Gaping Gill Mystery Tour… or Who The $#!& Is Steve?

Claire, Will (aka Mark or Matt) & Ray (aka Steve) with special guest appearances by Pete Sykes & Jean Brooksbank (BPC)

The Bradford winch meet seemed too good an opportunity to miss, given that most of the entrances to the system would be pre-rigged, so 3 of us set off for Clapham on a fine May morning with no particular plan. We arrived in the village around 09:30, easily early enough to get a good parking spot up by the church… or so we thought. Not a chance! There were cars everywhere. We ended up parked back out towards the A65. We were later told that the winch meet is now so popular with tourists that they were turning people away at 08:30. Apparently people start turning up at the booking-in tent up by Main Shaft at 05:30. Perhaps they need to charge more?

The walk up was pleasant enough, although it must have been a bit hot for Will who didn’t get the memo about walking up in normal clothes and getting changed up there. Then, of course, we had to decide where to go. Will had never been in the system before, so was happy with anything as long as we saw Main Chamber. Claire had been before from Stream Passage to Bar. She was adamant that she didn’t want to come out of Bar again. So a reasonable plan was to go in Marilyn, have a poke around in Hensler’s Master Cave then take New Hensler’s crawl through to SE Passage, do a quick out and back to Main Chamber then exit via Flood Entrance/Wade’s. The only potential issue with this excellent plan was that our guide (yours truly) wasn’t sure he could remember the route through New Hensler’s. Assurances were sought and given that failure to find the route through to SE Passage would not result in bodily harm of any sort. After all, we could simply return back out via Marilyn if it all went Pete Tong.

A quick change, even quicker visit to the toilet block, check-in at Main Shaft and stroll over to Marilyn entrance saw us joining the queue to descend. Directly ahead of us were a nice duo from BPC – Pete & Jean. Pete sounded very knowledgeable about the system, so I resolved to stick as close to him as possible, especially since they were planning to use New Hensler’s to get to SE Passage. If only I could keep him in sight, I may just be able to bluff the others that I too was very knowledgeable.

Now, I can only suppose that excitement about such an amazing trip (or was it nervousness about being guided by a an incompetent fool?) got the better of Claire at this point as she took to referring to Will as Mark or Matt (alternately) and Ray as Steve. Whatever the reason, it was useful to be able to blame Steve for any subsequent mishaps.

The entrance pitch is a series of short drops. Some of these are a bit on the snug side – no problem sliding down, but I could already feel mounting pressure to find SE Passage with each muttering about it possibly being a bit awkward to re-ascend. Hmmm… is Pete still in view?

The 2nd pitch (Niagra) is famously loose. One wall is essentially just a loose collection of cobbles and boulders. Things have definitely improved in recent years with the addition of 2 rebelays, rather than a single deviation. Even so, we took the precaution of ensuring that the previous person was clear of the pitch before the next started to descend. This took a while for the 3 of us to get down. On the positive(?) side, a choir of students from Cambridge waiting at the bottom of the pitch kept us entertained(?) with various caving songs, some of which I thought had died out years ago. What they lacked in tunefulness they made up for in enthusiasm. On the negative side, there was now no chance of catching Pete & Jean. We would be condemned to crawling aimlessly around various Hensler-themed scrot holes before admitting defeat and struggling back out of Marilyn.

The remaining descent of Marilyn (which is now really Disappointment) went smoothly, consisting of 3 more nice pitches with the odd bit of passage in between. The last pitch is particularly nice. At the bottom of this, a scramble down the boulder pile leads into a low passage on the way to the master cave. Much to our surprise (and my relief), who should we meet here but Pete & Jean. They had specifically waited for us. An act of extreme generosity… or had we come across as so incompetent that they had no other choice? Let’s give them (or do I mean us?) the benefit of the doubt.

We set off as a group of 5 along Hensler’s Master Cave, with Pete’s extensive knowledge of the area coming to the fore with various tales and descriptions. The master cave grows to impressive dimensions initially. Even when the size decreases, it is still pleasant walking for the most part, with various formations and features to marvel at. Eventually Jean stopped, but Pete escorted us to the ladder leading up to the Blowhole and eventually the Far Country. Pete turned round here… fair enough. But we couldn’t come all this way and not at least climb the ladder for a look at the Blowhole. We would have to be quick, but hopefully we could catch Pete & Jean again and all would be well.

 The ladder up to the Blowhole is actually a double ladder, the old one being still in place behind the newer one. This would be fine if the rung spacing was identical… but it isn’t! The passage at the top is a muddy crawl. The way onward is to the right. Another passage heads left, but we didn’t explore this. After a bit of crawling we eventually arrived at the Blowhole. It’s many years since I was last through it… I can only suppose I was a MUCH smaller man back then. To say it didn’t look inviting is an understatement. Will is no mug and quickly declared himself out. For a while, though, it looked like we might be able to cajole Claire into making an attempt. Alas, sense prevailed in the end. We’ll add it to the list of places to return to.

All this tomfoolery meant we would really have to leg it to catch Pete & Jean again. So off we set. Sadly there was no sign of them even at the start(?) of New Hensler’s. Off up it we set, crawling for all we were worth. If only we could crawl fast enough we could probably still catch them before getting too lost. The first definite sign that things had gone a bit awry was when we emerged into the bottom of Hensler’s High Aven, complete with rope for the final pitch of Hensler’s Pot. Now, while I don’t remember all the details of New Hensler’s, I was pretty sure it didn’t pass this aven. Oh dear. Should I admit we were wrong and backtrack in an attempt to find the route we wanted? Fearing for the health of my various bodily appendages, I decided against this course of action. There were really only 2 places we could be – Old Hensler’s or Mud Hensler’s. Old goes on a bit, but would eventually take us toward Main Chamber. Mud would be miserable, but would give us a very nice round trip.

Beyond the aven, things got muddier and wetter. That probably answers that one then – we must be in Mud Hensler’s. Again, it’s so long since I’ve been that I couldn’t be sure. Then the ducks arrived. And not the quacking sort. The miserable, freezing, ear in the water sort. The sort that spelled doom for my man parts if this passage didn’t lead somewhere. Then the character changed. No longer were we crawling. We were in a tightish muddy rift. Climbing up, we thankfully emerged into something big. Now, if that was Mud Hensler’s, we should be very close to Mud Hall. Being winch meet, there should also be a rope dangling down from Corky’s. At first I couldn’t see any rope, but was more relieved than you can imagine to eventually spot it. And, just a few steps further, the vastness of Mud Hall. YES! The day was saved. Even I can find my way out from there. It must be pointed out that, through all of this misery, Will was dragging a tackle sack. He didn’t once complain – even when it got stuck in the most miserable part of the crawl. He’s made of harder stuff than me.

The mood was now considerably lighter as we made our way along and then up Mud Hall into East Passage, eventually emerging high up the east side of Main Chamber. It’s always an impressive sight, but particularly rewarding to introduce someone new to it. Will was such a virgin and was suitably blown away. We stuck around Main Chamber for a while to wash off some of the excess mud, take photos and chat with some of the Cambridge students we’d met at the bottom of Niagra in Marilyn. God knows how they’d got there as they were on their way out when we passed them earlier.

Then onwards again, along South Passage, then SE Passage to SE Pot. Our plan was to climb the rope here and exit via Flood/Wade’s, but there was a bit of a queue waiting to go up. So we carried on to the Bar Pot main pitch. Now, those of you who have been paying attention will remember that Claire’s one specific demand of the trip is that we didn’t go out via Bar Pot. So she was understandably perturbed at this point. Not to worry – at the top of the greasy slab, we were able to crawl through to the entrance pitch of Small Mammal. Phew!

While waiting for some people to be lowered down the Bar Pot main pitch, we got talking to a BPC member, Roisin. She lives in Penrith and may be interested in joining KCC for some midweek fun. Let’s see if she makes contact.

This was an excellent trip. I have no idea how long we were underground for. It felt like a long time, but it really doesn’t matter. Will’s grin on exiting… and all the way back down into Clapham… summed up the day perfectly. To paraphrase Sid Perou… what a way to spend a Saturday.

Photos by Will.



Robinson’s Pot

Will Burnett (3rd KCC trip), Vikki & Ray

Despite there being a lot of interest in this trip, injuries and other commitments conspired to reduce the number of attendees to 3. Damian, our nominated leader for the day, was gutted that injury prevented him from joining us.

The drive over to the pot is reasonably long, but this is more than compensated by the scenery. A quick courtesy call at the farm confirmed that we were ok to descend. Apparently the lady in residence has never been into the cave… and has absolutely no intention of ever being. She was, however, very friendly.

For anyone who hasn’t been, the entrance is in a most unusual location – directly under the kitchen window of the farm. A very small manhole leads directly onto the entrance pitch, about 7m long and best laddered. The pitch immediately opens out into a spacious shaft, rather worryingly directly below the farm kitchen. As requested, the last person down the pitch replaced the manhole cover and secured it to a rock at the bottom of the pitch, using the convenient in situ rope and a helpful anchor in said rock. Apparently this prevents the curious farm kit falling down the shaft.

Below the pitch, the entrance series is fairly interesting, consisting of various rifts, crawls and climbs with quite a few inlets to poke up. I think we managed to poke up every single one. At one point, just after a (not unpleasant) crawl in a muddy tube, we were unsure of the way on. Will poked up one way and Ray another (leaving the tackle sack with rope and ladder for the later pitch/climb). Ray’s way turned out to be correct, but was a flat out crawl over cobbles in a small stream. Emerging into the relative vastness of MacColl’s Rift, Ray shouted back for the others to follow. Unfortunately, poor communication led to the sack being left behind. So, while Will & Vikki explored MacColl’s rift, Ray went back through the (unpleasant) flat out crawl to retrieve it.

MacColl’s Rift is a nice bit of passage, with larger sections punctuated by the odd crawl or climb. It was a bit muddy in places, leading to the occasional bit of hilarity trying to squirm up slopes. We noted the Crossover Passage leading to the streamway, but pushed on to the end of the rift, before returning. The Crossover Passage starts as a crawl, but soon increases in height to become more of a rift, taking a small stream. At the end is a short (3m?) climb down into the main streamway. This climb was pre-rigged with a handline, which we used. So there had been no need to return for the sack after all!

The streamway is very nice indeed, with the odd decorated bit. We started by going downstream, which led relatively quickly to the inevitable downstream sump. Turning left just before the sump led into a low, wet crawl. We followed this (led by Will) to another sump with quite a bit of diving kit strewn about. Presumably this is actively being pushed at present.

We then headed upstream in the main streamway. This goes on for quite a bit further and is really a very nice bit of passage. Eventually the roof starts to lower and the water gets deeper. Ray pushed this to the upstream sump for some unfathomable reason.

We then made our way out at a leisurely pace. There was nothing to explore on the way out as we had pushed every bit of navigable passage on the way in, so before long we were back out into the scorching sunshine for the short walk back to the car.

Robinson’s is a great trip… and one that I would happily do again before too long. As this was Will’s 3rd club trip, he expressed an interest in joining as a full member. No objections from me – we’re lucky to have him!

Photos by Will and Ray.

Rowten Pot

Dave, James, Ray

Rowten has always been a favourite trip of mine. Back in the day it was a great Sunday warm down after some epic or other on the Saturday. These days it’s the perfect evening trip.

As has been common this year, entry into Kingsdale was marked by a thick mist descending. The beck was in full flow too. While this may be ominous for planned trips to other caves, Rowten just gets better in such wet conditions as the rope can be rigged clear of the water.

We entered via The Eyehole, with the usual fun and games on the 2nd rebelay over the lip. On the main shaft, we took a hybrid route. This route descends from the 1st Y-hang in the bottomless rift, then swings over onto the opposite wall about 20m or so down to join the various rebelays encountered on the Gully Route. This has several advantages over the straight hang from the end of the bottomless rift. First, it breaks up the big pitch, which can speed things up on the ascent. Second, it keeps well clear of the water in even the wettest conditions. Third… it’s damn good fun!

From the foot of the main shaft we followed the Flyover Route, probably the only option in the conditions. The 1st rebelay on this, just round the corner in the perpendicular rift, is always a real pain. After that it was plain sailing to the bottom. James was particularly keen to have a look at the sumps, but even he had to admit defeat when faced with the thundering waterfall through which we would have had to climb to get there. Next time.

The ascent went without a hitch. Once again, this was a big step up for Dave & James… and once again they smashed it. Great effort guys. As far as I’m concerned, you’re both up to any SRT trip now.

Photos by Dave & Ray.

Boxhead – It’s A Cracker Exchange

James, Dave, Helen, Ray

After a few dropouts and a late entry by Helen, a bold team of 4 set off on this classic Leck Fell exchange. It seemed the perfect opportunity for Dave & James to venture forth on their own, so they entered via Boxhead, while Helen & Ray went in via Cracker. As good as they are, it would be a bit much to expect D&J to rig the Kendal Flyover route in Boxhead at this stage of their careers, so the enterpise was facilitated by Ray pre-rigging earlier in the day.

Both entrances were located relatively easily, relative to previous evening attempts that is. Helen and Ray braved the spiders in the Cracker entrance climb and were soon at the 1st pitch, which Helen rigged. The 2nd deviation is an absolute pig to reach. It’s not that it is a long way off, but there’s nothing to push against to swing over to it. Much hilarity ensued. Helen may see it differently. Ray took over rigging on the 2nd pitch. Luckily there are no deviations, so it went relatively smoothly. The awkward climb on the way to the 3rd pitch seemed more awkward than usual for some reason.

Meanwhile, James & Dave had made short work of descending Boxhead. Knowing this would be the case, they had been armed with a survey of the Tate Galleries and told to go exploring. They would have great fun finding Cresta Run, Crowbar Pitch, Epiglottis Grotto etc… All they had to do was go through the short crawl from the Kendal Flyover ledge and turn right. But what did they do? You’ve guessed it – they turned left, into Venus Dig.

The exchange timing couldn’t have been better. D&J emerged (rather dirtier than before) from their explorations back onto the Flyover ledge just as Ray was rigging the 3rd Cracker pitch. So we all descended our respective final drops at the same time.

After a quick poke around at the bottom everyone exchanged. The old fogies limped out of Boxhead. James & Dave did an excellent job of derigging Cracker, which should have taken considerably longer. On exiting Boxhead, Ray popped into Cracker to see if they needed any help, only to find James already at the top of the 1st pitch! Well done guys.

This was the perfect evening SRT trip and marked a big step up for 2 of our newer members. With a bit more rigging practice they will be able to lead us all on some great trips. But they do need some tuition in how to read surveys…

Photos by Dave.



Dave, James, Ray

We had such great plans. Dave and/or James could put their recent rigging training (courtesy of Scott) into practice on the first 2 pitches. I would rig the Chapter House traverse/pitch. Then James and/or Dave could derig the whole thing. What fun we would have. Sure, it would be a bit on the wet side, but isn’t Yordas best in such conditions? There’s nothing better than traversing and performing various aerial acrobatics out over the raging torrent then finally sliding down alongside, but safely out of, the deluge.

The first sign that things may not go to plan was the thunderous sound of the waterfall before we even got to the bottom entrance. Inside, the main chamber was a vast swimming pool. I say swimming pool, but no-one could actually be tempted to swim.

Hmmm. Never mind. We didn’t intend to come out the bottom entrance anyway. Our way in (the middle entrance) would be nice and dry. We would meet the water coming in from the top entrance and get a bit wet in the crawl to Chapter House, but then we would be safely clear of the water.

It became clear that plans may have to change long before we got to the middle entrance. Again, the sound and then the sight of a raging torrent suggested we may have to rethink. We had intended to go in via the more upstream of the 2 slots constituting the middle entrance. This was taking a massive stream, much more than I’ve ever seen before.

Not being a team to be put off by such trivial matters, we entered via the more downstream middle entrance slot. Even this was taking some water, but it was at least passable. Dave took the lead and did an excellent job of rigging the first short drop. He carried on rigging the 2nd pitch, but looked a bit concerned about actually going down it in view of the thundering waterfall that may not be avoidable for the last few metres. I wouldn’t have blamed him for deciding against it. In fact, I was hoping common sense would prevail and we could have an early pint in the Marton Arms, rather than an early shower.

In the end, Dave made it look easy to stay relatively dry by bridging out away from the water. I followed and did a passable job of staying relatively dry. James, on the other hand, took the option of an early shower.

If I’m being honest, I kind of knew where the trip would end. Just around a left hand bend is a short climb down with a pool at the bottom. This is usually just a bit of fun in normal water conditions. Tonight it was a positive death trap. It would certainly have been possible to get down (not necessarily under control), but may have been impossible to get back up against the force of water.

So that was, indeed, as far as we got. James valiantly offered to derig. I think his logic went essentially along the lines of “I can’t get any wetter”. Dave and I weren’t about to argue. At least we would both have someone to hold us out of the water for the first bit. James took his inevitable drenching with a stiff, if slightly moist, upper lip. He did an excellent job of derigging.

After a particularly slippy-slidey walk back down to the cars, we retired to the Marton for a bit of “rehydration”. Although we didn’t get very far, this was actually a most enjoyable evening. It’s great to see such caves in full flow and gain a bit more respect for the sheer power of the water that forms them.

We will all be back very soon to finish what we started.

Photos by Dave & Ray.

County Pot

Scott, James, Dave + (almost, but not quite) Ray

Report from Dave:

Link Pot Another “Not What We Aimed For” Trip Report – County Pot

James, Ray, Scott & Dave headed off for Link Pot, to be thwarted by a rather swiftly flowing, Dave-waist-deep Leck Beck.

We headed on up the valley towards the higher up parts of the system, again thwarted by the beck which was higher than the footpath and up to the wall, in favour of caving another day rather than chancing his knee Ray headed on back to the warmth of BPF. This left the three of us heading to the entrance to County Pot without using the submerged path, with Scott finding it as though he had a built in nav.

Warmed up from the hike and ready to be underground, we made swift work of the entrance series and its squeezes, with Scott quickly rigging the pitch for an abseil. Slithering gracefully down onto Broadway in no time.

From here we explored various areas, Battle of Britain chamber, Spout hall to name a couple (forgive my naivety I was aMAZEd by the complexity of the passages and options), linked with lovely boulder crawls and nicely polished squeezes. The water fall was in full flow and the noise was tremendous as was the airflow as a result. Scott slid though to recce the a potential route but there was too much water so we opted to slide blindly backward onto the scaffold and explore the maze of passages and see some of the formations, sadly my camera was tucked safely and dryly in the boot of Ray’s car! A fixed rope descent took us to the bottom of White Line chamber for a view up the waterfall.

Deprived of a round trip by the removal of another fixed rope, we turned tail and began the return leg and the interesting climbs up the scaffold bar and the dangling sling out of Broadway, working our way up the tight squeezes that didn’t seem that small on the way down, with our SRT kit giving us some nice sounds effects. Before long we were back in the clear night air and heading back towards BPF across the fell, nothing to report here other than the disturbance of numerous Grouse.

A short but sweet back-up trip, underground at 8 and back at the farm by 10, with kudos to Scott for his navigation and a big thanks to Ray for waiting to take James and Dave home. We were certainly in a better state than the 3 Red Rose members who passed us returning from a dig in “not a nice place”. Hopefully we manage to achieve a planned Wednesday trip soon!

Tatham Wife Hole

Jason, Sophie, Pete, Yolanda, Ray

I hadn’t been down Tatty Wife for 30 years or more, so was really looking forward to this one. Would it be as good as I remembered? Jason had been there more recently, but still many years ago. No-one else had been before. Would we find our way down the cave? Would we even find the cave? Had Jason and I over-stressed how good it is?

In anticipation of a potentially long day, Sophie, Pete, Yolanda & Ray stocked up on slow-release energy (i.e. a fry-up) in Inglesport and met Jason at the parking spot. There is ample parking a few hundred metres past White Scar Cave, just before the quarry. The rather large elephant in this particular room is the enormous escarpment that must be climbed just to get up to the plateau where the entrance is.

The walk-in is at least as bad as I remembered. It takes quite a while just to get to the foot of the escarpment, then it’s a right pain to climb. There is, at least a vague path to follow up through a gully. The stile that used to enable crossing the wall at the top of the escarpment seems to have disappeared, necessitating climbing the most broken down section. Even then, there are quite a few false summits before the upper slopes of Ingleborough come into view. Then it’s a simple matter of trying to locate the entrance somewhere in the distance across the moor. Visibility was good on this occasion, so we could actually see the shakehole from a long way off. Jason’s GPS confirmed that we were indeed heading in the right direction. Overall, I would estimate that the walk-in took around 45 minutes. We set off underground on the stroke of 11am.

The entrance climb looked rather uninviting, particularly with the water flowing down it. This clearly wasn’t going to be a dry trip. Once down the initial climb, the passage descends quite sharply and becomes really quite impressively proportioned. Before too long we reached a short climb down… at least we used to climb it. It’s now anchored as a pitch, complete with drilled thread (which we couldn’t find), fixed anchor and deviation. Jason showed his contempt for such dumbing down by free climbing it on the way out – not sure what he did on the way in. The rest of us were happy to use any assistance available.

Some really fun passage eventually leads to the next couple of pitches, close enough to be rigged with a single 45m rope. I really enjoyed these pitches, although they were a bit on the damp side. There is an optional deviation on the top pitch, which we decided not to use. This was probably a mistake as it was definitely a bit moist. A rebelay around a jammed boulder then facilitates a descent towards the lower pitch. We definitely used a deviation on this pitch… and probably could have done with another one. It was decidedly damp for the last section.

At the bottom, Sophie and Ray sped off to rig the next pitch. The passage eventually diminishes in size to become a slightly awkward crawl, filled with projections that could have been specifically designed to grab tackle sacks. All very frustrating, but it doesn’t last too long. The next pitch is rigged as a Y-hang, without any traverse line or backup. It’s safe enough, but I wonder why the usual convention of an anchor well back from the pitch head has been neglected in this case. Again, a deviation was required to pull the rope away from the water. The pitch lands on a ledge. A short side-step then leads to the top of The Ramp, a hading rift down which the water pours. The rope from the previous pitch is tied off around a very convenient chockstone and continued down The Ramp. While the cave is not generally tight, I struggled to reverse the side-step off the Ramp on the way back out. In the end I had to unclip my chest jammer. No-one else seemed to struggle at all, so let’s blame bad technique.

We decided to regroup at the bottom of The Ramp, before setting off along the rift towards the famous duck. The regrouping took slightly longer than expected due to a breakdown in communication, leaving Pete stranded at the top of the Ramp for longer than he would have liked.

There had been some apprehension about the duck. Jason & Ray had assured the Tatty Wife virgins that there was nothing to worry about – it really wasn’t that bad. They were wrong! It looked particularly uninviting on this occasion due to the high water levels. It would have been a real “lie on your back with your nose in the air” job. One or two people had a half-hearted look at it, but we agreed that returning on a drier day was the better option. Jason had a look at the bypass, but didn’t fancy it. Again. I don’t remember the bypass being that bad, but it looked horrific.

So, out we went, with Ray & Sophie derigging. Jason & Ray free climbed The Ramp, which was probably easier than trying to prussik it. As on the way in, the tackle sack jammed on just about every projection. The best way of progressing was for Sophie to drag it behind her, with Ray freeing it from snags. I always find it really hard work getting out of this cave as it’s quite a climb back up the sloping passage. If anything it’s now even harder! The last man emerged just over 3 hours after the first descended. Thankfully, the walk back to the cars didn’t seem anywhere near as bad as the walk-in.

A debriefing over tea & cake in Inglesport was called for. All agreed that Tatty Wife is a great trip. It deserves much more recognition than it gets. I imagine we’ll all be back before too long… but in drier conditions.

Bull Pot of the Witches

Maz, Tom, Dave, James, Sophie, Ray

Report from Maz:


For my first lead, those wiser and more experienced than I, had decided a nice non SRT trip to Dentdale would be my baptism of fire.

Unfortunately, Storm Isha had other ideas and it was soon obvious that Ibbeth Peril would be under water or at the very least, put any caver in serious peril. A plan B or C would obviously be needed.

Having consulted the caving gods; namely Ray and Tom, and the bible that is Northern Caves volume 2, it was decided a nice jaunt down Bull Pot of the Witches would be just the job.

With no rain falling for a change, Ray, Dave, James, Tom and myself began the descent. After the first pitch, a puddle of light and voice from above marked the arrival of Sophie bringing the compliment of cavers to 6.

A largely dry series of thankfully short and easy pitches deposited us in a large cavern. There followed a nice section of passage before bypassing a small hole in the floor. This passage gradually become muddier and lower. Obviously, James decided to investigate and emerged brown coated and unimpressed.

Retracing our steps, we descended the hole in the floor via a muddy, sorry looking sling. This led us to the Long Gallery and onto some crawling and more sliding around in the mud and water. Although we just couldn’t get enough of this fun, we reluctantly decided it was time to return the way we had come. James ascended the sling hole first, giving myself below, a face full of welly water. I, in turn passed on the compliment to Ray who was below me, who subsequently passed the favour onto the next caver. Only James’ escaped this muddy shower, having led the climb.

On the way out, James and Dave went on another detour, meeting up near the bottom of the pothole, which looked amazing with moonlight glinting off the falling stream. We surfaced at about 10:15 having had a lovely trip. Thanks to the riggers and de-riggers and to ray for the photography

On a personal note, this trip marked a year to the day since my first foray underground with KCC. I am extremely grateful to all those members who, without exception, have made me feel welcome and part of the club. I am also very grateful to their patience and support while I’ve faffed and squawked. Mostly on pitches, traverses, crawls, scrambles, squeezes, ducks, chimneys, climbs, but also walking any uphill to the entrance!

Most importantly, thanks to everyone who has very kindly given their time and experience to help me develop my skills and confidence; a natural caver I am not, but I do love it.  Except Jingling Pot, which needs filling in with concrete.


Notts Pot (Twilight Zone)

Claire, James, Dave, Ray

The best… and worst… of winter caving. To be honest, I didn’t give us much chance of getting up Leck Fell Lane, given the prevalent snow and ice. So much so that I’d packed the ropes in such a way that we could easily decamp to Jingling. So the real question in my mind was whether we would even be able to get up into Kingsdale. When we got to the bottom of LFL, there was no sign of James, who was travelling independently of the rest of us. This meant that either he hadn’t arrived yet, or he had come in is pickup and breezed up onto the fell, leaving us with a bit of a problem when we came to the inevitable impassable section. But, surprisingly, no such impasse occurred. The road was relatively clear with just a few icy sections to navigate. We decided not to think about coming back down.

So there we all were in -7 C, regretting the decision to cave at all, but reluctantly getting changed anyway. The walk up to Notts Pot started unpleasantly cold, but we largely warmed up on the stomp up the fell… apart from my hands, which didn’t thaw out until well underground. It would have taken quite a while to find the entrance, had it not been for the GPS we had brought along, GPS in hand, James thankfully led us straight there. A quick rigging of the entrance pitch soon saw us all underground and rapidly warming up. Ray forged on ahead to rig the short climb and then the pitch down into Three Ways Chamber, where we could all regroup. Well, Ray and Claire regrouped… and waited… and waited. No sign of the other 2, so Claire eventually reascended the pitch to search for the others, while Ray set off to start rigging Twilight Zone.

Claire and the others eventually arrived as Ray was close to finishing rigging the initial traverse over Left Hand Route. Apparently Dave & James had somehow managed to get lost in the entrance passage. I didn’t even know that was possible. But, given James’s affinity for pushing into scrotty holes, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

The rest of the descent went reasonably smoothly. There was the usual time wasted trying to find the deviation on the first drop, marked on the CNCC topo. As the CNCC’s own description states, this is either non-existent or impossible to find. Certainly I’ve never found it. This leads to the 2nd bit of time wasted trying to swing directly over to the y-hang above the next drop, before the usual admitting defeat and instead using the traverse on LH Route to reach the same y-hang. This traverse is actually one of the highlights of the trip, so it would be a shame to miss it out. The 3rd obligatory bit of time wasting is in deciding which window to swing into on the next drop. I don’t do this trip often enough to remember, so invariably start swinging about much too high. On locating the correct window the rest of the route down to the Lower Streamway was plain sailing.

Claire, then Dave, then James were soon down in the Lower Streamway too. No-one seemed to have any issues with the descent, despite it being quite a technical route. Dave, in particular, did very well, having only been caving for a few months. Not bad, given that he largely taught himself SRT from YouTube videos!

Being an evening trip, we had no intention of going lower than the Lower Streamway, so there was nothing else for it but to set off out. Claire volunteered to do the derigging, so Ray set off first, planning to wait at the difficult traverse to watch Dave & James and offer helpful advice. In the event, the helpful advice went something along the lines of: ” Now, the thing to do here is… Oh, you’ve done it” or “You’ll need to face the other way here… Or you could just make it look really easy facing that way, as you’ve just done.” Ever felt redundant?

Surely I at least had something to offer in terms of helpful derigging advice for Claire? Absolutely not. It was a very slick operation indeed. Not even a hint of swearing at tackle sack or rope.

We all regrouped in Three Ways Chamber again, before the final push out into the arctic wasteland. The surface pitch was surprisingly hard to prussik, being absolutely encrusted in ice. But we all did manage to reach the surface. By the time we reached the cars we were all absolutely frozen stiff, requiring combined tactics to remove various items of kit/clothing. Dave & Ray decided to not even bother getting changed.

This was an absolutely outstanding trip with a great bunch of people. As James, Dave & Claire are all relatively new members of KCC, it seems clear that the future of the club looks very bright indeed.

Some photos courtesy of Dave & Ray:

And, finally, a caption competition:

Bull Pot Kingsdale

Helen, Pete, Matt, Ray

Another case of a hastily rearranged trip in view of the weather. The original plan had been Red Moss, but that was certainly off the menu given that it hadn’t stopped raining for at least 40 days & 40 nights. Yordas had briefly been discussed as an alternative, but quickly dropped in favour of a look at the newly bolted Monolith Traverse & Pitch in Bull Pot.

We cut a sorry sight struggling up the hillside, with both Helen & Ray limping along on their respective walking sticks. No route straight up the fellside tonight, rather a long sweeping loop out to the right and back. That left us with only one problem on top of the fell – finding the cave. Luckily this didn’t take too long and we were soon swinging off the normal 1st pitch, around a rock buttress to find the 1st bolt of Monolith Traverse. The traverse is quite nice, generally with good ledges on either side of the shaft, leading into a tube with a nicely-placed y-hand at the end. A bit cramped for rigging/derigging, but nothing too bad.

Monolith Pitch lands nicely at the old high-level traverse to the 2nd pitch. 3 or 4 anchors then take you round a couple of bends to the top of the 2nd pitch. There was quite a lot of water flowing down this, so the deviation (thankfully already complete with tat) was very welcome. From there it’s just a couple of metres down to the ledge. The slot was really the only 3rd pitch option in the prevailing moistness. This was quickly descended by all, past the easiest rebelay in the Dales. At the bottom, Ray went on to have a look at the 4th pitch. His rather drenched appearance on returning seemed to be enough to put everyone else off even having a look. Needless to say, descending the pitch was not an option. We did all agree, however, that we should definitely return to bottom the cave in drier conditions. Matt even agreed to lead such a trip… perhaps after a bit of pressurising.

Pete offered to derig. No mean feat, given the water levels and the fact that the top pitch was brand spanking new to all of us. With Matt offering moral support, he did a great job. There’s no going back now for you Pete! It wasn’t too long before everyone was safely out and slip-sliding back down the hillside.

A great little wet weather trip. Congratulations to the team that set the new Monolith route… whoever they are.