Dowbergill Passage by Ian Cummins

Dowbergill: Ian Cummins, Simon Beck, Ed Tapp (Durham Uni), Pat (BPC) (3rd February 2007). 

After a dry, sunny week in the North East, I was pretty sure water levels would be low enough for a good trip and Saturday morning saw me and Ed meeting up with Simon and Pat in the Kettlewell cafe. Pat had to meet some of the BPC and would catch us up later. We changed at the Dow end, leaving Ed’s car and Simon drove us to Dowbergill Beck. A rapid 20 min walk brought us to the shaft and after a quick drink we set off. I had read Terry Trueman’s excellent article on the Braemoor website several times, but I was still unclear of the route and was glad to have Simon to lead the way.

Initial muddy crawls with a bit of a wet wallow took us through some nicely-decorated chambers, under the remarkable jammed bridge and into the stream way. Already my memory of this is fading, but there were no difficulties here and water levels were low enough for the cold not to be a problem. Eventually after passing a squeeze through a choke, we had to climb up the rift using fixed, knotted ropes. I still don’t like using fixed gear as part of my climber’s mentality, but the muddy rock here would make climbing very difficult, although the prospect of rope failure made me stuff my foot into a jam in the back of the rift and my hands were jammed into the flake for the final pull onto the ledge. It was here that Pat caught us up – she must have been flying! From the ledge here a traverse line carried on, but the rift immediately below looked fine and I could see the stream below.

Taking a diagonal line down, I was soon back in the stream, allowing sideways progress below a tatty rope until a new rope hung down. I was followed by Pat and we could see Ed and Simon’s lights high above. In about 10minutes they were down. Fast progress in thigh-deep water followed and we were able to bypass the Gypsum traverse by a long duck, with helmets held at arms length above out heads in the narrowing rift. A couple of small climbs brought us into a high canyon and the fine flowstone slope up to the Buddhist’s Temple. A few minutes later we were out into the warm sun and a pleasant change on such a mild day. The low water and the absence of any wrong turns meant we were through in about 3 hours, without rushing.

Special thanks to Simon for faultless navigation. We were hungry by now and had coffee and bacon sarnies in Kettlewell, a beer in the White Lion, Cray and fish and chips in Leyburn!