Sunday September 22nd 2013
Boxhead Pot - Lost Johns Pot
Gary, John D, Laura, Margot, Matt, Toby (YCUCP), Luke (YUCPC), Andy H (YUCPC)
John D wrote...
Boxhead to Lost Johns is a cracking through trip, which included the Tate Galleries and the Lyle Cavern series, both hugely remote areas of Lost John's pot during the early 80's. Before the relatively recent discovery of Boxhead pot, a trip to the high level Lyle Cavern and back out through Lost John's on ladders was always a major undertaking.
The team assembled at mid-day and, after some faffing, located the correct shakehole. At this point, a local team of three arrived - with an intention of surveying new passages. The lead surveyor seemed surprised at the YCC's comments about the magnetic switch on a Stenlight affecting compass readings - so the rumours of a Three Counties passage heading towards Exaclibur may indeed be inaccurate. At this point, I noted the 50:50 male to female ratio and quite frankly I have never seen so many hard core female cavers underground at the same time.
The pitches into Boxhead proved to be similar to the final pitch of Juniper Gulf and were very impressive. The engineering at the head of the 33M entrance pitch was very impressive. Especially considering that, at some point, someone was prodding foot level boulders at the top of a choked 100M shaft - with a crowbar.
At the point where the Tate Galeries run off from a ledge on the big pitch one can look into the huge parallell Lost Pot shaft. This infamous scene of a major digging effort collapsed many years ago in an incident that almost killed a member of the Red Rose. Seeing the huge amount of rubble at the bottom of the wet shaft (which used to reside at the pitch head) was sobering.
The Tate Galleries were unexpected and proved to be interesting "Northern Dales" type caving, including small keyhole passages, tight little rifts, crawls through pools and an abundance of mud. Routefinding was interesting and awkward, especially since the smallness of the passages was unexpected. At one point (while inserted into a Jenga type tube) Gary threw a hissy fit and Mat had to extract him rearwards, feet first, without the SRT kit he was wearing when he entered.
The next main obstacle was the Quote " Fascinating" climb as detailed in "Not for the Feint Hearted". This was a slippy, just off vertical, spiral climb up a very smooth scalloped passage. Even given a hawser laid handline this proved difficult for those with short legs and it proved safer to drop an SRT rope down from the top so those of smaller stature could reach the much larger passage above.
This point on the reverse journey is a critical point to identify and would be very easy to miss. Larger abandoned passages followed until a drop down into a immature streamway led downwards to the top of the Lyle Cavern pitch.
An in situ SRT rope was in place (as this is needed to reverse the lower Boxhead round trip through "The Tube" as detailed in NFTFH.
Some discussion was had as to the suitability of the rope and old exploratory spits. JD, being an old guy, thought the tackle looked immensely strong - being more used to abbing off single half drilled bolts, tied off pegs and rotten fenceposts.
The Lyle Cavern area of Lost Johns is very impressive, huge soaring avens coated with flowstone and an immense rift passage lying just above the Lost Johns main drain. A twenty foot handline climb down vertical flowstone proved tricky but dropped onto a boulder ruckle which, previously, a YCC team had reached from the Lost Johns end earlier in then year.
With no sign of the York University team from Lost Johns there was a fifteen minute panic as the Boxhead team contemplated having to return back through the delights of the Tate Galleries. Garry and John set off in the search for unsuspecting students and found them having just decended the final pitch of Lost Johns. Delivering our charges to the Boxhead team they were given precise route descriptions "turn left at the sunglassess" "Don't miss the two foot of hawser going into a boulder ruckle" and "the arrow made out of straws pointing to a hole were you don't want to go IS the way on" and finally "when you reach the blue plumbing follow it to the surface". Then the Boxhead team legged it towards the safety of Lost Johns, before the three hard core students could mutter "Sunglasses?".
The journey up Lost Johns (essentially a repeat of the earlier recce trip) proved uneventful except for a couple of points. Firstly the physical effects three hugely heavy tackle bags on the more aged male members of the YCC whose memories of being fit hard core student cavers were to say the least "distant".
The second point, was that four out of five Yorkies have clearly never perused "Potholing beneath the Northern Pennines" by David Heap which, published in 1964 clearly illustrates Quicksand passage as leading to the now blocked "Old Entrance". After unsuspectingly checking the blocked old entrance passage the intrepid team (s) returned to the easily mistaken junction with the existing entrance and were greeted with "been to see quicksand cave?" from JD (a Dave Heap trained "Old Timer").
Another period of panic set in when it started to get dark (and the YCC team started to feel guilty with respect to the, sunglasses, hawser, stal and plumbing instructions given to the unsuspecting student team). This time, discussions revolved around having to put wet gear on And go back into the Tate Galleries. Despite many halucinatory (wishfull thinking) sights of lights on the fell, an eventual "confirmed sighting" of the University team in the darkness was happily recieved with Car Headlights - to guide them to the safety of the road and prevent the YCC tackle dissapearing the wrong way into the darkness.
In all this was a hugely enjoyable trip, and although well planned and organised - still left sufficient doubt in place to retain an element of uncertainty - which brought just the right level of tension. A similar "Head to Head" (Boxhead pot to Deaths Head pot) exchange would be an excellent addition to a future meets list.
Sunday September 8th 2013
Wrysgan Slate Mine level 6 adit to level 1 adit
David W, Gary, Laura, Margot, Matt, Nick
David W wrote...
Excellent trip, though i wasn't a fan of the climb up the mining cart winch... don't look down i remember thinking, :-s anyway seeing the gear box and engine for the winch at the top within the housing area and then some outbuildings, wow suddenly things started looking promising. We made our way down one of the entrances, and climbing into the mine, well the drop down didn't look that far, but at the bottom looked like a shear drop of a couple of meters, we explored this level before deciding the way forward was to brave a traverse against the slope (luckily a chain was present to hold onto).
exploring each level as we saw fit to (some collapses....recent) we made our way to the water adit (well running water, not flooded!), when we came across a small tunnel leading to another adit, we clambered down and found that the steel rope we'd been holding onto simply went down a slope and not attached, we pondered to try and make it to the other side or to return back to the higher adit.
Well we decided it was too risky without any SRT or rope with us so returned.
When we left by the lower adit, i had completely lost my bearings where we were outside, before looking over the valley and thinking, that looks lovely but familiar, our trip through cwmorthin the day before, when we made our way down the steps to the miners rememberance garden and an old workhouse or pumping station, the floor didn't look in the best of health so viewing from a distance inside was a must!
We traversed the bridge... crumbling bridge that is, and with the rain from the day before, what was a stream was a torrent at this point, hold on tight!! Eventually making our way back to the cars and grabbing a coffee.
When we were parked for Cwmorthin we saw a beautiful incline on the opposite hill, which seemed to lead into a hole. We figured it would be worth having a look. Laura had been to the top of the incline, and to the quarry she said was behind it, but she hadn't been underground. Matt and Gary had downloaded information on quite a number of nearby mines, including this one; it seemed to be called Wrysgan, and there was mention of some nice little short round trips one could do. So we went for it!
We climbed the incline, which had an amazing view over the landscape around, and got to the quarry. It was very pretty, with remains of engines and buildings and whatnot, all adorned with scenic wisps of fog. Now we had to find the entrance! After a while we did; a tunnel at a reasonably steep angle, leading into the rock. We were wondering whether we would leave some garments and objects at the entrance; some of us had brought waterproofs, which we didn’t expect to need underground. But would we come back to the same level? After some confusion we brought everything with us. Which would turn out to be fortunate!
Soon we came down to an ENORMOUS stope. This was not a mine like Croesor or Cwmorthin, with separate chambers; here they had quarried away a massive body of rock, at a pretty steep angle. Impressive! And we found ourselves on the top ledge. There seemed to be more levels below, but it was hard to see, even with the brighter lights! But we could go on laterally; there was a robust steel cable bolted into the wall. So we did! This ledge went a fair way. Where it was very wide, we saw a rope was attached to a big rock which carried the message “leave for safety” or something like that. We went past; explore laterally first, and vertically next.
The ledge/adit (it varied along its course) stopped fairly soon after the rope, so that was our cue to go down it. And again we followed that level as far as we could. On one end we found the adit blocked by a collapse. That didn’t stop Nick; he slithered past, and explored beyond. When he came back and reported there was a truly daunting chamber behind, this message had profoundly different effects on the various people present. Daunting; is that a warning or an invitation? Consensus was nowhere to be seen. Matt made the executive decision that it was a warning, and we turned around. A bit further back there was more to see; a passage leading down, with an alluring steel cable in it. It turned out to lead to a ridge above another massive drop that got so narrow not even Nick was keen to cross. There were bolts; good bolts, but we had no rope with us! This was way too dangerous to do without a handline. We tried to make the in situ steel cable stretch across but that just wasn't going to happen. Too bad! But fun to try.
We then went to the other side, and then further down, via a path. We also found a message regarding safety; some levels were declared safe, and others weren't. We could see why; big blocks had been falling out of the ceiling, and there were places where one might expect a bit more of that. But what level were we on? The message didn't say. Hm! We just did what we always do; rely on our own common sense.
We explored another level, came down another path, and thereby reached the bottom. Matt created some confusion by getting there first, and proclaiming he had found a pub. A pub? There? He then claimed he had said “tub”, which was supported by rather convincing evidence in the form of a big tub at his feet, but we still weren’t sure. Maybe he was taunting us with ambiguous pronunciation!
When we were sure we'd seen it all we went out through an adit at that level we had seen on the way. It got us out on the other side of the hill, from which we again had great views. So we enjoyed that for a minute, and then went down. And admired some remains at valley level. A shaft? A slate cutter? Interesting stuff! And the collapsing bridge back to the road provided some last entertainment before we went back to the cars, and had to start getting mentally ready for re-emerging in the “normal” world again. A nice modest yet spectacular enough trip!
Saturday September 7th 2013
Cwmorthin Slate Mine figure of eight round trip plus the catwalk and some other bits
David W, Gary, Laura, Margot, Matt, Nick
Wednesday August 28th 2013
Uamh An Claonaite
This classic stream cave definitely beat my expectations! After another bloody long walk up the path from the road and the second hill climb of the day (after investigating ANUS first) we arrived at the quite large shake hole. I was surprised that the altitude was not that much lower than Rana Hole we had done the previous Sunday.
An awkward slither down through some rather dodgy looking boulders dropped into a wide stooping height streamway - quite impressed so far. A short way along we met the first waterfall and, not wanting to get wet, we did the exposed high level traverse out over it and down again to the stream. More good passage lead to what we thought was the first sump, actually it was just a low bit to the left and the sump shortly followed.
After a bit of debate about what was the correct way on and a lot of moaning from me about not wanting my face in the water, I slithered under the left hand wall and into the sump by-pass. Actually it wasn't that bad at all - in fact I kept my body pretty much all out of the water. Only a couple of meters in, I ducked under a low (but still not too wet) wall on the right then popped up into kneeling height passage again, this time faced with what I thought was Sump Two but just more of Sump One. Matt followed shortly after and we easily found the by-pass on the left before dropping back down to easy hands and knees crawling in the streamway.
The passage enlarged and we met Bottomless Pillar Pool which indeed does have what looks like a bottomless pillar. Still not wanting to get wet I tried to traverse around the edge of the deep pool without success and with some thought about how deep the far side was I launched myself from the wall to find it was only waste deep. Of course Matt managed the traverse without any problems, so I pushed him in.
Next, a couple of smaller waterfalls lead into Cavity Wall Passage - a really unusual slightly slopping passage with some unusual formed rock where two different lime-stones meet. Not long after, we met the first of the water chutes. I now regretted not bringing my camera because they would have made for a great photo. A very steep slope with the stream running down one side landed in quite a deep pool but easy to traverse. This was quickly followed by an even more spectacular water chute with a similar climb down. Sump Two follows at the bottom but we climbed up again and through some easy large passage to another drop down to the very still Sump Three.
A quick food stop then a pretty swift exit. I wouldn't want to hang around if there was any chance of rain!
Wednesday August 28th 2013
Allt Nan Uamh Stream Cave (Anus)
After our trip down Rana Hole a few days before, we didn't want to leave Scotland without having experienced two of its other finer caves, so we set off to do ANUS and Uamh an Claonaite in one day.
After the long, but pleasant walk up the hill, we reached the valley fork, where right goes to Rana Hole and Claonaite, but straight on/left continues up the valley for a few hundred metres more, to the obvious entrance in the left hand side of the streambed, only 50m before the valley suddenly ends at a rock cliff.
We were quickly underground, and through the entrance thrutch into some pretty spacious passage, soon reaching the main junction chamber. We were armed with the Selected Caves description (what could possibly go wrong!) which proved more than sufficient to explore every nook and cranny of the cave. We started by following the round trip, which ends up in a very low, dry flat out crawl bringing you out onto a ledge a few metres above the streamway and only 20m from where we started. We then explored downstream routes further, to an impressive engineering project at the most downstream point where the diggers have build a small railway for hauling spoil and an impressive sump-pumping system, well worth a trip to admire!
I must admit that my memory of the precise navigation of this trip is vague, but it is all tightly contained, and at no point are you more than 25 minutes from the entrance. It was an interesting and unusual cave, great fun to explore (we were underground for about an hour and a bit), and a nice warm up for the creme-de-la-creme that is Uamh an Claonaite.
Sunday August 25th 2013
Matt, Gary, Philip Judson (GOC), Julian Walford (GSG)
Saturday August 10th 2013
Lancaster Hole - Wretched Rabbit via Double Decker Pot and Main Drain
Matt, John S, Gary, David W, John Singleton
A superb trip as always. We were going to do the usual Lancaster Hole to Wretched Rabbit route via Montague East but we thought we would add interest by going round Double Decker Pot and up the main drain to Oxbow corner instead, which was excellent. Total trip time six hours. Only one slight navigational problem was finding the route up the boulder choke to depart the streamway at Oxbow Corner (this is not obvious or memorable but trial and error got us there within about half an hour).
David W wrote...
Excellent trip for a second cave, no problems with any descending (strangely my favorite part). We headed for the collonades to complete John's video. Eventually when finished, continued through to the minarets and double decker. Once we found the main drain took a break and some munchies, before continuing.
Continued up the streamway and the rock pools (so tempting to jump in than traverse the side, maybe with my snorkel). When we reached the boulder choke we ended up a bit lost and went in a small circle but found our way on the second time. Had another break and Gary trying to take a photo of me eating the remains of an aero bar.... basically pour it down!! All in all an enjoyable first trip to Lancaster pot.
Friday August 2nd 2013
Coniston Copper Mines (Paddy End / Levers Water mine)
Margot, Gary, Chuck, Matt
A splendid weekend in the Lakes and a first class mine trip
We were not sure what to expect from the Coniston Copper mines, having struggled to find any good online descriptions, a number of conflicting GPS coordinates and what appeared to be multiple different names for the same mine, and none of the descriptions providing adequate details to act as a walkthrough! Nonetheless, we had a great day. Hopefully the following report might be of more use to any other Coniston newbies like us planning a first mine visit to the area.
We headed up to The Lakes Friday night, camping at Birch Bank near Blawith about 7-8 miles from Coniston Water itself. We opted for this as it was less likely to be full of screaming tourists and midges than the campsites in Coniston itself. It was a superb campsite, very cheap, friendly, happy to accept cavers, and benefits from having two separate fields, one near the farmhouse for the normal campers and one 200m before you reach the farmhouse on the right for people like us who like a bit of isolation from the masses and are arriving quite late in the evening so don't want to disturb people. The ground is quite hard so don't forget your tent peg hammer, plus it is quite an exposed place in terms of the wind (the normal bit of the campsite is more sheltered). But the views are amazing, 360 degree stunningness!
Saturday morning we headed up to Coniston. We weren't sure where to park and we ended up parking at a village car park for an extortionate £6.50 for the day (thieving beggers). We know now that there plenty of on-street parking available if you arrive early enough. The best place seems to be to take the road signposted towards the Youth Hostel (about 50m north of the bridge on the main road through town, next to the pub). About 200m up this road you can park on the left against the wall. Alternatively, it may be possible (and would save 45 min off the walk) to arrange in advance to park at the Youth Hostel which is about a mile drive up this road (which soon degenerates into a track). I'm not sure what the restrictions are on this.
We had several vague descriptions but none of them particularly useful navigationally, but we decided to go for Paddy End (also known I think as Levers Water mine) with a possible view to coming out of Hospital Level. Many people seem to do this as a pull through but as we didn't know the way we thought we'd do it as a down-and-up trip. We packed the ropes (the three pitches are apparantly 28m, 21m 21m, so we packed generously above this) and headed up the footpath towards the copper mines. About 45 minutes walk later you arrive at the coppermines Youth Hostel and are confronted with various routes heading off. We knew we wanted to be heading towards Levels Water, however, somehow we ended up taking a path up the hillside towards Low Water instead. After realising our mistake, we eventually reached Levers Water after a walk of some three hours. The walk was extremely scenic but next time I'll not be doing it in wellies. From Levels Water the entrance is obvious.
For reference, the correct route is to follow the very obvious path gently ascending north west directly towards Levels Water from the Youth Hostel up the right hand side of the valley (NOT the path going towards the active quarry to the west). A GPS or compass would probably be of benefit here to ensure you don't make the same mistake as us. At the top when you reach Levers Water (on it's eastern corner) cross the river coming from the lake (following the lake clockwise) and about 200m ahead is the large obvious fenced depression of the mine. There are three entrances in the depression. The right hand one looks like a hobbits house and is locked. The largest middle entrance is a large rift (a mineral vein) called The Funnel which is apparantly certain death, and the left hand one, a smaller vein, is the correct one.
Heading into the rift you maintain daylight for a minute or two before reaching a handline scramble down to the head of an in-situ ladder, followed shortly by another ladder. Then we were confronted by the first of the mines interesting obstacles. A steep descent further down into the vein was made possible by some (fairly new) wooden stemples acting as ladder rungs jammed between the walls. Words don't really do this justice, and it was very entertaining. An in situ rope provides some reassurance!
From the floor, a wire traverse over a dodgy false floor ahead immediately reaches the first pitch with two hefty eyebolts (in good condition) to rig off and some in-situ PVC as a rope protector. This was an easy to rig pitch and we were quickly down to the next level of the mine some 20m below. Unfortunately we were immediately confronted by the next pitch. This too had two good condition anchors. Unfortunately Gary got a few metres down and it was clear that there was going to be lots of rope rub a few metres below the anchors and then possibly again further down. The mine is bolted purely for the pull-through and not for those wishing to go down then up. The rock on which the rope was rubbing was gritty so something had to be done. The rub point was too far below the anchors to simply hang a tacklesack between the rope and the rock (it would have simply popped out from behind the rope). Ideally we needed a tacklesack with a large hole in the bottom to use as a giant tube to put the rope through, but for once, we were underground with our two newest tacklesacks which had no holes (and considering what they cost we weren't about to make any holes). There was nothing that would work as a deviation either. We decided to go for safety-first and so we turned back vowing to return with rope protectors (or a knackered tacklesack).
Up the first pitch and across the false floor, we decided to explore a slightly unobvious route going off as a stoop/crawl underneath the stempled rift climb. There are two passages going off, we took the right which passes under some wooden supports holding up lots of rock before reaching something quite remarkable. Ahead of us lay a 20m deep shaft, extending some 10m across the entire floor of the rift and with passage continuing on the other side. The extremely dedicated group that maintain this place have installed yet more wooden stemples and a safety line over this shaft. Again, words do not explain this well (perhaps the photos do) but crossing this certainly gets your heart going, and involves edging one stemple after another across the very deep shaft.
Beyond here a number of passage lead off, mostly walking, with some superb blue flows of copper and calcite. One route drops down an excavated shaft with handline into the 1987 extensions (we know this 'cos there was a sign telling us) which eventually reach a superb chamber where a tub has been restored on its rails (see photos). This was truely superb! We took some photos, and with time ticking on and a pub meal beckoning we headed out, leaving several possible onward routes unexplored.
Next time we will come back better prepared, knowing firstly where the mine is, and secondly that in addition to the ropes you also need a selection of rope protectors or a tacklesack with a hole in the bottom to function as a protector for the second pitch. From what I read of the description we had, the most spectacular stuff is yet to come at the bottom of this pitch so there's plenty of inspiration for a return visit next year. Plus this mine is apparantly just the tip of the iceberg!
A remarkable day out, superb scenery and a first class mine!
Sunday July 21st 2013
Mines of Arkengarthdale
Matt, Margot, Gary, theyorkshireminer, several other mine enthusiasts
Sunday July 7th 2013
Slaughter Stream Cave (to Three Deserts extensions)
Nikki, Nick, Matt, Margot, Laura, Gary
We last visited Slaughter Stream (wet sink) in 2010, doing the classic main streamway trip to Kuwait Passage.
This time we were keen to explore the North Western branch of the cave, to The Three Deserts extensions and back via Coal Seam and the main streamway. The following trip report/description may be useful to anyone wanting a navigation guide for this trip (although I can't claim to have remembered every junction so take a second).
It was sweltering heat this weekend, and around 27 degrees when we parked up at the spot suggested in Selected Caves. This is easy to find. Head North East out of Berry Hill/Christchurch on Bicknor Street. The road descends to the bottom of a valley and then ascends up, passing houses on the left. The parking spot is a tiny grass verge, on the right only 20m past the last house on the left, by a gate into a field on a public footpath. Two small cars just fit here on somewhat of a camber. The cave is approached across the field past the telegraph pole and then over the stile into the woods. Heading right along a vague track through the trees reaches the depression of Wet Sink after only 20-30m.
The entrance to Wet Sink is a marvellous piece of engineering, involving several fixed ladders down the original choked shaft. From the bottom a brief thrutch reaches the final ladder. From the bottom of this ladder, a slope down reaches the head of the pitch, which is broken by a ledge 4m down and a chamber 10m down. This can be rigged with ladders, but we found rope to be much easier, and a 40m rope is ample for the entire pitch, with a standing-up rebelay at the chamber. There are several P-hangers to choose from throughout. From the bottom of the pitch the passage degenerated into a low cobbled crawl which thankfully doesn’t last too long before opening out into the impressive main streamway passage.
The classic trip is downstream, but we headed upstream, following the water. The passage soon gets smaller, and I vaguely remember taking a right hand branch into a crawl in a narrow low streamway, before opening out in dramatic style to the sound of crashing water coming down a huge aven. The water cascade can be easily climbed up for quite some height to eventually reach the dry passages above (our description detailed a completely different route, possibly going left at the fork back down in the streamway but our route was fun, but might be a little hazardous in wet weather). Going right and following the obvious passage (past bones) for some distance, ignoring turn-offs eventually reaches The Chunnel, which is obvious because it is a large mostly straight passage, several metres wide and high. Half way along The Chunnel is the low route going off under the left hand wall to Coal Seam passage (our return route for later) but for now we were planning to head straight on to the far north western extremes of the cave.
Near the end of The Chunnel, a right turn was easily recognisable as sloping down into the first of the Three Deserts. This is quite a monotonous, dry, sandy and very hot long passage (DO NOT wear PVC oversuit as YOU WILL MELT). The first several minutes were mostly hands and knees or easy flat out crawling, but it then opened up a bit and it was a mixture of stooping and crawling until we reached an obvious chamber with two very obvious divergent ways on. Our description said left to a dogs grave, which didn’t seem too appealing. Talking to the key warden later though apparently this is actually worth a look. Instead we went right into what seemed like a very long stretch of passage, mostly spacious and varying between walking, stooping and crawling, but generally good size. We were beginning to wonder if this was the mythical huge passages our description told us of (the biggest in the cave apparently) and we were wondering whether the units on our description were wrong and they meant feet instead of metres on their passage dimensions.
But sure enough, eventually we got to a section where a slope up blocks ahead led up into what seemed to be a new passage (following the existing one soon closed down). In the new passage, left closed down very soon, but right led into much bigger and extremely impressive passages, all walking over boulders and easy pleasant stomping. It was like being in Ogof Draenen!!!
This passage twisted and turned and remained of superb impressive proportions for about ten minutes before reaching the terminal dig and a huge calcite flow. Gary decided to have a nosey up the ladder as there was in in-situ belay line, but it went up to a tight tube and didn’t look too nice. The key warden tells us that this dig has been archived!
The return trip was magnificent and we were actually back at The Chunnel before we knew it, seeming much quicker than the inward journey.
We took the crawl (now on the right at floor level 100m back along The Chunnel, easy to miss). This leads for several metres into a medium size chamber full of boulders but with no immediately obvious way on. The route is a small slither down through boulders, to reach another boulder chamber, this time with an obvious passage leading off (which I don’t think goes far). The way on is not along this passage, but slither down through boulders again and into a lower passage which doesn’t initially look too promising but soon enlarges. This is Coal Seam Passage. This starts as crawling and stooping but soon enlarges to good walking proportions and takes a good 10-15 minutes of uneventful caving with no junctions. Eventually, the 1m drop out of Coal Seam into the sump 1 bypass is reached, with a right and left option. Right heads down to join the streamway downstream of sump 1. Left is the way out, and after a bit of easy stomping in dry passage the streamway is regained. We took great pleasure in throwing ourselves in up to our waists to cool off here, as this was the first hint of moisture we had seen for over two hours! Upstream, a junction is reached with two similar looking routes going off. I had no idea, so guessed (correctly) at left. Only another 5 minutes of walking mostly in the streamway and we were back at the start where the entrance series joined the streamway (don’t miss this or you might go round again).
Coming out was like exiting into some kind of tropical rainforest with a wall of heat and scorching sunshine waiting. A cold beer was very much needed. A superb trip!
For anyone wanting a longer trip, do the trip as we did, but go right after coal seam passage to follow the impressive downstream passage all the way to the terminal sump and Kuwait Passage which goes off from there. I’d guess this would make for a total trip time of around six hours. Our trip was just short of four hours at a gentle pace.
Saturday June 8th 2013
Agen Allwedd (Grand Circle)
Richard G, Nikki, Matt, Margot, Laura, Kevin Miles
Saturday June 8th 2013
Ogof Draenen (to Hearts of Olden Glory)
Gary, Philip Judson, Angus Sawyer
Saturday April 27th 2013
Sir Francis Level (mine)
theyorkshireminer, Chuck, Gary, Laura, Matt
Saturday April 20th 2013
Henslers Pot to Henslers Master Cave sump
Gary, Matt, Philip Judson
We have had a permit for Hensler's Pot up at Gaping Gill for the last two years, but on both occasions the weather has forced a change of plan. However, with the weather looking nice and enthusiasm from three people (myself, Gary, and Philip) the trip was on! There were three tacklesacks to carry so this seemed the perfect number.
We followed the navigation guide in Not For the Faint Hearted which is totally accurate on rope lengths and navigation, although somewhat plays down some of the physical difficulties of this trip.
After an early start and breakfast at Inglesport, and we were up at the Bar Pot style by midday, in really quite warm April sunshine. Hensler's Pot is quite easy to find. Instead of following the main track towards Gaping Gill, turn right next to Bar Pot and follow along parallel to and about 50m from the wall. A line of small shakeholes is reached, one of the first being the entrance to Marilyn with large metal grill (a superb trip), and about 100m beyond here is the obvious shakehole of Hensler's with an oil drum entrance sunk into the ground.
The entrance has a pleasing fixed ladder, and drops immediately into a low flat out bedding crawl. After about 20m of easy going crawling with the bags dragging behind the duck is reached. This is basically a short (1m long) flat out crawl in 3-4 inches of water below a rocky outcrop, and is over with in seconds. Gary went first, getting a total belly-soaking, but unbeknown to him he kindly pushed all the pooled water into the bedding beyond, which meant Philip and I were able to wriggle through resting on our arms and keep our upper body dry (although legs and arms wet). I suspect a bit of 'plunging' of the duck with a tacklesack before going in would also work well to lower the water. What I don't understand is that given the amount of enlargement that has obviously been done in the lower regions of this cave, why the rock outcrop that causes this duck was not removed? It would be a relatively easy job and would have made the explorations somewhat easier.
The passage beyond reached a short drop and became more awkwardly shaped, meaning the tacklesack had to be pushed in front until the first pitch was reached with a tiny chamber to put on SRT gear. This entrance series in all takes less than 20 minutes and isn't anything too bad.
Then follows a series of relatively easy (by this guide book's standards) pitches, very pleasant indeed. I was starting to wonder what was so hard about this cave after all!
After the third or fourth pitch (I lost track) the next crawly sections starts. The first part of this is about ten minutes of low crawling though relatively smooth rounded bedding passage with shallow pools of water. The remaining tacklesack was easily dragged through without issue. The passage then becomes a narrow and blasted hour-glass shaped rift. The lower part of the rift is too narrow and so progress must be made in the top half, which is a pain because the tacklesacks kept jamming in the narrowing, or dropping to the lower section. The guidebook describes two thrutchy sections. They're not kidding! The first section is about 4m long, and is where the rift pinches in, meaning a tight wriggle lying totally on your side. This is particularly strenuous as you keep slipping down into the narrow part of the hourglass, which although too narrow to slip through, it wedges you in, meaning each thrust of the body is ten times more effort. Gary went in first and reversed out to remove his SRT kit. I actually slipped through with SRT on, pushing the remaining bag ahead.
We were then greeted with the second thrutchy section only metres beyond the first. This one is about 6m long and much tighter, so off came my SRT kit. Pushing a bag through this is torture as it wedges in the narrowing, and must therefore be rolled lengthways, which was exceptionally hard on my arm. Each thrutch had to be initially upwards into the wider part of the rift and then along, again totally on your side, and each thrutch used a ridiculous amount of energy just for a few inches of progress. We contemplated turning around... this was not our idea of fun... but given how close we were to the final pitch we pushed ahead. It took the best part of 30 minutes for us all to pass these two thrutchy sections, an average speed of about 40 metres/hour!!!
Beyond the second thrutchy section the going doesn't get much easier and you drop down a blasted hole into the lower part of the rift, where more squeezing reaches the head of the next pitch with an acrobatic takeoff (this was to prove my downfall on the way out). Shortly past here a flat out crawl along a straw-lined gallery reaches the final impressive final pitch, a stunning 40m shaft with deviation from some in-situ tat, and a welcome return to easy SRT caving.
From the bottom we headed down to Hensler's Master Cave for a potter about, but conscious of the time we didn't stay long and were soon on our way back up. I knew we were in for a hard slog out, but what followed was far worse than I imagined.
The main pitch was quickly derigged and we were onto the next. Getting off the top of this pitch is exceptionally difficult. Philip seemed to manage it, but when I went up I simply couldn't get off the pitch head. This basically involves getting off the rope into a flat out crawl away from the pitch, at the same height as the highest anchor. There are no footholds, no handholds and so thrutching your upper body off the pitch head into the passage is exceptionally hard work. I tried for several minutes, after which time I was starting to feel a little anxious. I have never struggled with any pitch head in this way before (and I have done several other caves of similar difficulty). Eventually and with many adrenaline-related expletives (sorry Philip) I got my belly onto the passage and my legs followed. Phew! Gary made it look easy. Perhaps I'm losing my touch.
Then came the thrutches. My arm strength had been weakened by now. Forcing myself and pushing the bag through these thrutches was agonisingly difficult and tiring and I seriously lost my sense of humour here (again, sorry Philip). I did not wish to be down this cave any more and I was getting concerned about our stamina levels. Gary suggested using a rope to pull the bag through but for me this merely delayed the progress of our outward journey so I just got on with the job.
Thankfully, after the thrutches, the low crawling passage seemed easy, and Philip took the bag from here which was much appreciated.
The following pitches, which seemed so easy on the way down were all very strenuous on the way out. Several pitch heads presented challenges getting off them which I had not anticipated on the way down, and none offered much space to pack rope. Philip continued ahead now with the big blue bag (our actual name for it was less polite) which was by far the heaviest and getting this off the pitches was sometimes a two person job. Progress was slow but at least we were progressing.
I must admit that I did not enjoy the journey out. Usually in caves like this the outward journey is never as bad as you picture it to be while you're having the turn-around chocolate bar at the bottom, but Hensler's Pot was the exception to this rule.
By the time we got to the top of the first pitch, we were all totally broken and grumpy. My suit was ripped in several places (including all the way down one arm), my emergency light had been ripped off, and we were all in a delicate state. The smell of fresh air spurred us on through the entrance crawl, and Philip and I were so pleased to be nearly out that I barely noticed the duck. We got out at 8:45pm to a chilly but otherwise fine evening with 15 minutes of twilight remaining. Of course, at about this time, my grumpiness went away and I suddenly decided that I had enjoyed the trip after all.
Hensler's Pot is a very strenuous trip to do as an up and down. I cannot even begin to imagine having enough energy to go on and to the massive trip into the far reaches of the Gaping Gill system that the guidebook recommends. Nonetheless, just a trip down to Hensler's Master Cave is a very satisfying achievement. Hensler's would make a superb trip as an exchange with Bar or Marilyn, which are much easier and would mean a better balance of easy and harder caving.
I have never been so bruised and achy after a caving trip for many years. But I'm glad we did it!
Sunday March 10th 2013
Lost Johns Pot (Dome/Centipede exchange to Lyle Cavern)
Nick, Matt, Laura, John D, Gary, Ade
Was a good trip, didn't find John tho.
Saturday March 9th 2013
Ade, Gary, Matt, Nick
The weather was looking a bit grim, so we wanted a clean and uncomplicated, and relatively water-resistant SRT trip to start off our weekend staying at the NPC hut near Clapham. Aquamole came to the rescue, and provided an exceptionally efficient and enjoyable trip, and something I was keen to do again (my last trip there having been six years ago).
To find Aquamole, park in Kingsdale as for Rowton (about 300m north of the road to the farm, by the sheep fold) and follow the wall up the hillside where at the top another sheep fold provides a route through the wall and onto the turbary road track. On the left is Rowton Pot, however, turn right, follow the track for 100 m before bearing slightly off to the left away from the wall and uphill until the obvious depression of Jingling Pot is seen (with prominant tree sticking up from within). The concrete top of Aquamole is only 20m away.
We followed the CNCC volume 2 rigging guide, all rope lengths were correct.
The breezeblock shaft lands on a shelf from where another couple of short pitches descends into a rift. Down the rift, a few rebelays later and you are in a chamber. The way on has clearly been excavated, and leads down into a reasonably simple crawl which after only five minutes breaks out to another pitch. Aquamole Aven pitch is soon reached, which is spectacular shaft with multiple deviations to pull the rope away from the water (we used two, probably unnecessarily, but a third was available had it been wet). From the bottom, the sump is immediately reached where loads of diving gear was stored.
A quick snack later and we were on our way out. Gary was derigging and was last up, so was naturally confused to look down and see another caving light bobbing about some 20m below. It would seem a diver had emerged from the sump! Good job that hadn't happened 10 minutes earlier as I was stood on the water edge eating my choccie bar or there might have been brown stains in my undersuit!
Arrived out to a lovely blizzard, total time underground only 4.5 hours. Overall, a superb, uncomplicated and clean SRT trip.
Sunday February 3rd 2013
Penarth Slate Mine
Chuck, Gary, Matt
Saturday February 2nd 2013
Cwmorthin Slate Mine
Chuck, Gary, Matt
Sunday January 13th 2013
Swinsto Hole to KMC and back up
Chuck, Gary, Laura, Mark, Matt, Chris Jewell
Tuesday November 27th 2012
Boulby Potash Mine
John S, James G, Chuck, Chalky, Laura, Max, theyorkminer, Sparky