Friday 18 December 2009

18th December 2009 - Rift Pot (Deep and Crisp and flipping Cold!)

Although there had been a sprinkling of snow on the fells around Lancaster the wintery view over the Dales approaching Ingleton foretold of a possibly "interesting" walk in to Long Kin East (our original objective) on the slopes of Ingleborough.

Negotiating the snowy roads in Austwick and driving up the lanes toward Norber was the the easy bit. Once changed the long walk along lanes in the dark was the "warm up" for the full on winter conditions on the 2.2km fell walk across to the Allotment area of Ingleborough. Sections of limestone pavement covered in deep snow made some sections very tricky indeed and Dicks "slick" wellies struggled to gain any purchase on the steeper sections.

Following the GPS trail we arrived to within 100 metres of the Long Kin East entrance, but the "hole" we stood next to did not look very likely, and a search of the area saw us getting very cold in the now arctic conditions. We re-assesed our location and decided check the area to the south, and found the narrow trench of the Rift Pot entrance. We were so cold by now that we all agreed that we should head down this entrance and hope that we would warm up a bit in the cave below.

Dick quickly rigged the entrance pitch and soon we were abseiling into the warmth of the huge entrance chamber, what a relief! We spent 15 minutes warming up and looking at the way on which would connect with our original objective, noting that the only hangers were old "Elliot" style spits, definitely one to come back to though.
Ascending back to the sub zero arctic plateau above us we readied ourselves for a quick return to the cars and civilisation. A 4 hour epic done and dusted!

Monday 14 December 2009

11th December 2009 - Caroling in Easegill and up the Arson shaft

Proximity to Christmas allows people to engage in behaviour which at other times of year would at least seem strange and at worst have you comitted. Behaviours range from wearing novelty ties/jumpers/hats to the buying of the latest X factor winner's single. Somewhere between these two extremes lies caroling at various points in the Easegill system, carefully chosen for their acoustic magnificance.

Watching Progress down Lancaster Hole

High Level Series

Given that the varying reverberence times of different spaces can affect an ensemble's timbre, we chose the style just after Bull Pot of the Witches as the site for our first few lines, before moving on to Lancaster hole.
Phil showed that men can multitask by rigging the pitch while still continuing the carol, amply lit by the "aven blaster" from above.

Our next site was the Collonade chamber, Tom, Dick and Sharon each demonstrating their individual vocal talents with coreographed solos.

Dropping into the depths of Fall pot it's worth noting that it's quicker to use the climbs than the thick in situ ropes. It should also be taken into account that a key shift of a third of an octave is required to overcome the inherent tininess of Fall pot.

Continuing along the high level series, Phil, Dick and Sharon made their way to Bob's boss and the Painter's pallet, while Tom and I went to have a look at the top of the Arson shaft. A short recce made us determined to return but we had to head back and joined the others back at the foot of Lancaster.

The roads to Barbon were icy, but the fire inside the pub was nice and warm.

Click here for Full Screen Slide Show

Saturday 5 December 2009

4th December 2009 - Committee Meeting

You would like to think that the fourth week into the season would resemble the photo below with a full team urging to go caving.

Well, the reality was that this Friday at 4.30pm resembled a PE changing room on a wet December day with students handing in notes from their mummy's explaining why they could not participate in physical activity.

Dear Sir,
please excuse Thomas from caving today as he needs some sunshine on his vitamin D deficient body and has had to go to Spain.

Dear Sir,
please excuse John today from having to do any physical activity as he has to meet some people in Wigan and can't possibly get back.

Dear teechr
alustr wont beabul to go out tdy cos e as to look aftr alfi wot is ill. (we believed this one. ed)

Dear outdoor people
While I was rather looking forward to a trip underground with you fine chaps tonight, I find that I have a rather urgent work commitment that takes me away from the dark and wet. Sharon

Oh, you lot
I live in France/Spain and haven't been all season, don't pick on us!!!

So, Phil and I were reduced to getting into our caving gear on Leck Fell and debating which route down Lost John's we would tackle. Ropes packed in some sort of order from memory (as we didn't have a guide and Ali had planned a trip down Selgill Holes) we set off to the gate only to find ... we were at the wrong gate!

After dumping the rope bags we set of to Committee Pot (the dug entrance into Notts II ) and scrambled down the fantastic manmade entrance to Notts II.

This is what it would have looked like if Sharon had been able to come down the entrance series in Notts II

The entrance pitch breaks into Mincemeat Aven and there are two ropes hanging down in there. The first rope ended at a ledge above the wall of the aven while the second led up into the gritstone boulder strewn lower part of the aven. The aven soared above and brought in a small stream, no wonder it was where the diggers thought they might break in from the surface. Unfortunatly it didn't go any further in the early exploration, ending in jammed boulders after 50m.

Beyond the aven the passage enters the main stream way at Inlet 13. The mainstream from the upstream sump from Notts Pot flows for 1300m to sump 2, initially flowing in a fine drained phreatic tube of low gradient for 700m. A nick point marks the start of a narrow canyon which conveys the stream for the remaining distance to the dark, cobbly lower sump.

We set off downstream in a fine meandering streamway. On the left we discovered a finely crafted rope ladder in front of an active flowstone cascade, which invited the caver upwards to a small passage which turned out to be (Inlet 14) leading to 20 meters of low passage and probably a dig.

The next inlet was above some calcited blocks bridging the passage and is called Gour Inlet (Inlet 15). Entry was gained by climbing the flowstone cascade below the blocks. A stooping height passage lead over fragile rimstone pools fed by drips from the roof. The passage ended suddenly at the edge of a drop of 1.5m into a small chamber. A muddy eyehole was followed to a drop into a small sump pool that made a lovely glooping sound as the ripples touched the roof of the sump.

Back in the main streamway we headed to the final chamber of NottsII. After climbing down the waterfall we arrived at Kleine Scheidegg (which sported a powerful spout of water) there was evidence of recent flooding with froth 5m up the walls.

A romping stride back up the streamway took us quickly back to inlet 13 and we decided to explore upstream to the nick point, passing the majestic speleothem of Vlad the Impaler

Back on the surface the rain was just starting as we headed off for the Snooty Fox. It is amazing how much faster we travelled underground with only the two of us, we were in the pub by 8pm!


Extract from letter home to parents.

' son/daughter has been provided with a range of opportunities to be physically active. They should understand how physical activity can help them to be more healthy, and how physical activity can improve and be a part of their every day life. Please ensure that they are available for the lesson next week...'

Monday 30 November 2009

26th November 2009 - Low Douk Cave

With more rain having fallen over the course of the week and yet more again predicted, once more we headed off to find what we hoped would be a relatively dry cave.
Armed with another new light we climbed over the style on to the open moor to find a beautifully made footpath . Unfortunately it wasn't going the way we were.
The sink hole of Low Douk is easy to find but the "new" entrance looks a little unlikely.
The Power of Scurion
After a traverse over an open pot the way on is by way of a perfectly sized tube.

The open part of the cave from the traverse to the entrance

In the "New" entrance series

A short way along the tube a stream enters from the left. The amount of water this was bringing into the tube did not make continuing look like a fun prospect and we decided to turn around. John's perfect trip was in the offing - a retreat to the pub afer less than 5 minutes underground! Unfortunately he wasn't there to enjoy it.

Rather than heading straight back though we decided to try out our lights with a bit of filmaking, Dick trying his hardest to make the open pot look like a long and deep cave exploration. Finally all we needed was an "arriving at the sump" sequence and Dick spotted a likely looking niche in the wall that could serve as our "sump".

To his surprise the niche went, fine dry stone walling and fresh signs of capping leading the way on. In order to avoid a headlong descent onto the head of a small, but thankfully rigged pitch, a feet first approach is to be recommended. This in turn leads through into a small chamber fitted with a handy stemple and scaffolding beam, which again can be made best use of when approached feet first. A final squirm brought us onto a rigged traverse and a short drop into the "visciously" meandering streamway of Low Douk.

This "new new" entrance, courtesy of the Misty Mountain Mud Miners probably renders the old new entrance defunct, offering as it does a relatively easy and SRTless means of reaching the streamway.

We followed the streamway for a way downstream before figuring you can have too much fun constantly changing direction and having to move up and down the height of the rift to find the easiest way through. Having had a quick look in the roof of the rift we made our way back to the surface and a waiting hail storm. Last week getting into the car it had been 16 degrees, this week just 4. It's a good thing we'd chosen a cave on top of a hill as Tom's car wasn't happy without any petrol in it. There's always a reason for everything and had we not had to stop at the petrol station on the way to the Craven Heifer we'd never have seen the Wallis and Gromitesque headline, "Three peaks pooch collared again" on a bill board - must have been a slow news day.

Below - Video of the trip

Saturday 21 November 2009

19th November 2009 - WR to start of Manchester Bypass

With the rain having fallen for the last few days and more on its way, caving options were becoming a little limited. Phil though had the great idea of trying to recreate some of the pictures from the 1950s which can be found in the "History of Easegill". As well as providing a dry evening's caving, it would also give us the opportunity to try out some new lights: Tom's "Aven-blaster" and my new headtorch.

Aven Blaster in Action

Not only was the rain limiting our caving options but unfortunately the associated flooding was limiting our caving team too - hope all's well in Kendal Dick. John had also found a much cheaper way of avoiding caving. No need to travel to South America, all you need is a note saying you've got a sore knee!

The water at Devil's Bridge was incredible, none of the usual rocks being visible and whole trees being washed along in the current.

Having changed in the shelter of Bull Pot Farm we made our way across the moor and down into Easegill. As soon as we entered the rift of Wretched Rabbit it was time to try out the new lights, Tom's aven blaster lighting up previously unseen chockstones in the very top of the rift.
It was not a day for visiting Spiral Stairway passage so we continued down the meandering passage.

Wretched Rabbit

Fortunately Tom and Phil know this system well and I was called back from what would have been a very wet rendezvous with Eureka junction and we headed up into Fourways chamber. From here it is just a short squirm to Stop pot (even shorter than it used to be courtesy of a new bit of digging).

Once in the chamber it was time to try and recreate the first of the photos. Tom moved around the most obvious view points before ending up perched on a high ledge affording a stance from which to take the picture.

This is as close as we could get - not far of the original picture - click image to see large version

One photo down, we then needed to find "Carrot chamber, close to the start of the Manchester Bypass". Despite finding many beautiful stal formations, they were never quite the right ones and we had to return to Stop pot without our second image.

Some days the climbs out of Wretched Rabbit feel ok, but on others they feel nearly impossible. It is though, always a relief to be back at the top of them, smelling the fresh air coming from the entrance.

It is also always a pleasure to sit back in the comfy sofas of the Barbon Inn with a nice pint and a packet of Cheese and Onion - caving's not that bad John!

Friday 13th November 2009 - Pillar Holes.

With heavy rain forecast the TNC headed onto the moors above Cold Cotes in search of Pillar Holes, a pot which hopefully would be relatively safe if the predicted deluge hit.

Having previously spent an evening wandering this patch of moorland spectacularly failing to find a cave, Tom led the way with his GPS onto the plateau area that continues all the way over to Gaping Ghyll.

There are three entrances to Pillar holes and we split into two teams for a crossover trip between two of them. Tom and John disappeared down entrance One while Dick and I descended a short muddy gully, on the other side of the rock bridge, to entrance Two. A Petzl bolt protected the traverse onto the first Y hang and a short pitch then dropped onto a beautifully carpeted boulder slope. As Dick arrived at the bottom of the pitch, the head of the “carpet” bounced down the rift, to join a friend below. The route then moves into a superb rift and long pitch landing at the top of an extensive dig.

Hearing Tom and John’s voices above us we made the short climb up the rift via another well carpeted area and a digger’s glove into which numerous squatters had moved into, to the foot of their final pitch. Tom was hovering in space as we arrived and he made a short swing across the aven to join us. John soon joined us from above and we conducted an acrobatic exchange in probably the most constricted part of what is on the whole a large and spacious cave.

With the sound of John’s delight at encountering the first wall to wall carpet ringing in our ears, Dick ascended a very fine pitch, literally “getting into the groove”. It was a little unnerving to find just a single anchor at the top though.

Had it been daylight the last pitch or two would have been in the light, but tonight it was only the rain and small ferns clinging to even the smallest ledges that indicated we were now in an open pot.

As we pulled out of the small gully at the top of the pitch, Tom and John were immerging from number Two entrance and the wind and rain were beginning to pick up. John's van provided shelter from the rising storm, allowing a comfortable change before we made our way to the Craven Heifer in Ingleton.

Monday 9 November 2009

5th November 2009 - Cape Kennedy and Fireworks!

There was a big turnout for the photo shoot down Lancaster Hole and through to Fire Hydrant. It was nice to meet up in fading light at Devils Bridge. The cafe seems to shut earlier these days. No chance of a hot chocolate or cake. There were wisteful(?) glances in through the windows of the new Red Rose hut facilities on the way down. Perhaps one of the team could be left on combination code cracking duties whilst the others are on the trip. There can't be THAT many combinations to try?

Observations on the way through......There is a new rope in position on entry to Fall Pot which would take you down to the main streamway. Fall Pot is big, but not big enough for a proper firework display. The use by dates on safety flares are very cautious. The 'safety' ropes down into Fall Pot and Stop Pot are getting too greasy to use.

Tom found the way with the usual slight hesitation at the begining of Stake pot inlets and we all moved along well into Cape Kennedy. The photos were as good as we've done. Through into Fire hydrant and onto the straws. On the way out, at the top of the 88 foot pitch, Dick ran into a bat which seemed a long way in. It must be a wonder of nature as to how they navigate in the dark to such a place.

On exiting Lancaster Hole it was already past nine and we hurried up to the farm and then down to the Snooty Fox. It had been a long first night of the season trip and with three over 50's in the group, quite a good performance.



Saturday 21 March 2009

20th March 2009 - Lost Johns

It was quite an evening in Yorkshire. Wonderful light provided by a sun on an early Spring afternoon. Waiting at Devils Bridge it seemed that the whole world was in their cars, but driving up onto Leck fell we surfaced into a halcyon landscape which we had to ourselves as per usual. We headed off down into Lost Johns again, this time the whole team knew where to go, and travelled down four abseils to the sump. We negioatiated the duck en route which seemed the only unpleasant part of the whole system. Back in the Snooty Fox we saw that next Friday is disco night. Something to look forward to at last.

Saturday 14 March 2009

13th March 2009 - Lost Johns

With a combined age of over 200 years (when will these guys grow up), the team assembled on Leck fell with an assortment of rope lengths (with a combined age of at least 200 years thanks to Johns museum piece). As usual, some of the team tried to look like they knew what was going on and where the cave was whilst Dick effortlessly put the correct ropes into the correct bags and headed off. We choose two routes down into Lost Johns and had a near faultless trip, meeting up at the swopover for a break.

Phil in New Roof Traverse

Phil's lights were on there way out and Tom's resourcefulness was never challenged as he arranged a jury rig which got the job done and saw him out.

Phil exploring the cave - without a light!

As usual, it was nice to stand out amongst the posh lot in the Snooty Fox where they had matching glasses for each brew of beer. There was talk of an end of season bash but as usual, no driver could be thought of. John tried to engineer an early end to the season but it seems trips up until Easter, not the spring equinox, will have to be tackled.


Monday 9 March 2009

5th March. Mistral Hole to Link Pot.

The ice gleamed blue in the sunshine and high above a Condor wheeled in the warm air high above the South Patagonian Ice Cap. The horses, grazing quietly on some scrubby grass were glad of the rest after the tough going of the last few hours as John had struggled to find a way around the glacier moraine ... or so he wished. Why was he standing at the top of the Mistral he wondered, on a Thursday night of all nights, facing the next few hours of darkness, wetness and tightness when the rest of the world was beckoning and anything was better than this.

No Comment

The Mistral/Link connection is the remaining section to be checked leading to the linking of sections to become what was at one time the longest underground trip in England, Pippikin to Top Sink. Mistral entrance leads to a drop down to a left hand bend and continuing rift passage that seems less strenuous after having done it a few weeks back. At the top of a 3.7m climb the way on is to the left over a boulder and into a rift which changes to a flat out crawl under a cross rift to emerge in The HOBBIT, a flat roofed chamber.

At the far side of The HOBBIT a fine walking sized passage passes two ropes, past these a large boulder in the middle of the passage at a right hand bend is met, down a trench in the floor the passage changes to a phreatic tube carrying a stream, eventually a slide over calcite on the right drops to a low passage which degenerates to a wet and muddy crawl. Soon drier passage is met and a tall rift in a wide bedding is followed its around two bends up a slope into the low wide flat-roofed chamber of DUSTY JUNCTION with cairn straight ahead. On entering Dusty Junction the draught which whistles through Mistral can be followed around to the left to enter Trowel Crawl which is the way through to Link Pot.

This route is described as
Trowel Crawl and the Muddy Wallows! Setting off down the passage the roof quickly came down and the water rose up. Crawling through cold water with gloopy mud underneath it and the roof lowering to flat out crawling eventually led into the roof going up. We had done the wallows! After more crawling the passage opened out and we sort of thought that we had done it but caves have a way of tricking you and immediately, after some photos the roof came down again and we were flat out squeezing through a shingly crawl. On the other side taking another photo Tom realised he had left his gloves behind so he had to go back and through again!

In the Wallows

Beyond this a chamber opened up with a scenic tube heading down at an angle. At the bottom of this the roof came right down onto a wet looking squeeze, this really was 'the wallows'. With head to one side, breathing through the side of the mouth and lots of hiffing and blowing the tight bit was passed. The others came through with helmets off that made ot slightly easier. We were very wet and cold by now and we pushed on towards Pybus By-pass. An awkward squeeze, well John and I made ot awkward but going face down Tom made it look a lot easier, and we popped out into Hylton Hall and our SRT gear dropped down the pitch earlier.

It was freezing at the bottom of Link as the cold air was sinking. The rift that you climb out of on SRT gear is narrow and constricted and with cold hands the change over of ropes was really hard as ones hands were so cold they didn't work. Eventually we were all out on the surface , cold, wet and looking forward to the pub or ... was it Patagonia.

Saturday 28 February 2009

27th February 2009 - Top Sink to Wretched Rabbit

After a couple of weeks break for half term it was time for the TNC to get back into action. John had also returned from South America after an epic 3 month expedition and was chomping at the bit to get back underground.

Having spent the afternoon getting his gear together, John was suddenly called away on business and though he met us at Devil's Bridge, he wasn't able to join us on the trip. The look of disapointment on his face made all our spirits sink. He had been waiting for this trip for so long and had now had it cruely snatched from him.

The low cloud engulfing the moors on the way to Bull Pot farm did little to dry out our dampened enthusiasm, but at least it wasn't actually raining as we changed outside the farm. We took the well trodden path across the moor and were soon passing the familiar entrances of County and Wretched Rabbit. Top sink though, as its name implies, lies far beyond these and we located it's covered entrance just before night took hold.

Walrus Pitch

Dropping down the entrance climb brings you into a fine meandering streamway whose proportions keep passage with a tackle bag interesting. The first pitch, Walrus, is well formed too, with an interesting move around a corner onto the pitch head and a well deviated hang to avoid the water. Once again the way on is along the streamway before the second, Penknife, pitch. Once along Bradshaw's passage the route finding becomes more interesting, though fortunately Tom always remembered the way on at the trickier points.

Bradshaws Passage

We stopped to take photos of the huge perched blocks in Nagasaki, I hadn't been expecting caverns of this size this far up the system. Back in the more defined streamway we soon found ourselves looking down into a chamber I finally recognised. There was the rib we'd climbed a few weeks previously on our visit to Easter grotto. Another short climb brought us down into the Assembly hall and the well decorated Whiteway that links it to Thackray's passage.

Nagasaki Cavern

The water level in Thackray's was much higher than on our previous visit and we were initially unable to locate the slot through to the dry oxbow that allows further progress down stream.
Having found it and carrying one set of SRT gear, on arriving at Holbeck Junction we decided to exit via Spiral Staircase passage to bypass the lower reaches of Wretched Rabbit.
Though Tom probably didn't see what all the fuss was about, I was definitely glad of the security of a pair of jammers on the second climb. Almost happy to be drawn into its confines by a tight rope rather than fearing being pushed out of it had I been relying on chimneying up it.
The streamway that followed was reminiscent of the passageway below Top Sink, though we were also rewarded with some fine formations.

You think it's been a long week when you find yourself slithering back down the rope on the final climbs out of Wretched Rabbit and you know it's been a long week when your companion has to point out to you that you can stop crawling as you're outside the cave.

A really good trip out and highly recommended, especially with the exit via Spiral Staircase.

Saturday 24 January 2009

23rd January 2009 - Destination damnation

Easegill again ... but this time it was to be one of the many caves that link into the main drain via miles of small passages and sumps. This trip saw us dropping down another RRPC dry stone walled shaft into the tortuous rift that is called Mistral Hole. Twenty minutes of crawling and manoeuvring around left and right angled bends leads one to Dusty Junction, where a left turn leads to Link Pot and straight on goes towards the HALL of TEN.

Hall of The Ten

In there we dropped down into the Pippikin Streamway and followed a meandering passage back towards the last pitch in Pippikin for a while. Retracing our steps to Hall of Ten we ascended the south slope to a silt balcony and a junction of tunnels. To the left a route descended into the fantastically gloopy mud of the HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING where we found an amazing piece of mud art!

We then followed the Wellington Boot Traverse and a scramble up a mud slope to gain the high level passages of GOTHIC SERIES and the HALL OF THE DAMNED with a huge fill of boulders and avens.

Back at the junction the main route continues straight on from the wide chamber as a wide and low passage into the vastness of CROSS HALL where an aven inlet sank in a mass of boulders. At this point we thought we were in Gour Hall (but queried why there were no gour pools!!). We hadn't actually got there so ... we will have to return again! Alistair descended a hole down in the bottom NE corner of the hall which lead through a squeeze to a 7m pitch followed by a 3m climb, then an unstable boulder slope and 4m pitch into a small chamber. It was a bit grim and 'out there' so he came back out!

The return journey was tiring as the passage consists of a lot of flat out crawling through sticky mud but once at Dusty Junction the out trip through the Mistral was quickly over, enticed as we were by the breeze blowing in our faces (that is why it is called the Mistral) and out into a fantastic starry night.

Monday 19 January 2009

16th January 2009 - Another fine evening in Easegill

11 years ago in 1997 the TNC had an 'exciting half an hour' misplaced somewhere below Easegill Aven and underneath Molluscan Hall ... could we find the way through ... well we must have done because I am telling this story now (read about the 1997 trip here). The plan tonight was to start to re-explore the two ends of the trip with a view to linking it again.

We set off in slightly wet and muddier conditions than last week when the ground was well frozen, across the moor to County Pot where the familiar passages soon gave way to the ladder pitch that leads to Broadway. A quick trip down the classic streamway led to Spout Hall where a climb up into the roof gives the way into Ignorance Is Bliss, which is a bypass leading into Pierce's Passage and the route into the main drain at Eureka Junction.

In the main streamway there was evidence of very high water levels (froth in the roof up to five meters!) that must have happened when the snow and ice melted in the rain earlier in the week. A cold duck through Stop Pot saw us heading up the ladder into the High Level Route and eventually Main Line Terminus. From here the next twenty minutes were a bit frustrating because although we found the Sideline Passage where we wrongly went back in 1997, we could not find the way into the Mancunian Way and the route to Easgill Aven (just like the last time!).

A rest in Carrot Chamber in absolute silence and darkness was broken as we retraced our steps to Mainline Terminus where the Manchester Bypass was taken back to Battle of Britain Hall in County Pot. An exciting route and a useful one to learn as it affords as escape route out of the high level series if Stop Pot is flooded.

A quick return out of County and the soggy plod back across the moor saw us changed and heading towards the Barbon Inn for a pint.

More research needed on Mancunian Way next week I think.

Sunday 11 January 2009

9th January 2008 - A fine evening in Ease Gill

Not only are the Red Rose busy above ground, renovating their Bull Pot Farm Headquarters (or are they creating a direct access from the changing rooms straight into Bull Pot of the Witches?), but they've also been busy underground too. At the bottom of the Wretched Rabbit climbs there now sits a dry stone walled entrance into the upper reaches of Spiral Staircase passage. Descending through it we were almost instantly met with the first formations of the evening, a series of pristine straws.

Spiral Staircase Passage

Photos taken, we carefully continued down via a couple of climbs with fixed ropes into Green and Smelly passage, another climb and finally to Lower 'T' Piece passage. Dick and Tom were now in terrority they recognised from years previously and trips down through the Borehole or up to Top Sink. Instructions such as "follow downstream" were harder than usual to follow as most of the water that usually flows down through the Ease Gill lay frozen on the surface. Despite the drought like conditions not helping navigation we soon found ourselves at Holbeck junction, a point we would be returning to later in the evening. We were once again surrounded by impressive decorations as we made our way up the Thackray's Passage streamway and up into the White Way.

White Way

This opens out into the Assembly Hall and the first of the climbs that lead up into Easter Grotto.

Easter Grotto

While the floor is no longer pure white and some formations have been destroyed since its discovery back in the Easter of 1951, it is still an impresive place to visit and the rusty, pineapple like features on some of the stal were a new sight for me.
The taped route takes you through into a parallel and slightly less well decorated passage before an ominous looking hole appears in the floor. Dropping through this, the way on is via a 30m long crawl. The crawl is not overly high and a couple of stalagmite stumps restrict movement further. Its floor however is made of calcite and with a bit of water on top of it, progress can be made quite easily by sliding your body along. Over enthusiasm for this means of propulsion needs to be curtailed before the end of the passage however as it appears from a slot about 2m above the floor at the end of Gypsum Cavern. Tackling this obstical headfirst would probably hurt. The cavern is higher than Easter Grotto so its stalagtites hang a safe distance above cavers' heads in all their glory.

Gypsum Caverns

Climbing out of the cavern up another fixed rope soon brought us back to Holbeck junction and the route through to Stop pot. From here it's possible to return directly to Wretched rabbit but we took advantage of the low water conditions and made our way down the trickle of a stream to Eureka junction. Standing with the water barely lapping over our feet it was sobbering to see froth on the roof of the passageway.
Then it was 'just' back up Wretched Rabbit to the frozen moor.

Thursday 1 January 2009

31st December 2008 A Yorkshire Classic

One of the wonders of our technological age is the speed with which news can travel around the globe.
Barely had the dust settled from the Skylight Passage breakthrough before word had made it across the channel and members of the overseas contingent of the TNC were heading from the cave bereft Vercors to Calais and the first ferry to Yorkshire.
After driving through freezing mist, Ingleton was reached where a recent copy of Descent and a pair of Wellingtons (obviously given the person they're named after they can't sell these in France) were quickly purchased. The survey was then hastily photocopied (it's worth knowing that the very pleasant lady in the Ingleton post office has a copier for these sort of occasions) before we headed up and out of the fog onto sun drenched tops.
The walk over the fell was superb with just the tops of the Marble steps trees poking out of the fog with the shapely summit of Ingleborough behind. Cresting the hill, the majestic Lake District fells too appeared island like above the sea of cloud.
Dropping into the depression that surrounds the cavern we said goodbye to the sun for the last time this year and made our way down through stalagtites and columns of ice before reaching the first of the pitches.
With Ding, Dong and Bell behind us we passed the bottom of Bubble's route before packing away the SRT gear and climbing up into the Glory Holes. The crawl leading away from these had a sauna like quality and a brief break in the Lounge allowed us chance to adjust clothing before pushing on through the Turtle crawl and its green, half shelled inhabitants.
Struggling with a tackle sack along, first Cripple creek and then Numpty rift, Paul cheerily reminded me that not far below us was the huge stomping tunnel of Duke street - not much consolation. This was however provided by the formations and generous dimensions of Womack chamber.
Beyond this point is a true Indiana Jones style adventure with in situ rope ladders taking you up and down through a series of relatively tight crawls before the final fun and games of the breakthrough point pop you out at a traverse across a wall high above the passage floor. A final climb down then drops you into the vastness of Jupiter cavern.
After a brief explore it was time to drop down into Escalator rift and finally a piece of passage way I recognised from our previous visit to Ireby II. Paul stepped into Duke Street II finally fulfilling a long held dream of visiting this side of the sump.
The Skylight passage crawl felt far more spacious than previously, though I think this is in comparison to what had gone before rather than further excavation since our last visit. The passageway to the bottom of the first pitches seemed longer than ever and by the time we passed the entrance to the Glory Holes once again I was beginning to feel the effects of the journey and happily passed derigging duties over to Paul.
Under clear skies the temperature on the surface had dropped even further and Paul's bare hands stuck to the first rung on the metal ladder in the entrance pipe. Avoiding touching the higher rungs we emerged onto the moor to a stunning display of stars and a sliver of the moon, having completed what must become one of the classic yorkshire caving trips.
Huge thanks have to go to those who pioneered both the dry routes through to Ireby II making this trip possible and to Dave in Inglesport for his helpful advice on completing the trip.

23rd December 2008 Through to Ireby II

As previously reported the epic dig from Whirlpool chamber in Ireby has now gone so it was now time for the TNC to see what lay beyond. After a visit to the sump we retraced our steps and headed up into the aptly named Skylight passage.

far side of Ireby II sump

Fortunately in the week or so since the breakthrough, substantial further widening had taken place and Dick was soon climbing down the ladder into Ireby II.
Making our way along the canal brought us into the magnificently proportioned Duke Street II which joins the small number of sequels such as the Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather Part II which are actually better than the original. Arriving at the sump we finally got to see the other end of the blue pipe that took water from behind the dam in Duke Street and allowed it to drain back through the sump, a truly ingenious solution. Passing incredibly stratified mud banks we then followed the streamway up through the continuation of Duke St. Had our flash guns recieved a little more tender loving care we would probably have been able to capture the fantastic proportions of the tunnel, but my neglect left Tom very little light to work with.

Duke Street II

At the end of the large passage way there are two obvious ways on. To the right led to a low crawl who's aqueous nature soon put me off and to the left the way on to Escalator rift. After a short recce we retraced our steps to the canal and the short climb up to the Skylight passage. Then back up the ropes to the entrance.

Ireby Fell Cavern Entrance

19th December 2008 Lancaster Hole

While the end of the Autumn term is always worth marking, today also marked Dick's retirement so it was off to Lancaster hole to celebrate. Dick's a popular man but I don't think even he could believe the number of cars already parked at Bull Pot farm and the number of teams already chalked up on the board. This on one of the wettest days we've had.

Bull pot Farm Changing rooms - now being revamped

Sheltering under the eaves of the farm house we debated our options, standing waiting at the top of Lancaster on an evening such as this, as lots of people make their way out isn't a very pleasant experience. Our indecision paid off however as one by one groups came and rubbed their names off the board and we decided to change and head across the fell. Timing it to perfection we arrived just as the final member of a party was coming out of the entrance on their "last caving trip" (if you reconsider and go again and would like the items you left at the top of the pitch back, please leave a comment).

Wet day in Lancaster Hole

The normally dry pitch was in full flow and it was with relief we headed into Bridge Hall and down into Kath's Way.

Kath's Way

With the amount of water about we had decided on more modest objectives and after a trip to the edge of Fall Pot, made our way into Wilf Taylor's passage.

Wilf Taylors Passage

After visiting the water coming through from Bull Pot of the Witches we made our way back to the ropes with a short Champagne stop on route.
Heading up the ropes when we arrived were a party who'd made their way from Top sink, an impressive achievement given the amount of water about. The climb up allowed sufficient opportunity to clean all our gear, as the spray exploding off the ledges fired water at you from every direction. From the top of the pot we set off to enjoy the rest of the Christmas holidays and for Dick the start of a new chapter in life- here's to you.