Grey Wife Hole
Friday April 15th 2022
Members present: Paulina Poterlowicz, Rosie Marshall, Viki Smyth
Context: After playing cards at Viki’s house we all headed of to Rosie’s to sleep but decided to go on a post-midnight walk beforehand.
Me: “Im not even tired, could we not just go to the Dales now?”
Viki: (very eager) “Can we actually!!!?”
Rosie: “I do kind of want to”
Me: Oh don’t say that I really want to now”
After this we started planning how to get food and fuel and who we could leave callout with, the plan was very much forming.
Everything was coming together nicely until we were about 5 minutes away from Rosie’s house and the tiredness hit…. Needless to say, the plan was sensibly binned off.
The morning started blissfully late with Viki and I acquiring pastries to go with the large quantity of cake and biscuits we already had curtesy of Viki (we planned to have a picnic) and Rose cooking breakfast.
After we got our lives together we set of for the Dales (taking a mysterious new route out of York- We took a quick stop at Inglesport so I could acquire some new cowtails (it really really was time…) and got some new information! Apparently the entrance to grey wife was “very grown over and hard to open” hmm…this was slightly concerning and Rosie and I spent the rest of the journey hoping we could actually get into a cave. We even had a backup plan! (Notts 2).
We soon arrived at the parking spot and had our pasties whilst I attempted to tie my new cowtails to the correct length, after much faff we were ready to go and we set of up the fell.
About 15 minutes in we discovered something that would make the entire journey worth it! A perfectly preserved sheep’s skull with teeth and all! We could not leave this amazing find but neither did we want to carry it up the hill with us so Rosie put an aptly named BONES pin in our GPS and we carried on with a promise to return for the skull.
After some more walking we found the cave! And it was indeed quite grown over but not at all difficult to open. We sent Viki down first with the intention of having her rig the first pitch. As soon as I entered the cave I noticed how well, abrasive it was. Definitely not the most visited of destinations. And very rough on my poor battered oversuit. After the initial climb down were met with a crawl that the description stated “may need excavating” Viki did do some minor excavating but it mostly consisted of moving oversized pebbles and the crawl is only about 2-3 metres so its very undramatic as a whole.
After this it was some awkward sideways walking through the winding streamway till we reached the head of the pitch. One look at this and it was quickly decided this was not a good first rig. There was nowhere to back up the rope and the first bolt was quite far out and straight over the drop. So I rigged it instead. Of course it couldn’t be simple, the Y hang, easy but I spent a while trying to find an appropriate natural to right he deviation of, eventually I settled for a square bolder, which whilst lacking in deep groves was rough enough that the sling was thoroughly wedged. The end result a beautiful if odd looking (but most importantly sturdy) work of art.
Once down the pitch we reached the sump which the description claimed you could avoid swimming through by balancing on some underwater ledges. Fortunately there was an insitu traverse because the description definitely lies. There were no ledges. I wasted too much time not really wanting to commit to the swim. The water was full of hay and quite ominous looking but eventually I realised I couldn’t avoid it. I just about managed to keep my torso dry by pulling myself up on the traverse line. Unfortunately, Viki was not so lucky. Rosie in her usual fashion had mostly managed to avoid getting wet but just….Hovering?
Traverse done it was more painful side ways walking, crawling, and awkward traversing, that sort of just blends into one. But it was all worth it once we reached Jims traverse.
Honestly this traverse was the entire reason I was so adamant on coming to this cave. When I saw the black book suggest bringing a climbing rope I knew it was my destiny to face this beautiful creation. Of course I hadn’t actually expected to do the traverse. I thought id get there, see how sketchy it is and go nope. But at least be satisfied in having laid eyes on it. Rosie too had low expectations of success.
Leading up the traverse was a two metre climb onto a ledge followed by another two metre climb…a climb which I decided to do quite terrible by throwing a sling over a boulder and flopping this big sticky out rock just above me instead of doing the smart thing and just…going around it. Anyway that done I started rigging. The first butterfly was easy since there was a politely placed sling and maillon telling you exactly where it should go but after this It got more difficult….the entire traverse is rigged of naturals and my next sling was placed around an uncomfortably small pillar of stall….because there wasn’t anywhere else!? Like at all? I already didn’t want to fall of this traverse but this only motivated me not to fall even more as to be honest…I wasn’t sure it would hold. The next sling was placed of a very sketchy looking boulder. Now this sling looked terrible but was probably one of the most reliable ones. Again I didn’t like it but there was no where else to attach too! The next section of the traverse was the sketchiest. 6 metres of the ground, on a very exposed traverse with miniscule footholds only accessible by doing semi splits and protection so sketchy you may as well not have any at all. To make matters worse I got tangled in the traverse line I just rigged. Once I got my life together I made the final step and finished the traverse…. only to realise I dropped the rope. So back to the sketchy exposed bit to grab it…yay. This was probably one of the most fun traverses I have done! I wasn’t sure about it when I started simply because the black book describes it as loose and the entire cave up to that point had been very very loose (with rock coming of the walls multiple times) so I expected very unstable footholds but actually that wasn’t the case at all and all holds were pretty reliable. After this I feel quite close to Jim really. We had a real bonding experience, I swore at him, sung about him, recited some poetry and made odd noises which viki described as “bird like” whilst rigging. Viki followed along the traverse with no dramas and Rosie was last, she had the fun job of de-rigging it as she was going along (you do a pull through down a waterfall using the same rope on the way back).
At this point it had just turned 5 so we carried on to poets corner saw the nice formations, saw the very not nice duck and decided…ehh not today and started on our way back. The journey back was very quick and very smooth with the only excitement occurring when Rosie rather spectacularly slipped whilst drying to once more hover over the sump.
“Well I can confirm there’s definitely no underwater footholds…”
After that we quickly left the cave and had some of Viki’s amazing cookies in the warm daylight. After which we went to rescue our skull and finished of the rest of our picnic by the car.
I really really enjoyed this cave, I think the sump and traverse make it unique enough that its definitely worth doing. I've heard this described as a collectors piece but I honestly think it has a lot to offer.