Dowbergill: Ian and Simon (20th November 2011).
Having done this trip one-way several times now, I had often considered doing it up and down, if only to avoid the walk into Providence Pot from Kettlewell, or back over the hill to Park Rash. Talking to my digging chums about this, it transpired that this was a WRPC training trip for the Berger back in the last century and such was rigour of leader Sweeney that the party had to exit Providence, take in fresh air and descend to return to Dow Cave. Not having quite this mentality and having an aversion to the muddy bits of Provi, I have always felt that the caving starts at Stal Corner and so decreed that we would turn round there.
I say we, as I was intending to boulder on this possible last good day of the year, but a call from Simon, working on Sunday morning, wanted a look out in the afternoon and I was happy to oblige. I fancied a crack at Hyperthermia in Sleets Gill, but with Simon sporting only a 3mm wetsuit borrowed from Rich Gibson (it had apparently ‘shrunk’ so as not to fit any more), we decided on Dowbergill.
I decided to carry a watch, my underwater find special, just to see how long this trip would take and was amazed at how quickly the familiar landmarks passed by. With the first duck being underwater still, we climbed over it – easy going up, but the flaring chimney coming back is always a pig, hence why I have pulled people, including my daughter through the aqueous way! Rock Window in 20 min and finding even more stream-level squeezes through than normal, we had 2 minutes at Stal Corner, attained in 1 hr 45 min, before heading back down.
With us both feeling a bit peckish and having no munchies as usual, the slightly downhill nature of the trip was offset by dwindling energy, although such was the heat generated in the dry sections that I mentioned to Simon that it would be odd to die from heatstroke, in a wet cave, in November!
Racing along the improbable neck-deep ducking sections towards the Buddhist Temple, we were soon at the first (last) duck. Not fancying the dive through to hit the air gap, I moved back to chimney up, flailing with numbed hands until Simon offered me a shoulder to reach the hand traverse crack, as he elegantly followed.
Pausing only briefly to admire the aesthetic flowstone cascade, we were soon emerging into Dow Cave and out to the foggy night 5 minutes later, matching the time uphill exactly. Terrific stuff and we had even managed to find a few new bits of the stream level route on the way.