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.

Boggart’s Roaring Hole – 11th August 2013

Boggart’s Roaring Hole – Andy G, Paul R, Helen, Andy J, Jason


The fact that a cave appears in Not For The Faint-Hearted always seems like a good reason to avoid it.  But I joined the others in Bernies before setting off to park at Cold Cotes, which at least wasn’t living up to its name, especially as I had just purchased my first ever furry suit !  NFTFH suggested it would take 6-8 hours to bottom the hole (9 pitches) and given that its target audience might be a little fitter than us, we decided to aim for a more achievable 6 pitches. Finding the entrance was not without interest – the path starts clearly straight up the hill, but it becomes vaguer and when you reach a level bench you leave it entirely to head left.  The entrance is big enough, and is near the edge of the bench but picking a way over the bog is a bit of a challenge.  Helen’s determined map-reading led us to the right spot, where it was a question of which hole to pick ?


It turns out that, with your back to Ingleborough, the correct entrance is towards the left of the depression, directly under a healthy hawthorn bush.  Going down a sloping boulder to the right of the bush reveals a Y-hang, though reaching it requires a certain amount of grappling amongst the thorns.  A machete would be useful equipment on a future trip!  The healthy state of the vegetation also indicated that this wasn’t a well-visited pot.  An unrecognised jewel of the Dales, clearly!


Anyway, when the hang had finally been found, Andy G rigged a very nice straight drop of about 13m.  The more obvious way on is the shaft to the left which is the ‘old’ route which only descends part way, so we turned to the narrower – and rather loose – slope to the right.  This leads through a narrow rift to a sort of tiny crow’s nest above the short second pitch (~ 5m).  Anticipating that getting off the pitch head on the return might be awkward, Andy wisely tied in the end of the rope from the first pitch.


From the small chamber at the bottom of the second, a short tightish flat-out crawl leads immediately to the third pitch – in the sense that as soon as you emerge from the squeeze you are dangling over its lip.

Fortunately there are a number of big flakes to grab while you manoeuvre yourself onto the rope – in fact I found it easier to climb down the first bit.  However, I wouldn’t have fancied rigging from that position and neither did Andy, so he handed the rope over to Andy J, made his excuses and left.  After a rebelay half-way down, a free-hang completes the final 5m or so.  After this pitch comes the novelty of some upright progress – along a steeply-descending narrow rift.  Easy enough to slither down crab-style, but something of a sod on the way out!


When I caught up with Helen, Andy was rigging pitch 4 (the amusingly-named Fever Pitch).  This is approached by the same tight rift, now much lower and with a playful right-angle twist to get onto the pitch.  A few moments later as I heard Paul approaching behind me, Helen was experiencing temporary enwedgement getting onto the rope.  The timing was unfortunate as she was making good use of acoustic methods to get free when Paul caught up with me – he suddenly decided it was not for him and followed Andy G to the surface for a nice walk in the rain.  Having seen how not to do it, I shimmied onto the rope fairly easily and enjoyed the 16m free hang into a decent-sized chamber.


From here, the way is – of course – a flat-out crawl.  This soon arrives at a T-junction where I tried to proceed through a hole, which I found utterly impossible to pass. “Struggling a bit in this hole…” I wheezed out to Helen ahead.  “Which side are you trying to get through ?” came the reply.  Evidently the wrong one!  Having reversed and found the rather obvious and much easier route I soon caught up to a pleasingly larger space – still low, but wide and comfortable as long as you avoid the two large blind pits in the floor.  From there, the short pitch 5 dropped into a modest chamber called Penguin Hall but alas, there were no flightless birds or chocolate biscuits to be seen.


Some more crawling follows, then a bit of a climb down, and more crawling in a blasted passage (take that how you want…)  Many of the drill-marks are easily visible on the walls; one can only speculate on the tenacity (and lunacy ?) of those who made them.  Finally another flat-out section leads to another short pitch.  Having run low on ironmongery by now, this was rigged from a tape in the roof, which was quite satisfactory.  While Helen and I caught up, Andy couldn’t resist investigating pitch 7 which was only a short crawl away.  But as NFTFH conceded that SRT gear might need to be removed for it, I was quite content to miss out on this.  With some surprise we found we’d only been underground for about two hours – it certainly felt longer!


For the return, we kept the same order at first so I derigged the first two pitches.  I was finding the going a bit warm (did I mention my new furry suit?) and wearing, so we decided that after pitch 4 I’d go on with the 2 ropes in one bag leaving Andy and Helen to derig with the other bag.  This was a great relief as it meant I could take my time and admire the many sheep bones that lend the place its distinctive aroma.  But first I had to get off Fever Pitch, which would have been quite amusing for anyone in a position to view the performance.  The only possibility seemed to be to reverse into the rift feet-first and push oneself upwards and backwards by hand, to-and-froing to release various bits of SRT gear as they caught in rubble.

A slow thrutch up the ascending rift was followed by the welcome sight of the entrance series of pitches which now seemed simplicity by comparison.  On exit, it was raining a little (we had missed a torrential downpour enjoyed by Andy G and Paul !) but it had very little effect on the cave other than make the entrance a bit drippy.

I was soon joined by Andy and Helen after a total underground time of a little over 4 hours, which felt like a good effort for a cave with so much ‘interest’!