Diving with Martyn Soliman by Ian Cummins

Hagg Gill II: Ian Cummins, Martyn Soliman (30 April & 8 May 2011). 

Inspired by Martyn Soliman’s writings in the WRPC 2001 journal, I’d put this meet on the list, aiming to get down to the second downstream sump at the bottom of the pitch.  I was hoping to get through with Martyn to take some photos of this never-pictured section of passage and was pleased when he agreed to come up from Stoke to do the dive.  Despite a dodgy knee cartilage, I was determined not to let the weather window go, thinking that sod’s law would see a downpour on the agreed date (and so it proved), enlisting Simon for help to find the cave (I’d only been there once) and carry the kit on the day after the Royal Wedding.

Finding Simon to be in remarkably good health and spirits, we were soon at the crystal-clear sump pool, with barely a flow in the stream – super.  I’d been forewarned of some squeezes en-route, but in these conditions things would be much easier and finding the line to be intact and still well belayed to the floor, I was soon through the flat-out bits after a bit of rubble clearing to rise up the steep gravel slope into Hagg Gill II after the 30-odd metre dive.  Noting the fine cascades beyond, I had a quick breather and returned, again with nice vis through the low, twisting sections.

Next weekend saw the break of the drought and a full water barrel at home told of heavy overnight rain – oh dear.  A good support team was present, with Steve providing the waterproof camera and a waiting Martyn gloomily suggested poor diving conditions due to the amount of water issuing from Deepdale Risings.  Getting to the sump, water levels were not too high, with the pulse already gone, although leaving a foamy pool and cloudy water.  I elected to dive first with camera in a bag, leaving Martyn to follow with a bag of rope and SRT kit.  Finding the vis to be about 1 foot, passing the squeezes was not nice and a line tangle around a bottle took a bit of sorting in the constriction, where the knowledge that better passage lay beyond served to calm my nerves and again diving without fins in this constricted sump, I was soon gliding up the slope to emerge in the passage beyond.  Having really good trim, I found I was able to hold the line with 1 hand and with the other gripping the camera bag, a steady crawl was possible without their encumbrance.

Downstream end of sump 1 Hagg Gill
Downstream end of the sump

De-kitting, I sat to wait for Martyn, who was diving a couple of minutes behind.  After about ten to fifteen minutes, I reckoned he must have had a problem and headed off to the pitch taking pictures as I moved to avoid my mist clouds.  Passing down the sporty cascades and under the fine stal mentioned in WRPC 2001, I was soon at the large, impressive final chamber with water barrelling down the 10m + pitch, where I could just make out the sump pool – awesome stuff.  It’s not often that one views such a pristine, rarely-viewed part of the planet and I fully appreciated the experience after the effort of getting to it.

Big stal Hagg Gill 2
Big stal in Hagg Gill II
Nice streamway in Hagg Gill 2
Fine streamway leading to Deepdale Risings

Taking more pics on the way out, I arrived at the pool to find no diver, so after kitting-up, I dived with the hope of not encountering one en-route!  Again feeling for the best space at the squeeze, a couple of options were tried before success and the pleasant rise up to break surface, where Matt managed to capture my lights in the depths on his camera.

Emerging after

Emerging after the dives

With rather chilly feet, I was anxious to get warmed up and an efficient team soon had the gear sorted.  Emerging to sunshine, the pleasant downhill walk was in marked contrast to the slog uphill.  Many thanks to Simon, Steve, Martyn, Emma, Phil, Geoff, Chris and Matt for their help.

Pics by IC and Matt Dudman.