Yolanda, Vikki, Ray, Steve (2nd caving trip), Yulia (1st caving trip)
A nice little novice trip with Yulia (from Ukraine) on her 1st ever underground outing and Steve on his 2nd.
After quite a drive (albeit through some of the best of the Dales scenery), we parked up at Park Rash, just at the bottom of a very steep hill. The flies were something to behold, although thankfully they weren’t of the biting kind. The number of cyclists was also impressive – none cycling up the hill! A very pleasant walk took us to the entrance in about 15 mins. It’s just up the valley to the right in the following photo:
Soon we were heading down into the depths of hell. Too dramatic? Fair enough.
The streamway is a reasonable size for most of it’s length. Thankfully water levels weren’t too high, which was a concern given the recent rainfall. The stream could be avoided in some places, but there is also quite a bit of walking in the water. Being a climber, Steve valiantly attempted to traverse:
Unfortunately he lost all his kudos just after the above photo was taken as he fell into the water for more of a soaking than he would have had by simply walking in the stream. There’s a lesson there!
Shortly after a climb up and over a slope (near the Treacle Mines, I think), an inlet headed off to the left. We followed this, leading us into Gloop de Loop, an “interesting” oxbow passage leading directly to the Old Final Chamber. Yolanda bravely led the way.
Gloop de Loop is mostly a crawl, mostly in water. Never as big as you would like, but never too constricted. Yulia and Steve coped admirably. The passage ends at a balcony overlooking the Old Final Chamber… but some 5m up. Luckily there are anchors for a rope to aid a safe descent, unluckily we didn’t have a rope. So we improvised, with Yolanda & Ray forming a human chain down which the others could be safely(?) passed.
At the end of the Old Final Chamber is Hobson’s Choice – a huge boulder choke which, depending on who you believe, is either lethally dangerous or perfectly stable. Choosing to give the latter opinion at least a hearing, we ventured a short way in, until the inevitable “You will die!!!” signs curbed our enthusiasm.
One of these signs warned that novices, in particular, should steer clear. This is presumably due to their more feeble frames compared to experienced cavers, whose resistance to being squashed by 100 tonne boulders is much greater. Whatever the reasoning, having 2 novices seemed too good an opportunity not to take advantage of, so we turned round and headed for home, this time following the main passage the whole way, apart from one detour…
Of course we couldn’t resist a look up Dowbergill Passage on the way out. The echo at the Dow end of this passage is incredible. A very eerie place indeed. We pushed on through the duck under the Buddhist’s Temple. The duck had plenty of airspace on this occasion.
We eventually turned back where we would have had to climb up out of the water and start traversing. Another day! By now we were thoroughly drenched and beat a hasty retreat to warm, dry clothes and a cafe in Kettlewell.
A note on water levels: These were fairly low in Dow and did not appear to rise at all during our trip. However, the whole of Littondale and Penyghent Gill was much wetter on our return trip. While the Skirfare had been gently flowing in the morning, it was a raging torrent in the afternoon. The Scanty Lardos entrance was dry in the morning, but under a significant stream in the afternoon. Makes you think!