Meregill Hole and Great Douk by Ian Cummins

Meregill Hole: Ian Cummins, Simon Beck (31 March 2007) & Great Douk: Ian Cummins, Beth Cummins, Steve Warren (1 May 2007). 

Still feeling a bit tired from the previous weekend’s exertions and a midweek nocturnal digging session in Weardale, I suggested Black Shiver or Meregill to Simon.  Simon chose Meregill, as it’s deeper and he had been rained off a couple of times before.  Peering into The Mere, there appeared to be little water and the stream above was practically dry, but we opted to hop over the wall and use the Aven Entrance.  A P bolt at the start of the crawl and another 6 feet in suggested a tricky pitch head, and so it was, but the 20m rope assigned was too short for this option, so I clipped into the bolts at the pitch and pulled the rope through.  At the base of the pitch, the connection to The Mere was bone dry, complete with sump line exposed and there was little water in the pool at the base.  Carrying on downstream, much of the rigging down the large rift passage is from P bolts, but we must have missed a traverse in dry territory and had to place hangers at the head of the big pitch, with a deviation from a thread here too.  The final short pitches were still wet and we downclimbed, placing a handline for the return.  There are several deep pools here to be waded or traversed, depending upon your attire and constitution.  From here we followed the infamous Main Drain, with much evidence of total flooding, due to the amount of grass stuck in the roof, but it is possible to move very quickly through here and we were soon contemplating the lowering bedding crawl over rubble at the end.  Rather than submit to much of that we started back, finding the first small pitch to be a nice climb, but shattered rock and more direct water meant a few pulls on the rope on the next climb.

The pitches were easy enough to ascend, given the low water, but I still couldn’t spot the dry line for the P bolts we presumed we had missed.  There must be a traverse along the rift somewhere I guess – worth checking out for wetter conditions.  Fine, clean caving and not too hard for a party of 2.

Next day saw me and daughter Beth meeting Steve and Phil Parker at the Hill Inn, for a walk over to the flanks of Whernside.  Beth must have questioned the sanity of three men removing a large pile of rocks from a hole, only to roll them back in again!  Phil returned home whilst Steve led us over to Great Douk.  I gave Beth my rash vest to wear over her shorty wetsuit and neoprene pads to save her knees and we followed Steve up the short climb at the resurgence.  Beth then took the lead and we followed the superb, winding streamway for hundreds of feet, with Beth traversing around the deeper bits.  Finally we were crawling in cold water over rubble (much like the previous day) and decided to turn about and follow the stream back out rather than searching for the top exit and walking down in the cold wind.  This time Beth just waded the watery bits and we were soon back at our gear stash on the ledge, for a quick change out of the wind in the bottom of the depression.  A superb cave trip enjoyed by us all.  Walking back down, the CRO and Mountain Rescue Land Rovers were driving down the track from an incident on Ingleborough – cavers or walkers, we didn’t know and Beth and I drove off to Hawes for a cafe stop.