokes after 12m whilst downslope the floor drops away in a partially choked rift.
A bolt traverse (where other possible higher-level ways proved to be alcoves) reaches a good place for a descent in two pitches of 7m and 10m. At the foot of the pitch the only way out of a small chamber containing a few bones is through a dig in the floor where a large block had to be pulled out. (On the last trip into this section, a portable hammond organ and microwave-sized boulders moved as the exiting explorers slid over them. This section (giving access to passage in the 3 paragraphs below) is now looking rather unstable, but all of the lower pitches have been derigged, so a return is not necessary.
A wriggle and a drop down a vertical slot reaches a tight hammered out pitch head to a p4. (A squeeze under the base of the tight pitch leads to a crawl and a 10m deep pitch with two too-tight rifts at the bottom. A traverse over the top of the p10 reaches a ledge where a hole at the top of it was excavated. This revealed another tightish pitch, 0.5 - 0.75m wide, which drops into one of the too-tight rifts from the neighbouring shaft. More digging is required to enter this. However, it is guarded by a huge wall of steeply overhanging mega death choss above the opening, which is topped by some big precarious looking boulders. It all appears to be very loosely attached to the wall and 'ready to go'. Maybe this could be brought down safely with a long crow bar, maybe not. Attempts to climb up and over it were thwarted when seemingly good hand and foot holds kept giving way.)
At the p4 base, the cave opens out festooned in popcorn calcite with a 4m diameter, 15m deep pit. Traversing round the top of this, a good passage is reached but it soon ends in an aven and a short crawl. The aven has been climbed for 10m: high level passage closes up and, back in the direction of entry, the aven ascends steeply and seems very likely to connect to the rift at the top of the second pitch.
At the base of the 15m pit, a parallel 6m shaft was excavated after a short slope up. At the bottom of this 6m drop, yet another good looking horizontal sandy passage also choked up too soon.
Another series (Botanical Highway) in Mistetoe Pot is reached by climbing up to the roof above the second pitch and traversing at this level. The first major obstacle is tiptoeing past three very large sleeping rhinos wedged in the top of the rift which are seemingly levitating. The roof traverse continues with deep holes in the floor and the rock becoming increasingly poor, necessitating excavating a hole in the wall to try and find hard limestone for each bolt placement. The roped route reaches a 5m diameter shaft, 15m deep with the roof tunnel continuing on the other side. The rock here is incredibly poor, resembling a cross between Manchego and crumbly Lancashire cheeses. ( The traverse to this point has consumed 67m of rope and 12 bolts.)
The 15m pit (Venus Flytrap) required much gardening, placing two high bolts and gaining the far side of the shaft which provided a suitable free hang. The walls of this shaft largely comprise of massive sheets of detached calcite crust so carefully tiptoeing down and up the rope is highly recommended. At the base, a short climb down back under enters a roomy chamber. The rift from the passage above drops in down the left hand wall and so does any falling debris. A pile of half-buried bones was found just at the step down into this chamber so they have been moved to a safer location in the chamber. It is guessed that these are the remains of a bear.
Back at the top of the p15, the high level traverse continues to another pitch of 13m (Audry II) into a chamber with a large, old calcite flow blocking progress and a rift back to the bone pit also choked.
The high-level rope traverse continues through a squeeze, over the top of the chamber and very fragile false floors with another squeeze up to emerge into caveable passage. Around 100m of passage in very friable rock passes three undescended holes and ends abruptly at a window into a large, drippy 3m diameter 38m shaft, 15m up and 23m down (Perihelion Pitch). (A side passage was surveyed which also had a small slot overlooking the shaft.)
A short muddy climb down gives a view through a too tight slot in the floor of another pitch of around 15m with water flowing down it. Further pushing will occur at Easter.
• Due to the very friable nature of the rock throughout this cave and several near misses, it is highly recommended that entrance pitches are descended one at a time from the surface and calling "rope free" only when well out of the way at the bottom, as anything falling down the entrance will hit a descending potholer.
• The Botanical Highway rope traverse passes numerous sections of large loose and very dubious rock, so careful and delicate caving is required along its length as hand & foot holds can and have regularly broken off.
• Continuous dry and sunny weather occurred during the first explorations, so it is unknown how the stability of the entrance and the entrance pitches would be affected by heavy rain. This should be closely inspected upon the next visit before descending.
[Description amended from logbook accounts by SimonCornhill and Diane Arthurs]
Reference: anon., 2004c (Whit logbook); anon., 2021f (Christmas logbook)
Entrance pictures: 2004, 2021 : 2021
Underground pictures: Early explorations: 26th December 2021 - 3rd January 2022
• 1st and 2nd pitches • 3rd, 4th, 5th, Ghost Orchid pitches; Ivy Climb • Botanical Highway • animal bones
Video: in hand
Detailed Survey : in hand
On area survey:
Survex file: Dec/Jan 2021