Middle Scar Cave, Ribblehead: Ian, Simon (25th August 2008).
The Bank Holiday weekend arrived and it stopped raining for long enough to satisfy cavers and combine harvester drivers alike. Feeling the need for more practice underwater, Saturday saw us in the Kingsdale Master Cave for a trip through the Rowten Sumps. We had the cave to ourselves too, for the rather uncomfortable bottle and tackle bag carry to the Roof Tunnel Pitch, before the rather easier walk upstream against a fair flow of water. Diving through the longest sump, I was taking my time, looking at the rather bouldery floor, when I noticed a rope sling lying on the sump floor. Pleased to find some swag in this unlikely spot, I examined it closer to realise that it was one of mine! It must have been dropped on our pull-through trip of a few weeks previous! After having a shower under the rather impressive final fall in Rowten, we dived back with the AFLOs and then de-kitted before doing the free dives for fun.
Next day saw me, son and daughter walking up to Greg’s Hut, the Bothy on Cross Fell – a great spot and a fine day out, except that Beth forgot to pack the tea bags! If the reader has not been there, I recommend the walk from either Dufton or Garrigill to the highest point of the Pennines. It came as a shock to note that it was 4 years since we had made this trip – seems like only yesterday, so if the reader wonders why I am apparently intent on rattling through Yorkshire’s caves, don’t forget that time does fly!
Bank Holiday Monday arrived grey and windy and our plan was to dive the sump intro Ribblehead’s Middle Scar cave. We were unsure if the dry way in was open or not and didn’t look, having resolved to do the dive for practice anyway. The short walk in to the shakehole revealed a tied-off diveline and I dropped down the blocks at the entrance to manoeuvre under a duck and into deeper water where the line disappeared down a deep hole in the murky, still water. After Simon plumbed the depths a couple of times, I had a look and dropped down feet-first in the deep water. This could best be described as an underwater walk, rather than a dive, since I traversed upright and sideways until I popped up in a deep canal about 3 feet wide with a foot or so of airspace – fantastically grim and impressive! Curiously, I could communicate with Simon and called for him to follow. Once he arrived, we tiptoed, regulators held aloft, along the canal, until a rock shelf in shallower water allowed us to de-kit.
A fine, high canyon passage was followed to a nice waterfall, which I attempted to climb on its left until flexible chert-like holds prompted a retreat. Simon bridged up more solid brown rock on the right and I followed – great fun.
Reaching a junction, we took the left fork along Rising Mirth Passage – a fantastic section of streamway with a series of pools behind thin stal/chert dams providing a memorable spectacle. Reaching the 5m fall of Parba Pot, described as requiring aid, I had a look at climbing it, but was again repulsed by the soft, cherty rock, almost spinning off into the pool when one of my holds pulled off. Retreating back to the gear, we kitted up and dived out. This time I encountered the narrow section mentioned in NC2, noticing the narrowing through the murk, requiring me to drop down to pass through, before rising into daylight – a great experience and a memorable outing for my first Ribblehead cave!
Back at the cars, we had a quick look into Conduit Spring Cave, but turned back before the tight upper section. Simon had viewed these bends before and suggested that if we went up there, we would no doubt feel compelled to have a go. I agreed and as we had probably had enough excitement for 1 day and the drizzle was about to turn into rain, we retreated and dived through the entrance duck. A fine long weekend – oh no – it’s back to work!