Albert Hall by Ian Cummins

Albert Hall, Dow Cave: Abby Rhodes, Gary Rhodes, Ian Cummins (20 April 2008).

Another trip to Dow, more than 30 years after my first hypothermic caving experience as a scout and finally reaching the end.  By a strange quirk of fate, I’d responded to Abby’s request for a look out after the club dinner and suggested this trip.  Chatting to Edward Whitaker at the dinner, we got around to talking about our planned trip and it turned out that I was conversing with the discoverer of Albert Hall!  Edward was curious about the condition of the route and requested a report, so the plan was set and I left early to get home and dry my gear.

Oh yes – top nosh and service at Dalesbridge – I think we all enjoyed the evening, so thanks to the organisers.

With a civilised meeting time of mid-day, I had a leisurely drive through Coverdale and found the Rhodesmobile in-situ on a grey but pleasant day.

Finding a large frog in the streamway just inside the cave, we relayed the lost amphibian to safety outside and I led off until the Second Boulder Choke was reached.  I again enjoyed the waterfall climb and cascades above, with water levels much lower than our last trip and the temperature being not too bad either.

Reaching the choke, Abby reckoned she knew the route and as Steve had suggested, the way on lay off to the right, with the key being a low section that had been full of water previously.

Following a handy trail of red bang wire led to the incredible scaffolded route up through a choke, including some bizarre shuttering in the form of a large circular saw blade!  Above this, Edward had suggested we look out for a fluorescent tape, left to show the way into Albert Hall, warning that if we strayed from the correct route, we would surely be squashed!  Sure enough, remnants of the tape remain, pointing the way up into the final ‘chamber’.  Mind you, it’s not really a chamber, more like an enlargement in the chaotic fill, although sufficiently stable to allow for a fine set of formations on a block in the far end.  A crawl through a low pool led into more jumbled chaos and apparently the end.  Picking up some old digging kit to carry out, including an old lump hammer, we retired.

Unfortunately Abby decided to attempt the scaffolded section headfirst, then changed her mind and proceeded to get stuck.  Gary’s assistance was initially requested and many contortions, including my heaving on one of Abby’s feet, finally brought relief.

I still managed to get lost on the way out too.  Bringing up the rear, I was going round in circles in the crawls off the Second Choke, until a few shouts led me to the way out – yes it’s that confusing!

With the final passages to Hobson’s and the main streamway to be enjoyed again, we made the surface after a trip of less than 3 hours – a fine, satisfying trip.