Low Douk Cave: Richard, Ian, Steve, David W, Chris, Geoff, Matt (28th February 2010).
What a great surprise this cave was! A rather physical day out and no tackle required at all – just the way I like it. Low Douk is probably overshadowed by its more prominent neighbours and I’d not given it any consideration until Richard suggested it for the meets list and I wasn’t the only one, since David seemed confused as to why we were meeting at Masongill for a trip to Great Douk. Following the opening of the new entrance by Richard and his chums, no tackle is required and he had described it as a steady day out – well maybe, maybe not, but I certainly felt well worked after being inserted into some of the more esoteric sections of the cave.
The entrance shakehole has a roof of rather soberingly-jammed boulders – no I wouldn’t camp in there – and a steep enlarged section with a couple of fixed lines drops into the streamway. The meandering section of streamway is possible at almost any level, depending upon one’s size and it was great sport to climb up and down, secure in the narrow confines of the passage, although larger cavers might not have so much fun.
Reaching the fine cascade of Steps Chamber, Matt and I traversed across the left wall to follow the passage ahead to the top of an impressive 9m pitch, reversing back to find the connecting crawl to the muddy chamber leading off from the streamway, getting to within a few feet of Richard before finding the crawl to be too tight and having to reverse and try another route with more success this time, although I nearly came a cropper on the muddy descent – I hate that feeling of no trust in one’s hands or feet on such terrain – give me an edge to cling onto and I feel much happier!
Down at the final sump chamber, we investigated a couple of leads, where I learned that poking at a choke from below can be bad for your health, although my already sick Duo came off worst, I also got a bit of a bashing to my nose before giving up the job. As I was wearing a wetsuit, Richard suggested I try the static sump for size and with a bit of wriggling I could indeed get further and further in by shifting some of the cobbly fill. Next on the list was the squeeze into BAC Rift, which proved to be flat out in very cold water, where I had to remove my helmet and brace against Richard’s feet to force my way through, with the result being a very numb head and lots of silt in my ears. Spectacular passage though, with its white-streaked black rock being in contrast to the main streamway and its Ireby-like creamy stone. With only my dive torch for illumination and its power being diminished by a generous mud covering, I spent a gloomy few minutes exploring before returning through the squeeze with a few tugs from Richard for aid. After climbing back down to wash under the final cascade, we headed out, meeting the rest of the party at Steps Chamber, where I took the lead out.
Reaching the climb out to the surface, I decided to wait for the rest of the party, with my hands getting colder and colder until I had to move to get warm again, heading back downstream to meet the perspiring party fighting their way up the meanders. Once it was apparent all was well, I made my way out to get back to the car and into dry clothes – curiously my hot aches left me with painful fingers next day – ouch!
Cracking trip and a great alternative if one encounters crowds in Ireby.
Pic by Chris Dudman.