Friday 20 January 2012

20th January 2012 - Wet Wetched Wabbit

Perhaps we're just getting used to it. After what seems like months of grey, wet conditions with only a few crisp days respite, we just didn't think it would be this wet. Admittedly we'd changed our plans due to the forecast rain, but the "puddles" encountered driving along the Lune Valley came as a bit of a surprise.

Heading up to Bull Pot Farm, rain was exchanged for fog and the only reason we got changed in the van was "because it's there". Walking over the moor, trying to pick put the reflectors on the posts, the slight drizzle was hardly worth mentioning, not one of those days when it's impossible to wear to glasses if you want to see anything at all.

We weren't expecting Easegill to be dry, but crossing and recrossing to avoid the steep section of bank by County was definitely more interesting than usual. The plan was to head down Wretched Rabbit to drop into Spiral Staircase passage to take some pictures of the pretties in there before returning to photograph the climbs on the way back out.

Dick not heading down Spiral Staircase passage (the route of all the water).

We quickly dropped down the climbs, delayed only by Dick's attempts to free me from the tackle sack on my back that jammed as I was sliding down one of the climbs. Fortunately the emergency eject system on the sack was fully functioning and with the tearing out of the bottom of the sack, I was released down the climb (note to self: don't do this again). Traversing through the rift the sound of water grew ever louder and a surprisingly large waterfall greated us at the climb down to Spiral Staircase. While it still looked possible, it didn't look pleasant and so we made a quick change of plans. Down to the main streamway, a look up County and back out the way we came. Leaving the camera and flashes in their torn bag we set off meandering down to the main stream.

We met the stream a bit sooner than we expected and as we made our way down to the junction, it was an eery sight that lay before us. Normally a big fast flowing stream makes lots of noise, but this rapidly moving mass of water was almost silent. Strange noises reminiscent of sumptuous sump sounds the only accompaniment. The grass and foam in the roof testament, that while the water levels were high now, they'd been much higher. Our mud cubes gave us an estimate of the rate the water was rising, a couple of inches in the ten, fifteen minutes we sat watching. Unsurprisingly now, our attempt to head up the County passage was quickly curtailed and the only safe way on was back up Wretched Rabbit. Passing the entrance to Spiral Staircase once again, we were very glad we hadn't gone down it, the waterfall cascading down it now even more of a torent.

Ascending the first climbs

Dick was very patient on the way back up the climbs, dangling on the ropes while I messed trying to compose shots and then scurrying back down them to switch on the flashgun that I'd forgotten to turn on and then again on multiple occasions to point it in different directions.

The final climb out of Wretched Rabbit

Emerging back into the open there was still no more than drizzle in the air, but the gill had risen significantly and the crossings were even more interesting than on the outward journey. Things had changed in the Barbon Inn too. While we were able to sit in our favourite seats, the nice fire and fireplace had gone, replaced by a little electric heater that wasn't very good at looking like a woodburner and even less effective in heating terms, blowing cold air up my trouser legs. These were very recent changes as the paint on the walls was still wet and the painters were still at the bar. Nice pint though.

Saturday 14 January 2012

13th January 2012 - Hardrawkin Pot

Dick enjoying the liquid refreshment on offer at the sump pool

Having to meet up later than usual, I'd had a look through the rigging guide for a short trip, not far from the road. Hardrawkin pot with its two short pitches and almost en suite pub seemed to fit the bill. As I'd never heard of it, in fact I'm not sure I can even pronounce it, I wasn't expecting much but as they say, even a bad caving trip is better than a good day in the office.

Changing in the car park above the Hill Inn another car pulled into the lay by and two other cavers began to get changed, their objective the same as ours. Hardrawkin was quickly changing from an unknown pot to the busiest in the Dales.

The short walk was stunning, under a clear, starlit, moon free sky we crunched through the frost on possibly the finest night of the winter so far. The entrance was soon located and Dick made short work of the initial climb down to the stream.

Almost immediately the quality of the trip is apparent with some beautifully shaped passageway, decorated with moon milk. The occasional crawling sections and right angled corners adding further interest.

The first pitch soon arrived along with the realisation that the bolts in this cave had been put in by somebody just an inch or two taller than me. It didn't help that the other two cavers had also arrived at the pitch head and performance anxiety had me firmly in its grip.

As soon as the y-hang was above me, a smile spread across my face. This is a great pitch. Searching for a natural or two to provide deviations to prevent a real soaking, revealing a stunning white gully entering the main shaft. "Rope free" and a quick scurry away from the spray lashed base of the pitch.

On Dick's arrival we decided to use the tail of the rope to descend the first of the little cascades that follow, though god sent holds make the others pure joy. The second and final pitch is soon reached and once again I wished I was just a little bit taller. An uninterrupted descent brings you to the sump pool and once again I quickly left the spray to find a drier vantage point to watch Dick's descent.

Ever the experimentalist, Dick made sure that it really was a flooded shaft at the pitch foot, before it was time to once again turn upwards.

The waterfall meets the sump

Starting the prussik back up

Returning up the second pitch

It always amazes me how little water it takes to produce ominous booming sounds and the return up the pitches was just as exciting as the descent. Not sure if it was the other two returning up the streamway above, but the water flow was far from steady, occasional pulses making me glad I'd followed Dick's advice to put my hood up.

If you're looking for a quick trip and the water's not too high I can highly recommend a trip to Hardrawkin, the Kylie of Yorkshire pot holes and when you're done a warm welcome can be found in the Hill Inn too.

Saturday 7 January 2012

6th January 2012 - Boxhead Pot

Dick near the entrance to Epiglottis Grotto

New years are generally associated with taking on new challenges and so for their first trip of the year, the TNC headed to Boxhead.

The first major challenge came in the form of getting to the Lost Johns' car park, the fog thick on the fell road, with seemingly vertical bits of road appearing out of the gloom in the headlight beams. The second challenge was finding the cave. Walk back down the road to the Lost Johns' gate. Tick. Go over the stile. At this point we realised we'd left the description in the van and so while Dick went to get it I set about finding the stile. As the stile was attached in traditional fashion to a fence, it wasn't too hard to find but then for the next instruction, walk 200m south. Fortunately Dick had picked up his phone with newly installed "compass" app and off we went counting our paces. We had travelled 199m according to the "GPS tracking" app when a halt was called and we felt quite pleased with ourselves, only problem was that there was no sink hole. While I commenced a box search, finding multiple sink holes by falling into them in the ever thickening fog, Dick was hard at work too and the "satellite imagery of where you're stood" app soon saw us at the pot.

We couldn't believe that we'd never been here before, the awesomeness of the pitches matched only by the digger installed plumbing. Following the Kendal flyover we soon arrived on a ledge, just above the bottom of Lost Pot Aven. Here the hoespipe split into two, one branch continuing down while the other headed into the Tate Galleries.

With hazily remembered directions we followed the pipe into the galleries, looking for Epilglottis Grotto. Knowing we had to turn right at some point we found ourselves traversing along the classically shaped and named Cresta run which eventually brought us to a handlined descent. Not remembering this from the description we turned around back to the last junction [having read the description since this handlined descent is the way on to Lyle cavern in Lost Johns'].

Going the "other way" we soon arrived at a pitch, which again we couldn't remember from the description [Crowbar pitch]. Just before this however was a small hole which Dick pointed out looked incredibly like an epiglottis. Sure enough a brief squirm lead to the fine Epiglottis Grotto.

We finally had a look at another dug passage [Venus or Serena??] before returning to the ledge and making the final descent to the bottom of Lost Pot Aven and yet another dig [Wet dig?]. There was a considerable about of water making its way down the climbs leading to the Tube so exploration of this was left for another time. It's not often that my lamp doesn't illuminate the majority of a pitch in Britain, but standing at the bottom of Boxhead's main pitch, the light was just swallowed, it really is an amazing place.

The return journey up the pitches became damper and damper, with water now flowing out of the footholes in the plastic pipe. I waited in here out of the wind and rain on the surface until Dick joined me and with the wind on our backs we once again found the wall that borders the road and with it the way on to the vans.

The Craven Heifer's quiz was in full swing when we arrived and it has to be said that the beer they're serving at the moment is very good and well worth a visit.