Wharfedale Weekend by Phil Ryder

Hagg Gill Pot: Phil, Abi, Gary, Frank, Chris, Nigel, Jan, Steve Warren, Andy Cole (plus 3 guests), Harry Brisland, (plus his guest) (20/21 September 2008). 

It was cracking the flags. What a wonderful day for camping. Unfortunately only four souls braved the campsite at Kettlewell on Saturday. Gary and Abi, me and the irrepressible Frank Longwill, who travelled up from South Wales, after spending many months in the four corners of the earth. Good to see you again Frank!!

Gary and Abi had a meal at the packed Racehorses; I couldn’t get one, as the kitchens couldn’t cope. Then back to the Kings Head, now back to something of its former glory after the departure of the two landladies, the ones who batted for the other side and didn’t know how to keep ale. Chris Camm joined us there, and later Ian Cummings – fresh from being hammered in Hammer Pot, who gave his apologies for tomorrows meet due to the battering his body had taken on today’s trip.

The next morning Frank and I put on our little puppy dog look and were rewarded with a bacon banjo, (fancy bread mind you!), from Abi and Gary. Frank also got out his renowned coffee percolator, like ones you see on old western movies. Gary and Abi also had one, but it was a bit posher!

We met at Cow Garth in brilliant sunshine, 14 people for the Hagg Gill trip – an excellent turnout. As well as me there was Abi and Gary , Frank , Chris, Nigel and Jan, Steve Warren, Andy Cole plus 3 guests, and finally Harry Brisland, (sporting a Saddam Hussein moustache), plus his guest. I got down the pitch second and went for a wander round on my own. Not having been down Hagg Gill for a number of years through choice, I had forgotten how big and beautiful it was. On the many trips spent exploring and surveying the system you tend to miss the finer points. Then feeling guilty, I was meant to be the leader after all, I went back to the entrance pitch.

There I met Steve and we headed up to Mayday, complete with Andy’s new orange bucket that had not survived a freefall down the pitch. It had a piece of oversuit bunging up the hole in the bottom – but I soon lost it! Following a quick photo stop at the “yard of ale” we were soon clearing water and shingle out of the sump. Foam marks half a metre higher on the wall above the sump didn’t inspire confidence; it’s not called the Mayday for nothing!

After a bit of humming I volunteered to go through first, I was younger and dafter. A body length squeeze on your back through a jagged rock arch takes you to a steeply ascending tight passage full of cobbles, until it went dark! Of all the places for my main light to go out!!! Panic ye not – turn on my back up torch. In the much reduced light I had to break through four cobble dams, each time letting the water drain past me down to the duck / sump. Eventually I was able to stand up and was soon joined by Steve, we then proceeded on to Bouncing Boulder Chamber. There are two ways into the chamber, I took the tight one and got stuck badly banging my right shoulder blade and elbow, Steve guided me to the easier sandy crawl. In the chamber we waited for the approaching Abi and Gary.

Abi soon appeared, but frantic shouts from Gary told us he had gone the tight way I had. And he was in the dark as his lamp cable had been ripped off his battery. Shining lights back we soon guided him up the sandy crawl into the chamber. I gave Gary my backup torch and he fettled the contacts on my main light. My right arm started to stiffen up so I decided to head out.

Gary Rhodes emerging from the Mayday Sump into Mayday Series.

It was too steamy to take photos so Steve took Abi and Gary to show them some hidden gems, ones that only a few of us know about and were never published to prevent damage.

Eventually we all surfaced, Frank had also been in the Mayday Series but got nearly to the end stopping at the duck above the waterfall. Others had been all round Hagg Gill. I brightened up quite a few lives on the entrance pitch. Asking for a good haul as my arm and shoulder had frozen resulted in me spinning round in the shaft Peter Pan like with one hand holding the ladder. Everybody was falling about with laughter when I reached the surface. Apart from that mishap Chris did an excellent job of lifelining everybody up safely.

Thanks to everyone who turned up.

The Mayday Series is an excellent little trip in dry weather. I don’t think anybody has been into there for many a year but I’d highly recommend it, there are some are some very fine formations and two nice avens. Give it a try.

Pic by Steve Warren.