Coppice Cave (Birkwith): Ian Cummins with Ed Tapp (Durham Uni) (21 October 2006) and Steve Warren (29 October 2006).
After nine days climbing in the sun-drenched Mojave, I was ready for some rain-drenched Yorks. Dales, so I enlisted Ed from the lab to check out Coppice cave.
This seemed to fit the bill, being through trip, minimal gear, easy access – so why no reports on it when I did a Web search? Anyhow, book says entrance in shakehole near North Fairbottom Cave shakehole – tricky if you don’t know where NFB is either, but I reckoned I’d found the right hole and crawled in.
I had a feeling Coppice cave was supposed to be tight, but after about 25 yards of cobbled crawl, the passage became almost body-sized and I’m not large. I passed this (with rope and gear bag in front) around a sharp bend and into even tighter territory. After about ten or fifteen feet of this, with the enticing sound of echoing water falling ahead I could go no further, leading to a strenuous helmet-off retreat with a pull on my feet around the bend.
I reckoned this was one tough cave for its grade, so we made a humble retreat and decided to check out the exit in Ling Gill.
Fortunately found Ling Gill 7 OK. A very sharp hands and knees 50 yards leads to the aven from Coppice in a high, narrow rift, with plenty of water. We free-climbed a fair way up this and then exited to check out the Exhumation hole entrance above.
Found this OK and went upstream to check out the ‘tight’ section from below. This was all quite tight, arduous stuff, with very little walking until we emerged – at the surface.
Yes this was the correct Coppice Cave entrance, complete with the name on the pallet over the hole!
We had gone down NFB by mistake.
So it was back down Coppice, recovering the rope and harnesses from the chamber at Exhumation hole to complete the trip.
The guide says ‘arduous traversing’ – but first there is a tight bedding plane in shallow water to crawl flat-out in, followed by the steep, narrow, wavy rift to negotiate down to the pitch. This was all hard work, with a convoluted route required at various levels, including a helmet-off job at water level very close to the pitch.
After dragging 60 m of soggy climbing rope and rope bag down there it was a relief to find space to stand at the head of the pitch, which had a decent bolt and spike belay.
The water was quite pleasant on the 50 foot or so down to the spot we had visited earlier.
I’d advise the wearing of gloves on the crawl out to Ling Gill, as the streambed is razor sharp.
This was quite a tough little cave, with my initial exertions definitely leaving me with a lot of bruises, but still a nice through trip with not much given away in the form of easy progress.