Cliff Force Cave: Ian, Beth, Jeff, Chris, Matthew, Steve Warren and Andy (15th March 2009).
This was an old favourite for me, a place where my old mate Arthur Champion bolted up into a fairy-tale land of shining crystals, and fossils etched out in the walls. Around that time, in the early 1980s, we took a scaling pole in there too in order to examine an intriguing aven.
But if Fairy Holes is the King of ‘Yoredale Rat-runs’, and Smelt Mill Beck the Queen, then Cliff Force Cave is the beautiful Princess.
However, the challenge for this meet leader, and he only found out he had been appointed leader some time after the event, was to find the route in through a maze of crawls and squeezes where as Ian once said
“It is easy to go round in circles”.
We didn’t go round in too many circles and non of the tight bits were too tight but one or two were intimidating for at least one of the more senior people present., namely, myself. At one point a lone frog sat in the bottom of a mud basin: we didn’t know what to do with him so we left him alone. Once the streamway was gained progress was by way of a series of pools, canals, and innumerable very big and perilous looking roof pendants. The last low wet crawl, or alternative dry bypass squeeze, was more than enough for myself although everyone else managed to get by and into Fault Hall. From thence the place starts to become seriously wet culminating in a rather desperate duck where further exploration came to an end shortly before the ominously named Hall of Dangling Doom.
Meanwhile I set myself the task of finding the way back with no support except the thought that there would be others following me later. In fact my memory served me well and, with no more than half a dozen minor sidetracking events, the exit was gained in little over a half hour. To ensure an easy exit for the main team some prominent exit arrows were inscribed in the mud. This was not so much as to aid the main team, as to ensure I did not have to go down again through all those crawls to show them the way out.
It was a real pleasure to emerge and wash off in fine sunshine and then admire the fabulous scenery of the Wensleydale – Swaledale watershed.
Thanks to Ian, Beth, Jeff, Chris, Matthew and Andy for turning out to make for a great day’s caving.
Pic by Steve Warren.