Oxford University Cave Club

1963 - Rescue from Bar Pot

Graham Stevens

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Logbook 1 p55 briefly mentions the need for a Mountain Rescue call-out during the Vacation Meet to Yorkshire in March 1963.  Six members gathered at the Yorkshire Ramblers Club Hut ‘Lowstern’, in Clapham on the evening of 18 March, some arriving quite late.  The next morning I roused them for a trip to Bar Pot, but as we walked through the village, I felt ill and went back to bed in the hut. The others entered Bar Pot about 2 pm.

About 3 am on the 20th, Tim Cooke came rushing into the hut and roused me.  There had been some trouble getting Ron Cooper up the 45 ft entrance pitch.  He had blacked out and fallen off the ladder, hanging upside down on the lifeline.  They had managed to haul him up the pitch to the surface but he was too exhausted to move any further.  Tim wanted me to drive up the farm and mountain tracks to the pothole, but I was in a borrowed car and doubted this would be possible.  We could end up stuck causing delays and needing rescue ourselves

So at about 4 am we roused P.C. Peckham of Clapham for a Mountain Rescue call-out.  He summoned a Police Mountain Rescue Ambulance from Settle which arrived about 5 am.  The day in bed had revived me so I accompanied Tim on the walk back up to the Pot.  The ambulance waited for daylight before driving up onto the fell via Clapdale Farm to within 100 ft of the entrance and by 6 am Ron was off to hospital in Skipton.  The rest of us returned to the hut and were in bed by 8 am. 

Rest was interrupted in less than an hour by a knock on the door – the Press had arrived!  It seems they monitored the police radio frequencies and knew about the call-out and had all our names.  They wanted to meet us in the pub for free drinks and to listen to our story.  No-one was interested, everyone was exhausted.  We prevaricated and only gave them yes/no answers.  To avoid parental alarm, I was keen to have my name excluded as I wasn’t even on the trip.  The Press did their best to sensationalise the story.  The Mail had the Police driver as the hero, whilst the Express had the Students saving their friend as heroes.

The underground trip had not been particularly strenuous and Ron had climbed the 100 ft pitch without difficulty.  The cause of his black out was put down to carbon monoxide poisoning from his long drive the day before, travelling non-stop from Oxford to Clapham via home in Somerset in a van with a leaking exhaust pipe! He recovered after rest in Hospital.