Boggart’s Roaring Hole – Andy G, Paul R, Helen, Andy J, Jason
The fact that a cave appears in Not For The Faint-Hearted always seems like a good reason to avoid it. But I joined the others in Bernies before setting off to park at Cold Cotes, which at least wasn’t living up to its name, especially as I had just purchased my first ever furry suit ! NFTFH suggested it would take 6-8 hours to bottom the hole (9 pitches) and given that its target audience might be a little fitter than us, we decided to aim for a more achievable 6 pitches. Finding the entrance was not without interest – the path starts clearly straight up the hill, but it becomes vaguer and when you reach a level bench you leave it entirely to head left. The entrance is big enough, and is near the edge of the bench but picking a way over the bog is a bit of a challenge. Helen’s determined map-reading led us to the right spot, where it was a question of which hole to pick ?
It turns out that, with your back to Ingleborough, the correct entrance is towards the left of the depression, directly under a healthy hawthorn bush. Going down a sloping boulder to the right of the bush reveals a Y-hang, though reaching it requires a certain amount of grappling amongst the thorns. A machete would be useful equipment on a future trip! The healthy state of the vegetation also indicated that this wasn’t a well-visited pot. An unrecognised jewel of the Dales, clearly!
Anyway, when the hang had finally been found, Andy G rigged a very nice straight drop of about 13m. The more obvious way on is the shaft to the left which is the ‘old’ route which only descends part way, so we turned to the narrower – and rather loose – slope to the right. This leads through a narrow rift to a sort of tiny crow’s nest above the short second pitch (~ 5m). Anticipating that getting off the pitch head on the return might be awkward, Andy wisely tied in the end of the rope from the first pitch.
From the small chamber at the bottom of the second, a short tightish flat-out crawl leads immediately to the third pitch – in the sense that as soon as you emerge from the squeeze you are dangling over its lip.
Fortunately there are a number of big flakes to grab while you manoeuvre yourself onto the rope – in fact I found it easier to climb down the first bit. However, I wouldn’t have fancied rigging from that position and neither did Andy, so he handed the rope over to Andy J, made his excuses and left. After a rebelay half-way down, a free-hang completes the final 5m or so. After this pitch comes the novelty of some upright progress – along a steeply-descending narrow rift. Easy enough to slither down crab-style, but something of a sod on the way out!
When I caught up with Helen, Andy was rigging pitch 4 (the amusingly-named Fever Pitch). This is approached by the same tight rift, now much lower and with a playful right-angle twist to get onto the pitch. A few moments later as I heard Paul approaching behind me, Helen was experiencing temporary enwedgement getting onto the rope. The timing was unfortunate as she was making good use of acoustic methods to get free when Paul caught up with me – he suddenly decided it was not for him and followed Andy G to the surface for a nice walk in the rain. Having seen how not to do it, I shimmied onto the rope fairly easily and enjoyed the 16m free hang into a decent-sized chamber.
From here, the way is – of course – a flat-out crawl. This soon arrives at a T-junction where I tried to proceed through a hole, which I found utterly impossible to pass. “Struggling a bit in this hole…” I wheezed out to Helen ahead. “Which side are you trying to get through ?” came the reply. Evidently the wrong one! Having reversed and found the rather obvious and much easier route I soon caught up to a pleasingly larger space – still low, but wide and comfortable as long as you avoid the two large blind pits in the floor. From there, the short pitch 5 dropped into a modest chamber called Penguin Hall but alas, there were no flightless birds or chocolate biscuits to be seen.
Some more crawling follows, then a bit of a climb down, and more crawling in a blasted passage (take that how you want…) Many of the drill-marks are easily visible on the walls; one can only speculate on the tenacity (and lunacy ?) of those who made them. Finally another flat-out section leads to another short pitch. Having run low on ironmongery by now, this was rigged from a tape in the roof, which was quite satisfactory. While Helen and I caught up, Andy couldn’t resist investigating pitch 7 which was only a short crawl away. But as NFTFH conceded that SRT gear might need to be removed for it, I was quite content to miss out on this. With some surprise we found we’d only been underground for about two hours – it certainly felt longer!
For the return, we kept the same order at first so I derigged the first two pitches. I was finding the going a bit warm (did I mention my new furry suit?) and wearing, so we decided that after pitch 4 I’d go on with the 2 ropes in one bag leaving Andy and Helen to derig with the other bag. This was a great relief as it meant I could take my time and admire the many sheep bones that lend the place its distinctive aroma. But first I had to get off Fever Pitch, which would have been quite amusing for anyone in a position to view the performance. The only possibility seemed to be to reverse into the rift feet-first and push oneself upwards and backwards by hand, to-and-froing to release various bits of SRT gear as they caught in rubble.
A slow thrutch up the ascending rift was followed by the welcome sight of the entrance series of pitches which now seemed simplicity by comparison. On exit, it was raining a little (we had missed a torrential downpour enjoyed by Andy G and Paul !) but it had very little effect on the cave other than make the entrance a bit drippy.
I was soon joined by Andy and Helen after a total underground time of a little over 4 hours, which felt like a good effort for a cave with so much ‘interest’!