Wretched Rabbit

It was too wet for the Barbondale trip, so an Easegill visit was proposed, and I suggested exploring the upper reaches of Wretched Rabbit – it would be dry, and new for us all.  I liked the sound of “Dreamweaver” and “Mystery and Imagination” – surely these would be worth a visit? Sophie, Ray, Scott, Tom, James and Maz agreed, or at least couldn’t come up with a better idea.

In the event, the description on the Red Rose site doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the area.  We split up and spent some fun time wriggling around various crawls, traverses and chambers, probably encountering Marble Chamber and Ulreka Chamber.  But anything justify the exotic names I was looking for eluded us.

Still, it was a good work-out and it’s always nice to leave something to do next time water levels are high…

Mongo Gill

Scott and I celebrated St Patrick’s Day with a trip down Mongo Gill, just nearby the Stump Cross show caves.  The trip had been planned for the Saturday, but Scott was busy leading a hen party gill-scrambling.  He earns his money!

Calling at the café to collect the keys, we were given a talking-to about safety and conservation from the owner.  However it was a little difficult to give these topics serious consideration, as she was wearing a helmet with cow-horns atop a black wig (that’s what cave-women wear, apparently).

Anyway, having been assured that the North Shaft entrance was easy to find, we set off across the field, and after half an hour so of quartering it, failed to do so.  I returned to the car to get my GPS, and we walked straight to it.  The entrance pitch is easy, and we were soon able to discard the SRT kit, as there were a lot of snug crawls in prospect.

The route to begin with is a little complex, but the Braemoor guide is excellent and we were soon past the difficulties.  After a passage with a small shaft to the side, there is 250 metres of interesting passage.  Not always easy going, mind, a lot of it is crawling.  Then after an unpleasant, but brief wallow in a puddle, there’s what is described as 100 metres of straightforward and pleasant caving.  We launched into this confidently, but I was finding it less than pleasant, and surely more than 100m – I wasn’t looking forward to repeating all this on the return!

Emerging from another low crawl, I thought the chamber had a strangely familiar small shaft to the side, and Scott confirmed my impression – somehow we had retraced our steps without noticing that we’d reversed direction!  It was a very WTAF moment … but once we’d recovered from the bewilderment, it was a relief not to have to repeat all the crawls – we already had!

Soon back at the entrance, we thought we might as well find Shockle Shaft and have a look from that end.  Thank goodness for the GPS again – we found it quickly enough, and had a good look round most of the bits that we’d expected to see.  Overall, we agreed it was a good trip, if not quite as expected.  Mongo Gill is an interesting place – a mixture of natural cave and lead-mine workings, with parts of it being well-decorated.  The formations must have been spectacular centuries ago, and although the passage of time, and miners, have taken their toll, they are still worth seeing.

Roaring Hole

Roaring Hole 18/10/2023 – Connor, James, Rhod,  Jason

I always like to begin a trip to Roaring with half-an-hour or so fruitlessly wandering the limestone pavement on the slopes of Ingleborough, and tonight was no exception.  It turns out that a) What3Words isn’t as useful a navigational tool as I’d hoped, and b) my recollection of the entrance of the entrance was woeful.  Anyway, when Connor’s phone got a signal, it didn’t take long before we were heading down.

The first (and only, as far as we were concerned) pitch into Bandstand chamber comes in two halves – the first a simple drop to a wide ledge, and the second a rather awkward Y-hang down the last 5m.  I rigged both parts, but regretted it.  It’s quicker and easier to tiptoe round the edge of the chamber to the bottom, and really not too terrifying.

There follows one of several scaffolded boulder chokes.  There wasn’t much water – the promised storm having held off – but what there was found its way down the back of our necks. A short crawl, and another boulder choke or two leads to Slab Chamber.  There are hangers for a handline, and I had brought some rope, but once again the rope doesn’t really help – it takes you away from dry rock with good handholds.

A final boulder slope led down to the streamway, which we explored as far as The Rift, which we left for another time.  Getting out is easy enough, though warm work – until the final upward thrutch into the entrance slope.  The youngsters all managed this with minimal assistance, but I was badly in need of a shove from Connor, who manfully ascended unaided.

A good trip, and thanks to all for bearing with my attempts at above-ground navigation!

Notts II – 13th Jan 2016

13.01.2016 Notts II          Damian, Andy (Damian’s friend), Gareth, Tim D, Jason

After the recent weather I feared the we wouldn’t get far, but as my last trip was way back on Hallowe’en I signed up.  As it turned out, water levels in the stream were pretty much normal.


Heading upstream, I had to investigate Inlet 6.5¾. The stories were quite true – after about 10 metres the passage is completely blocked with sand. No doubt someone will take this on as a digging project – the sand looks very easy to move, but it’s impossible to tell how much there is of it, possibly many tons!

We continued to Curry Inlet (I think – I’m never quite sure which inlet is which), which was even prettier than I remembered, although a tide mark around head height is visible on some of the stal. There were plenty of photo opportunities for Gareth.

At the far end of the inlet, a dig seems to be in progress, in disgustingly gloopy mud.

Turning back, we had a quick look up inlet 2b (or not..?) giving Gareth another opportunity to photograph Damian up to his chest in the canal.  The accompanying artistic shot is in a drippy bit of streamway on the way back.

Good fun, and nice to be underground after the long break.

Notts II (Inlet 6.5¾) – 19th August 2015

Notts II – Inlet 6.5¾: Tim D, Darren, Jason

The advertised trip was Voldemort, which was why I bothered with the 2½-hour drive from West Bretton where I’d been all day.  But on the way, the rain set in and the prospect of pulling-through to find the snug crawl full of water was a little off-putting, so we decided to look at inlet 6.5¾ instead.

This was some consolation, as I’d never been there.  The water levels were back to normal from the torrent 3 weeks earlier, and we quickly came to the junction on the right of the upstream passage.  Some easy passage soon leads to the sparkling white stal formations.

A little backtracking leads to a left turn which links to inlet 5.  On the way are yet more fine formations, one or two sadly besmirched by a careless muddy glove (a mini conservation project is called for here – half an hour with a bottle of water and a nail brush would make a big improvement!).

Unfortunately, it also involves some crawling in disgusting gloopy mud.  There are compensations, though – as you wallow on your back there are some solution cavities in the ceiling a few inches away.  These contain some beautiful crystalline deposits and helictites.  I was reminded of the Oscar Wilde quote “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Returning to the streamway, we continued upstream to the canal in inlet 2b (or not…?).  A good opportunity to wash the gloop off by avoiding the traverse above the canal and having a bracing wade, and even a brief swim at one point.  We warmed up again by a quick march downstream and out. As a final bonus, it actually stopped raining long enough for us to get changed!

Cow Pot – 12th August 2015

Cow Pot: Darren, Jason

It was 5 years since I’d last done Cow Pot, when I’d not been in the KCC long, so I wondered if I’d find it easier (having more experience) or harder (being 5 years older).

Darren opted for the ‘Sneaky’ route on the main pitch (or was it the ‘Devious’ ?).  The first back-up bolt is in the roof, the second is sneakily located just out of sight on the wall behind you as you lean out over the rift.  As you follow the rather alarming traverse to the left, further bolts are revealed.  Darren selected the first obvious pair for a Y-hang and eventually found two fairly extreme deviations from flakes (perhaps this was the Devious route) to reach the free-hanging rebelay at the top of the main pitch.  This was at the end of the first 30m rope, so he patiently hung around (literally!) while I joined him to hand over the 50m for the rest of the pitch.

This was a straight drop into the middle of the vastness of Fall Pot, and we met Tim D at the bottom, who had entered from Lancs.  He recommended solo caving for “concentrating the mind”…

I had no difficulties with the ascent (in contrast to the first visit, 5 years ago!) though it gave plenty of time to appreciate the slenderness of the excellent 9mm Spelenium Gold that was keeping me from a messy end far below.

However, when it came to the awkward thrutchy climb on the way to the entrance pitch, I found the years had taken their toll.  I had managed it earlier, but this time needed Darren’s shoulder for the final push – that’s another pint I owe him!

Notts Pot – 15th February 2015

Notts Pot: Andy G, Scott, Jason

Meeting in Cowan Bridge car park, Andy revealed the 5 tackle sacks that would be needed to bottom Notts Pot.  Rapidly calculating that this worked out at over 1.6 sacks each, we soon decided that a leisurely trip to the streamway was in order, so we could leave two of them behind.

When it came to getting changed, Andy had second thoughts, no doubt wanting to put all his rope-bagging time to good use, but I soon talked him out of such reckless bravado.  I was already glad just walking up the hill to the pot!  On the way, we chanced upon an attractive bird (no, a fieldfare actually) feigning injury to lead us astray, then the perfect, but dead, body of her mate a few steps on.  Later, on our return, a small pile of feathers was all that was left – nature red in tooth etc….

The entrance drop was quickly rigged, although it almost looks short enough to do without a rope.  Almost.  Then a short crawl leads to a little climb down, described as “awkward”.  Andy had therefore brought a rope, but it was no more than a brief slither – what was the fuss ?  A nice section of typical meandering rift leads to the short pitch down into the Main Chamber.  From here, there are all kinds of choices for the route onwards.  We’d opted for the Centre Route.  A short rebelay gave a fine free hang without needing a long deviation recommended by the guide – a benefit of the recent dry weather, no doubt.  The second part of the pitch follows immediately, starting with a memorable belay round a big rock column.  This is also split into several sections.  While waiting for Andy on the last section, Scott and I heard voices from another party, but did not see them.

Then, to our consternation, Andy called up to say he’d taken a wrong turn.  Where could we have gone astray ?  But it turned out, he’d just descended the ‘wrong’ side of a big rock flake half-way down.  He had reached the streamway – but just on the ‘wrong’ side of a duck, which no-one relished tackling.  Shortly after, we all reached the streamway and had a quick look further along the high, narrow rift.  This would have been the way on, had we brought the rest of the rope and climbed up, but we were happy to turn back from here.

Andy led back up with Scott and I derigging.  Interestingly, we heard the other party’s voices again – this time from below – it showed how riddled the pot is with different vertical routes, and sound carries from one to the other confusingly.  The return trip was uneventful, apart from the “awkward” climb near the entrance, which I found fully justified its description – despite having seen Scott ascend effortlessly in front of me, I somehow managed to find a far less elegant route.

We all agreed it had been a satisfying trip of around 4 hours, and were happy to leave the full descent to another day with a bigger party of porters!

Out Sleets Beck – 2nd July 2014

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!

Low Douk – 7th May 2014

Low Douk: Richard, Jason

It was my first time to this cave so Richard gave me a full tour.  First stop was the ‘second’ entrance (the ‘first’ having collapsed sometime last century).  This is a little way to the side of the shakehole and is a snug low crawl after a bold step over a blind pit.  Having reached a tiny chamber where it was possible to turn round, he suggested the pitch (“tight”) was a short distance on, and I was happy to take his word for it.

Returning to the surface, we went down the obvious shaft – an easy climb, despite appearances.  Then there’s a couple of slithery climbs down boulder chokes, arriving at a traverse line.  You don’t really need this (unless you slither out of the boulder choke too fast), but it’s a good landmark.

Traversing horizontally leads to a chamber.  Continuing his tour guide role, Richard led up over some boulders to the right and after a little crawling we arrived at the duck which connects to Rift Pot.  There was a good air space despite the recent rain, but apparently there was plenty of Low Douk to see yet, so we ‘reluctantly’ gave it a miss.

Returning to the traverse line, Richard invited me to lead into the cave proper.  It soon became clear why – attached to the traverse line is a knotted rope which descends into the famous meandering rift.  This is impressively high, and very meandering.  It’s true that it’s unsuited to the portly caver, but I was able to make reasonable progress without causing Richard too much mirth.  A couple of bends did need a determined exhalation to pass, but there was only one place that was definitely a size too small at stream level.  Fortunately, it’s not difficult to climb to a higher, slightly wider, level.

Eventually we came to a fine high chamber.  A hole in the floor leads to – more meandering rift!  This time it’s rather more accommodating and before long we left the stream below and came to a point where the high-level passage parted company from the stream passage, turning off to the left.

Following the stream down an intimidating climb (“not as bad as it looks” – and it wasn’t) leads to the sump chamber, but before we did that, we explored the high-level passage on the left – unknown territory for both of us.

The excitement didn’t last long – the passage turned into a muddy slide into a chamber which went… nowhere.  But the cave had a last laugh left for us when we tried to retrace our steps up the muddy slide.  It wasn’t very high, but was crucially lacking in hand- or foot-holds.  After putting on some fruitless acrobatics for Richard’s amusement, I admitted I needed some help.  A combination of walking round the wall with him pushing to stop me sliding down eventually succeeded, and it was Richard’s turn to supply the entertainment.  Much to my relief, he didn’t find it any easier than I had, but a small helping tug was effective.  All was well, but we agreed it was no place for a solo trip!

The journey back out was uneventful – if fairly strenuous in the narrower meanders – and I was surprised to see we’d only been underground for about 2 hours.  An enjoyable trip then, a good work-out with very little crawling and not too far to walk.

Stream Passage Pot – 13th April 2014

Stream Passge Pot:  John F, Miranda F, Jason

This was my first trip to Stream Passage, and my first to Gaping Gill for quite some time. I’d forgotten just how far the walk up Trow Gill to the GG area was, and it was midday before we arrived at the entrance, though we had taken a slightly less-than-direct route across the fell (for reference, once you get the double stile in the wall, head at right angles to the wall, to the left of the main path.  Aim for a gully on the hillside in the distance and look for a shakehole with an oil-drum at the bottom).  We cleared the various bits of wooden sheep-protection from the oil-drum entrance and John rigged from a scaff bar.  At the bottom, there’s a little wriggle which emerges over the head of the first, short pitch.  The rope had evidently been selected with great care, and finished two feet above the ground – waste not, want not!

The passage from here is good going, meandering and narrow, but easy enough.  This leads to 3 ‘proper’ pitches in quick succession, all around 25-30m with a deviation apiece, but nothing too technical (which I always like!).  As the first is approached, you have to leave the stream behind and traverse in the roof which adds some entertainment.  John helpfully left plenty of traverse line and used the higher of two pairs of hangers to take off from – the advantage of this becomes abundantly clear on the return: I found getting off the pitch a bit awkward, from the lower hangers it would have been a nightmare.

The next pitch was fine, though a bit showery at the bottom, and I arrived to find John had again thoughtfully rigged a long traverse line across some deep holes in the floor leading to the last pitch.  However, this turned out to be over-generous as he ran out of rope some 5m from the bottom!  After a bit of re-engineering we were soon down.

I’m not sure I’ve correctly committed the route thereafter to memory, but I think we followed Stream Passage under a shower to Stream Chamber, around Mud Hole and on to Sand Caverns (where Miranda had fond memories of her 40th birthday party, which shows true dedication to caving!).  Then ducking through a low crawl on the right of a passage (the Portcullis) and arriving at the main chamber after about 20 minutes.

This was as spectacular as always, and not as wet as I expected given the rain in recent weeks.  Returning, I ‘gallantly’ offered to de-rig the first pitch, realising it would be the easiest, leaving the others to the highly-honed Forder skills.  Just as well, as my rate of ascent definitely dropped off after the first pitch, but all went reasonably smoothly.

The wriggly head of the entrance pitch, which was so straightforward on the way in, provided ample opportunities for entanglement, but Miranda and John waited patiently for me to unravel myself and I was soon on the final ascent through the oil drums.  This was the sting in the tail of the trip for me – firstly the drums were too narrow for me to lift my leg high enough to get my foot in the foot loop, so I was reduced to doing 3” prussick steps with my knee.  And at the top – how to get out ?  A real man would have pulled himself up on the scaff bar, but that was well beyond me.  Eventually, the time-honoured method of thrutching and extreme bad language did the trick, and the others effortlessly followed (having the advantage of shorter thigh-bones, at least that’s my story).

All in all, a good trip in a fine cave – nearly 5 hours underground – thanks to John and Miranda for showing me round!