Saturday, 16 February 2013

Pippikn Pot

Present: Bob, Paul W (Author)

I had mentioned to Bob at the clubs Christmas party last November over several beers that I would like to push myself a little bit further and do some of the more committing trips and I suggested Pippikin as I thought it is a system he knows well and had done many times. Also last month he gave taster trip of the lower system by entering Mistral and going throughout the system up to Gour Hall taking in all the other passages and impressive chambers on the way and was a system I want to get to know better.

Well on this trip it was our intention to go in through the top entrance of Pippikin Pot and out through Mistral hole which is in the east wall of Easegill.

I arrived at a very quiet Bernie's with Just Bob and myself and the usual grumpy table there , the debate today was about nuclear power and the fact that we don't make anything in Britain any more!

Bob started telling me what to expect with this trip and explained that the tight bits are a sequence of squeezes at the top and “if you can get through those the rest of it will be no problem” he also said that it is a clean and dry comfortable cave, when I told him I was a bit apprehensive about it he told me he “gets a bit nervous” also. I wasn't sure if this was a good or bad thing!

I had been told by many people I would get through so now was as good a time as any and with that we loaded up the car and drove up to Leck Fell house . Bob found the farmer and asked permission to access the cave and the kind farmer generously let us both get changed in a barn which was very welcome as there was quite a bit of snow on the ground.

All too soon we were ready and made the walk acrross the fields and started to look for the entrance to Pippikin pot.

As soon as you get into the entrance of the pothole you immediately descend a ten meter pitch and then at the bottom I head bobs voice shout to me to crawl through a horizontal gap that tuned into a round hole that slopes down hill. As I slid down this steep rock tube it opened out into a small chamber where there is no floor I looked over at Bob sat on a single scaffolding pole that was placed across the top of the 4-5 meter deep hole I placed one hand on the pole to prevent me falling down the hole and Bob explained the next step.

Our way on was on through a vertical slot in the wall on my right hand side. It was time to remove the SRT kit so I could be sure I would get through as I did not relish getting stuck so soon. Bob went through first while I passed him our SRT kits then it was my turn,control your breathing, keep high, relax and let your body flow through and don't worry about getting stuck or you will get stuck I kept telling myself! and that was me through the first squeeze.

Much of the rest of the way down was pretty similar consisting of a sequence of pitches and squeezes separated by nice passage. There was one section called Stemple rift tha was another 2-3 meters long vertical slot that you had post yourself through like a rolled up newspaper then once you come out of the other end you emerge in a chamber head first with the floor 3 meters below you . To aid you on your way there is a short horizontal acro prop positioned about a meter below the slot which enables you to get your self sorted out and climb back down to the floor. The cave started to get bigger at from here and we entered a chamber with some fine formations then worked our way into a winding rift that the stream flows along. At the top section of this passage was a narrow zigzag bend the passage dropped but to get into it required somehow getting over the top of the narrow bit and dropping down just where the passage bends around the corner. A thin person would probably be able to slide through and it did look possible for me to squeeze through so I had a go. My legs stomach and lower torso got through no problem but my chest? no chance. I was wedged in by chest with my legs dangling in thin air desperately trying to push myself back up the rift but I could not get and grip to free my self off. Bob managed to stand underneath me and I put my foot on his shoulder and pushed myself up and along the rift to where it widened and then slid down the into the stream bed . This bit of the cave could be extremely difficult to get back up if your like me short! Luckily we were not planning on going out this way.

After following the stream winding its way down the rift passage for twenty minutes or so I started to recognise where we were from our last trip. The passage lowered and to our left there was a wide bedding plane that when we crawled along came to a big pile of boulders we climbed up the boulders and emerged into the impressive Hall of Ten chamber. Yes I got through Pippikin!

After a brief rest we made our way though the chambers and passages of Dusty Junction and the Hobbit then followed the draft toward the crumbles then turn right and a crawl back up into Mistral Hole.

The walk back to the car was tiring enough for me today and I can imagine that before Mistral hole was opened Pippikin Pot would have been a serious and committing undertaking. I would like to have a go at going out of it one day but I think I need to work on my climbing and fitness a bit first and grow a few inches .. maybe!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Mistral - Pippikin

Mistral Hole Easegill Present Bob, Fay, Emma, Dan, Paul Whittaker (Author)

Well due to continuing heavy rainfall this was not the trip we had planned. Instead it was one of those that was decided over a coffee at Bernie's and the consensus was a look around Mistral.
 I was keen to get more knowledge of this vast system on Easegill so we wasted no time and took the familiar route over towards Easegill and at over 100km of passage, makes this the site of one of the largest if not THE largest cave system in Europe.
We kitted up outside Bullpot farm and made the trek over the fell then started looking along the east wall of Easegill we soon located the walled off entrance to Mistral and climbed down the entrance shaft then started the crawl along the dug out fissure. The passage has a few ninety degree bends and then after a few minuets we climbed over a few rocks and into a chamber where we could stand up. There were passages that went immediately to the left and one that headed over to the right, the right hand passage heads towards the Crumbles entrance series. We wanted to go to the left passage and get further into the system . This left hand passage is a hands and knees crawl for a short distance and soon opens up into a nice chamber named The Hobbit. There were seemingly numerous passages to take but as ever Bob knew the way and we had another tunnel to crawl along. After a while the tunnel opened out into a nice chamber known as dusty junction. This was identifiable by some piles of stones arranged in the middle of the floor this is also the junction that has the connection to Link pot. Bob led the way along some large tunnels that tuned into big impressive and very muddy chambers the first one was named The Hall Of Ten we had a quick look around the boulders on the floor to the Pippikin stream way but more of this later. We made our way on through into another big chamber with a thick gooey mud floor and some very interesting and anatomically peculiar man made mud sculptures, don't ask! Now our next destination was to Gour Hall so after negotiating the thickest mud floor I have ever had to tread to the top end of the chamber a tunnel heading off to the right was revealed. This passage was a mixture of hand and knees crawling with some flat out sections and a couple of minor squeezes however the passage soon gets bigger and opens up into a fine chamber with some impressive stalagmite bosses that have been taped off .We followed the chamber towards the left and then following a nicely decorated passage soon opened up into a beautifully decorated chamber called Gour Hall. We took in the sights and admired the stunning gour pools at the bottom of the chamber the static pools were filled right to the edges and looked like horizon swimming pools with the reflections of the stalactites mirrored in the surface of the water. I wish I could show you a picture but this was probably the only trip I didn't have my camera! To say I was gutted is understating it, still its another excuse to go back someday! After Dan and Fay had a look at one of the many on going digging projects we made our way back to the Hall of Ten and started wriggling through the boulders in the floor to the Pippikin stream way . Going through the boulders required a little contortion but you soon reached a small chamber with a stream flowing along the floor. We made our way upstream for a few meters and had to climb upwards and crawl along the top of the narrow fissure with your legs and arms straddling the stream twenty feet below. I didn't like this bit as I was covered in mud and struggling for grip and I had visions of sliding down into the rift below flashing through my head, this was partly bought about by Jack Pickup in Bernie's telling us about a recent rescue in Pippikin where a girl exhausted slid into a rift and got jammed in there! She did however get herself out by the time the rescue team got there. This passage seemed exactly as Jack described but we soon reached a right hand passage that lead into another the top of another rift with a bigger stream flowing, the noise of crashing water getting louder. The rift had a rectangular rock forming a small bridge half way down the rift,Bob being a proficient climber had no problem getting down I was a little more tentative , I got a foot on the bridge and tried to chimney the rest of the way down but just ended up holding onto the bridge and letting go. It was not as bad as it first looked when I originally stared over the edge! Dan and Emma made their way down using a little improvised acrobatics. We followed the passage downstream and went past the roaring water from the Cigalere inlet passage then after following the passage further we arrived at some boulders stacked with an obvious exit in the roof. We climbed back out of the boulders and arrived back into the big muddy chamber at the far side of the Hall of Ten. We started to make our way back and Dan and Emma decided to test there route finding skills and between us we managed to get back to the recognisable Dusty Junction and we then negotiated the crawls and passages then we got to the chamber called The Hobbit and from there we could feel the fresh air that you sense when you get close to the entrance. Another short crawl and we came to the small chamber at the end of the entrance crawls .Emma suggested we go right and I agreed, this section is a bit narrow in places but I could feel the cool fresh air blowing past me and we just carried on for a little further then we emerged into the entrance shaft and day light. This was my first time down this part of the vast three counties system and it is a fine section of the system with some great passages ,big chambers and fine formations. I still feel I don't know my way around it, but it is something I will just have to learn section by section. Overall this is a great cave is a definite one to do again.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Burnley Caving Club Annual Dinner 17/10/2012

The 17th of November 2012 saw Burnley Caving Club travel to the Dales to spend an evening at Clapham Bunkhouse drinking beer, singing songs, and eating pies.

A good time was had by all, although there were a few bad heads in the morning as everyone shot off to nurse their hangovers at home.

Below are a few pictures and a couple of videos of everyone (trying) to sing.

We were treated to a couple of interesting slideshows by Fay, showing use pictures of her last couple of trips abroad

Simon doing his duties tending to the fire

Paul tucking into the wine he won in the raffle

BCC's very own Noel Gallagher strumming away, heroically learning the songs as he went along

I think this was a quieter moment after the meal while everyone was digesting their pies

The video above is what I consider to be one of the finest renditions of Wonderwall ever committed to film.

Garth leading a fine rendition of Rawtenstall Annual Fair!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Coalpithole Shaft No.10 16.10.12

     On 16th October 2012, with the kind permission of the landowner, members of Burnley Caving Club descended Coalpithole shaft No.10 on Rushup Edge. This shaft was sunk in 1870 by the Peak Forest Mining Company and passed through about 440 feet of shale to limestone. Originally 610 feet deep, it reached the Coal Pit Hole Old vein, the founder meer of which was freed in 1760 when the partners of Coal Pit Hole gave one dish of lead ore. This major lead rake, 3 miles west of Castleton, trends for about 1 mile SE-NW commencing at Mine Cottage, Peak Forest, over the shoulder of Gautries Hill, crossing the B6061 Sparrowpit to Castleton road and the limestone-shale boundary to the shales of Rushup Edge. It is intersected by No.1 shaft, Rake shaft 320 feet deep, Veer Shaft 230 feet deep, Hilltop Shaft 100 feet deep, No. 3/8 shaft,  (100 yards North of B6061) 207 feet deep to water and No.10 shaft. (NGR 092 812). From 1865-1878 Coalpithole Mine was one of the richest lead mines in Derbyshire, comparable to Mill Close Mine, Darley Bridge. It was one of the first mines to have a horizontal steam winding and pumping engine, originally made by Bray and Co: Leeds in 1853 for Brightside Mine, Hassop. The mine was drained by the underground watercourse of Perryfoot  swallet. Dye inserted at No 3/8 shaft took 2 days to reach Rake shaft , 5-6 days to get to Speedwell main rising, emerging at Russet Well, 1.75 miles away, after 7 days .

    Bob Riley exiting Coalpithole Shart No. 10 Photo Fay Hartley
    With trepidation we removed the trapdoor in the large 12 foot by 9 foot metal grill capping and rigged a 120m rope plus 8m ladder for ease of access. The shaft looked huge, beautifully coloured with streaks of black, brown, white and orange, gradually tapering in diameter to what looked like infinity. From the surface to 50 feet, it is walled with large dressed blocks of limestone, below this the ginging is of red brick. We did not notice the small passage, 2 feet high by 1 foot wide, at a depth of 20 feet which is said to lead off SW. A few large orange “snottites”, probably colloidal haematite hung down the shaft. Bits fell off, landing with a frightening “boom” in the water below. A few narrow jets of water entered the shaft about 30 feet above the water surface but the ginging was in good condition overall. Unfortunately, the shaft was blocked and flooded with water at 230 feet and there was an oily smell. It would be interesting to use a “sniffer” to monitor radon levels and a MSA Altair 4X to measure carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide and combustible e.g. methane gases. Has anyone been down Hilltop, Rake or Veer shafts recently?
1.       Williams D. 2003 Bulletin PDMHS Vol. 15, No.3 An Attempt in 1935-37 to Rework Coalpithole Mine, Peak Forest, Derbyshire.
2.       Elliot D. 1975 Caves of Northern Derbyshire Part 3
3.       Ford T.D. 1966 B.S.A. Cave Science Vol.5 No. 39 p379
4.       Salmon L.B. and Boldock G. 1949 Cave Science Vol.2 No. 9 p 15-20 Perryfoot Caves.
5.       Salmon L.B. 1963 Cave Science Vol.5 No.33 p 36-52
6.       Crabtree P.W. 1967 Journal British Speleological Assoc. Vol6 No.42 p43-61 The Peak Forest Mines, Part 1, The Development of Coalpithole Mine.
7.       Ford T.D. and Rieuworts J.H. Lead Mining in the Peak District.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Ingelborough Cave 10/11/2012

Ingelborough Cave 10/11/2012
Present: Dan, Paul W, Fay, Bob & Conrad

Saturday the 10th of November so me (Dan), Paul, Fay, Bob and Conrad making our way to Ingleborough show cave. I was eagerly anticipating the trip as due to commitments, I had not been able to go caving for the past few months. I thought Ingleborough would be a nice introduction back into active caving, “After all” I thought, “It’s only a show cave, it must be easy”. Turns out it was a bit tougher than I expected, quite strenuous, but ultimately enjoyable and worth doing.

We all met in Clapham on a fine, crisp autumnal morning at 9.30, to find the cafe shut. However, the New Inn saved our skins and made us a pot of coffee while we discussed the route and perused the survey. After our caffeine hit we all stripped off in the freezing cold, got our wetsuits on (while Conrad got his ‘sheepsuit’ on), and began the trek up to Ingleborough. Upone arriving at the cave we paid our dues and discussed the route with John Cordingley, one of the employees of the establishment and all round good guy. He recommended we didn’t go past ‘the wallows’, due to recent rainfall and the threat of showers. These are two sections of passage towards the end of the cave known as the near and far wallows. They are essentially grotty little flat out crawls full of water with a small amount of breathing space that flood rapidly and regularly. Before the trip I knew about these sections, but had also heard of a difficult but doable bypass around the wallows in an upper series. I mentioned this to John but he informed me that this bypass was actually in between the near and far wallows, and even if the far wallows flooded and you could bypass it, you would still be stuck. Definitely not an option. A shame as after the wallows you get to ‘Inauguration Passage’, which is supposed to be one of the finest sections of passage on Ingleborough. Before we headed into the cave we ran into the first problem of the day - Conrad's light packed in. Luckily we all had a spare torch and I gave him my hand torch, which is the same LED as my helmet lamp and is extremely powerful.

Conrad trying (and failing) to fix his lamp
So knowing we weren’t going to be able to do the full cave, we set off through the show cave, which is about 5 minutes (brisk walking) of beautiful passage, absolutely chock full of really nice formations, some pretty little waterfalls, and a lot of impressive looking flowstone. I’ve been in the show cave when I was a kid and I remember thinking it was great then, but I had forgot how spectacular it was, and the guys who run it have done well keeping the alteration of the cave to a minimum. When we got to the end of the show cave, I realised I had left my gloves back in the hut, probably due to my frustration at trying to get my wetsuit off whilst going to the toilet before entering the cave. I didn’t want to hold everyone up by running back so I decided to brave it bare handed - like a real man (my bruised and cut hands that are typing this trip report seriously regret that decision).

Anyway we hurried on into the first unlit section of the cave, which is essentially a walkable series of passage punctuated with a couple of wadeable puddles. In the first one was a rubber dinghy, when I saw it I thought ‘rude not to’ and jumped in, paddling myself across the freezing water, much to the chagrin of Conrad, who I imagine was silently cursing my wetsuit-wearing self while I stayed dry and he got his sheepskin undersuit wet and heavy. After about 5 minutes of sandy passage you get to the ‘second gothic arch’. Emerging into this passage from a sandy tunnel is quite a sight. It’s an amazing bit of passage which from beginning to end has formations running down the walls from a pointed ceiling, creating a gothic arch effect. We admired this for a while while Paul took some photo’s and video, then we sat down and had a look at the survey. There was a couple of ways on at the end of the passage, one to the left and one straight on. “I’m sure it’s straight on!” proclaimed I - then proceeded to dive headfirst into a very wet, small passage in front of me. I carried on for a minute but it got narrower and narrower until I realised that it wasn’t actually this way. I shouted back to Bob then wriggled backwards out the hole, to find everyone had found the right route and were making their way onwards and downwards. I decided I didn’t need my belt, as I had forgotten to fill my water bottle (2nd thing I forgot), so I undid it and left it in the passage before following the others.

Me & Conrad in the second gothic arch passage

Giger-esque rib like formations

Me walking down the passage
After a few more minutes crawling around, we got to the first real wet section. You can see on the survey that about halfway through the trip there is a complicated looking section full of water. John had told us what to do when we got here, there is a ladder bolted to the floor which is covered in conveyer belt that leads through a wet section. This came in handy as my hands were really feeling the cold while fully submerged. After the ladder he had told us go downstream, then continue on 10 meters and there is an obvious passage. Paul was leading at the front, and he immediately found the passage, however me and Bob said we would go and have a look off to the right further downstream. I folowed Bob and just round the corner there was a passage on the left. I thought this must be what John was on about, so I shouted to everyone “FOUND IT!”. I was wrong.

After everyone had caught up I again jumped headfirst into the hole which I though was the way on, only to find that once again I had got the wrong hole as it began to close up shortly from the entrance. When I got back out everyone was disappearing further downstream following Bob. After splashing on hands and knees we then ended up spending 15 minutes flat out crawling over some really horrible, sharp rock covered in gritty sand. I think this was the place that caused the rip in my indestructible cordura suit! All the while during this little detour we were getting further away from the actual route, but eventually Bob found the way he was going simply looped back round to where we started, so we made our way back the way we came and went back to the passage Paul had originally found. You can see on the survey there is a section which looks flooded and has a couple of lakes, ‘Lake Avernus’ and ‘Lake Pluto’. We figured that our detour was around this area, so not a complete waste of time, at least we saw a bit more of the cave.

The next section is the final crawl before the Wallows, known as the ‘Far Eastern Bedding System’. This passage is a long, hard crawl on a bedding plane. Nothing much to say about it, other than I had horribly sore elbows due to not being able to use my hands properly, and I could hear a lot of huffing, puffing, and cursing coming from the guys near me (including myself). Again the rock was quite sharp stuff and it was nasty stuff to crawl on. After what I judged to be about 15 minutes flat out, we got to a downward slope which led to the near wallows. Paul knew it was the wallows from a description which mentioned some emergency telephone wire which we found. Me and Paul wiggled our way down to have a look. I couldn’t really get a brilliant look as it was so low that I couldn’t turn my head properly, but it just looked like what we had just been doing, except lower and filled with water. After we both reflected on how horrible it looked, and how glad we were we weren’t doing it, we promptly made our way back.

The return trip passed without incident, we made our way back to the second gothic arch in much quicker time due to the lack of detours, and when we got there we went and had a nosy round ‘giants cavern’, a sandy cavern with some nice formations. There was a steel ladder in the cavern and Bob untied it and tried to get up to some passages higher up the walls of the cavern, but after 10 minutes or so messing about, we decided to head back. Again the journey back the rest of the way to the end of the show cave passed without incident, and we made our way out the cave. On the way me and conrad had a shower in a waterfall to save the grit in our washing machines when we got home.

Just as I thought I was about to leave the cave, I realised mistake number 3 (or 5 if you count my navigational errors) - I had left my belt & water bottle in the second gothic arch passage!! By this point I was sore, tired, and very cold, and normally I wouldn’t have bothered just for a belt. But the belt in question is actually a bit of a family heirloom, as I was given it by my grandad who used it to cave himself when he was a young whippersnapper back in the 70’s. Too much history to leave it for sure! So I spent the next 15 minutes running all the way back, on my own, through the cave to find it. When I finally exited into the cool morning sun, I was given my keys by Paul & Conrad who had kindly waited for me, and made the trek back to the car / pub.

Emerging into the light
All in all a good trip, a shame we couldn’t do the whole thing, but nice for me in particular to get out caving again after a few months hibernating!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Marilyn – Gaping Gill Main chamber 07/10/2012

Trip report
Marilyn – Gaping Gill Main chamber 07/10/2012
Present: Bob Riley, Fay Hartley, Paul Whittaker (Author)

 Well this was a hastily arranged last minute trip and one I was looking forward to. I have not seen much of Gaping Gill and this was to be my third proper caving trip down here.
Previously I have done the obligatory Bar pot to the main chamber and back out the way we came in and the last time was Stream passage pot to the main chamber then out through Flood Entrance pot. This last trip was made easier as it was when the Bradford pothole club had the winch meet on which meant that all the popular entrances and routes had been rigged by BPC. This makes things a lot easier because  there is no time lost rigging and de-rigging and most importantly you don't have to make the three mile walk lugging bags full of rope and iron mongery  up the hill and worse still back down after five or six hours caving. So this trip would be a little harder as we had to bring our own ropes and rig and de-rig and drag out the wet heavy ropes as well.

As usual we met at a Bernie's and fay showed me the now familiar survey we were also lucky we  had Bob  coming along who's knowledge of this big system clearly gave us a massive advantage as we would find out. We drove to Clapham and parked up near the church and started to get Kitted up. We had a new member Conrad whose intention was to come along however it was decided between us that this trip could be problematic and as he had not been on a trip with us before it would be best to leave it until we get to know how proficient he is, Marilyn  was not the place to find out because if he gets into trouble it would be very difficult to assist also very dangerous as the top of the second pitch is very loose with a real risk of flying rocks raining down on the people below trying to assist or communicate. I got the impression he was quite relieved and he offered to walk up and carry one of the sacks of rope up the three mile trek which was a great help.

We took the familiar route through the nature trail, past Ingleborough cave through the gate then follow the path up the hill around the left hand bend up Trow Gill then over the double stile once past bar pot turn right off the path and through the grass there is a depression in the ground with a big concrete pipe with big galvanised steel hinged grate.

I am told this pot hole was called Marilyn due to the classic Marilyn Monroe pose where her dress get blown upwards as this pot hole can emit a big upward draft through the grate  however today there was very little draft coming through the cave.
Fay rigged the first pitch from two eyelets that were welded to the lid and she descended to the first ledge I clipped on to the rope clipped on the second rope bag and soon followed I dropped down to a ledge and then positioned my rope sack and  myself into a vertical slot and slid down this fissure until it lowered to a hands and knees crawl to the top of the second pitch.

Fay was rigging this pitch while I waited and soon Bob had joined me. Fay had rigged a Y hang that hung very close to a large amount of  loose boulders fay descended OK and I waited for the rope free signal and made sure she was out of the way. I threaded the rope  through my descender whilst attached to the P bolts with my cows tails and carefully as I could lowered the rope bag to get ready for me to descend. As soon as I pulled the lever and dropped down a few feet the rope bag touched the boulders and rocks started sliding over the ledge and dropped seventy foot to the floor below. I shouted to warn Fay but she was well out of the way I continued to descend and emerged in the passage of Disappointment pot.

Fay and myself worked our way downstream while Bob was coming down the pitch, we traversed the stream and came to another short pitch that went into an impressive final  chamber  of disappointment pot this pitch was negotiated easily and then we followed the stream to the next pitch which required a short climb and rigging a short traverse along the  wall  and then a Y hang and drop to another Y hang and then straight down to the bottom of the chamber.

At this point we could ditch the SRT kit and progressed through continuing stooping height passage that wound its way along and emerged into kind of T junction one way a big  impressive square section of passage with a stream running along it Henslers master cave. The other was a smaller low passage that led to Henslers High aven. Bob decided to have a look down Henslers master cave we walked down the passage for a few minutes until the passage bent to the right hand side and headed towards the Blow hole and the Far country.
At this point Bob and Fay decided the plan of action and as I hadn't got a clue of where I was supposed to be going I just followed Bob. We re-traced our steps back towards the  T junction near Disappointment pot and I noticed  someone had scratched a giant arrow in the wall pointing the way out I made a mental note of this and we turned right and made our way along a passage on hands and knees sections of crawling. After a while we emerged  into  an echo y  chamber with what seemed passages heading off in all directions,as I got to my feet as Fay told me “this is Henslers high aven” and I stared upward into a black void with flat vertical walls my lights would just make out roughly where the top is, then Bob just mentioned in the most understated way “I've  climbed up that” I was absolutely gob smacked, incredible, it had to be 100ft of sheer wet rock face with no obvious foot or hand holds I was awestruck!
Bob knew exactly what tunnel to pick and we started on Henslers mud crawl this passage alternated between flat out and hands and knees crawling, yes it was muddy and in some sections the water filled the passages leaving just enough room to gulp some air.

The crawling soon relented and we came to a gap on our left hand side that went upwards through muddy boulders and onto a slippery mud covered climb we carried on and emerged into the East passage and made the left turn and made our way into the vast Mud Hall. This chamber is impressive and quite easy to negotiate using the fixed traverse lines but if you slip you can drop instantly 30meters into a deep hole. The drop wont kill you but the deceleration when you hit the bottom will!So I held on to the lines with both hands tightly and concentrated on where I placed my feet as the floor is sheet mud with indentations where people and trod over the years. Ideally cows tails would be advisable but we didn't have any, our SRT kits had been left at the bottom of Disappointment pot so we just had to be careful! At the top of the slope of mud hall the passage narrows, the way on heads towards  Gaping gill main chamber, along this section of passage there are taped areas to protect the fine formations, sadly it is quite apparent that a lot of these formations are just a shadow of what they used to be.

In no time at all the rumbling from Britain highest waterfall could be heard and the passage opened up into a big mass of blackness. We went down the iron ladder at the top of the east slope and clambered down the boulders on to the floor of awesome Gaping Gill Main chamber. This really is a special place and when you have the whole system to yourself you look up and can see a tiny patch of blue sky at the opening of the main shaft, you can see the water flowing over the edge and watch it take an age to drop from top to bottom. You can see jets of water coming out of the other tunnels in the roof of the chamber and you can look at the water seemingly instantly vanish  through the floor. All of a sudden you realise its a long way back to the surface and you have to summon enough energy to propel your body weight plus the accumulated water held in your clothing back up the 340 foot back to planet normal so after a quick look around the chamber we immediately set off on the familiar route along the south east passage.

We climb up the boulders on the south side of the chamber and take the stooping and hands and knees trade route .We get to the T junction and turn left and after a while we go into the circular shaft of flood entrance pot,after climbing over the opposite nick we work our way along  the rift and emerge into the chamber at big pitch at Bar pot. We continued up the rocky slope away from Bar Pot and in the next chamber I saw Bobs feet disappearing through a hole in the floor on the left hand side of the chamber. I followed Bob head first and the passage headed towards the left along a low flat out crawl ,as we made our way along the passage we I noticed other small passages on both sides Bob obviously knew the way so  I just kept following bob.

We finally came back into the start of Henslers master cave and I recognised the arrow someone had scratched on the wall pointing the way into Disappointment pot .We followed this stooping height passage and climbed up some boulders into the big chamber at the bottom of Disappointment pot  where we left the SRT kits. We had a sit down for a couple of minutes and then it was time to get the SRT kits back on.

I went first up the pitch then followed the stream up to the next pitch that leads out of the chamber along a traverse twenty feet over a narrow stream this is negotiated quite easily and soon the rope  from the second pitch of Marilyn comes into view. This is the biggest pitch of the trip and it had the added attraction of falling rocks so fay and Bob stayed out of the way whilst I prussiked up. I made my way up the rope and got passed the deviations and the loose rock slope at the pitch head came into view. The next task was to clip the cows tails on to the horizontal rope,detach my self from the vertical rope and feed myself into the horizontal tunnel.

The start of the third pitch at Marilyn

I crawled up this tunnel until the roof went upwards in a narrow slot and it was back on the ropes and prussiked upwards into it. Soon the slot opened up into the entrance shaft and one more rope to go and I dragged my body over the lip of the entrance shaft and sat down on the grass for a few seconds and got my breath back. I got back to my feet and had a look at roughly where we had been while Bob and Fay were doing sterling work de-rigging and dragging the ropes back out. We had done quite a big trip and I had learnt quite a lot about the system and in time I will get to know where all the passages lead to and get used to the different sections of the system.

At present there is about 11.6km of known passage and the journey from  Gaping Gill to Ingleborough cave has only been completed once in 1983 by two divers doing it as an exchange trip. An underwater section of the  route  has now collapsed and it is unlikely it will be ever be done again. There are a number of ongoing digs going in Ingleborough cave and there are always possibilities of finding new passage  in Gaping Gill. There is a beautiful chamber that I have been down that is full of thousands of straw stalactites and this was found relatively recently by just displacing a few rocks and crawling down a muddy tunnel. So these places are still there to be found and discoveries are bound to be made but the holy grail would be to find a dry connection from Gaping Gill to Ingleborough cave. Now that would be a good trip! However we did OK today.

This cave system was one of the main reasons I took up caving. I had stood along with other walkers peering over the side of Gaping Gill and wondered what it would be like to stand at the bottom and stare up and I had also been up there on bank holidays when the winch has been on and went down on the winch on three separate occasions but this trip has shown me lots of the system. We have only scratched the surface and there is a lot more to see but I have been in some fantastic places such as Henlers master cave , Mud Hall, Henslers High aven and the obligatory Main chamber all in one trip ! Brilliant day brilliant cave.

Till the next time!


Monday, 17 September 2012

Simpson Pot 15/09/2012

Simpson Pot to Valley entrance pull through trip.

Present Andy H, Paul L, Geoff B, Paul Whittaker (myself)

Where do I start! At Bernie's as usual , we met up and had the usual coffee's and sandwiches and embarked onto a pull through trip going down Simpson pot and emerging at the roadside at valley entrance in Kingsdale sounds great!

After a short drive we kitted up at the side of the road and Andy and myself set off into valley entrance to rig a ladder to enable us to get back into the high level passage on our way out. Pull through trips mean that you go in one entrance and you take the ropes with you and make your way through the cave to come out of another lower entrance. This process means that once you have pulled the first rope through of the first pitch it means you may not get back up it and you are committed to going through.
Simpson Pot is a small entrance on a plateau three hundred and sixty seven feet above valley entrance above the rocky slope on the west side of Kingsdale, the passage winds its way towards the east and drops down to below road level into a big stream where various other pot holes and inlets converge this section is Kingsdale master cave. You then have to climb up to a high level passage via a rope or ladder that we previously rigged and emerge into a plastic pipe in the side of the hill exit to the plastic pipe entrance beside the road. So it is downhill caving and no long walk to the car sounds easy right!

After rigging valley entrance we set off up the hill and located the entrance. We started working our way through hands and knees crawling sections and eventually came to some small pitches. These pitches were negotiated easily and I got to see how the rigging for pull through trips was done as this was my first proper pull through. We wound our way through the cave passage which was mostly hands and kneels crawling at this stage and eventually came up to the famous Bobs pit . This 30-40 foot pit is one that does not lead anywhere and is famous for people descending down it and pulling the rope through only to find there is no way on except an exceptionally tight fissure and is a favourite for rescues.

The way on is to traverse across to top of this circular pit , Paul managed this with no problem then I made my way over the pit . I put one foot on the left side one on the right and the next thing I know my left foot slipped into the pit and immediately Paul and Andy grabbed an arm each I hadn't totally fallen but I was wedged in with one leg pushing against the wall and the other half of my body slipping into a 40 foot black hole! I glanced at Paul who was barely able to hold me with one arm and glanced at Andy who had two hands pulling my arm. I chose Andy! I transferred my weight to Andy's arms and will be forever indebted ! He hauled me back to the edge and we decided that perhaps roping it would be a better option. It was for me a very real near miss . Had I fallen down that hole I would have probably survived but there would be some broken limbs and the prospect of a long wait to be rescued I was a bit shaken by this and I knew I had used one of my "caving credits" up . As this was a pull through trip we had no way of getting back out except to carry on and complete the trough trip. I had to forget about it and concentrate on getting on with the task in hand.

We made our way down the passage and it soon got bigger we negotiated several pitches nothing to spectacular and we were heading towards Slit pot. To get to this we made our way through winding fissures and found ourselves in a deep pool the way on was through a duck in the side wall called the Blasted crawl. I went through head first on my hands and knees only to find the floor drops a lot deeper than my arms and the rope bag was jamming behind me through the duck made my head submerge, I scrabbled around to free the bag off and dragged my legs through and managed to stand up in the waist deep water at the other side of the duck next time I will go through feet first!

The passages wound on and we came to a narrow fissure and then climbed down into a circular chamber with a big narrow vertical slit which has a 100 foot drop at the other side into Swinstoe great aven. So this was the last pitch and after that it would be a crawl along east passage stream way then into the master cave and up the ladder and out valley entrance simple! Well here we go!Firstly I will explain a little about more this pitch it consists of a vertical slot that in some areas it is just about wide enough to squeeze through if your not too chunky. There is a possibility to climb over the top of this but this could be hazardous also immediately through the slot is 100 foot straight down with a water fall flowing through the slot.

Paul climbed up the slot and hooked on with cows tails to some P bolts and started to rig the pitch and I fed out the 50 meter rope at this point we fed the rope through the slot and Paul clipped his descender onto the rope squeezed his body through the slot and set off down so far so good.

As he went down he realised the rope had not gone down to the floor and had somehow got jammed in a rock crevice probably due to the water falling and the rope that was supposed to take him down to the floor was now trapped fifteen foot above Paul this meant that he could not go down and could also not got up as he was not using ascending gear due to this being a simple pull through trip!Although I had volunteered to take hand and chest jammer we did have equipment to get back up.

We heard the shouts and thought ok we will give him a couple of minuets to see if the rope will come free and we were trying to work out what to do. Five minutes later we heard a shout " my lights gone out". Shit...... Now we had a situation and we had to act. Paul was stuck on a rope under a water fall we could barely see him and had only one way we could go and that was to continue through the slit into swinstoe great aven and through valley entrance. Paul would not survive long under a waterfall without hypothermia setting in so we had to move and act quickly.
Quick thinking Geoff suggested we rig our other rope and I decend and free off the rope Paul was hanging on and I would continue down to the floor.

We quickly got the rope out of the bag and removed the knots put it back in the bag and rigged a Y hang that went parallel to Paul's ropes and we set about trying to feed myself through the narrow slit due to me having a chest jammer as well as descender it was difficult to find a way through the slot I was just at the point of squeezing through when I heard another shout from Paul and heroically he managed to fix his light and climb up 15 feet just using his descender and fingernails then freed off the rope and got down whilst being under a waterfall! At this point I got back in from the slot clipped into the P hangers with my cows tails and unclipped the spare rope I was going to use for our rescue attempt. The rope was bagged and it was time for Andy to get through the slot. He clipped his descender onto the rope after a couple of attempts we found the widest bit of the slot and we pushed him through, he slid through and descended into the aven.
Now it was Geoff's turn,we reached through the slit for the rope and he clipped on his descender we tried and tried to feed him through the slit but we could not get his arse to pass through it was impossible, he tried climbing up higher and higher and tried feeding himself through the slit , no joy, we tried repeatedly vertically, horizontally, his muscular arse would not go through! Armed with only cows tails and a descender he climbed up above the slot using the dodgy looking fixed rope about 40 foot above the floor I was stood on over the other side would be approximately 120 foot to the floor. The fixed ropes there had one length of knotted rope with another length of straight rope he managed to get his descender on the fixed rope and lower himself down to the other side of the slit. He clipped onto some P hangers with his cows tails and removed the descender from the fixed rope and clipped it onto our rope. All his weight was on his cows tails and he had to pull up his own.

Now I was on my own at the top of the aven. I had no one to help me squeeze through the slit or help me to get out should I get stuck so I had no option, no way back I had to get through. I reached through the slit and grabbed the rope, double checked I got the right rope clipped on the descender and climbed up about six foot up the slit. I knew the widest part of the slit and fed my legs in horizontally through the slit with my torso stuck in the gap. My legs were dangling out of the side into the abyss and I could feel the chest jammer digging into my sternum. I had no option now I had to go through if I hesitated I could get stuck and be in serious shit, just relax and stay calm I thought and I breathed out relaxed my body and let it slide through I was through the slit and did not hang around getting to the bottom.

This one pitch probably took us one maybe two hours and was not over when we got to the bottom. We pulled on the other side of the rope to retrieve it but it was not budging! I clipped on my ascender and put my body weight on the rope plus all the other boys were dangling off this rope, that was a total of four fully grown soggy cavers dangling off the rope and still it would not release. The decision was made rather quickly to just leave the rope we didn't need it to finish the trip and someone doing the pull through trip in future can unjam it from the top.

We rounded up our gear and bagged it all up and made our way to the bottom of Swinstoe Great aven Paul asked what way to we want to go? I just wanted to get the fuck out of there and Geoff immediately pointed to the east passage, having myself done the alternative philosophers crawl over a year ago I had no desire to do it today pulling two rope sacks that had no drain holes and filled up with water making progress extremely strenuous. So we made our way through the boulders and we knew after five to ten minutes we would be at the master cave. The rope sacks were probably holding around thirty litres of water and would not float down the east passage as the water was not deep enough , the passage was hands and knees crawling height and progress was hard work I soon came out to the familiar banks of the main stream way where Geoff and myself waited for Paul and Andy.

Once we all assembled and in good spirits we make the walk through the river along the master cave and got to the sump and the last obstacle of the day the thirty foot electron ladder climb back out . I made the stupid decision to climb this ladder with the rope sack on my back I got half way up and my arms just could not hold me all my strength was gone! I got back down and Andy and Paul had got up and rigged our remaining rope as I had decided SRT would be safer and easier to haul up the bags. I tied the bags to the end of the SRT rope and tried to place then where they would not fill up with water,easier than it sounds! Then I prussiked up the rope and into the high level passage. We de-rigged and packed the ladders and now it was a ten minute trudge through the rest of the cave this was done as quick as we could and we passed carrot passage then through the knee high filled pools then we could taste the familiar fresh air that you sense when coming out from a cave. Minutes later we stooped through the low arch into the entrance chamber and there was the shaft of light from the outside word. We pulled our sorry bodies out of the grey plastic tube and only had one thing on our minds Marton Arms!

The drama didn't stop there as we were getting our sodden kit off we did the usual ritual of switching on the mobile phones searching for a signal to notify our loved ones that we are OK I got a signal so did Paul but Geoff couldn't get a signal. We quickly got changed and packed up and drove down the valley towards the Marton Arms as soon as Geoff got a signal the phone call was made to his wife who had already called Cave Rescue as he said he would be back out for 4pm it was 4:30pm. Luckily she managed to call them off and all was well but what a day!
Paul carried on to Ingleton and dropped Geoff off to meet his wife and then made an about turn and straight to the Marton Arms in what has to be said quite a reflective mood we poured over the events over a pint and concluded yes we made mistakes things went wrong but we overcame and I can only speak for myself but learnt a few things about team work, thinking clearly and realising that panic can only impede what you need to do and we did not panic. You can do a hundred caving trips when nothing goes wrong but you will learn a lot more on the one that does go wrong or the one that you have to adapt to overcome difficult situations. I was pleased with how we overcame but realise it could have been a very different outcome.

I believe these experiences make you who you are and are truly real character building . I don't have a death wish and I want to live a long and full life and it would be easy for me to sit in front of the TV or play computer games getting old and fat but what kind of a life is that! Not for me!

Till the next time...