Foss Gill Pot: Ian and Denis (6th June 2015).
I had intended diving in Yew Cogar, but a phone call from Simon the day before instigated a late change of plan as he had already dragged his gear in there to dive. Never mind – after the freezing shenanigans in Pasture Gill a couple of weeks earlier, I fancied a simple caving trip without too much tackle anyway.
Turning up at Kettlewell café, I found Denis and Simon already in-situ and after much discussion we headed our separate ways, with Denis and me calling in at Bushey Lodge Farm to check after Hucky had cleared our postponed meet a month earlier.
Sheltering from the wind to change in the walled-in path down to the Wharfe, we squeezed into our neoprene and crossed the tranquil waters of the river before slogging up the hillside to the fell top. After passing several false summits, we took a rough guess to the whereabouts of the pot and Denis managed to find it straight away, with a healthy stream dropping down the impressive chasm – all this after a few dry, windy days, so this must be very, very wet after rain. It was interesting to see some fine Fossil Pot-type boulders in the slope, absolutely full of crinoids.
We had a couple of 10m ladders – the extra 5m pair having been left in the car somehow, so with the first pitch being 12m, I was prepared for a climb down. Laddering from a bar over the wet rift, with a back-up from a spit, I began the wet descent, lined by Denis – doing a footless last 2m to get my feet on terra firma – catching Denis as he emerged from the spray, in a piece of classic old-school caving.
The fine, airy rift below soon led to a low, wet squeeze, that I could only negotiate feet-first on my back, noting this to be a definite flood-trap, should the weather turn, reversing to grab the gear from Denis to rig the second pitch immediately below. With only a narrow, slippery, sloping ledge for access, I asked Denis to rig a belay from a block below the squeeze, which I extended around a bollard to make a safe, if rather low, ladder belay, ignoring the dry hang from 2 spits at the far end of the wall as being too iffy to reach without extra rope.
With another pummelling descent, we made the short free-climb below the pitch into the start of the wet crawls, all sporting foam from a recent filling. The duck approached, so it was hood on, but with no chance of using the airspace in an inverted effort, I took off my helmet to make more room and dived through, turning round to give Denis a guiding hand.
A bit more nasty crawling led to the final tantalising, hostile constriction.
In a classic piece of Laurel and Hardy caving, I tried in vain to aid Denis onto the short ladder under the force of the water, before I suggested simply adding the one removed from pitch 2 instead – doh! Making a hasty exit and enduring another battering on the pitches, we emerged to the gale-force winds on the fell top, whereupon Denis got blown away, never to be seen again. After enjoying all the variety of this condensed little brute of a cave, we found the tranquility of the valley floor to be some contrast.
Birdwatch of the day – Green Sandpiper, Dipper, Swift, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Nuthatch and many more, as the countryside was bursting into life.