Saturday November 29th 2014
Members present: Adam Walmsley, Alistair Rollinson, Patrick Kelly, Sarah Jefferys
The entrance was found without much ado, and it was here that we decided it might be worth giving the description a bit of a read. Well, we didn't like the sound of it - not one bit. There was me thinking it would be pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch, sump. Nope, there was to be hardship involved on this trip, over and above any lingering hangovers.
So it was with some trepidation that we thrutched our way into the cave entrance. A little free climb dropped into a vestibule where we met the stream which was to accompany us through the rest of the trip. Sadly this stream wasn't sweet clean spring water or peaty moorland tea, but a reddish brown trickle of cloudy algal soup with a whiff of slurry. There was no mucking around - we were down and dirty in the water straight away, sideways crawling along a rifty canal which ended in an alcove. I was still high off the black grouse and sang some Mendelssohn as I watched the others struggle through. A short dogleg out of the water was followed by a squeeze down into a duck and further crawling along the slimy stream.
The cave had a certain foreboding nature about it, far from the warm cuddly friendliness so common in the Western Dales. This was Wharfedale, with its dark limestone and small sharp passage and infinite variety of ways to trap your tacklesack. Next up came a long, involved crawl over muddy boulders which popped us out into a small chamber. Having done all the above with srt kits on, it was nice to read that this chamber would be a great place to put srt kits on ready for the second pitch.
We shimmied along the next short rift traverse to the pitch head which was fairly economical on space. While I faffed around with ropes and what not, Ali was kind enough to empty his welly water down my neck, prompting me (not unreasonably) to scream like a little girl. The pitch head looked somewhat improbable and it took a good deal of jiggling to coax my hips through the slot. This gave me slight concern about our return journey, but I tried not to think on it too much. Past the constriction, the pitch opened into an impressive pot. I looked around for the p-hanger I had been promised, but to no avail. So I searched in the bag for the bolts I had packed, again without luck. I shrugged my shoulders and abseiled to the bottom. I'd had the responsibility of rigging thrust upon me, so I was quite happy to get away with a single bowline round a natural.
Once collected, we had a poke around the next little section, past some long straws to the top of the third pitch. Of course without bolts we couldn't descend it, and in any case, time was marching on. We had dragged two full tacklesacks containing 7 ropes and umpteen krabs down this pot. Hooray for optimism!
As it happened, the awkward pitch head was fine on the way up. The team got their wiggle on and made swift progress out of the cave. As we walked back down the hill, we could see the lights of the Yockenthwaite group across the valley and could hear the owl that said group had flustered. We got changed, I fell in the river, and we headed back to Swarthghyll to stuff ourselves silly on Christmas dinner. Bliss.
Please don't be put off this lovely cave by the above description; I've obviously exaggerated for effect.
A return trip is planned - GET KEEN!