Saturday October 6th 2012
Matt, Gary, Chuck
Sunday September 16th 2012
Gary, Chuck, Nikki, Matt
Saturday September 1st 2012
Marble Steps Pot
Ade, Gary, Mark, Matt
We wanted a nice simple trip down a classic Yorkshire Pothole, and they don't get much more classic than Marble Steps.
We took the Sidewinder route down, which was a pleasant change as I have always taken the classic gully route on my previous visits. Sidewinder provides a slightly more convoluted and interesting route down with an impressive pitch broken by a huge buttress half way down. This lands at the main chamber where the Gully route also joins. The sobering sight of an entire tree trunk propped against the wall reminded us how glad we were of the settled weather, as Marble Steps floods badly particularly beyond this point. We then took The Ninety route down to the terminal dig. Rope lengths in the CNCC guide were correct. Total time underground was just under five hours, and as always, a superb, clean and fun trip.
Sunday August 5th 2012
Water Icicle Close Cavern
Matt, Laura, Gary, Chuck, Boyd Potts (OCC guide)
We had a great weekend at the Orpheus CC hut in Monyash.
On Saturday, Gary, Chuck and I took a walk along Lathkill Dale in some lovely summer sunshine. I had no idea what a pretty valley this was! We found the entrance to Mandale Mine and Lathkill Head Cave, which is great to know for future trips. We had a pleasant pub crawl back to Monyash, only interrupted by a sudden shower.
On Sunday, we were luck enough to have a leader to take us down Water Icicle Close Cavern, and into the leader-only extensions. An early start saw us abseiling down the 30 m entrance shaft by 11am, and we made quick progress to the gate. It became clear very soon that carbon dioxide levels were particularly high, and we had breathlessness all round, although nothing so severe that we needed to turn around.
Through the gate, and the boulder choke we were impressed by the sizable chamber beyond, and then even more impressed by the lovely stomping main passage with its abundant formations. It is nice to see this having been taped quite soon to preserve the best of the formations on the floor, including some fine crystal pools and the ‘urchins’. It is great to stomp down such a pleasant passage and be treated so such formations.
Back at the large chamber we took a short crawl along a different passage to see one of the caves most promising digs with a draft and smell of fresh air (very welcome as we were breathless after the crawls).
Returning to the entrance shaft we then headed to see the new extensions reported only in the issue of Descent we received last week. A short flat out crawl along another passage at the bottom of the entrance shaft soon opened out into the new extensions, a superb 60 m (ish) stretch of mostly stomping passage with calcite decoration. It is easy to see why thy Orpheus guys are digging at the loose fill at the end of this passage, as it seems unlikely that such a large stomping passage should suddenly stop.
We all experienced serious breathlessness ascending the pitch. Even just several metres off the ground we were gasping, and the ascent was very difficult and slow. Headaches were setting in all round, but these quickly cleared once on the surface in fresh air. We were out at a very civilised 2pm.
It was a great trip, and it was good to see the discoveries I have been reading about for the last few years. Although short, the passages are of lovely proportion and extremely well decorated, and I’m sure there are a lot more of them still to be found.
Many thanks indeed to Boyd Potts for taking us on the trip.
Sunday July 29th 2012
Parys Mountain Copper Mine (through trip from Mona Mine)
Richard G, Nikki, Max, Matt, James G, Gary, Tim (leader), Ollie (leader)
Saturday July 28th 2012
Cwmorthin Slate Mine Round Trip
Sunday July 8th 2012
Nikki, Matt, Laura, Gary, Chuck, Ade
Saturday June 2nd 2012
Coast to Coast walk
Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk by camping
Not really a caving trip, but this seemed as good a place as any to post our report on our coast to coast walk. We hope that this description may prove very useful to anyone planning the walk as we did (Wainwright route, camping, carrying all our stuff, but getting all food from cafes, pubs and shops). The stops described below allow the trip to be done in 12 days with an average of 16 miles per day, so is suitably challenging, but not excessively difficult for many fit walkers.
The total cost of the trip was about £400 each, which included camping, breakfasts (usually a full English), lunches (usually a sandwich from a shop) and evening meal (typically two courses and a couple of beers at least). However, by simply obtaining a cheaper breakfast from a shop and having a bit less beer, the cost could probably be reduced to £300 each with no great hardship.
We navigated purely using the Harvey maps – these are highly recommended. We also had a copy of Terry Marsh’s book which we never actually used. We are very surprised to see that this book details the low level route from Keld to Reeth as the main route, with only the high level Wainwright route (up Swinnergill and past the lead mines) described as a less desirable alternative. We took the high route and were very glad we did as it was one of the highlights of the entire walk.
We camped every night with the exception of Keld, Reeth and Brompton-on-Swale. In Keld it was very wet so we opted for our own room in the Park House bunkbarn, although there was camping available at the same site. In Reeth the extremely nice site owner at Orchard Caravan Park gave us one of his old static caravans to stay in for the same price as camping would have been. At Brompton-on-Swale the weather was again very poor and the owners of this YHA-run site gave us use of an old static caravan as the bunkbarn was full, but camping facilities were also available here.
Summary of each day
Where breakfast is in a pub this usually needs to be ordered the night before. Most pubs only serve food until 8-9pm, and so for the longer days it is worth taking this into consideration, although we rarely set off anywhere before 9-10 am and after a leisurely breakfast. However, slower walkers may with to consider this and set off earlier. On most days it is worth phoning ahead to confirm camping, and at weekends, book at table for food.
York to St Bees (Train) then Ennerdale Bridge (14 miles)
Lunch: Probably best to bring some sandwiches from home for the first day
Camping (£5/tent), dinner and breakfast at the Fox and Hounds in Ennerdale Bridge
Summary: A superb and very welcoming community pub with great local ales.
Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite (16 miles)
Lunch: Worth carrying from shop in Ennerdale Bridge
Camping at the National Trust campsite in Stonethwaite (£4/each)
Dinner at the Langstrath Country Inn, Stonethwaite
Summary: Gastro pub with gastronomic prices but great food.
Breakfast: Nothing available in Stonethwaite
Stonethwaite to Patterdale via Grasmere/Griesdale (18 miles)
Lunch: Lots of cafes in Grasmere but we found Heidi’s to be superb
Camping at Side Farm, Patterdale (£8 each but showers are worth it)
Dinner and breakfast at The White Lion pub, Patterdale
Summary: Good ales and food – book a table if at weekend
Patterdale to Shap (16 miles)
Lunch: Can be purchased from the shop in Patterdale before departure
Camping (£5 each in beer garden), dinner and breakfast at The Black Bull, Shap
Summary: A friendly non-touristy local pub with great value very simple food
Shap to Kirkby Stephen (21 miles)
Lunch: slight detour off-route into Orton (8 miles) to chocolate factory tea room
Camping: Pennine View Caravan Park (£8 each but superb facilities inc. laundry)
Dinner: Croglin Castle Hotel, just next to campsite
Summary: This is the microbrewery for the superb Nine Standards ales
Breakfast: Numerous cafes is Kirkby Stephen
Kirkby Stephen to Keld via the Nine Standards (12 miles)
Lunch: From shop in Kirkby Stephen, cream tea from farm at Ravenseat (9 miles)
Camping, dinner and breakfast: Park House (we backed out of camping this night due to the wet weather and instead took their private double room in the bunkbarn which was only £47 including a self service breakfast)
Summary: A superb place, offering all types of accommodation (camping, bunk barn, private room) with hearty home cooked food delivered to your room/tent.
Keld to Reeth via Swinnergill and Gunnerside mines (12 miles)
Lunch: No shops so worth buying two days of lunch from Kirkby Stephen
Camping: Orchard Caravan Park, Reeth (£5 each, static caravan may be available)
Dinner and Breakfast: Black Bull pub in Reeth (not a great culinary experience)
Summary: We would pick a different pub in Reeth next time (there are three).
Reeth to Brompton-on-Swale (15 miles)
Lunch: Tea room in Marske, or numerous cafes in Richmond
Camping: Brompton-on-Swale camping barn (YHA-run). Due to the heavy rain we were going to stay in the bunkbarn but it was full so the owners kindly put us up in an old static caravan. Camping was also available.
Dinner: The Crown pub, Brompton-on-Swale (200 metres from camping barn)
Summary: A friendly, local pub, the food was extremely tasty, good value with excellent portions.
Breakfast: There is a Spar shop opposite the camping barn
Brompton-on-Swale to Ingleby Cross (20 miles)
Lunch: Shop in Brompton-on-Swale or pub in Danby Wiske
Camping (£5 each at back of pub) and dinner: Blue Bell in Ingleby Cross
Summary: A friendly country pub with good ales and tasty food
Breakfast: Could have got at pub but went into Osmotherly to The Coffee Pot where we got one of the best breakfasts of the entire coast to coast (opens 10:30am so quick progress after breakfast is needed)
Ingleby Cross to Blakey Ridge (22 miles)
Lunch: Lord Stones Café is now completely closed so call via shop in Osmotherly
Camping (£2.50 each), dinner and breakfast: The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge.
Summary: A superb place with an unmatched atmosphere, great food, and great full breakfast buffet (at weekends The Lion Inn can get extremely busy so booking ahead for food and camping would be advisable)
Blakey Ridge to Grosmont (12 miles)
Lunch: There is a pub/café at the bottom end of Glaisdale village
Camping: Priory Farm on the left on the way into Grosmont (£4 each)
Dinner: The Station Tavern by Grosmont station
Summary: A good, friendly pub but quite expensive
Breakfast: North York Moors Railway café on station platform
Grosmont to Robin Hoods bay (14 miles)
Lunch: Tea room at Midge Hall (best cream tea of the entire walk).
Camping: We could have gone straight home, but we stayed at Hook House Farm (£8 each)
Dinner and breakfast: Loads of places in Robin Hoods Bay
Sunday May 27th 2012
Nenthead Mines Smallcleugh to Capplecleugh Level
Ade, Andy B, Chuck, Debbie, Gary, John D, Matt, Max, Nick, Nikki, Sparky, Richard G, Richard W
Saturday May 12th 2012
Little Hull Pot
Ade, Debbie, Gary, Matt
We have had permits for Little Hull Pot each year since the club was founded, but every year it has been rained off. Having never done this Yorkshire classic before we had no idea how it responsed to rain, but the warnings in the guidebooks put us off doing it in anything other than very nice weather. This weekend was good, with little rain the day before and a beautiful sunny day forecast so at last, the trip was on!
We had a fine breakfast at the Singing Kettle in Settle (Superb portions at a great price!). After parking in Horton village centre we found the entrance easily by following the Pennine way footpath towards Penyghent from Horton-in-Ribblesdale. A gentle incline cleared out our cobwebs, and after about 20 minutes we reached the gate where the path to Penyghent turns right. The way on is up the unofficial path ascending the slope to the left at about 45 degrees to the wall. This is followed up to a relatively flat plateau where the track becomes less distinct. After a few hundred metres the depression with the obvious entrance to Little Hull Pot is on the left only 20m from the vague track. The water sinks approximately 200m further up this shallow valley, but it is easy to see that in flood it could quickly reach the Little Hull entrance.
The cave starts with a few minutes of easy meandering passage with some nice moonmilk decoration, before lowering to a crawl. This turned out to be nowhere near as bad as some of the reports I had read – it was a pleasantly easy hands and knees crawl through shallow (2-3 inches) water – not bad considering the previous week had been extremely wet until Friday. The crawl lasted only 40-50m and then we were back to pleasant stomping and crabwalking down a twisting stream passage. Only a couple of minutes later we reached the first pitch and the ropework fun commenced.
The first pitch is a spectacular one. Water cascades over the edge, but thankfully the initial descent only follows this down for a couple of metres down, before you swing forward and through a giant rock window to the far side of the shaft and a re-belay which marks the start of a very exposed, almost free-hanging traverse out over the pitch. This was great fun, and the view down the pitch was superb. We rigged a re-belay two thirds of the way down from an eco-hanger, although once we were down it became clear that this would have been much better as a deviation.
The second pitch was reached within minutes of the first. Initially we stayed at stream level all the way to the pitch head where two inviting eco-hangers provided an excellent Y-hang. Gary went down and started to search for the deviation that we were expecting four metres down near a shelf, while Debbie, Ade and I provided pleasing renditions of songs from 1980s children’s cartoons. Some time later, and unable to find a deviation, Gary returned up the pitch. We soon realised that the route down this pitch is actually to climb up 3 m over the pitch head about 3-4m before the edge and squeeze through blocks to reach an exposed balcony half way across the top of the shaft. This is a stunning place and one of the most exposed head-first approaches to a pitch you can ever make!
From this balcony, yet another exposed Y-hang provides a lovely hang down the shaft. There is a deviation a few metres down, which we used, but we decided that with water being quite low we didn't need the deviation half way down. The pitch lands on a large rock-floored chamber, with a continuation of the pitch down a slot in the floor, which in the low water conditions we had, was easily free-climbable (Selected Caves says 70m rope to rig the whole thing, but CNCC rigging guide says 55m +15m, with the 15m being for this last free-climbable bit). Looking back, we probably could have descended from the stream-level take-off and taken a nice shower on the way down the pitch.
Gary was first down and disappeared off to rig the third pitch. With me, Ade and Debbie down we followed. The cave from here enters a very long, straight narrow rift passage. Only 20 m along the passage the first obstacle is reached – a narrowing in the passage at stream level, necessitating a low wallow in water. Gary was waiting for us, preparing to go through the water, having declared a tight bypass over the top to be too narrow. He went into the water, which became an almost flat out crawl in several inches of water, but soon popping back up again. Gary was wearing a neofleece, and the rest of us were not, and so the prospect of a soaking did not appeal. I took my SRT kit off and squeezed along a narrow slot against the right hand wall until it became wide enough to climb up and onto blocks above. Another tight squeeze against the right hand wall returned me to stream-level, although I was glad I took my SRT kit off. All in all it took the three of us about 20 minutes to get through here – the wet route would have taken only a minute – but it was 20 minutes well spent to stay dry.
By the time we were through, Gary had disappeared along the rift to rig the final pitch. Debbie, Ade and I therefore continued along, traversing up and down where necessary, until I arrived at a shelf where the water cascaded down several metres. Looking up, Gary was several metres above me, rigging the final pitch. It would seem that we had made the mistake of staying too low, when the route to the pitch head is by keeping as high as you can. We backtracked about 30-40m down the rift to where a climb up to a higher level could be made and the correct pitch head reached.
The eco-hangers on the final pitch are far from ideal. One hanger provides a take-off on the right hand wall, with a sharp deviation off the far wall just over the edge. The rope does rub slightly on the edge of the rock before the deviation so extreme care is needed. Once past the deviation an easy descent reaches the floor.
We took a short stoop through to the final chamber. I climbed up the slot to reach the sump chamber, which following my exaggeration of how great this was, Debbie and Gary also decided to take a look. An extremely speedy ascent then followed with no difficulties at all. We were out by about 6:30pm to a lovely sunny evening, total trip time about 5 hours. A curry in Settle provided the ideal end to the day.
For future reference, Little Hull Pot isn’t somewhere I’d want to be in heavy rain, however, our trip was following a week of very heavy rain, and with only one day of fairly settled weather before our trip, so it clearly drains very quickly. The Selected Caves and CNCC rigging guide descriptions are very clear (don’t forget to climb up high 3-4m before the second pitch). In low water the second pitch can be rigged with a 55-60m rope and the second part of this pitch can be easily free-climbed. Thin cavers can bypass the only wet bit just after the second pitch, so furry suits are fine.
A true classic Yorkshire pot hole! This cave should be on every SRT cavers list of things to do.
The sun was out (for the first time in ages) and despite our concern that it had been too wet we set off from York anyway. After all Matt had a wet weather backup-plan-with-no-drawbacks which consisted of... "chuck another 60m in and we'll find something else to do". Hmm.
A swift and very cheap breakfast at the Copper Kettle (or some such) cafe in Settle then we were on our way to Horton. The tourist infested village was particularly busy on arrival and with non of the Yorkshiremen in the car willing to pay £4 to park, we opted for giving £2 to a dodgy looking man in a field. After leaving our car in the hands of this portly gentleman, we headed off on the long but not too steep walk to Little Hull Pot.
The entrance was rather a relief after what I had been told. After a couple of years doing some of the horrific things in Not for the Faint Hearted, I had become used to and expectant of a low, wet, awkward entrance. This was not the case; the roomy stoop lead into an easy cobble floored crawl before being able to stand again. More easy passage followed to the head of the first pitch. Nice easy rigging soon gave way to a swing through a window and an (almost) hanging traverse to the free hang. At this point I became aware how little water there was, despite several weeks of rain. The CNCC guide says it floods badly (and may well do) but there was no sign of this today. This was probably for the best as the next pitch went right down the waterfall. Well, it would have, had I not rigged it wrong. Matt pointed out more anchors higher up leading to a rather acrobatic manoeuvre through a squeeze to pop out head first over a 50m pitch!
The rigging became more scary with a very exposed lean out over the pitch to reach the not-so-well placed anchors on the far wall. I put the first deviation in just a few meters below, although it wasn't required, before starting the 40 odd metre decent down the middle of the very fine shaft to land on a large shelf next to the waterfall (but far enough away to stay dry). A single anchor (re-belay?) formed the start of a continuation down the last 10m to the rift floor below.
Some horizontal work now, with a short easy crawl leading to a low wet section. After some time spent being wussy and looking for a way over the top, I opted for the water (which wasn’t too bad). After popping up on the other side and inspecting the route over I found that I had been one boulder away from completing the dry route. Oh well, wet now. Should I tell the others the dry route? Foolishly I did!
A good 15 mins of rift followed, awkward in paces but following the worn route was easy enough. I had gone off ahead to start rigging the final pitch, and as I was doing so noticed the others about 5m below in the rift! After telling them that was very much not the way down, they had to retreat back to find a place to climb up.
Some interesting rigging via a very long 'Y' hang from the opposite wall and an almost 90 degree deviation (only just avoiding a rub point on a sharp rock bridge) drops down the final pitch to a roomy chamber.
Well worth exploring this area as we found an awkward chimney up into an unusual dry sandy chamber leading to the final sump. Not much else to see so back up and out in only a couple of hours for Curry in Settle.
What a glorious day!
The trip itself was brilliant. As someone who hasn't caved very often in the past few years, especially SRT trips, it was a shock to the system as some of the pitches are rather exposed. I needed to quickly learn to trust myself and my gear again!!! However, this momentary panic and fear led to a fabulous adrenaline rush and sense of achievement when completed.
The pitches really were spectacular. Not too wet, and brilliant hangs down into the chamber. We later met the rifty part, which wasn't too bad, and I'm pleased to say I could fit through the tight bypass of the wet crawl without any problem :-) Ade, Matt and I got vaguely lost later on in another rift as we couldn't figure out how high to be. When I say lost, I really mean just exploring the scenery....
Because I was vaguely freaked out on the descent, I was a little nervous about prussicking up what in my head had turned into 100m pitch. I didn't look up while ascending, and after a decent length of time, I thought, ok, I must be about half way by now. One more prussick and my head hit the top deviation a metre or so from the top of the pitch! A nice surprise.
After a glorious and exhilarating trip filled, we emerged from the darkness into the beautiful sunlight and warmth, and meandered down with wonderful scenery all around, and headed to for a well deserved curry and a pint.
Sunday April 22nd 2012
Sell Gill Holes both entrances exchange
Ade, Cat, Chuck, Debbie, Nikki, Toby
Saturday April 21st 2012
Boggarts Roaring Holes (sort of)
Ade, Cat, Toby
Saturday March 10th 2012
Pool Sink to Holbeck Junction (Easegill)
Matt, Gary, Chuck, Ade
Having explored much of the Main Drain part of Easegill over the last several years, one classic entrance was not yet familiar to me. We have been wanting to do Pool Sink for some time, but being one of the more flood prone entrances, we have been rained off in favour of some of the safer entrances in the past. We had a permit for Pool and County this time, but the weather was looking OK (although the fell was very wet underfoot) and so we went for Pool Sink.
We were going to pop in and pre-rig County Pot for the through trip and a pull through down Pool Sink, however, we were not 100% confident in route finding to Holbeck Junction from Pool Sink, and we didn’t know what the water level in the Main Drain would be like. So we decided to stick with going in and out of Pool Sink on this occasion.
The entrance is easy to find, a natural, worn rectangular slot about 5-10 minutes walk upstream of County, to the side of, as the name suggests, a deep pool (which I guess would be dry during summer). Not to be mistaken for Wretched Rabbit (which leads after only 15m to the top of several free climbs with fixed ropes). It was quite wet and the fell was saturated, so we moved some rocks to slightly lower the level of the pool outside the entrance and to allow it to drain should the water levels rise while were underground.
Once inside, the entrance is a narrow winding tube with a couple of sharp bends causing pain for the taller caver. However, it’s really quite easy, and enlarges to stooping after only a few minutes – this was the only slightly hard part of the trip! The first pitch was soon reached, which we rigged with a deviation from a P-hanger 5 m down to stay out of the slight drizzle coming down from above (and to safeguard the return trip against a rise in water levels).
A more significant stream was then joined and followed downstream. I was having quite a leisurely trip, and I didn’t pay much attention to anything beyond this point until we got to the bottom of the final pitch – but the description and rope lengths in Selected Caves is spot on and you can’t really go wrong. It’s all quite easy and enjoyable, good simple classic Dales caving. You actually forget that you’re in Easegill.
We didn’t know what to expect from the bottom of the final pitch – the route to Holbeck Junction sounded easy in principal, but we suspected that there were sure to be some complications. Not so! Although there are a few bits where you could go wrong if navigating without description, the Selected Caves description is spot on and you really can’t fail to find your way to Holbeck Junction. The only bit with slight confusion is the huge block, which Selected Caves says almost blocks the passage - if you're not paying attention you fail to notice that this is a block, as it just looks like a blank wall, forcing a stoop down to pass it - but you still can't go wrong!
A quick chocolate bar and we were on our way out, just in time to catch a lovely sunset across Casterton Fell. First class gentle trip and looking forward to doing it as a pull through next time.
Sunday February 5th 2012
Ogof Draenen to the Dollimore Series and Medusa's Children
Matt, Mark, Gary
Everything was definitely against us for this trip. After Matt got some kind of flesh eating infection in his foot the night before and me being full of cold (not to mention knackered from doing Aggy for 7 hours), we'd all but written off our planned Draenen expedition. Things didn't get any better the next morning... it had snowed overnight and the road didn't look good!
Despite all this, and not leaving the hut until 11am, we managed to get to the Draenen car park and were swiftly underground!
After the usual fun dunk in the entrance waterfall we were making good time and were soon in Indiana Highway. At this point my cold caught up with me and I was on the verge of turning back, but I soldiered on thanks to the plethra of drugs Mark had with him!
Mostly easy going for a while with a quick stomp through Megadrive and on to Nunnery Passage. We had a bit of discussion about which passage off the Nunnery it was but we chose right. It was not long before the formations started with the very unusual gypsum crystals in Mid-winter Chambers, shortly followed by the Snowball which you can't help put sit and stare at for some time!
Then the crawling began...
There was a lot of groaning and grunting (mostly from Matt) through the Last Sandwich crawl which seems to go on forever ending in a few squeezes which turned out to be not that bad. The reward was worth it when we popped out all of a sudden in the HUGE passage called MS&D (more singing and dancing??). After (yet another) food stop we stomped off down the vast space to arrive at Luck of the Draw.
It was at this point that the description stopped stating distances in meters and moved onto kilometres! 'Follow the passage for 1.2km' it said! So off we went. After an easy rope climb up we entered some easy walking passage which mostly remained that size for it's length. Some time later we arrived at our goal for the day... Madusas Children.
I would agree with all descriptions I have read about this place... it is by far the most amazing formations I have ever seen and definitely the best in the UK as far as I know. For about 30m of passage the walls and ceiling are literally covered with the most bizarre bright white helectites, any one of which would be worth a long trip to see. The well taped path took us carefully through into another section of the same formations. Mark took some video while Matt and I headed on a bit.
By now we were all pretty knackered but pushed on to The Light Bulb formation then attempted to find the Geryon but failed after several crawls. Never mind - next time!
The return trip was arduous to say the least but we were out before midnight to a snowy Wales and thankfully didn't get stuck on the way back to the hut!
Saturday February 4th 2012
Agen Allwedd to the Music Room
, Nikki, Ade,
Great trip! The main passageway is really impressively huge, and there were some very cool ice stals and curtains in the entrance. Fun snowy walk there too :-)
Saturday February 4th 2012
Agen Allwedd outer circle via Coal Cellar passage
Steve G, Matt, Mark, Gary
After two previous trips to Aggie (Agen Allwedd) we were finally ready to tackle one of the caves classic round trips. We initially set off to do the Inner Circle via Coal Cellar Passage (as our previous trip to Aggie had terminated at Coal Cellar Chamber). However, we ended up doing the Outer Circle instead!
The entrance of Agen Allwedd (Aggie) is easy to find, approximately 35 minutes walk along the tramway from the Chelsea Speleo Whitewalls Cottage (turn left coming out of the cottage and follow this path, all the way round the valley edge). The metal entrance hatch is in the base of the cliff only meters from the path and can't be missed. Once inside, the entrance series is quite straightforward. There were some first class ice formations! The entrance passage soon degenerates to an annoying flat out thrash in a shallow pool of water under two low arches, but you can be careful and stay mostly dry through these. After this, the going is easy and generally keeping left is the key to subsequent navigation.
As the entrance series approaches the start of the first boulder choke (several minutes after the first sign warning of bats), navigation becomes trickier up and down through the jammed blocks, but perseverance and trial and error (you can't go far wrong) soon finds you scrambling through the main part of the choke (a scaffold bar across a small rift passage marks the start of the choke). Keep to the solid left wall through the choke and you soon pop out into the majestic Main Passage.
We took a pleasant stomp down the Main Passage, and dropped down through the opening in the right hand wall after a few hundred meters into the stream. This stream passage is followed over numerous boulders and obstacles for some distance (involving a few fixed handlines) to reach the second boulder choke (which has a sign to confirm you are in the right place). Once here, this is the worst of the navigation over. A recce trip to here (as we had a few years ago) is well worthwhile before attempting one of the round trips.
The second boulder choke drops down through blocks to a low section at stream level. On our first trip this was very wet and would have involved a very nasty duck, but on both occasions since (including this one) water levels have been fine, despite the weather not being the driest on the surface. Beyond the second choke the streamway is followed with relative ease (and one slightly awkward climb down for those with short legs) for some distance before the obvious merger with the caves main stream passage, Turkey Streamway. As you approach here, the rock becomes very slippy and I will get some new wellies before we return here!
Upstream in Turkey Streamway reaches after a few hundred meters a superb flowstone cascade, one of the finest! A few hundred meters further and the obvious entrance to Coal Cellar Passage is reaches on the right. Initially this passage is fairly easy going (though awkward by comparison to what we had been through so far). We got to the junction with Coal Cellar Chamber (which goes off on the right up into a large chamber with lots of black coal-like rock). This is where we turned around last time.
We instead continued right, up the main Coal Cellar Passage. This soon narrowed and became increasing more awkward. Sideways walking was often necessary, and then even this became impossible as the passage pinched in at the floor level with several jammed blocks, requiring frequent chimneying and traversing. This continued for an eternity - too long - before the passage changed character again and lowered, to a further eternity of thrutching over slabs and blocks at stream level. This passage was much more arduous that we'd anticipated! After some time following the small stream, with the passage showing no mercy and our energy draining, we were beginning to wonder if we had missed the climb up into the large passages of the Inner Circle. However, following the passage to the end, we eventually found ourselves in small chamber, which initially looked like a dead end, but with a tiny chute going upwards at the back, with clear signs of being well worn. Gary went first up this, soon discovering why most people choose to do the round trip in the opposite direction! After 10 minutes of shoving and grunting he was up and we all followed in our own time.
The decision was now made to complete the Outer Circle to avoid a return via Coal Cellar Passage!
We were pleased to pop up into a spacious passage, exactly where we were meant to be. After a lunch break, we stomped onwards up the passage (left as you pop up from Coal Cellar Passage). This became larger, but after a few hundred meters reached a confusing end, and it was not clear on the survey where to go. At the very end of the passage it degenerated into a low flat out crawl, not well worn, and 20 m back from here, a drop down a trench in the floor was marked with an arrow saying 'OUT' (this is confusing - Out of the cave, or the Outer Circle???). Dropping down here and following the obvious way on however soon reached further large passage - it turns out that this was not a junction at all, but simply a continuation of the passage at lower level (the survey we had was not accurate enough to shown this). At the end of this passage was a junction which matched the survey perfectly. Ahead (keeping right) was the start of the anticlockwise Inner Circle, but we went left, cutting off the Inner Circle altogether. All navigation from here was extremely easy with the survey all the way back down the Turkey Streamway.
Following the streamway downstream we had a refreshing dip in Turkey Pool (only belly deep, and only 10m long) and an easy stomp back down to the start of Coal Cellar Passage again. We romped back out, completing the Outer Circle in 7 hours. We exited to find several inches of snow having fallen and a rather treacherous walk back to Whitewalls.
A great trip! Maybe next time we will recce Southern Stream Passage.
Saturday January 14th 2012
Matt, Gary, Cat, Ade, Chuck, Laura, Nikki
Great to get the chance to explore the recently discovered Shuttleworth Pot.
We parked at the top car park of Leck Fell by Leck Fell House (as the lower car park was full) and followed the wall down the fell for some distance, before deviating off towards the entrance at grid reference SD 6621 7978. Our GPS took us straight to the entrance, just above an obvious but small rocky outcrop before you reach the bottom of the valley.
The entrance pipe was 3m deep assisted by an in-situ aluminium ladder. A cut away section at the bottom of the pipe leads immediately onto the first short pitch with an in-situ deviation a few metres down. (20m rope is excessive but would cover the entrance pipe too if the aluminium ladder were absent for whatever reason).
A short crawl below the entrance pitch reaches a junction, left into a standing height rift (not explored), but right reaches after only a couple of metres the start of a series of pitches leading down into the main caverns of Shuttleworth Pot. A single 60m rope allows all these pitches to be rigged, or several shorter lengths would work. All these pitches have P-hangers installed in suitable locations.
The first pitch in the series is 5m down through a narrow slot into a small chamber. Another 3m pitch follows immediately (the hang being from an in-situ sling around a natural), which could be easily climbed but best not owing to the large drop of the main pitch just beyond. This lands on a large ledge over the main pitch.
For the main pitch the hanger is high up on the right at the pitch head and rope rub about a foot below the hanger is unavoidable, so we rigged this from a figure 8 with a very long loop (so the loop sat on the rub point rather than the main rope). A long sling would probably work better. A descent of 5-6m reaches a re-belay at a convenient shelf. A further descent of several metres reaches the next re-belay at a smaller shelf. The final descent of approximately 15m reaches the floor, although you need to kick-out for the last several metres to avoid rope rub.
We then followed the taped route up the slope and spent a few hours being amazed by the superb unspoilt formations, including an excellent gallery of straws and some superb flowstone and helictites (no route description is necessary for this, it's all very obvious). I would appeal to all future visitors to please take your time and to watch where your hands, feet and head is going as several formations are in very vulnerable locations indeed and some damage has already been done.
Back at the bottom of the pitch, we decided to complete the trip by descending to the sump. Although you could climb down the rubble slope we were advised that this was unstable and it is preferable to rig a traverse from the bolts around the right hand wall to a short pitch with a deviation a few metres down. From the bottom, stay on the rope with a short traverse line away from the sump to avoid all risks of slipping into the turbulent sump pool which would undoubtedly be serious. A 35m rope is sufficient for the traverse and pitch.
The sump is extremely impressive. An ascending slope goes steeply up for about 50m to a short muddy section of passage with some gour pools and mud formations, but this soon closes down at a muddy dig and the short Zig Zag passage on the right.
The walk back to the car was the hardest part of the trip, as we parked at Leck Fell, meaning a long (40+ min) walk uphill across awkward terrain! This could possibly be avoided in future by instead parking at Bull Pot Farm. The entire trip time was much longer than expected (from leaving the car to getting back, about 6 hours), however we were a large group, taking our time and stopping for regular photos.
A superb trip! Congratulations to all those involved in the discovery.
Tackle guide for future visits:
Entrance pitch – 20m rope
Main pitch series – 60m rope or 25+40m
Pitch to sump (including traverses) – 35m rope
As at January 2012 the entire cave is eco-hangered except the traverse and pitch down to the sump which has adequate longlifes.
Sunday November 6th 2011
Long Churn - Dolly Tubs
Nikki, Matt Hobby, Ru Tromans, Anna Philips
Saturday October 29th 2011
Sell Gill Holes (Wet Route)
Matt, Laura, Chuck, Sarah
Little Hull Pot was, once again, rained off, so up to Sell Gill for an adventure down the wet route. The SRT was surprisingly more technical than I remember (this may just have been Chuck's interesting rigging!) and we had a fairly enjoyable four hours underground. In true old fart style, I had forgotton how to do a re-belay and made a total hash of it until I remembered, Chuck had forgotton to leave slack in his rigging for rack-users and Sarah argued with a deviation and lost. Great day out!
Sunday September 11th 2011
Gary, Nick, Steve G, Matt
Arriving at Bull Pot Farm by 11:30 we were underground by midday, with the scaffolded entrance shaft being very easy to find (walk along the track to Barbondale, through the first gate, then immediately through gate on right, down to Aygill beck 50m ahead across the field, then the entrance is about 100m upstream of here on the true right bank).
We were laddering the cave as suggested in Selected Caves.
From the bottom of the entrance shaft, keep left through a crawl then climb up on the left (we missed this climb initially, but soon realised our error when the passage ran out) to further crawling and a traverse in a narrow rift to the first chamber. Traverse pitch was laddered, and two anchors provide a backup and hang.
Down through the slot in the floor at the foot of the pitch soon lead to the second pitch, which is more difficult to rig as there is only one anchor, so we had to use some naturals too. The descent was very wet indeed, and I wasn't expecting a soaking on this trip!
The main streamway was rumbling and roaring with very powerful brown water, which surprised us as we hadn't realised it was so wet. We went upstream initially, through 100m of enjoyable streamway to a chamber where water entered through several crawls. Then downstream, three cascades (2m each) needed to be negotiated. This would usually have been easy but the force of the water made it quite scary as one slip and you would have been taken by the water.
From the bottom of the cascades we went to explore, but the cave soon became quite uninspiring. We got to Sand Junction and pottered round for a little but we didn't go to terminal sump as we suspected it to be raining on the surface and didn't fancy the cascades if the water level went up any further! The climb back up the cascades was extremely wet but not as tricky as I was expecting.
We were only underground for 3 hours, and despite not getting far through the cave I really enjoyed the short stretch of streamway and the gushing cascades made it all worthwhile. Would be interesting to return in lower water and see the supposedly impressive terminal sump.
For future trips, it will be much easier to use SRT, and a 20m and 25m rope should be more than sufficient for a traverse line and the hangs of each pitch, with long slings for naturals on the second pitch. The anchors at the pitch heads provide acceptable hangs.