Cliff Force Cave by Ian Cummins

Cliff Force Cave: Ian Cummins, John and Tony (Moldywarps) (26th May 2007).

I bumped into John Dale in Smeltmill Beck, when he was exiting on a solo trip as I was entering. I knew from the cloudy water that someone was in the cave, but he got a great shock to see me wading along the passage as he rounded a corner! Anyway, a few weeks later, after meeting Pete Ryder again, it turned out that John was a protégé of the original Moldywarpers and we got in touch to go caving. John suggested Cliff Force Cave in Swaledale, opposite the Buttertubs, being 1 of the premier Northern Dales caves.

It transpires that Steve Warren has had a hand in explorations here, as well as the Moldywarpers and NPC and we aimed to follow the streamway to get some photos. The approach is easy enough, only a couple of minutes from the Buttertubs lay-by, on the opposite side of the valley, with a resurgence under a long, low rock band.

Initially the cave has a muddy, complex entrance series, where it is easy to go round in circles (we did on the way out), but once the streamway is reached, the passage is generally large, wet and typically ‘Northern Dales Gothic’.

From the impressive Fault Hall, with a small shower inlet, we followed deeper water through the fine canal passage that John wished to photograph. Tony and I posed, but my black neoprene attire was deemed to be unsatisfactory in such gloomy surroundings. Whilst John worked on his mission, Tony and I carried on to the dry chamber of the Room of Dangling Doom – not as loose as one might expect, but still having a fine collection of clean slabs fallen from the roof. We paused at the far end under a solid looking section and then ferreted around for the crawl to the sump. After a couple of unsuccessful efforts, we returned back to meet John and have a very hot coffee from Tony’s bag.

After the aforementioned circular meanderings in the slippery muddy crawls, we eventually found the climb up and out to the entrance series. We all had a good clean in the stream before the steep climb back to the road, after a 3 hour trip. Cliff Force is a fine cave with some impressive passages and I have more to check out on another visit.