Ibbeth Peril and Nettle Pot: Ian, Simon, and Mike Cooper (24th February 2008).
With Saturday evening’s trip a non-starter after losing a battle in the war against corporate intransigence, I had to relieve my frustration with a late-night bouldering session in my garage, followed by a generous tot of whisky! Nevertheless, a plan was formulated for the following day and a late-ish start allowed for a meeting at the Dent turnoff at 10-30. Making good time, I even had the luxury of a coffee stop at Kitty’s in Aysgarth and still beat the chaps there.
With Simon being leader for the day, the plan was to do Ibbeth Peril first, followed by Nettle Pot, both in the picturesque Dentdale area. Mind you, checking out the river at Bainbridge on the way down, I was surprised by the volume of white water coming over the falls and inspection of the Ibbeth Peril entrance showed a scene that would delight a canoeist rather than a caver.
Simon said that when he had been down the cave before, he had been able to walk down the fall to access the entrance in a cleft on the north bank – impossible for us, with a boiling pool of water, complete with a huge pile of logs sucked back in by an eddy, apparently blocking the entrance. Not to be deterred, we got changed and arranged a ladder down to the water to check out the entrance. Simon was down first, followed by me and we managed to push a lot of the logjam out into the main flow to disappear downstream. Finding a lot of rubbish in the form of plastic bottles and even a fire extinguisher amongst the logs, we piled them up on a ledge to bag and carry out later.
The entrance was a big surprise, with a removable wire grate over a small window allowing access over a flimsy-looking sheet of plywood into the low passage beyond, which lies below water level! Once inside, we conjectured upon the consequences of failure of this wooden barrier, which would result in the dumping of a huge volume of water into the cave, before scurrying along the low section to soon reach the huge main chamber.
The main chamber is indeed a surprise, being probably 30m x 50m, with a floor of huge blocks and with a fine series of decorations along the left wall. I must confess to having been totally confused by the exploration of the complex series of passages beyond, with some fine showery climbs leading to diverse passages, including the fine Peak Cavern-like upstream passage, with its fast-flowing, frigid water and a muddy, crawling passage leading to an unintended plop into a sump pool!
After a couple of hours in the cave, we returned to the entrance to view a little blue sky outside, thankfully and hopped into our cars for the drive through Dent village to park up for Nettle Pot.
This cave also promised to be an aqueous adventure, as Simon had previously been thwarted by water flowing into the entrance from the stream and we were not confident of success on this occasion either. With a short approach, walking up the stream from the road, we were relieved to find the entrance above water and walked into the small chamber, with a crawl leading off to the left. The first pitch was soon reached and an anchor for the ladder was searched for. Finding the spits to be useless, I climbed over the lip of the shaft to attempt to climb down. It would be fine in the dry and with rock boots, but a bit tricky in caving kit and I noticed a nice thread in the big jug hold on the lip and a ladder was fixed.
The stream passage that follows is a delight, with many fine gours in particular, as well as good stals, although the power and coldness of the water was making itself felt, with my feet feeling numb and when Simon and Mike released the grip on their kit bags to pass a low section, they sped off downstream at a fair rate of knots.
After the fine streamway section, the roof lowers and the passage widens to a bedding, necessitating flat-out work in the frigid water over cobbles. Initially, I was in the lead, but having no hood on and losing feeling in my hands and feet, I reversed to allow Mike to punish himself in the downstream section, whilst Simon and I had some respite out of the water, attempting to nurse some life back into our numb digits.
Reckoning we would not make the exit out of the culvert at the bottom of the cave, we retreated, exiting after a tough little trip and I had great difficulty in getting my wetsuit off with frozen fingers. Nettle Pot is a super little cave, demanding a return on a warmer day and with less water.
Once changed, we made full use of the fire in the café in Dent after a varied and enjoyable day out.