Great Douk by Ian Cummins

Great Douk Cave: Cummins senior and juniors! (12th April 2008). 

With it being Easter holidays for my son and daughter, I asked George if he fancied going caving again.  To my surprise he said yes and Beth even volunteered herself!  The initial aim of Dow cave was thrown out with the wet weather, but we fancied a return to Great Douk after a couple of fun trips in there last year.

I packed my usual wetsuit kit, giving Beth my neofleece and oversuit, whilst George had a couple of shorty wetsuit layers, covered by various fleeces and overtrousers, so I reckoned we would be ready for anything.  Head torches taped to construction and cycle helmets completed the kids’ outfits.

Driving from Hawes, the grey clouds loomed ahead, as they often do and parking at the Ingleborough lay-by the west face of the hill looked more like the north face of the Eiger, with glimpses of the snowy peak showing through the shrouding mist.  Spring is here, allegedly, but having seen my first swallow on the farm last week, I reckon it must have had enough and gone back south, since I’ve not sighted it again!

The 3 of us got changed in the car, not fancying the hail outside, and then made a dash for it when the sky cleared, finding the going underfoot very boggy.  Arriving at the Great Douk depression, the water was already rumbling ominously, but I could still climb the fall without getting wet, via some slippery bridging, but the rest of the party did the ledge crawl to enter.  Just as we were getting sorted inside the entrance, a party came out, looking like they had been in the retreat from Moscow, with the leader warning us ‘it’s a bit wild in there’.

Beth led off, with me staying right behind the lightweight form of George.  The water was not particularly deep, about knee-high, but flowing fast and with a fair breeze blowing too.  The series of cascades were a bit of a challenge for the juniors, but we forged on until a narrowing of the walls just before the oxbow would have required a bit of a duck.  Being outvoted on whether to carry on, we turned back for a rapid return to the exit, where a layer of hailstones covered the ground.

Feeling the cold myself, I abandoned my idea of a solo of Sunset and we jogged back to the car for a chilly change.  Top marks to Beth and George who got stuck in and they were thankfully buzzing with exhilaration, rather than feeling miserable and they are keen to get out again.