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.
Saturday August 20th 2011
Providence Pot to Dow Cave (Dowbergill Passage)
Richard G, Nikki, Philip Judson, Angus Sawyer, Martin Egan (GOC members)
Saturday August 20th 2011
Thackthwaite Beck Cave
Ade, Gary, Laura, Matt, Sarah, Sally-ann Rodbourne
I was really excited about the opportunity to explore some of the caves of Wensleydale, which I had ready so much about in the MSG Journals dating back to the 1970s. So with permission from Bolton Estate we headed up there on Friday evening, camping at the Old Hall Cottage camp site (around the back of the Cart House tea room) in Hardraw.
On Saturday morning, we headed off at a leisurely time to find Thackthwaite Beck cave. We chose this, over our other plans for Cliff Force Cave and Keldheads Cave as it was the one that sounded least flood prone, after the heavy rain the previous night. We were armed with a few trip reports and the Northern Caves guide.
We parked in a small but perfectly ideal nature reserve car park less than 1km to the east of the hamlet of Woodhall (as parking in Woodhall itself, although slightly closer, seemed unfeasible). From here, cross over the river at the neat little bridge in the car park and follow the vague footpath west (left) along between the bottom of the hillside and the river. After about 15 minutes walking (passing an interesting old mine entrance) we reached a spectacular waterfall. Climbing up the path to the side of this reaches the main footpath on the top of the hill.
We then took somewhat of the wrong direction from here, as we followed the grid reference from Northern Caves using a GPS (this is a good 300m out - the cave symbol on our OS map was closer to the mark), but having seen a photo on the internet we knew it was at the foot of a major rock scar so we soon found the entrance. Any future visitors should take these directions:
From the top of the waterfall, a major footpath is reached. This is not to be followed, but instead come off the path and follow along the right hand side of the river, up and along the top right hand side of a steep gully. At the top of the gully cross the wall at an old gate and then bear right heading towards the distant (most eastern) rock scar. Once in this field, simply regain the beck (it is temporarily lost at the top of the gully due to sinking) and follow this upstream to the resurgence from a huge pile of rocks at the foot of the scar. There is an interesting old mine adit on-route that can be investigated.
There are several entrances, but the best one is found by climbing up the boulder pile to the foot of the scar above the resurgence. There is an obvious (and dangerous) entrance with some wood covering it below the cliff, however, the best entrance is 10m to the east of this just beside a ruined fence, also directly under the cliff. This entrance is a plastic pipe, barely protruding from the boulders, covered with wood and rocks (and might not be immediately obvious so look closely).
The entrance pipe is easy going down but strenuous coming out so bear this in mind and consider taking a handline!
Below the entrance, a lovely spacious canyon passage with black cherty outcrops is followed to reach the streamway. Initially this is welly deep, but soon becomes a pleasant and refreshing waist-deep canal for a short distance until an ascent up boulders is reached on the left (we tried to continue in the water without climbing up the boulders but this soon proved to be wrong). Climb these blocks and then climb back down to the water again on the left after 10m (we initially tried continuing round to the right to drop down to the water, but this proved incorrect). From here the going gets wetter, and one must stoop in a low wet section of passage. Still refreshing after the warm walk up the hill in neoprene!
This becomes larger and more easy going after 20m, rising up into a larger blockfall chamber. From here routefinding is relatively simple and following the water, generally keeping right through blocks, reaches a larger chamber with a few straws. We though this might be Stalactite Chamber, and we were initially disappointed! However, continuing only 5 minutes further on we reached the true Stalactite chamber, which is extremely impressive! Well worth the trip to see.
Beyond Stalactite chamber, a larger section of blockfall is soon reached. We spent some time poking about, but the correct way through was found by keeping low and right (rather than the more tempting route over the blocks). The way through this is hard to describe but should be easy to find by trial and error. In general the route involves keeping near to stream level and after a sideways wiggle, a thrutch up to the right reaches another wet thrutch in the stream and then a climb up into a much more sizable chamber.
From here we found our way back down to the stream and continued upstream for 10 minutes in some more well-proportioned stream passage. However, by now the cave was becoming quite samey, and scum on the roof, and rain the previous night deterred us from continuing onwards. We probably got most of the way through the cave. The journey out was extremely quick indeed, maybe taking only 45 minutes if that.
This was a great trip! Neofleece is recommended, or a furry if you're particularly cold-resiliant. The cave wasn't as wet as I expected given the amount of rain the previous night though. Stalactite Chamber is an excellent reward for finding this cave, and the views on the walk up are excellent. This is a superb summer afternoon trip and I can highly recommend a visit.
Sunday August 7th 2011
Gary, Lauren, Matt, Max, Nikki, Richard G, Wilky, Tash
We had a failed attempt at Dihedral as we got down about 40m and swung into a rift which we thought to be the way on, however, we soon found it not to be. An in-situ traverse line lead along to a P-bolt on a tiny ledge (psossibly the Mouse Hole in Rat Hole? Either way, it was wrong). However, by the time we realised we'd gone wrong, Gary, Steve and I were already down and in the traverse with nowhere to get out of the way of Gary (who was rigging). It would have been awkward to re-rig and continue downwards to the ledge 20m below, which I think is where we should have descended to in the first place. I was also getting the jitters at the enormity of the place, and being on brand new wet rope my rack wasn't offering the kind of friction I would have preferred. I was very happy to call it off and return another day.
We headed out and we instead completed a very enjoyable Bar Pot to Stream Passage Pot exchange.
Sunday June 26th 2011
Miss Grace's Lane (to Canyon Halls and Dog Tooth Chamber)
After a good nights sleep after our previous day and nights adventures in Slaughter Stream Cave and the pub at Symonds Yat, we woke to a red hot morning sunshine. Rich, Nikki and Sarah went to canoe on The Wye, while Gary and I went to explore Miss Grace's Lane Cave.
The description on the Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club website is excellent. We collected the key around 11:30am and were changed and ready for action by midday. The cave benefits from being less than 100m from the car and very easy to find indeed.
The entrance is a concrete pipe shaft descending a whopping 30m, with some excellent in situ ladders well bolted to the walls. We debated if we should belay, however, the ladders were of such sound build and were very easy to climb, that we decided against the faff of doing this. From the bottom of the shaft the engineering project continues with more scaffold supported passage to another excavated pitch with more in-situ metal ladders. Another ladder then reaches the conveniently signposted junction with the two sections of the cave.
We opted to go into the main section of the cave along a short crawling phreatic passage to emerge up into the large Breakthrough Chamber. From here, routefinding is easy to Dome Chamber. By now it is becoming quite apparant that the cave looks very similar everywhere, and that the rock is very fractured, offering many false crawls and routefinding difficulties once you get away from the main chambers.
We found our way through to The Canyon, a fine section of passage where we explored the phreatic side-passage and took some photos. However, we failed to find our way on from the end of The Canyon. Words can not descrive how confusing finding you way around this semi-phreatic, highly fractured and minelike area is, with very few distinguishing features to aid with navigation and crawls going off everywhere.
The description from the RFDCC website is excellent and very thorough, however, we simply weren't trying hard enough, as by this point we were about to die of heat exhaustion. I was in an undersuit and cordura oversuit and was sweating, but Gary was in PVC and was boiling. The cave is totally dry and warm, and for future reference, a boiler suit would be much more appropriate, at least as far as we got today.
Therefore, with sweat getting the better of us, we unfortunately lacked the drive to tackle the routefinding beyond The Canyon and instead we returned to Dome Chamber to completed the short Dog Tooth Chamber round trip. This is well worth doing due to the exceptional crystals in Dog Tooth Chamber (see some of our photos of these). Future visitors please be very careful indeed as one of the best clusters of crystals is in the exact point where it is intuitive to put your hand on a climb down a boulder slope on the right hand wall. We nearly did, and clearly others have before us, so some of the crystals are a bit dirty but nontheless very impressive.
With dehydration now kicking in we decided to head out, pleased to have had a recce of the cave in anticipation of a longer and more determined trip next time (with considerably less clothing).
Miss Grace's Lane is a superb trip, full of character and totally unique, with a combination of mine-like, windypit-like and phreatic-like features, and some excellent large chambers and unusual geology (lots of ironstone bands giving the entire cave a general red colour) and excellent crystals. Hats of to the diggers to the huge amount of work that has gone into this excellent discovery.
Saturday June 25th 2011
Slaughter Stream Cave (to Kuwait Passage and back via Coal Seam Passage)
Gary, Matt, Richard G, Sarah, Nikki
After caving for seven years without ever visiting the Forest of Dean I was very excited about our trip to Slaugter Stream. It sounded too good to be true - a mainly horizontal sprawling system with a main streamway and interesting formations. What more could you want!
We drove down on the Friday night, in the pouring rain, arriving at Rushmere Farm campsite near Coleford at around 11:30pm (also in the pouring rain). Saturday morning the weather had improved and it was an overcast but mild, almost warm, morning. After collecting the key we arrived at the parking spot, at the exact grid reference indicated by Selected Caves (parking is actually on a narrow grass embankment opposite a garden). Finding the entrance is easy, simply walk across the field towards a telegraph pole, across the style, and bear right and follow the track down into the depression with the gated entrance.
The entrance comprises several ladder climbs of excellent construction, a testimony to the dedication and resourcefulness of the local cavers (and an apparant fetish for solid steel ladders). Four ladders down and a short stoop then reaches the pitch from where a couple of anchors allow a less than perfect hang down the first section (you can kick off the wall to prevent rope rub), followed by a much better hang for the second section. The SRT is very easy indeed, and a 40m rope would have been more than adequate (we came armed unnecessarily with a 60m).
From the bottom of the pitch a couple of minutes of awkward crawling on gravel reaches the main streamway.
Following the Selected Caves description, we followed the main streamway downstream, taking the obvious dry bypass to sumps one and two (passing the obvious entrance to Coal Seam Passage on the right) to return to the streamway for a pleasant and easy trip down towards Sump three. Just prior to Sump three, the streamway widens and gains an impressive T-shape canyon, well worth seeing.
Just before Sump three an obvious passage on the right leads for some distance through stooping and crawling into Kuwait Passage. This is basically a perfectly straight line rift passage, interspersed with crawls breaking up the rift-like sections. The rift walls further on are jet black, very unusual indeed and worth seeing. We reached the nice helictites that Selected Caves had promised, pushed on a little further but when the formations ran out we decided to turn around.
Returning upstream, we took Coal Seam Passage to complete the round trip. From this point onwards, Selected Caves is slightly vague so follow this description:
Coal Seam Passage is a fairly straightforward passage, stooping, stomping and crawling, fairly mundane with no notable features and continuing for longer than desirable before popping up through blocks at The Connection into a medium sized chamber. The way on is left as you climb up from Coal Seam, as a well worn slither through a boulder choke into another chamber. From here routefinding is not immediately obvious (and it is a little hazy in my mind) however, by a process of elimination, a worn low crawl can be followed for approximately 20-30m to emerge after only a couple of minutes into the massive passage of The Chunnel at a T-junction.
Left leads up to the main North West passage of the cave (a separate trip in itself) however, right is the way on and this stomps for a short distance down the Chunnel until an obvious right turn is reached. Follow this past The Graveyard (bones are seen) and straight on until water is heard coming down a dead end aven on the left (possibly no water in dry weather). Straight on in the obvious passage another aven is seen and heard on the left. Climb down this aven (this is an easy staggered climb with water entering on the left part way down) to reach floor level. From here there is only one way on, through a crawl in the water to emerge in stomping streamway only 30m upstream from the entrance crawl leading back to the bottom of the entrance pitch.
We surfaced at about 4:30pm into glorious warm sunshine. A quick refresh and beer at the campsite was followed by a drive up to Symonds Yat West where we left the car and pub-crawled our way back to the campsite at Rushmere Farm (including a pub-ferry across the river to an excellent pub in Symonds Yat East serving superb food and beer).
Slaughter Stream is a superb trip and I am looking forward to returning to do the other main passages in the future.
I can highly recommend Rushmere Farm in Coleford for camping - they were extremely friendly, happy for us to arrive very late on the friday night, happy with groups of cavers, only £6 pppn and nice facilities and good flat camping fields.
Sunday June 5th 2011
Ireby Fell Caverns
Gary, Matt, , Sarah
Not the most delightful weather for early June, but we arrived at Masongill at a very efficient 11am, in rain and cold wind. However, the rain was only forecast to be light, and it had been very dry recently, so we happily headed off down the traditional route of Ireby Fell.
We rattled down the cave with reasonable efficiency and on down to Duke Street. I had forgotton how nice the stream passage (which was more or less dry today) was, such a great stomping passage before you get to Duke Street, the ultimate reward for your SRT efforts.
After a snack at the Duke Street sump, we started out. We were going to have a potter along to Duke Street II, but after a recent warning in Descent about not using the fixed ropes, we opted against this.
We had an extremely efficient trip out, arriving on the surface for 5:30pm after about 5.5 hours underground.
Saturday April 16th 2011
Pasture Gill Pot
Richard G, Nikki, Max
Saturday April 9th 2011
Top Sink - Lancaster Hole via Main Drain and Double Decker Pot
Gary, Matt, Chuck, , Laura
Finally nice to have the chance to complete this very satisfying through trip! Gary and I had done Top Sink to Wretched Rabbit last year and so we were confident in the routefinding. The guide in Not For The Faint Hearted is excellent. The only slight areas of confusion are Limerick Junction, where staying high is the key, and when you drop to the streamway beyond Easter Grotto - very easy to miss the pop up through boulders and end up at the Pool Sink Inlet on the left.
It was a stunning warm day - not very Easegill-like at all! We made quick progress to he first pitch, although I had forgotten how awkward this first 10 minutes of passage was. Not doing a pull-through, we passed the pitches quickly, paused slightly at Limerick Junction finding the way on, and made generally quick progress.
We met the others (our exchange team) on the approach to Stop Pot. From here we wasted no time stomping along to the Minerettes and onto Oxbow Corner, where we took a route down through boulders to the Main Drain. I have never explored the Main Drain much around here - in fact I have only really done the sump up to Fall Pot, so it was nice to see the Main Drain further upstream. A couple of boulder collapses in the streamway need to be negotiated - no real logical way - just whichever way works - and then you come up into huge stomping stream passage. This really is one of the finest in the country!
20 minutes of stomping later we arrived at the inlet from Double Decker Pot and made quick progress up through this. An amusing 'ladder' had been created from rope on the second of the pots going up, and this only hindered the ascent! We quickly crawled around the muddy passages to the tiny ladder and before we knew it we were at Caths Way and then Lancaster Hole. We were convinced the others should have been well out by now, but surprised to return to Bull Pot Farm to find them just coming down from the fell only a few minutes after us.
A very efficient, highly enjoyable and very social 5.5 hour trip - Top Sink to Link Pot next...
Sunday March 27th 2011
Link Pot Serendipity Series
Richard G, Nikki, Lauren, Imogen, Kevin, Barry Bacon,
Saturday March 19th 2011
Grey Wife Hole YUCPC 30th Anniversary Trip
Imogen, , Andy, Max, Richard G, Nikki, Simon, Lauren, Andy Gilmartin
Saturday March 12th 2011
Simpsons Pot to Kingsdale Master Cave pull-through
Nikki, Debbie, Richard G, Imogen
Saturday March 12th 2011
Nick Pot (Thornber's Entrance)
Matt, Gary, Max
A stunning SRT trip. Not the most exciting of caves, but it has to have the most spectacular shaft in the Dales, easily rivalling Titan (although maybe not quite as high)!
Quite easy to locate the entrance, just off the three peaks path from Horton to Ingleborough. A short crawl lead to a slightly awkward pitch head but this soon opened out into a nice free hang with two deviations. At the bottom, the water could be seen emerging from the nasty looking crawl described in Not For The Faint Hearted, but the way on for us was following the stream. A short crawl under the wall pops out almost immediately at the head of the main shaft.
Thankfully, the crawl around the left of the top of the shaft already had a rope in place. The rather exposed crawl leads awkwardly over to the far side of the shaft where the main hang can be rigged. What started out as fairly easy rigging was made more difficult simply by the scale of everything. Well, that and the fact that we didn't have an 80m rope so had to start a new one at each re-belay!
The stunning free-hang drops to the Trouser Flake where it re-belays with a huge Y hang. I had to think for some time about the best way to get onto the hang, but in the end just had to clip in to it and hang. A further easy descent lands in the roomy and very drafty chamber.
It's possible to get out of the water at the far side which is also a great vantage point to view others descending. Once Matt and Max got down we went to explore the sump but quickly gave up when it involved a tight sloping passage with water flowing down it.
The trip took longer than I was expecting, but we were out in daylight and everyone was happy to have ticked off Nick Pot. I think it's not somewhere I would return to soon, however it was nice to have done it and if you like a huge shaft, it's the place to go! An ideal ‘Sunday’ trip.
Sunday February 27th 2011
Boggarts Roaring Holes
Gary, Wilky, Matt
A great return trip to Boggarts. Quite a difficult cave to find, but it can be found just a couple of hundred metres along the base of the steep gritstone cap of Ingleborough. A GPS is highly recommended for the return trip as if the mist comes down during your trip then finding your way back to the footpath would be a difficult task.
Several holes present themselves, but the way down is by the side of a prickly tree growing at the top of the shaft. Some unpleasant smelling dead sheep at the bottom hurry you onwards through the narrow window leading onto the second pitch (the less obvious of the two routes). This is easy enough on the way down but a bit of a struggle coming out. From the bottom of the second pitch a narrow sideways thrutch leads immediately onto the third pitch. Gary rigged an extra loop of rope to clip into here, as you emerge head first over the pitch! It's quite acrobatic to swing your legs onto the pitch head, but once you've done this there's a nice ledge to stand on and the pitch becomes easy.
A short rift-like crawl later and the fourth pitch is reached. The anchor for this is high up on the left wall around the corner of the pitch head and is difficult to rig. Getting on this pitch is not too much of a problem, but again, coming back up is difficult as the you must depart from the pitch head into an ascending tight squeeze! A small ledge at the pitch head allows you to perch your backside on while you thrutch your legs into the slot to allow a feet-first departure from the pitch!
This pitch immediately opens out to a nice spacious shaft. From the bottom, a flat out crawl over two holes reaches the fifth pitch, where we turned around last time due to a large volume of water going down here. Steve had unfortunately done his arm in and we decided that we would turn around again here - no objections - as finishing caving early on Sundays is always welcome! Gary rigged and went down the fifth pitch to recce it, and found that the small amount of water entering here was disappearing down a slot, which was not the way on. Therefore, it seems that the time we were here last must have been exceptionally wet, and that under 'normal' wet conditions (it had been raining all week before, and the ground was saturated) there are no issues. Good to know for a return visit!
The return trip is much more strenuous than the downward trip!
Boggarts is a superb cave, as it presents lots of interesting pitch-head challenges and unusual rigging, but without being continuously tight. Each squeeze is rewarded by a nice spacious area, or a fine spacious pitch, with little chance of getting bored. We got to the bottom of the fifth pitch and out again in three hours, so bottoming this cave should be about 6-7 hours. The guide in Not For the Faint Hearted is, as usual, spot on and highly recommended.
Sunday January 16th 2011
Sarah, Chuck, Andy Vick
Saturday January 15th 2011
Cat, Chuck, Debbie, Gary, Matt, Wilky
Friday January 14th 2011
Ogof Draenen to Sendero Luminosa
Max, Richard G, Nikki
Richard G wrote...
An amazing trip. Fired up with enthusiasm after hearing about Mark, Andy V and Jennie visiting some of the far reaches last March we decided to visit War of the Worlds. A long (5h40 in, 5h out) trip, but not too demanding - just lots and lots of cave. The formations in Sendero Luminosa off War of the Worlds North are incredible. WOTW passage is awe inspiring - second biggest after the Time Machine in Daren, but arguably more impressive as it is straighter and more consistently massive. Other great formations including the Snowball (Gypsum ball the size of a football) and the Washing Machine.
Since getting back and looking at the photos of Cantankerous Surveyors Passage, I itching to get back and go there.
Longer trip report to follow...
Monday January 10th 2011
Hagg Gill Pot
Nikki, Richard G, Lauren