Langcliffe Pot: Ian Cummins, Adele Ward (6 September 2017).
Round 2 of Langcliffe Pot. A previous attempt to have a little test trip to Boireau Falls Chamber failed when the weather turned from hot and humid, to heavy rain and dismal conditions. At this time we had spent a fair bit of time looking for the shakehole that is Oddmire Sink, we decided to sack it off and head off somewhere else. I recall the walk being an ordeal; I have a particular dislike for uphill walking in heat.
Langcliffe first landed on my radar because of my interest in Mossdale, and the Black Keld system. It’s fair to say Mossdale has pricked my curiosity and is my primary focus; however in order to understand Mossdale, I feel like I must experience Langcliffe. Speaking to friends – they all say the same thing, “it’s a long way Adele”.
Reading descriptions, watching you tube videos (one of which I wish I could actually delete from my mind, as I can imagine a similar epic) – they all become absorbed.
Today we are prepped with the black book’s descriptions, and I printed the survey just to be sure.
The night before this trip had me feeling a little nervous. Feeling a little sore form Fairy Holes, I do feel nervous. There is no point in me pretending I’m a hard arse gnarly caver that lacks encountered emotions when caving. A fair bit of the time, I’m generally shitting myself as soon as SRT is mentioned, but the other bits I reckon I might be getting a bit better at.
Tuesday night – packing what can only be described as a picnic to be consumed in some horrible spot a long way down is mustered. I’m ready – let’s get this sorted.
Stopping for the obligatory tea cake in Kettlewell around 12 noon – I feel like it’s high noon at the caving discussion time – what to do ? It’s rained a bit, scattered light showers are forecast.
Parking up, our back packs assembled, feeling mixed emotions.
The walk up heralded the usual cursing; it’s hot and is the expected ball ache. Arriving at our chosen destination we begin walking around a field. This felt familiar – where is Oddmire? A quick recon is required, Ian heads off at breakneck speed – I light a cigarette, and adopt a more leisurely pace.
Ian confirms we are in the right spot, he has a quick look down whilst I fanny about – not sure if I haven’t changed my mind.
“Yep it’s wet and horrible down there mate.” It’s rained a fair bit over past days, and this looks like a dismal little hole. Trying desperately not to have one of my “I hate SRT moments” we begin the descent. Arriving at a slope and belay point with loose rock, the way on is obvious. “Yippee” – no wobbling lip moments. Completing the rest of the descent bolsters confidence that we are ready to head off. SRT kit deposited – tackle bag with my picnic, surveys and backups – check, let’s go.
With names like Slaughter Aven, I have a strange tune in my head that is sung throughout. Motoring forward, surprised at how welcoming this place feels – I consider I might live to regret those words.
The passage is great initially with rock reminiscent of Dowbergill; the curly formations make me want to learn more about caves.
As per usual – this report ain’t going to be a navigational tool to any future travellers. Ian has experienced this place many a time, so the status quo of me crawling or stooping along behind him follows.
It doesn’t seem so bad; we are trundling along as per norm. We reach a point Ian illuminated me with the knowledge that this was the junction that leads to Langcliffe Pot. Having a quick peek it looks gloomy. Gloomy is a word I will recall about Langcliffe, amongst others.
I don’t mind crawling along this passage, inexperienced to this system, but I ask Ian a few times – “this water’s alright ain’t it mate?” as we trundle along.
Reaching Hammerdale Dub, all seems to get much easier. I constantly feel like I’m waiting for this place to become a pain in the arse – thus far it’s been kind to my caving abilities. I’m aware other areas may not. This is enjoyable caving. We climb over a few obstacles and head up a boulder choke – the Kilnsey Boulder Crawl. Not knowing what this encounter is going to hold, hands and feet are placed carefully. There seems to be a lot of wire around here and we pass over a slab that has a tonne of the stuff deposited. By the time we reach Langstrothdale Chase – I’m feeling a little bored of boulders. It’s a short section but if I’m frank – it felt a little monotonous. Boulders can be draining.
Langstrothdale Chase is next, for this shorter trip – this place is awesome. Imagining how long the far reaches of this cave are – I contemplate what Langstrothdale Chase feels like returning to it after a visit to its end.
This is great, what a place! I commit mental images to memory to be forever savoured.
Reaching a point just before BF chamber – we have a chat; it’s taken just short of 2 hours to get to this point. We stop for a little drink of pop, and check of time. Its 4:30 – Ian pops the question – so what to do next? Contemplating the time it will take to get to BF chamber, and the inexplicable desire I will feel to have a go, we decide it’s time to turn around. Whilst eating my Boost bar I have a little look at the black book description. I notice a paragraph I’ve read previously – an alternative exit to Oddmire; feeling rather fresh after a drink of pop and a quick rest – it’s always nice to go out a slightly different way then you went in, we have plenty time, and feeling excited, so let’s have a look at Skirfare Inlet.
Heading back we are looking for markers, looking for familiar points. We reach a point we reckon is the way out and press on.
Moving on this bit seems to go on for ever; the first signs of fatigue are experienced in my wrists. I’ve been a bit lazy; shorter sections that I probably could have stood up in were crawled through. It’s beginning to get a little more flat out, and seems to have been going on an age – this is expressed to Ian. Reaching a comfortable corner, requesting a quick chat – we check the description, ‘cos this feels never ending.
I suppose it’s around this time – Langcliffe makes you doubt yourself. I notice Ian has picked up to Sporting pace. We have a little chat – explaining to Ian that this is becoming a little … tiresome. Ian scoots off head to check we are on the right track, whilst I reassure myself with the description of this cave – as we both doubt our navigational skills.
Checking the watch, it’s 6:30, we always knew this way would be a little longer ….but how much more, there seems to be a significant lack reference points other than a flat out crawl. I’m beginning to question if we are in the right place; so is Ian.
Reading of long flat-out crawls, leading to gour pools, is poking my mind. Where are the pools, are we on the right track? Because going back would be a total pain in the arse.
Ian returns; I cross-examine Ian as to what the way on holds, confirming we are on the right track, with mention of gour pools – I’m feeling sporting! It’s taken a little longer than anticipated, this route – so we need to get the next bit right first time.
Committing to memory the black book’s description we feel relieved to see fine calcite topped gour pools. Hurtling towards the next marker described I am relieved to see it.
Now over obsessing that we are traveling the correct way, noting the next section of passage is supposed to take 10 mins, I’m going to keep an eye on the time so I carry the watch in my teeth. It’s 7pm as we finally arrive in Slaughter Aven. Fatigue has begun to set in and for a second I can’t see my SRT kit….. it’s been a fair old way.
Ian heads up the rope, and I say good bye to Oddmire. Thinking to myself, I’m tired, but hell – bring on the cider.
Exiting to cooler conditions we walk down dale, sporting wetsuits. With light fading we are just in time for the pub for a quick half…