Manchester Bypass

John, Miranda, Tim D, Tom, Will

It was about time that the Manchester Bypass – the flood escape route from Easegill which often gets neglected from regular trips because it’s a shithole – was re-familiarised and the knowledge passed on. 

For whatever reason we decided it was best to do it both ways to double the suffering wholesome knowledge. So across the moor we headed and slipped down the County entrance series like nobody’s business. When we reached the sharp end at Battle of Britain Chamber, Tim led the way on, closely followed by Tom who had insisted he would never fit through after an attempt earlier in his caving career, even more so the day after getting back from an all-inclusive binge of a holiday. But through some optimistic and knowledgeable coaching from Tim, there were no particularly difficulties. Not to say that it wasn’t tight and horrible, but it was good to be able to finally see this route. 

On reaching Main Line Terminus, we sat to collect our thoughts, get a few nice photos and admire the vastness of the high level route from a different angle. Miranda, Tom and Will headed back a little and into the lovely Main Line Passage, a lesser-visited spot as it’s not a through route but with plenty of nice straws and a few helis. This terminates high up in the wall in Monster Cavern, so we turned back and headed to the Terminus. 

There was some talk of avoiding the horrors of the bypass for an easy exit via Wretched Rabbit, but we realised that Miranda had helpfully left some clothing halfway through the bypass, and also the impracticality that we’d left all our SRT kit at the bottom of the County entrance pitch so would have a hard time getting it back from the outside. So we dove back into the bypass for a thrutch-fest in reverse. Some difficulties on the way in became easier in this direction, but new struggles replaced them from nowhere. 

We were all quite knackered on getting out, and John enjoyed getting up close and personal with a welly-thieving bog on the walk back, but we all lived to tell the tale, and pass the knowledge of this grubby route on to future generations to suffer.

Photos by Will and Miranda

Rigging Practice: Lost Johns

Helen, Sophie, James, Dave

Well we’re ready to take you on a Lost Johns Exchange on 10th July!!

Sophie, Dave, James and Helen went on a quick refresher of rigging skills and specifically, the ins and outs of Mud/Centipede and Cathedral/Dome routes.

We kept quite tightly to a preferred exit time of 10pm and made it back to the cars at 9.59pm! James and Sophie will be leading half of the group down Mud and Centipede on the 10th, and Dave and I will rig the Dome and Cathedral route. Unfortunately, with our tight timescales last night, Dave only reached the bottom of Cathedral…he says he will wing the pendulums and hanging rebelay of Dome on 10th (but I will be following closely so nothing can possibly go wrong??…)

See you on the 10th July for the KCC new, but increasingly competent, riggers exchange trip.

Ibbeth Peril… at last

Pete, Nat (Pete’s son), Maz & Ray

This trip had been a long time coming. I think it had been on the last 3 meets lists, but the weather had never quite co-operated. To ensure that it happened this time, we even brought it forward by a week as the weather finally seemed amenable.

Pete led us on a relatively quick, but very enjoyable trip. After excavating the entrance, we crawled through to the main chamber, which was as impressive as ever. Of course we had to climb up into the inlet passage above the chamber. I think this is one of my favourite sections of passage in the Dales… beautifully shaped and well-decorated.

After that, we dropped down into some of the lower level stuff. Pete, Vikki and I had found loads of passage down there on a previous visit, but we were unable to find some of it this time for some reason. There was still plenty to have a go at. The lower levels seem to contain a maze of passages.

Unfortunately the midges were out in force on our exit from the cave… and all the way back to the cars.

Photos by Ray

F’ing Hopeless Pot

Maz, Steve, Scott, Tom & Ray

Tom & Scott had been down this relatively recent discovery very shortly after the original explorations and were keen to get back. It was a 1st time trip for the rest of us and we were eager to see the well-documented pretties. Tom led us expertly straight to the entrance.

The excavated entrance shaft is a 20m climb down scaffolding. for which the CNCC description suggests a knotted handline may be useful. Being clever, I minimised the length of rope required for this by stringing together a series of single overhand knots, rather than knots on a bight. This was definitely a case of wishing I hadn’t started… it takes quite a while! In the end, the climb isn’t too bad, but the handline is useful on a few short sections.

At the bottom, Tom led on through a short crawl and rigged the 1st pitch. There was some debate (mostly from Maz) about whether Maz’s harness was coming undone at the top of the pitch, but it seemed secure enough. Scott then suggested that, as Ray hadn’t been before, he should lead on from this point. Ray protested, but lost.

Progress is never easy, but never really hard. The pitches are all fairly short. There is still some loose stuff around on some of the pitches and climbs, so some care is required.

Eventually we reached the rope heading up to Levelling Up. As Scott had been before, he decided to forego this particular pleasure on this occasion. Given how nice it is up there, I think this was a good call. Tom & Maz thought it looked a bit tight, so the 3 of them carried on to Speechless Grotto at the lower level, while Steve & Ray headed up the rope. It is indeed quite tight at the top. Once up the pre-rigged pitch, there is an awkward little climb up into a tube. Luckily, this was also pre-rigged with a short length of rope, complete with a very useful foot loop.

The tube at the top of the awkward climb is a short crawl through to Eggshell Chamber. This doesn’t pose too much of a problem, apart from a constriction, which isn’t that bad. I think anyone who can get up the pitch would fit through ok. Eggshell Chamber is reasonably well decorated, the highlight being a huge flowstone cascade. At the entrance to the chamber is a calcited side tube, heading off to Leveling Up. The tube is mostly easy crawling. Again, there is a single constricted section (as far as I recall), but it’s not too bad. It’s certainly worth trying to squeeze through to reach the pretties beyond. The passage starts to enlarge to walking size as Levelling Up is reached. The formations just get better the further you progress. Lots of straws and stals. The highlight for me is a grotto with lots of stalactites, each festooned with a multitude of helictites. I’ve never seen the like of it before.

When Steve and I had had our fill, we returned to find the others waiting at the bottom of the pitch. They had been to Speechless Grotto and come back with tales of stunning formations. Yeah, yeah… it can’t be as good as Levelling Up. We popped along to have a look anyway as the others started making their way out. Actually, Speechless is pretty stunning itself. Steve pushed on a bit beyond Speechless and then we started to make our way out, catching the others at the bottom pitch. Steve did a great job of derigging the whole thing.

This is a truly unique cave and well worth protecting. Tom & Scott noticed that some formations were already considerably muddier than on their first trip, which can’t be much more than a year ago.

Photos by Steve.

Notts 2 – with a twist

Ray, Tom, Maz, Scott, Yolanda.

On Wednesday we went on a trip to my favourite cave – Notts 2. As we’d all done Notts 2 several times before, we decided to take a different route and leave the main streamway to explore Inlet 5. As the designated trip leader, it was apparently my duty to be at the front, slithering on my belly through the mud. To me, after a couple of minutes of slithering it looked as though we’d reached the end of Inlet 5 – the tunnel seemed to be getting smaller and smaller and muddier and muddier. However, I could hear some mutterings from behind me – something about how I hadn’t spent enough time crawling through mud to really know that there was nothing at the end of the tunnel – so I carried on slithering out of pride. To my considerable surprise, it turned out that there was something at the end of the tunnel – a little chamber with some very pretty calcite formations.

The next hour continued along similar lines. We’d wriggle through the tunnels for a few minutes at a time before stumbling upon chambers with various beautiful formations. We’d spend a couple of minutes getting our breath back and admiring the pretties before slithering further and further into the cave. Eventually, we came across a huge chamber with various different tunnels splintering off from it. We hoped that one of the tunnels would lead us back to the main streamway, but there had been a rockfall. The only way out was to lead everyone in crawling back through a load of muddy tunnels. Everyone was caked from head to toe in mud by the time we emerged. They were sorry they’d ever mocked my commitment to caving…

Having said that, they can’t have been too put off because there’s talk of trying to dig through from the huge chamber to the main streamway, so we may yet be able to turn Inlet 5 into a satisfying little round trip rather than a long muddy crawl. Watch this space!