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!

Roaring Hole – 13th March 2013

Roaring Hole   Ed, Sophie, Paul, Jason

I’d wanted to revisit Roaring after a previous attempt under Mr Gordon’s leadership two years ago only got as far as the 2nd boulder choke due to the volume of water cascading down it.

It was new to the others, and my memories of the route to the cave were hazy – perhaps because of the blizzard that had been blowing at the time.  Consequently our search for the entrance (in a “prominent shakehole west of Braithwaite Wife Hole – you can’t miss it”) took a good half-hour of quartering the limestone pavement on Ingleborough.  (For future reference, turn off the path to the right only about 50m after the sharp right-hand turn in the path as it starts to pass BWH on the left).

Down the entrance climb/slither,  then the first ‘boulder’ choke (more of a scaffold choke) and the giant’s staircase made of rubble cemented into retaining walls – pausing only to wonder at the engineering effort that had gone into it all.  Ed rigged the first pitch, all the way to the top of the second boulder choke.  I skipped the second half of the abseil, not wanting to miss the airy tiptoe round the Bandstand.  The choke was much drier than previously, but what water there was magically found its way down the backs of our necks.  A short crawl followed, then another hole in the floor leading to another boulder choke apparently named after Morecambe Pier – again generously scaffolded.

This led to another chamber, where we had been warned by Helen of a ‘committing’ vertical squeeze.  Coming from such a hardened explorer, this caused some nervous anticipation – so the consensus was that Sophie should try it first (the slimmest, and least argumentative?)  She did so, having removed her SRT kit, so I followed.  It was snug, but the drop far from abyssal – by exhaling slowly, one slides down a couple of feet to a gentle landing below.  Paul pronounced his physique too manly for the attempt, so Ed came next but pronounced it ‘uncomfortable’, so retreated (a radical idea that – that caving should be comfortable !)  Sophie and I continued down a short walking passage and a climb down into Slab Chamber.  Here there is a near-vertical slope onwards and downwards.  It looks intimidating at first, but on closer examination it’s well-provided with handholds and makes for an entertaining climb.

At this point, Sophie generously left me to it, and returned to Ed and Paul.  True to form, at the bottom of the climb, there is another hole in the floor and another boulder choke leading to a streamway which goes on to the Rift with a pitch to the bottom.  However, I turned round at this point in case the others had tired of waiting.

The return journey to the Bandstand is easy, if more strenuous than before.  As I was still not kitted-up for SRT, I was tempted to investigate the in-situ bit of looped tat that adorned the first part of the pitch.  Together with a metal bracket someone had helpfully bolted to the rock, it is possible to haul oneself up the start of the pitch, after which free-climbing becomes eminently possible.  However, any feelings of achievement I might have had after that were dispelled when it came to getting up the beginning of the final climb out.  This involves a surprisingly awkward upward thrutch without the benefit of any kind of foothold.  Fortunately,  Ed’s knee, and a shove or two, provided the necessary impetus.

Apart from that, I thoroughly enjoyed Roaring Hole, a nice clean cave without being too aqueous, plenty of fun scrambling about and – I believe – can reasonably easily be done without ladders or SRT, which is always a bonus.

Lancaster Hole – 21st November 2012

Lancaster Hole – Andy G, Jason

A select team gathered for a trip with few ideas about where we should go.  I wanted to visit Slug World, so we turned left at the bottom of the entrance pitch (breaking the habits of a lifetime).  The muddy climb quickly degenerates to a muddy crawl, but very soon pops out into a decent passage with some fine formations.  A bit of a squeeze leads into another chamber with some even better stal.  This is emphatically taped-off so we turned around.  The next time you’re waiting at the bottom of the pitch for 5 people to ascend, it’s well worth a ten-minute detour.

Andy expressed an interest in visiting the Graveyard, and as he’d been kind enough to bring a suitable rope for the pitch, it seemed churlish to demur.  Now where was the entrance ?  I tried a turning off Bridge Hall – a high rift, not what we were looking for, but it went on – might as well have a look…  We realised it was the Sand Caverns, a series of, well, caverns linked by some fun climbs and slides.  These went for some time until I came to a tight crawl leading to a low bedding chamber.  All I could remember from the description was that Sand Caverns had some ‘very tight’ connections elsewhere (the Crater) , which neither of us relished, so we headed back.

A few metres further down Bridge Hall was the Graveyard entrance.  A short crawl, the little pitch, then into the Graveyard.  I’d forgotten how well-decorated this is.  But the route Andy was after was down the big trench in the floor.  This looked impossible to climb down, until he pointed out the concealed rope at the right-hand end. This leads onto a narrow streamway.  Following this downstream, a crawl off to the right leads into the Stump Cavern Extensions (the earlier passage to the right, up a greasy climb does not go anywhere).  This turned out to be a series of protracted crawls, flat-out, but not uncomfortable.  However, he was not totally sure of how this linked back to the Graveyard, and time was marching on, and the call of the Black Sheep was getting more insistent, so we turned round and retraced our drag marks.

Back in the stream, we paused for a little wallow to wash the worst of the mud from the SRT kits, then were soon back in Bridge Hall, and out – just in time for a swift one at the other Hall (Whoop).  A grand evening’s entertainment – I’d been to three places in Easegill for the first time, whilst leaving some more to do on another occasion: completing the Stump Caverns Extensions circuit and (maybe) the Sand Caverns to Crater link.