Scoska Cave: Chris H, Andy G, Jason, Paul (work colleague of Chris), John (prospective new member)
Parking in Arncliffe, Scoska is a pleasant mile’s walk along the Skirfare, or it would be in drier weather: today the metalled farm track was welly-deep in running water. Just as well it’s not a flooder….
A brief clamber uphill, following the beck, brings you to the impressive entrance. It might be a child’s drawing of a cave – a big square hole leading horizontally into the hill. Chris treated us to some geological remarks on the (clearly visible) porcellanous band. In fact the cave’s roof follows the top of this band pretty much in its entirety, so the level flat ceiling stays with you throughout. I can’t think of another cave so resolutely horizontal, which at least makes it very suitable for new cavers.
At first, it’s easy walking with the added attraction of large numbers of moths snoozing on the walls. Soon we took a right at the first junction and left at the next. I remembered this much from the survey (carefully printed – and left at home!). A little notice in the passage announced “Bears”.
By this point it’s hands-and-knees crawling. Easy enough – but it does go on a bit. Eventually we could hear the streamway some distance off (or was it the bears snoring?) and even more eventually we reached it. At this point, I regretted not having the survey – which was the way on? Turning left, upstream, turned into a lowering crawl in boisterous cold water which wasn’t inviting [the survey shows it really isn’t passable]. Meanwhile, Chris investigated downstream where the water went into a small opening. He decided against going head-first into a deep pool [wisely – the survey shows a sump!].
That only left the passage off to the right we passed just before the stream. I checked it out, thinking it would rejoin the stream, but it didn’t – just more hands-and-knees crawling in 6” of water. After a while, the passage turns to the right in deepening water. Was this a sump, so I could justly claim to have got to the end? No, the passage continued, but it looked a bit of a mud wallow. A determined explorer would have carried on, but out of consideration for the others who had stayed by the stream and were probably getting cold, I turned back. That’s my story, anyway…. Checking the survey later, I was probably about 20m from the draughting choke that marks the furthest point of the cave.
Returning, we met a family group, warned them of the bears and reached the first junction. Chris and I checked the left fork out for some distance. This was more like a normal cave passage, with some variety and even a bit of calcite. This also turns from walking to crawling to flat-out crawling and after a bit we decided we’d extracted as much fun as we were going to get from the cave.
Regrouping at the entrance, it was voted an unusual cave in that it had so little variety in so much length. Glad to have done it, but may not be rushing back… John admitted he had not fallen in love with caving but would try it again. We’ll make sure he does!