Out Sleets Beck: Andy G, Chris H, Paul R, Damian, Gareth, Jason
It was a good chance to visit this recherché pothole in the empty quarter East of Pen-y-Ghent – as the entrance is virtually in a beck it needed the dry weather we had had for a couple of weeks. As I expected that it would be new to all of us, I brought my new toy (a GPS) which informed us it was 1.52 km from the roadside. A little later, it beeped ‘Arriving at Out Sleets Beck’, although I still couldn’t see the entrance. Fortunately Gareth had been before, and pointed it out, literally within spitting distance.
The entrance series is a descending rifty passage and I soon arrived at what the guide described as an awkward climb down, handline useful. I couldn’t see where to tie a handline, so slithered down with no problem (really, what was the fuss about?). A more observant Chris found the thread, so I passed the rope back – a bit less to carry, anyway. The next, short, pitch (‘free-climbable with care’) was soon reached – it certainly didn’t look climbable, so I rigged this properly and descended into a small chamber.
Ignoring the inlet (‘soon becomes too small’) we followed what stream there was down walking passage and soon arrived at Cascade Pot. Clearly, we were in drought conditions: the stream formed a nice waterfall as it dropped down the pitch, but it was easily avoided without recourse to the recommended deviation. The take-off is interesting – you have to climb up over some airy drops, and a slender rock bridge to arrive at a perch with a Y-hang, but having got there, it’s a fine drop some 15m down a wide shaft into a shallow pond. We gathered at the bottom, only 4 of us now: Chris had turned back feeling unwell, and so had Damian, though the narrow rift may have brought on the malaise in his case.
Gareth led on, somewhat tentatively at first – for the first few minutes it was low crawling in water over gravel – but it was the only way on. Had it been much wetter, it would have been truly unpleasant. Anyway, the passage soon improved to hands-and-knees, then stooping, then walking in a rather pretty passageway.
This led to Deluge Pot, again rather misnamed today. Gareth found the P-hangers in the roof, and rigged a nice dry hang with only one deviation (albeit a bit of a stretch) instead of two rebelays. From the bottom, Easy Street leads off. As the name suggests, this was comfortable walking in an agreeable stream passage. All too soon, the water deepened. When it got to navel height, we all agreed that this was far enough on a Wednesday night, and about turned to exit.
This went smoothly enough, with Gareth doing the de-rigging honours, at least until the entrance series. Unlike the descent, I found the short pitch to be an easy free climb, but the ‘awkward’ climb that didn’t need a handline on the way in was a sod, even with a handline and Gareth’s boot up my backside. But Chris later said he found it ok – one’s man meat, and all that.
It was about 10:30 before we got out, so it was a late finish although some light lingered in the sky as we returned to the road. There is plenty of cave beyond the canal we got to, so it looks like a return visit one dry weekend is in order, preferably with some neoprene!