Thursday December 31st 2009
Devis Hole Mine
Gary, Matt, Richard G, Nikki, Ade, Chuck, Tash
An excellent trip that didn't look like it was going to happen!
We had an early start and John, Gary, Ade and I met up with Rich, Nikki and Tash up near snowy Leyburn. We found that the road between Leyburn and Reeth (which the mine is near) was closed at the Leyburn end due to snow drifts, so as a last resort we headed over to the Reeth end of the road via na alternative and equally treacherous route. The road was closed from both ends, but a snowplough and gritter had just been through, so ignoring the warnings we headed up the hill.
Approaching from Reeth, you part in the obvious dirt area (well, usually dirt when not covered by 1-2ft of snow!) on the right about 500m up the road from Grinton after the hairpin bend. We got up to the parking area OK, and it was a fine day and the hills were covered with snow. We headed up towards the mine, following the main footpath (only visable thanks to the existing footprints). About 200-300m pastthe derilict building, head off the path to the right hand side down towards a cluster of small trees. Walking in this area became rather exciting, as the 1.5ft high grass had been topped with 1.5ft of snow, and so we were up to our waist in snow! A short search located the entrance, only 50m up the right hand valley with small stream past the cluster of trees.
Gary and I had done Devis with the Moldywarps the previous christmas and so we made quick progress to Pearsons sump, a 50ft ladder pitch down to the lower workings. The entrance area was a little delicate and is in immenant danger of collapse! We rigged the ladder off the variety of in-situ tat and rusty hangers, backing up many times! From the bottom we continued on along the left hand branch towards the entrance to the natural cave section. Thanks for the survey in the MSG Journal no.12 we easily navigated through the maze. We then made quick progress down to Grafitti Corner via some very dodgy areas of collapse where very delicate manoeuvering is necessary! We then turned around, as we wanted to be back in time for Laura's new year party.
As we exited at 4pm we caught the last of the daylight, however it soon darkened and started snowing again quite heavy so we hurriedly got changed in fear of getting stuck in the snow! We got down to the Leyburn to Bedale road just in time, as the snow suddenly turned torrential - another hour down Devis and we might have been spending the night down there!
A great trip, with so much more to explore while it is still accessible - the entrance probably hasn't got long left!
Sunday December 20th 2009
Gary, Matt, Laura, Andy B, Richard W, Ade, Chuck
On a very snowy day we met up with the Scarborough guys in Stokesley for breakfast, following large amounts of snow over the previous week. We headed up towards the village of Kildale, thankfully following a tractor which was gritting the narrow road. A trudge up the hill in the snow rewarded us with an excellent mine, with extensive passages and calcite decoration. We didn't have time to fully explore, however we were underground for a good three hours. Some extreme dodgyness though!
We departed the mine at 4pm and were soon on our way down the Bilsdale road to get to Hutton-le-Hole for our Christmas meal. As we reached Helmsley the snow started coming down and it was touching-go whether we would make it over the hill and into Hutton-le-Hole! We got down to the pub around 5:30pm with the snow coming down thick and fast. Within half an hour it was confirmed to us that it was to be a one-way trip for today! After shovelling a space for our tent around the back of the pub then we hurried in to spend six hours drinking and eating!
It continued snowing for five hours, setting down a foot of snow and making camping a chilly experience. The following day was bright and sunny but very cold, with thermometers reading -14oC!!! (My frozen fingertips agreed). Thanks to a snowplough passing through during the night we were able to escape Hutton by 10am, after spending half an hour scraping the ice off car doors to allow them to be opened! We took it in turns to take a run up at the hill, with Garys heavy Laguna only just having enough momentum and grip to make it up to the highest point by the campsite, and it was downhill from there.
An excellent christmas meal!
Saturday November 28th 2009
Gary, Matt, Mark, Chad, Laura, Thomas
After the long walk up from Clapham we quickly found Jean Pot (initially mistaking Car Pot for it, but the description of the Shake Hole in Not For The Faint Hearted is very accurate). The first pitch took a little while to rig, as it is only just below the entrance slot and required a sling with a rope protector to hang it from a very sharp flake over the pitch head.
Hard Times Crawl was nowhere near as bad as we expected. I took my SRT kit off expecting the worse, but this proved very much unnecessary, and the crawl is flat out but quite spacious tube, which reaches after a couple of minutes a drop down. An easy traverse reaches the second pitch. An obvious bolt provides the main hang, however, the flake to back-up from is unobvious, being quite high up on the right. Rope rub was inevitable, but thankfully the pitch was short and the rock was smooth.
Immediately after this the next very short pitch is reached, rigged from a tiny chockstone and a bolt approximately a metre back from the pitch head. Unfortunately the rope has no option other than to hang over the rock at the pitch head, which is sharp, and so a rope protector is absolutely essential.
The fourth pitch is equally a rigging dilemma. A small flake back from the pitch head and higher up in the rift provided a less than ideal backup, and two unusually positioned bolts near the pitch head allow for a semi-Y-hang to be rigged. Many of the blocks near the pitch head are loose, including one particularly massive block, and so great care was required. The pitch constricts a metre down due to a jammed block which gave some difficulty (jamming Lauras helmet, and forcing Gary to have to reascend and lock his stop in the descending position prior to reattempting!) and some rope rub was unavoidable.
It was obvious how the Chamber of False Promises got its name! The following slither over blocks and the crawl to the traverse seemed a lot easier on the way down without a tacklesack, however, the return journey, gradually uphill, with a tacklesack was rather more difficult with many snagging rocky outcrops and blocks. The traverse was easy thanks to the fixed line now in place (thanks ULSA!) and the formations on the ceiling around the traverse are excellent. It was saddening to see the obvious and unavoidable damage to the stal along the crawl before the traverse, and the first person down this must have seem some amazing things! In particular, extreme care was taken getting off the traverse, as some damage has already been done to the fine formations there. Thankfully the nice helictites above the traverse are out of reach and should be forever protected.
The fifth pitch was rigged, backed up from a bolt in the large chamber, and then rebelayed round a pillar at the pitch head. It could be free-climbed but was very slippy, and lead straight onto the final pitch so not advisable. The sixth pitch made for the biggest rigging dilemma of them all! A bolt and ring in the roof at the bottom of the fifth pitch provided good backup for the start of a traverse around the head of the pot to a bolt on the right which provided the main hang. Accessing this bolt involved some scary manouevers along the tiny ledge, not helped by the fine gallery of straws only centimetres above our heads (thankfully avoided). Thinking back, we probably should have rigged it with the rope going straight from the two anchors in the ceiling over the edge of the pot with a rope protector, rather than traversing round to the bolt on the right for the clear hang. The ledge part way down was too loose to use as a rebelay as suggested in the guide. Eventually at the bottom we were able to appreciate that this pitch is a fine and impressive pot.
We did not descend the seventh (final) pitch, as the only thing we could find to rig off was a very rusty ring at the pitch head - the guide suggested backing up off a jammed block, however, the only jammed blocks were forming the rock-blockage directly above out heads, and looked pretty unstable, so we decided that having seen the bottom of the cave, rather than having reached it was more than adequate.
Jean Pot was a very enjoyable dry six hours underground, with no extreme difficulty, which I would imagine to be passable in all weather condition (with the possible exception of major snow meltwater). The rigging is difficult and rope protectors are absolutely essential, and many of the bolts are rusty and completely unserviceable. An excellent winter trip, and I look forward to doing Car Pot next year.
A quite unexpectedly enjoyable trip!
I started the day with thoughts of 6 hours of tight squeezes and waterfall filled awkward pitch heads, but it was quite the opposite. There are some awkward parts and a couple of crawls but not at all as nasty as the guide book suggests.
A lovely sunny winters day made for an excellent walk up onto Ingleborough with great views of Penyghent in the crisp air. The entrance to Jean Pot is only a short way from Bar Pot and easy to find next to the wall.
Mark and I had agreed to be the rigging team so I set off first down the short entrance pitch into a roomy chamber. The first of the crawls was just around the corner so Mark and I got going while the others came down the entrance. Not knowing what the crawl was like, I decided to take off my SRT kit (Mark chanting â€œfaff, faff, faffâ€ in my ear wasn't helping). As it happened, the crawl was quite roomy and I could have done it with my kit on.
The crawl ends with a short drop down an easy free-climb into a rift with another short pitch. As seems to be the case with all the caves we do, the rigging was 'interesting' with the backup for the second pitch being the end of the rope hooked onto a small flake. I set off down asking mark to make sure the backup didn't fall off as I was going!
The others had caught up to us by then so Mark and I carried on rigging the second rather dodgy pitch. I tied the backup onto a totally loose chock-stone in a heavily cracked roof and pulled the rope out of the tackle sack. Unfortunately the string broke holding the spits to the bag and the whole lot went down the pitch! After some thought about using Mark as an anchor, I thankfully found a spit attached to my harness. We got to use one of our shiny new rope protectors on this pitch so I was happy.
After picking up all the dropped spits from the boulder choke, Mark and I carried on to the next, larger pitch. In order to get a free hang, we had to use a rather rusty in-situ ring over the pitch head but it did its job. A tight initial descent landed in the large Chamber of False Promises. A slither over some blocks entered an impressive tall aven before the second crawl.
The second crawl was a bit more awkward than the first but with some impressive formations throughout. This lead to the traverse over the blind pit which had recently had new rings and rope installed. More great formations before the next muddy slope/pitch to the top of a balcony overlooking a large chamber. A very strange bolt location meant we had to take a lot of care not to damage formations in the roof but we made it down.
Mark and I went off to look at the last pitch but decided that the area was too loose and we couldn't find a suitable backup so we gave up at that point. Well, we'd SEEN the bottom! :p
Back out with SRT kit on all the way was quick progress. We were met with a very cold and clear evening on Ingleborough and seemed to make friends with a bat before heading off for some food.
Highly recommended trip, not sure about 'a good evening trip' though, as the guidebook suggests!
Sunday October 11th 2009
Lost Johns Pot
Gary, Matt, Chad, Ade, Laura
A pleasant trip down Lost Johns following Boxhead being too wet at the bottom of the entrance aven. We got down to the meeting point for all routes (via Centipede and Catherdral routes) where we swapped routes for the journey out, reaching the surface after only a couple of hours underground. It was a nice jaunt and was just long enough and just enough exercise to justify our Inglesport breakfasts!
Sunday October 11th 2009
Spectacle Pot - Vesper Pot (not quite an exchange!)
Gary, Matt, Chad, Thomas, Chuck, Mark
After a leisurely breakfast at Helwith Bridge we made our way down to Kingsdale for a Vespers - Spectacle exchange. Chad, Tom, Gary and I were on Spectacle and Mark, Cat and Chuck on Vespers. We arrived at our respective entrances around 1pm ready for action!
The entrance pitch to Spectacle is pleasantly easy, although the knob of rock to rig off requires a close eye to make sure the sling stays on there! The pitch lands in a small chamber with a rift leading downwards into the distance, littered with several sheep bones (one skull placed high up in the rift for dramatic effect). Very soon (after only around 20 m) Splutter crawl was reached. We expected this to be a flat out wet bedding, however, to our surprise, it was actually a tiny tube at floor level, barely body size, for approximately 4-5m. It really does look frignteningly small!
Gary pushed on into the crawl, one arm forward, one arm back to streamline his bones, and with SRT kit pushed ahead with the tacklesack. On several occassions he nearly lost his nerve but after a couple of minutes struggling he slipped through to the ladder which he descended head first! I nervously adopted the position ready to come along the crawl. I initially tried to go along with both arms ahead outstretched but there was no chance this was going to work! I retreated from the crawl and repositioned my arms, one forward, one back, ready for my second attempt. This seemed to work well, however, once into the tighted part, all you could do was propel yourself with little pushing motions of your feet. You are totally constricted at this point and movement of your arms, torso or head is completely impossibly - it's down to wiggles of your feet only to push you through, literally half a centimeter at a time. After a terrifying few minutes it opened up slightly before the ladder. The head-first descent seemed a breeze by comparison!
To add insult to my struggled, Tom then slipped through and barely touched the sides, popping out with his infamous comment of 'that wasn't too bad'! Maybe I need to go on a diet!
Gary rigged the next pitch, although as one of the spits was knackered, it was a one-bolt wonder backed up off the ladder (which itself would not have fitted down the pitch). The short pitch lands in a chamber, yet more bones from unfortunate woolley friends. A short flat out crawl reaches a flow of water followed by a shorter easier section to a large aven where SRT gear could be removed ready for the crawl ahead.
The following crawl was approximately 30-40m long, constricted, wet, and very sharp and jagged, very unpleasant indeed, involving a complete soaking and many tacklesack jammings! However, our guidebook estimated 6-8 minutes, and so I was relieved after only a couple of minutes of struggling to see Garys light ahead say at the end of the crawl just prior to Dodds pitch.
Dodds pitch provided some rigging dilemmas. We were unable to locate the rebelay bolt one metre down, and so Gary descended without it. However, while swinging around looking for the deviation about 15-20m down, the rope started rubbing badly at the pitch head. I had to perform a constricted pitch head manoeuver (the pitch is reached flat out) to remove my kneepads and jam them between the rope and the wall where it was rubbing, and Tom then held them in place. Gary slowly ascended back up and we finally found the rebelay to avoid the rub. He then descended and after much searching, the less than ideal (given the crumblyness of the walls) deviation flake was found.
We could hear the others by now and assumed they were already down at the Great Rubble Heap waiting for us... we didn't want to miss the exchange (I was looking forward to a nice easy trip out of Vespers) so we hurried to the head of the pitch to the Great Rubble Heap which was easily descended and saw the other group rigging the last pitch of Vespers above.
Unfortunately, one of the spits at the top of the Vespers pitch was knackered, and could not be tightened - and so all that was availably to rig off was one less than perfect spit and a dodgy natural as a backup. Mark made the sensible descision not to descend, and so we were faced with the prospect of a painful trip back up Spectacle, which actually didn't seem so bad on the return.
We returned to the surface still with daylight at around 6pm, feeling pleased to have bottomed this difficult cave! The others were only minutes behind in coming out of Vespers. This was a great trip, would love to complete the exchange once the final pitch of Vespers has been P-hangered.
Saturday October 10th 2009
Gary, Matt, Mark, Chad, Chuck, Thomas
Saturday September 12th 2009
Gary, Matt, Ade, Chuck
I donâ€™t think you can call yourself a Yorkshire caver (or probably even a caver) until youâ€™ve done Penyghent Pot! It defiantly lives up to its name as the finest stream passage pot in the UK.
The day started with the usual faff in the name of Ade who couldnâ€™t set off from Macclesfield until 9am because his car insurance had run out. This and some other faff meant we didnâ€™t get on our way to the cave until 1pm. Car parking seems to be a problem with no clear instructions on where is best in any of the guides, however we asked the nice lady at the farm at the end of the footpath and she let us park there. Off up the hill in wonderful sunshine (for a change) to arrive at the entrance for about 2pm. Itâ€™s a bit late we thought, but we gave it a go anyway.
I set off first to face the long entrance crawl. It wasnâ€™t as bad as I had been lead to believe; although up to the elbow in water, itâ€™s quite spacious and easy going, just long. Some light relief at the head of the first short pitch with a descent down an unavoidable waterfall, then some annoying stooping height passage. I went off to rig the next pitch which I thought the description had said was 10 meters away. No, I miss read it, it was 10 MINUETS away! Quite easy going stooping passage to the second short pitch then just around the corner to the head of the spectacular third pitch. Some quite interesting and awkward rigging under the ledge to get a dry hang but an amazing deep shaft with water crashing down on one side. The bottom was one of the drafyist places Iâ€™ve ever been underground and got rather chilly waiting for the others.
More fine stream way starting with some traversing and several more short pitches. At this point the bolting seems to have gone out of the window and most stuff is just rigged off some rather dodgy looking naturals, often in waterfalls! After a while we were rewarded by some amazing dark coloured streamway which seemed to eat our lights. Some quite deep water leads onto the final couple of short pitches before we ran out of time. We didnâ€™t quite make it to the sump but used all the rope and completed all 10 pitches.
In summery, this is a truly great Yorkshire pot with some great variation and fun rope work. It is quite wet however. We were there is pretty dry weather and the water was unavoidable. Most people found a neo-fleece idel but I was in a cheap 3mm wet suit which I found worked well. There is defiantly evidence of major flooding in the lower sections, with several passages we passed through that had sumped recently.
I would love to go back and tackle Friday the Thirteenth series now that I know the main part. This would be a strenuous trip though as we were all knackered after just the trip to the sump. Make sure you leave enough energy for the return trip as we all found the crawls at the entrance a lot harder on the way out.
Saturday July 25th 2009
Gary, Matt, Chad, Ade, Laura
With our long-awaited permit for Boxhead pot, we arrived at the dales as it started to rain. Of course this is nothing unusual, especially for Leck Fell! So, being a load of wimps, we decided to pack the ropes INSIDE the car, having been too un-organised to pack them before we left York.
After wasting as much time as possible sitting in the car, hoping it would stop raining we made a dash for it and got geared-up. We made the short walk over to Boxhead and climbed down into the rather wet shake hole with an impressive plastic pipe sticking out. Ade started to rig the wet and rather awkward tube. We waited at the top listening to the expletives emanating from the tube and moaning about how wet it was. Things werenâ€™t looking good but we all gave it a go anyway. We made it down to to the top of the second pitch and Add went off to rig. Shortly, he appeared again, unable to find the way on so I took over making the descent down the even wetter second pitch. I decided that it was too wet to continue so told everyone to start heading out.
Rather annoyed that the day had been cut short, we thought weâ€™d have a go at Lost Johns seeing as the permit covered that too. We split into two groups, Ade and Chad went off down Centipeed route while Matt, Laura and myself did the center route. We rattled down and met up with the others at the bottom in excellent time, made the exchange and headed out.
Not quite the day we had planned but half of two caves makes for a good days caving. Boxhead is defiantly one to go back to when its dryer as it is quite an impressive entrance shaft.
With the weather being typically wet on the Leck Fell Microclimate system, ropes were packed in the car. We eventually plucked up the courage to venture out and get changed and made our way over to Boxhead.
The entrance is an impressive plastic pipe sticking out of the ground, below which an amazing entrance pitch bellows out - it was a bit drippy but one of the most impressive welcomes to any cave! We quickly got down to the head of the second pitch, which Gary went down. Unfortunately and not unsurprisingly, it was perilously wet and so we retreated out to do a quick venture down Lost Johns instead. Definitely one to return to in better weather.
Saturday July 11th 2009
Boggarts Roaring Holes
Gary, Matt, Mark, Ade
Due to an impending raincloud advancing on the UK we opted out of Dowbergill Passage in favour of a safer way to spend the weekend. We headed up to the Moors for a day of digging on the Saturday, and then on Sunday after the heavy rain had passed we decided on Boggarts Roaring Holes as being an excellent wet weather option.
We had taken two previous trips to this caves near neighbour, Trapdoor pot over the previous year, also a wet weather option, and had one of the most enjoyable trips we'd had in ages. Therefore our hopes were high for a similar adventure from Boggarts.
After a long walk up the hill, in the good company of another caver who we'd met in Ingleton (who was originally going to join the trip until realising that it was Boggarts Roaring Holes, and not Roaring Holes that we were going to) we stumbled upon the trio of collapsed shakeholes comprising the entrance. After significant dilemma about where to descend, a rope was rigged down through a prickly tree in the central shakehole to reach a ledge from where hangers allowed for a free hang down the entrance shaft was gained (the cave is now fitted with in situ hangers throughout).
From the bottom the way on is the less obvious route passing under a bell-shaped constriction to the head of the short second pitch. A short and easy thrutch then gave access to the head of the third pitch, which dropped to the bottom of a narrow rift, accompanied by a rotton dead sheep. Our hats go off to the adventurous sheep, who clearly, having survived a fall down the entrance pitch managed to negotiate the second pitch only to be overcome by the third.
A further thrutch reaches the fourth pitch which drops down to a chamber from where the way on is a floor level wiggle. From here the sound of crashing water could be heard and we started to worry! We were under the impression that Boggarts was passable in all weather. However to our disappointment the next pitch was deluged by a waterfall entering on the far wall, and descent would have been very wet indeed. Furthermore, the water was all flowing away down the bedding crawl that lead further into the cave. None of us were inclined to make the descent so we turned around at this point and were out at a very civilised hour.
As far as we got, Boggarts hadn't held up to its inclusion in the '50 Harder Caves of Yorkshire' Book... with no desparately difficult bits, and just some awkward pitch heads. Therefore we can only assume that below this wet pitch the fun really starts, and I'm looking forward to a return trip under drier conditions.
Saturday June 20th 2009
Marilyn Pot to Henslers Master Cave
Gary, Matt, Laura
Our original permit was for Rat Hole, however following concerns about the impending rain on the run up to the weekend we were able to change the permit to another equally interesting though less floodable alternative: Marilyn, the new entrance to the Gaping Gill system.
After meeting up with some folk from YUCPC who were doing Flood Entrance and Dihedral on the same day, we had breakfast and headed over to Clapham. After some faff with the tacklesacks we headed up the hill to arrive at Marilyn at around 1:15pm. The entrance was easy to find: Simply take a bearing to the right approximately half way between the wall and the footpath after crossing the double-style near Bar Pot, and walk for approximately 50m. The entrance is a huge and rather well constructed concrete-surrounded metal tube in an obvious shakehole.
Gary headed down to rig the first pitch and Laura and I soon followed. The first shaft reaches a rebelay. Below here a short scramble/descent reaches a further rebelay, above a slightly constricted rift which descends several metres to a ledge with lots of back-filled spoil. A further rebelay leads onto another short scramble/descent to the bottom of the pitch. A 40m rope, one sling and four bolts were ample for the entirity of this section.
A short blasted crawl leads soon to the top of Niagra pitch. There is a lot of loose rock at the pitch head, as well as on the ledge part way down, and so despite the pitch being rebelayed, it would be advisable for each person to completely clear the shaft before the next descends or ascends. A bolt about three metres back from the pitchhead provided backup, and a Y-hang was then possible off the right hand wall (one bolt in situ and one required placement). This descends to an easy deviation (in-situ hanger), and the spectacular proportions of the shaft become apparant. The rebelay is then reached (one more bolt required), on a muddy sloping ledge with lots of loose rocks. One further deviation (in situ hanger and cord) and then the floor is reached, only 30m upstream from the third pitch of Disappointment Pot. We had a 30m rope for this entire pitch, however we had to rig very tightly, and so ideally a 35+m would be more ideal in future.
The route down Disappointment was then followed with maximum efficiency, as the water levels were nice and low. Our only problem came in finding a backup point for the penultimate pitch, and we had to trust a non-too steady looking block, on the assumption that we weren't going to require it's assistance! The chamber between here and the final pitch was quite impressive. We soon reached Henslers Master Cave: We had intended to do the connection to Bar Pot, however, with a meet-back time of 8pm in Clapham arranged with the others we decided conveniently against the 15 minute muddy crawl. Instead we had a stomp down the amazing and huge downstream passage, took a few photos and commenced an enjoyable and efficient ascent.
Overall a very pleasurable trip, quite easy going with no real awkwardness or difficult bits, but lots of fun short pitches and impressive chambers, and the excellent Henslers Master Cave streamway to reward us at the bottom. Would be nice to return for a longer trip to explore the connection to Mud Hall: A trip from Marilyn to main chamber via Henslers old crawl and Mud Hall would be an excellent trip, although would probably require getting underground before 11am.
Saturday May 23rd 2009
Croesor Rhosydd (mine)
Gary, Matt, Ade, Laura, Tash
I would defiantly say that Crosoer Rhosydd mine is the most fun you can have underground! It's like the ultimate cavers adventure playground! Crosoer Rhosydd has some of the most fun (and at times terrifying) wire traverses I've ever seen.
After a long walk up the hill overlooking spectacular landscape, we were greeted with the prominent winding house and steep track-way leading down into the bottom of the valley. The large flat plateau around the winding house is littered with old mining history â€“ twisted wire and buildings in various states of decay. At one end of a row of these structures is the remains of a water wheel, and just behind is the entrance to Crosoer mine. The actual entrance has long since been closed off behind a steel door and tons of rubble, however the way in is through a grill on the left.
The classic adit entrance is fairly un-inspiring until, after a short walk, we entered a large area with several ways on and a very deep hole, filled with water in the middle of the floor. To the right leads to probably one of the eeriest places I ever been in; a huge excavated hall towering up for at lease thirty meters, with slanted rock lined with blast holes. Below, the floor descends downwards and is filled up to the floor of the entrance with water â€“ deathly still and totally silent. Itâ€™s possible to drop a rock into the water and watch as it drops for some distance until disappears out of site in the clear blue water.
Leaving the flooded hall, the way on was up a slope following a large pipe, passing a window overlooking the first hall from a higher level. The slope ends at the head of pitch overlooking another huge hall, again totally silent. Matt, Ade, Laura and Tash went down the fixed rope one by one while I set up my camera to catch the descent. I followed last and dropped into one of the biggest caverns Iâ€™ve ever been in, stroon with huge, bus sized boulders. We had been told that rocks fall out of the roof regularly and its best not to make much noise (not sure how true that is!) Not wishing to tempt fate, we preceded in silence (unusual for cavers) through the bouders to another, longer descent was made by some rope of dubious vintage running via some home made rope protectors over a ledge and down to a smaller chamber.
Next came the first of many wire zip lines. Ade had purchased a steel pulley especially for the occasion (defiantly a must as the wire will shred the cheaper alloy ones). After some debate about how best to cross the wire over the deep water we decided to just clip in and jump! Thankfully weâ€™d remembered some cord to pull the pulley back after each trip over. After taking some photos, I clipped on and leaped off the ledge. The wire is quite steep and I didnâ€™t expect how fast Iâ€™d be moving. The wall on the other side appeared out of the darkness so I just stuck out my legs, closed my eyes and braced for impact. The resulting ungraceful thud shuck my bones but wasnâ€™t too bad - just make sure youâ€™re not going head first!
After everyone made it across, it was time to blow up our Â£5.99 inflatable dingy. It turned out that we didnâ€™t really need it as there were several already there, all be it half were flat or on the bottom. As Tash had here head inside our dingy puffing away as hard as possible, we heard voices from behind - another group of cavers were catching us up. We picked up the pace and made the relatively short voyage over the lake and the dingy was deflated â€“ I think bringing ores (much to the entertainment of the other group) was rather over the top.
Onwards through more large mine passage to the next zip wire and one of several crossings over flooded passages below. As we crossed each of the similar obstacles, the remains of the bridges were getting increasingly less and less until the last one â€“ â€œthe bridge of deathâ€ â€“ where only a bendy old iron rail was there for the foothold. To add to this, the zip wire was re-belayed half way which made for some interesting discussion on how to get the pulley back for the next person. In the end we managed to cobble together and improvised system using some steel krabs â€“ a bit crude but it got us all over (not helped by the comments from the group behind us, waiting to cross).
Out came the dingy again. This time we had to abseil into it! Ade took the first journey and I went next. The way on is to cross a large stretch of flooded passage â€“ easily twenty meters wide and thirty meters long. Once again, ores werenâ€™t required as an ingenious hauling pulley system had been erected to pull our rather unstable vessel along and then return it for the next passenger. This area we named the boat graveyard as it was littered with all manor of rather un-seaworthy dingys â€“ some even could be seen on the bottom or caught on rocks. We utilised one of the other dingys for Matt, Laura and Tash to make the crossing quicker.
After debarking and making the short climb up to the continuation of the level, it was easy going. We went through the connection with Rhosydd mine and passed some rather impressive workings to the climb up to the exit.
The exit was far bigger than I expected â€“ a huge hole at the head of a steep boulder slope with sunlight streaming in â€“ quite spectacular. Getting out of the mine was easy, however getting out of the shake hole was rather more of a challenge! After Laura made a rather dangerous attempt at climbing up a wet slope, we all made it up to the moor top to find we were in thick fog. Time for the GPS we thought, and a good thing we had it too. We found our way back to Crosoer without too much difficulty (apart from Laura who fell up to her middle in a bog) and made our way down, below the fog to the village.
An excellent and very satisfying through trip, making a nice change from our usual dales caving. I would defiantly recommend visiting this mine soon as it probably wonâ€™t be passable for much longer due to the sate of decay of some of the features.
<i>The first official club weekend away in an unbelievably sunny Wales. No, you didnâ€™t read that wrongly â€“ it was a sunny weekend in Wales!</i>
The highlight for me was the Crosoer Rhosydd through trip . A colleague had recommended this trip to me a year or so back and Iâ€™ve been itching to do it since. How could you not get excited about a trip which needs a boat?! It was a fair drive from our campsite in Langollen but worth it.
We parked up in the village and got some very odd looks as we sorted rope, boats, oars and pulleys as families and walkers donned their walking boots for a pleasant summer stroll.
A slog up an old mine track (if only the railway was still running) led us to the old mine workings and the start of Cresoer Mine. This has been empty since the 70s but already dereliction was setting in â€“ in fact the entire mine is in an active state of collapse.
The first section was really eerie, as we walked passed the deserted office and flooded chambers. The water is completely still and incredibly dark. As we gained height and viewed the chambers from the upper levels, you began to appreciate the scale of the mine â€“ my puny light barely reached the walls.
A short abseil on in situ gear led us into chamber one, which was awe inspiring in its scale. However the scale of the chamber also meant the roof was struggling to be supported and there were house sized boulders strewn over the floor â€“ not a place to hang around! We had also read that simply shouting was enough to trigger collapse here so we tiptoed across (as delicately as you can across loose boulders!) in silence. Iâ€™m sure the shouting theory has got to be myth but I sure as hell didnâ€™t want to be the one to disprove it! Iâ€™ve never caved in silence before and itâ€™s very very odd, and what was more disconcerting was that I still had the remnants of a cold and desperately need to cough!
Thankfully we all made it through intact and after another abseil on in situ gear (and rope protectors in a variety of states!) we arrived at the first water crossing â€“ Tyrolean time! It was then time to unfurl the mighty Stingray â€“ our trusty vessel for the second water crossing (Stingray is a dingy of Mattâ€™s bought 10 years ago and never used). It was short crossing, but stingray performed impeccably and no one got wet.
A series of bridges were next, although that term should be used fairly loosely! I crossed the rotting wooden beam first. It should have been easy: I was sober, I generally have no problems walking in straight line, but there is something fairly unnerving about walking across a plank over a large drop into very deep water and not wanting to endure the humiliation of falling.
The much hyped â€œBridge of Deathâ€ turned out to be more of a tightrope / zip wire of death. With some cunning systems involving string to share steel krabs / pulleys (despite having about 50 pulleys between us we were trying to conserve our gear from the aluminium eating steel cable - take the cavers out of Yorkshire and all thatâ€¦!) we crossed successfully. Short people beware though, unless you are happy pulling up on rusty struts then you will get strung up!
The final water crossing was my highlight, you had to abseil into the dingy!! Stingray, along with another in situ vessel, again served us well (although there was a distinct sound of hissing) and it was a short distance to the Rhosydd mine connection and the daylight streaming in down the huge boulder slope that marked our exit.
In true Wales fashion, the cloud had set in and visibility was poor on our exit. We were very glad of our GPS in finding our way back to the minerâ€™s path (although this didnâ€™t stop Laura disappearing waist deep into bog at one point!).
All in all this was a really fun trip and I particularly enjoyed the novelty of the water crossings. Also glad we did it before everything disintegrates or the mines collapse completely!
For me the rest of weekend was spent working / reading / sunbathing / wandering â€“ it seemed rude not to enjoy the glorious weather. The rest of the group enjoyed a trip down ODB on Sunday and showed off their digging skills! So an excellent weekend: good trips, nice campsite and stunning scenery.
This was a fantastic trip, definitely one of my favourite this year. I woudl definitely reccomend it to anybody visiting the area. The mine is like an underground adventure playground with zip-wires, lakes to cross in an inflatable boat and the bridge of death. We followed the description written by Richard Gover from YUCPC a couple of months previously, which was spot-on. The mine is definitely in an active state of collapse; some parts of the bridge of death has collapsed since Gover's trip! Definitely take a map and compass or GPS for the return journey overland as it isn't simple to find the way back and I ended up waist-deep in a bog!
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.
Saturday February 28th 2009
Growling Hole (First YCC trip!)
Gary, Matt, Ade, Laura
After a lavish breakfast at Bernies with some of the YUCPCers doign Vespers that day, we headed to Kingsdale and commenced the unpleasant walk up the hill to the top. After waving goodbye to the Vespers team we made our way to Growling, which is approximately 100m further on. The entrance didn't look inviting! A narrow slot dropped into the 4-5m entrance pitch which was rigged following much faff from a large slab. A squirming descent was made by Gary, and then by me. Gary by this time was at floor level looking uninspired by the way ahead, a low and apparantly very wet crawl. I think he thought it looked almost sumped (sometimes too much light from our Scurions can be misleading!). I went in and pushed my way down the flat out passage and into the water. It wasn't as bad as it looked. A second crossrift was soon reached, and a little bit more flat out wiggling in a few inches of water soon reaches a more pleasant crawling section, with about 8 inches deep water in (enough for full body wetness!). This wet wallow continued for some distance, eventually ending where the passage constricted horizontally and rose up out of the water. I shouted back to Gary that it was OK and that he could come though. Laura also followed, however we were unable to tempt Ade into the water. Certainly given the potential for rain above ground, proceeding too far into this cave today would not have been sensible.
After some time attempting lengthy communications along the echoy passage, I pressed onwards, through an awkward shaped sideways bit of passage (tacklesacs troublesome!) to a more pleasantly sized crawl, eventually reaching waterfall chamber, where loads of water poured into a stooping height chamber. Gary and I stopped to take some photos and we then made our retreat. Despite being a little chilly from the earlier waiting around, a neofleece is optimum for this cave as long as you keep moving. I'd like to take a return trip in drier and more settled conditions.