The Mistral

Tim D, Ray, Shaun (1st KCC trip)… and Tom(-ish)

Mud glorious mud… and a very interesting sculpture.

Was it really an accident, or a deliberate ploy to avoid the mud? Perhaps we’ll never know, but, either way, Tom managed to turn up without his wellies. He did at least get some exercise by walking over to the entrance with us. He even planned to climb down the initial climb, but the flies around the entrance got the better of him. He was last seen running away, waving his arms in a most violent way and swearing the air blue. He taught those flies a lesson or two!

The initial climb down is easy enough and protected by an in-situ handline. It leads to about 15 minutes of easy crawling and squeezing. Back in the day this was a nightmare section of passage, but is now much enlarged following a difficult rescue, so doesn’t pose any particular problem, even for larger cavers. At the end of the entrance crawls we popped out into the Hobbit and things got comfortably big. Through Dusty Junction and Hall of the Ten and we were soon at Hall of the Mountain King.

This is were it all got a bit messy. The mud is deep, wet and particularly slippy. Luckily we all managed to keep both wellies (just!), but I imagine there are a few lodged deep in the mud from previous unfortunate souls. Interestingly, the mud isn’t the most remarkable thing about this area. That accolade has to go to the life-size sculpture. Words can’t possibly do this justice, so I won’t try. If you’ve been, you know. Overall, I think I probably prefer the Hall of the Mountain King in Craig y Ffynnon.

Eventually we dropped down into Leck Fell Lane, where the mud was thankfully replaced by a running stream. A short distance along this, the water crashes down a number of (particularly wet) cascades from Cigalere. Tim and Ray climbed up some of the cascades, but Shaun didn’t fancy it – he’s a very wise man. In the author’s opinion, Ray was very brave indeed to get as far as he did up the cascades, given his intense dislike of water. But even he had to admit defeat at the mere mention of an 8 foot deep canal at the top. So back we went… now almost completely devoid of our muddy coating, if a little bit on the moist side. Lovely!

We continued to the end of Leck Fell Lane, past some nice formations. The passage ends at a choke of glacial fill, which is worth seeing in its own right. There was a climb up just before the end, but none of us fancied it.

The journey out was made much more interesting by now being wet. This certainly didn’t help on the climbs back up the various mud slopes. Tim’s new wellies seemed to make a difference. For every 1 step up, he was only sliding back down the equivalent of 0.9 steps. For poor Shaun and Ray, on the other hand, the equation was tipped the other way. Hmmm. Luckily, a different way was eventually found and we all made it back up. Phew!

By the time we got back to the entrance crawls we were once again covered in a glutinous coating of particularly slippy mud. On the positive side, this made the crawling slightly easier. It did, however, mean that washing our kit wasn’t going to be easy or pleasant. As I write this, 2 days after the event, my oversuit is once again pristine… but my marital relationship may be forever damaged.

No photos this time, I’m afraid. Mistral is no place for a camera!

Coniston Coppermines

Tom, Chris H, Yolanda, Vikki, Ray

A sunny Saturday saw 5 of us squeezed into a Berlingo and heading up the much improved track as far as the Youth Hostel. A steep walk up the hillside beyond and we were soon embarking on a leisurely pootle down through 5 levels of the Coniston Coppermines, from Levers Water down to the Hospital Level.

As usual, not far inside the mine we took a quick detour to visit the Stemples of Doom! Apart from a few longer-than-entirely-comfortable steps, they’re not too bad to cross, and they are protected by a traverse line. Some people prefer not to look down the gaping void below though.

A short bit of easy passage and a couple of pitches soon brought us to the jewels in the crown of this particular mine: the Green Pool and the Blue Boulder, expertly photographed by Chris. The photos below show the colours as they actually are… not some artificially enhanced version!

Another short section of passage then leads to the final pitch down into the Hospital Level. This pitch always has a lot of loose rock at the top, so it was strictly one person moving at a time. Once down to the Hospital Level, it’s an easy journey back to the surface.

A satisfied crew then made their way down to the Black Bull for a celebratory pint, apart from Chris, who unfortunately had to head straight off.


Hardrawkin Pot

Darren, Sophie, Helen, Tom, Pete, Jason, Ray

This was sort of a continuation of last week. when we did High Douk. Hardrawkin starts in the same shakehole as the lower HD entrance, but goes downstream, whereas HD goes upstream. The 1st obstacle is the incredibly slippery climb down into the entrance. The 2nd obstacle on this particular occasion was a frog blocking the way. This was delicately, if unceremoniously, manhandled along a human chain out of the cave, but insisted on hopping straight back in. I can’t say I blame it, given how much cooler it was in the cave. Eventually the frog was sent on its way upstream towards High Douk and we were on our way.

I always think of Hardrawkin as a miniature version of a classic Dales pothole. It is essentially just an entrance passage leading to 2 pitches. The entrance passage is quite nice, well decorated even in some places, but not quite as large as you would like, necessitating a reasonable amount of crawling, but with the odd walking section. We made quick progress through this and were soon at the 1st pitch. Darren set to rigging this, with a long queue waiting expectantly behind him.

The 1st pitch had been Sophie’s nemesis for a number of years, but she made short work of it in the end. Phew!

This pitch is always wet, even in these almost drought conditions, so we were glad Darren had put both deviations in. Although it’s not the longest pitch around, it is very nice indeed.

At the bottom of the 1st pitch are a few short climbs down to the 2nd pitch.

The 2nd pitch lands almost in the final sump pool, which (for some reason no-one could quite understand) Jason decided to traverse over, even though there’s nothing on the other side! Whatever floats your boat… although, not having a boat, it’s just as well he didn’t fall off into the sump.

There was nothing to do at this point, but turn around and head out for some solstice beer and carrot cake. Not a bad way to spend a summer solstice evening!

Long Churn

Yolanda, Pete, Nat (Pete’s son), Andy (friend of Pete’s), Steve (1st KCC trip)


Report by Yolanda:

On Saturday, the crew went for a trip down Long Churn, in the foothills of Ingleborough. We had a rather warm 20 minute walk before reaching the lovely cool cave – the lower entrance to Long Churn. The stream level was much lower than usual due to the warm weather, but when we reached the first pool, Pete lost his footing and went in with rather a splash! I was a minute or so behind him and hadn’t realised it was an accident, so not wanting to be outdone, I leapt into the pool myself – very refreshing after an uphill walk in my caving kit, although possibly not worth spending the rest of the trip in wet clothes.
Andy, Nat, and Steve managed to climb around the edge of the pool, and we continued through the cave to the Cheese Press, which I’m happy to say we all made it through! After a bit more scrambling around we then went back via a different tunnel before arriving at Dr Bannister’s Handbasin. This is usually a beautiful and tranquil pool but on Saturday it was the site of some kind of ‘take your kid caving’ event as there was a group of about a dozen parents and children. The youngest were about four and hopefully there were some future KCC members among them! Our group then scrambled up the waterfall out of Long Churn’s top entrance and back into the sunlight! A great little trip and hopefully a good introduction to caving for Steve.
Report by Pete:
Another trip for a first time caver courtesy of Yolanda with Steve joining us for the ever popular Long Churns. Andy and Nat have both visited before but the opportunity of a repeat trip appealed.
The dry spell meant there was no water at all at the entrance, and none to speak of in the lower churns. Not that that stopped me soaking myself well at Double Shuffle Pool – which puzzled some of the party who wisely opted for staying dry.
Nat happily led the way through the Cheesepress and we were soon at Dolly Tubs.
Heading back up stream we soon met a family who we’d seen as we left cars, the youngster of the group seemed to be having a great time. Andy took the branch into a low passage which turned out to go further than I remembered, spitting us out in the upper churns
On we went to Dr B’s where a brief rest was taken as we waited for a party coming down the chute. This turned out to be Bradford Pothole Club on a family day out, as Yolanda said it seemed we’d chosen “Take you child caving day”.
Soon we were back on the surface just in time for a feeble attempt at rain.
Thanks to Yolanda for organising this.

Great Douk & High Douk

Yolanda, Tom, Tim K, Pete, Nick, Ray, Ryan (2nd KCC trip) and Saskia (1st KCC trip)

Yolanda comes up trumps again… 2 more novices to (hopefully) swell our growing ranks. Ryan had been caving once before with KCC (unfortunately in Great Douk again) and Saskia was a total beginner, although I believe she has some climbing experience.

With such a good turnout and the recent dry weather, we were guaranteed a great evening… and it didn’t disappoint. A leisurely change and walk up soon brought us to the impressive Great Douk shakehole.

Ryan showed his experience (of this particular hole) by traversing into the entrance along a high shelf…

…thus avoiding the climb up the waterfall.

Once inside, the hole in the roof appears pretty quickly, looking better than ever on this occasion.

A bit of easy walking led to an oxbow crawl on the left, which everyone took, apart from yours truly… for purely photographic reasons. The crawl ended with bit of a tight squeeze back into the main passage.

Eventually the main passage got lower… and lower…

… until we eventually popped out of the top entrance. The views of Ingleborough and the surrounding Dales landscape were breathtaking. Unfortunately so were the midges!

Not yet satisfied, we set off in search of another short series of caves, High Douk Holes. These took some finding. We initially tried to find the top entrance, instead finding an entrance that led only to a chamber filled with midges, which we named Midge Hole. No idea what it’s really called. Yolanda didn’t seem to like the midges.

Eventually we entered High Douk Holes via the easier to find bottom entrance, which is conveniently located next to Hardrawkin Pot (next week’s destination), following it through various underground sections, punctuated by daylight where the shallow roof had collapsed. Eventually progress was halted by an extremely low section, blocked by fallen rocks, but High Douk was well worth a visit.

A very enjoyable evening indeed. Thanks to Yolanda for leading us. Some hardier types retired to the Marton Arms for some well-needed rehydration. Roll on Hardrawkin!

Meregill Hole

Gareth, Jason, Tom, Ray + Bruce Grieve (friend of Ray’s)

With the recent very dry spell, the weather was certainly playing it’s part, so things were looking good for a cracking trip. Tom had decided against joining us in the end as he was due to attend a CNCC meeting in the morning. Gareth, Jason & Ray turned up on time and just about managed to squeeze into some parking spaces. Bruce arrived later and spent the next 30 mins or so driving up and down the road unable to get parked anywhere – he has high standards. In the meantime, Gareth and Jason had set off to start rigging. Bruce eventually ended up parking just short of the Station Inn, with a very long walk back down the road.

When Ray & Bruce eventually arrived at the entrance, Gareth & Jason were just at the bottom of the 1st pitch, having spent some time exploring the dry mere. It was dry, I mean totally dry! One consequence of this is that you can see just how deep it is when the mere is up.

We soon caught up with the rigging party at the 2nd pitch, where an interesting traverse leads to an even more interesting top of the pitch proper. Rather helpfully, Jason fully testing the strength of the y-hang belay by doing an incredible Tarzan swing onto the rope. If he planned to do that then he’s a braver man than I am. If he didn’t then credit to him for not squealing like a girl, like I would have done.

The 3rd pitch (the Canyon) has to be one of the best around, although it is never quite as long as I expect. The rigging is constantly interesting. Jason decided he had had enough at the 2nd rebelay, so started back up. It was a shame, as I think he had passed the worst by that point. Anyway, he made his way out and Bruce & Ray carried on down to pass the final tackle bag to Gareth, who continued the rigging.

The rigging on the 4th pitch is somewhat strange and out of character with the rest of the cave. Whereas all other pitches start with a high-level traverse far out away from the water, the 4th heads straight down with the water, although there is a fixed Tyrolean traverse line to guide you away from the water. But this just makes things quite awkward, particularly on the way back up.

Eventually Gareth arrived at the bottom of the last pitch, closely followed by Ray. Bruce couldn’t be coaxed down the last drop. Apparently seeing the bottom was enough. Why would anyone actually want to get there? Fair point I suppose, given that there wasn’t much enthusiasm for exploring the (extensive) passage at the bottom. Had there not been a very deep pool to cross right at the bottom of the last pitch, I suspect there may have been more enthusiasm. Ray did make a token attempt at exploration, crossing the deep pool and going maybe 100-200m along the passage while Gareth started prussicking.

The journey out and the derigging went as smoothly as could be expected… although there was definitely a bit of language from Bruce at some of the pitch heads.

Apparently Tom did decide to pop down after all. On his way in he passed Jason heading out. Tom got to just below where Jason had turned back, before feeling a bit dehydrated and turning back himself. Good solo effort! Ray, Gareth & Bruce were unaware that Tom had been in at all until he texted to say that he was sorry for missing us.

Once back on the surface, Gareth, Bruce & Ray sunbathed a bit before setting off back. A support stall for some scouts doing the 3 peaks was a great chance to blag a free drink. They even threw in a banana for each of us. A perfect day was rounded off nicely sat outside the Station Inn. Well, Bruce was parked up there anyway.

Thanks to Gareth for his rigging expertise.

Illusion Pot

Sophie, Tim K, Ray + Mary Clifford (friend of Sophie’s)

Report from Sophie:

Lovely little trip down Illusion pot with Ray, Tim, Mary and Sophie. This little pot never fails to amaze with all the sparky decorations. The walk up in the sunshine showed the Dales at its most picturesque. Despite the unquestionable beauty of this little gem, and I don’t often say this, it was almost too lovely to go underground.

I think Mary was more than ready for the pub when we got back to the surface so it was a trip to the Marton arms for a supper of beer and crisps.

A before and after shot…
Report from Ray:

Where is everyone? We had about 11 people for this trip last year! Still, what we lacked in numbers we made up for in… errr… ummm… well, perhaps we just lacked numbers.

The walk-in was pretty hot and the entrance area was midge central, so we didn’t hang around on the surface. Progress was easy enough as far as the “sump”. Due to the recent dry weather, we were expecting this to be dry… but no, there was still quite a bit of water in it. It was passable without having to resort to an ear in the water (or worse), but only just. Mary didn’t fancy it, not having done much caving (at least, recently), so she and Sophie headed out. Tim and Ray forged on fearlessly.

Soon we were out into the big stuff. First we headed one direction, then the other, but could we find the way to the sump? Well, no. Not without checking up every nook and cranny at least once. For some strange reason, we decided not to look down one slope because that obviously wasn’t the way. Looking back, I can’t quite understand why we wrote this particular passage off, other than it had a bit of tat down it (which was obviously just for hauling a digging bucket???). Anyway, after we’d done pretty much the whole cave twice, we went back to said passage and, of course, that was the way on.

Soon we were at the start of the traverse to the sump. Hmmm, was it this scary last time? Ray bravely set off, with just a hint of Elvis leg. Tim decided against it – very wise. It actually wasn’t that bad and the sump was as crystal clear as ever.

A hasty retreat was beaten and we were out in no time. The midges were now much worse, almost all the way to the cars. Luckily there was a considerable breeze down the valley, which kept them away while we got changed. Sophie, Mary & Ray retired to the Marton for a debrief.

Thanks to Sophie for another great KCC Wed evening outing. Sorry you missed some of it.