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Providence Pot / Dow Cave - 03 Nov 2007

Saturday November 3rd 2007

Members present: Adrian Turner,  Andrew Gilmartin,  Gary Douthwaite,  James Gregory,  Jessica Walkup,  Matt Ewles

Report by Matt Ewles

An excellent trip, quite physically demanding, but a very satisfying feeling to achieve the full through trip in good time.

The section of Providence Pot to Stalagmite corner is easy to navigate, and the description in 'not for the faint hearted' is excellent up to this point. Relatively easy going in the streamway following the same description finally (after a fair bit of progress) arrives in 800 yards chamber, although we were a little uncertain up until then as to whether we had missed it. Basically routefinding involves following the streamway.

800 yards chamber is however easily recognisable, with the obvious way on into a narrow stream level rift being directly opposite the entrance to the chamber. It was just down this rift that things started to get interesting and keeping track on where we were on the description was more challenging. The first obsticle, a narrow squeeze in the streamway is best negotiated head first, wiggling at stream level if needed. Shortly after this, the section known as 'The Narrows' ensues, which Ade couldn't fit past. Two handlines prior to this point provided a choice of points to ascend to approx 4 m above stream level, with an awkward holdless travese for approx 8-10 m leading to wedged boulders. Climbing through and sticking to the left hand wall (as you progress downstream) regains a holdless traverse, narrow enough to shimmy down by body-jamming. This is quite a committing step as climbing back up would be challenging!

Soon after this the rock porthole was reached, which you climb through. Several sections before and after this require some difficult handline climbs up out of the streamway and some exposed climbs back down. These climbs are quite challenging for the already tired caver, and therefore a fit and strong team of confident climbers is highly recommended. The final climb down after the gypsum traverse was quite tricky too, and the handline 'ladder' does more to hinder than to help the descent. Easy sideways progress through deep (belly height) water eventually opens out and the duck under the giant flowstone to Dow Cave is soon reached, to our great relief. We were very glad to have Ades car parked near to Dow Cave to save on the very long walk back to Kettlewell.

Six people was a good number, however, all individuals must be fit and strong, particularly at challenging handline climbs, and chimneying up rifts. Gary is right that routefinding is more or less follow the stream until you hit a blockage, and when this happens, just chimney up the passage, traverse up and over the blockage, and chimney back down. An excellent trip, and highly recommended.