Wednesday 12 January 2011

8th January 2011 - Cold trip down Juniper Gulf

Years ago when we were but mere youths we used to go caving on a Saturday such was our keenness to explore the underground excitement of Yorkshire's great and famous potholes and caves. Here we were once again going caving not on a Thursday night but a Saturday night.

That was good, club honour saved again. The venue a  trip down Juniper Gulf (probably last descended by myself in those youthful Saturdays) is described by John Gardner as a cave that typifies the best of Yorkshire potholes: wet, deep, vertical, and culminating in one of the finest shafts in the country.

Dick at a very snowy Juniper Gulf
The walk across the Allotment with three tackle bags, one containing an 80m 11mm rope was completed in the daylight, which made finding the entrance a lot easier.  Once there, however, finding the P hangers for the entrance pitch was made harder due to the covering of snow that lay over everything.  Once found and rigged pitch one the daylight shaft was descended and suddenly we were in the warmer environment of the underground.

Pitches 1 and 2 went smoothly apart from the rope not being long enough for the traverse and drop (having rigged the bad step, which was deluged with icy water) but we sorted that with some lateral thinking and knot tying.  At the bottom Tom headed off with the tackle bag for the third pitch leaving me to lug the 80m rope through the 'traverse'.  Gardner describes this as,  'rather unfairly described as "nasty" in the old guide book. With heavy-weight equipment, there is no doubt that it would be arduous and awkward, but progressing along it with a rope bag does not present problems for the modern caver'.  How wrong he was!

Awkward traversing in Juniper Gulf
Twenty feet from the bottom of pitch 3 Tom realised that the rope was yet again too short for the pitch!  The 80m beast came into its own and a quick fig of 8 knot later joining the ropes together we were down, rigging the traverse to the head of the final shaft.  A crawl through another icy deluge led to the sloping ledge at the top of the 45m free hanging pitch.  Tom rigged this and a fantastic descent, clear of the waterfall that entered from the left and half way down another that entered from behind a wall of rock to the right.
Looking down the main pitch of Juniper Gulf
 At the bottom the rope had 2m to spare but the volume of icy water that poured and thundered down the final little drop meant that we didn't descend this to wander down to the sump pool.  Instead we set off back up the pitch, Tom's Scurrion light illuminating the flutings and smooth walls of the huge shaft to great effect.

The spray lashed re-ascent of the main pitch
The exit from the cave was smooth but somehow I managed to end up carrying the tackle bag back through the traverse!  Once below the entrance pitch we saw snow falling down from the surface.  Climbing out onto the moor we met temperatures well below freezing and the gear iced up immediately.

The walk back should have been straightforward with Tom having his GPS with the route on it.  A lapse in concentration, however, had us walking for a while 180 degrees in the wrong direction when we hit a track that we should have crossed adding some distance to the return journey.

Back at the car a bitterly cold change and we were heading to a warm welcome and great pint at the Gamecock Inn.

1 comment:

Tom Phillips said...

A great trip. It was good to hear the "slap" of the rope as we dropped it down the main pitch. Never did like abseiling on ropes that are not long enough!