Saturday May 8th 2010
Birks Fell Cave
Gary, Nikki, Matt, Richard G, Sarah
Another excellent trip to Birks Fell!
After an early start in Buckden, we were underground by 11:30am. The cave is very easy to find - simply follow the tack up past Redmire Farm, and then after going through the gates, come off the path and follow the wall on the right steeply uphill. At the top, the cave entrance is only 50m ahead in the shallow valley.
We quickly got down to the Bradford Crawl, which required only minimum excavation, and then the connection crawl seemed much more pleasant than last time. From the first pitch onwards, Birks Fell really does have something for everyone, with minimum routefinding issues (follow the water all the way down), and some fantastic stream passages and formations. The Block and then the free-climb down beyond it provide an interesting challenge (particularly on the return journey). For future reference, Cascade pitch can now be rigged from higher up, which avoids the difficult free-climb down beyond The Block. Therefore, for future reference:
After The Block has been negotiated, continue along the large passage. Ignore the usual route down through the floor on the left, and continue along a short distance until hangers allow for Cascade pitch to be rigged from a higher up position. A 25m rope should be adequate.
We made very quick progress indeed to Shale Pitch, however, once again, the rigging dilemmas posed by this got the better of us. Gary went to the rebelay but found it to be very loose and dangerous indeed. Rich examined the possibility of an alternative Y-hang at the top but nothing would clear the waterfall. By now we were all pretty cold, and with a nights camping ahead we were keen to get out in time for pub food and to pitch our tents. So we turned around and headed out. The outward journey seemed pretty efficient, but very tiring indeed. It's not until the outward journey that you realise how far you've travelled and how much hard work this cave really involves! The last hour after passing Shooting Box Aven seemed to go on for ever and sapped every last ounce of energy out of me!
We arrived to the surface at about 7pm, absolutely knackered! A pub meal in Starbotton was followed by drinks in Kettlewell and a much needed nights sleep at the campsite.
Birks Fell really is a superb caving trip, even only as far as Shale Pitch (and by then you've done 90% of the cave), with a really sense of adventure and journey. The return trip is sure to put your stamina to the test, and the satisfaction to have completed the trip is immense! I'd happily do Birks Fell every year, and maybe one time we may even get to the terminal sump!
Saturday April 25th 2009
Birks Fell Cave
After an early start we headed up the hill paying a visit on Redmire Farm to present the permit, who were very nice people indeed We headed up towards the cave, initially failing to find it as we headed too far south on the hillside. For future reference you head up the path and where the path bears left, turn off the path and follow the right hand wall directly up a steep slope to the top (don't follow the path all the way to the top). Continue ahead into the field, bear slightly further to the right and you can't miss it in around 100m!
With superb weather and dry conditions we were expecting a nice dry trip. This wasn't to be however and the entrance involved a good couple of minutes crawling through a canal followed by some narrower and more awkward sections to eventually reach the first pitch. We rigged this and descended, although one of our group free climbed a rift just beyond the pitch (this looked a bit too exciting for me!). From here on the going became much easier indeed, and we made quick progress through the remainder of the cave, enjoying a couple of nice avens, and an exciting mix of free-climbs, traverses, stomping and canal-wading, with some amazing stream passages and well decorated sections. After the sharp bend where the cave turns sharply, the character changes to very shaley and slippery black rock. We soon reached Shale pitch. Gary started to rig this but a large amount of water was going down, and he was unable to find a rebelay point on the ledge several metres down. As we were all getting quite cold, the decision was made that we'd all had a rather excellent trip and we turned around without completing the descent (apparantly it's just a series of short canals and then a sump beyond there anyway so we're happy that we saw all the best bits of the cave).
Birks Fell goes down as one of my all time favourite trips, with something for everyone. You can't possibly get bored with the variety of climbs, traverses, stomping and crawling, and the trip has kept me smiling for several days afterwards. For future trips I don't think I'd bother taking rope for Shale and Slimy Slit pitch, as a trip to the top of Shale is by itself and excellent trip, and not having the tacklesacks to worry about would make it all the more enjoyable.
We got our to blazing sunshine and a stunning view across the valley (and then the pub in Kettlewell) which couldn't have been a better way to end an excellent days caving.