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.