Ian Cummins, Adele, Steve Woods, 26/11/2017.
Fossil is a very odd cave – horizontal progress is slowly gained via a variety of arduous up, over and down manoeuvres leading to a fine stream passage that normally does not have much of a stream, but has several tantalising avens that generally sport old ladders or ropes that nobody seems to remember too much about.
A recent trip to the upstream extremity found Adele and Steve Woods bailing a pool and re-discovering an old club dig. This just made the 2001 Journal survey as ‘unsurveyed extension’ and Adele’s further interrogation of Richard Bendall suggested it was worth another look.
A chilly day in Grassington and upon picking up Steve’s gear from his car at UWFRA HQ, the brainwave of getting changed in the garage occurred to me – unfortunately I didn’t realise that Steve left his clothes there afterwards – more of that later.
With bags containing climbing and bolting kit, progress was steadily made through the abrasive maze of the entrance passages, with a quick look at the downstream sump to ponder what the mine beyond holds before heading upstream.
A bit of trenching was done at the old drained section before continuing to our goal. With spade, trowel and crowbar, a trench was made and the water started to drain from the sumped section, but with no airspace, Adele went back for the section of drainpipe that I believe was taken in by Gary, Abby and Steve Warren in 2006?
With this in place, Adele and I started a syphon, but quicker progress was made as the pool lowered with a tub feeding the tube until we could crawl through the muddy slop that remained.
Surveying the ancient ladder that was wrapped around a block 15 feet above, I tied on my old 9 mm climbing rope and set off, thinking light thoughts and soon grabbing the block to mantle onto its top, whilst Steve continued to bail the pool to ‘make our return more comfortable’ – we didn’t believe a word. With the rope belayed over a nice rounded boss, Adele followed and I surveyed the situation, with lots of calcite and passages leading off left and rightThe .
To the left, where the draught was, choked sections at either side of a slot were checked and disregarded, whilst the hole in the floor opened into space – surely not a bypass to the upstream sump?
Steve had arrived and I suggested that we may have been looking down to where we had passed, but a rope was fixed and avoiding the hanging doom to the right, a descent was made into space – yep – pipe and spade, so no glory today – one had to chuckle as it was good fun. Back up to join Adele, we looked straight up, viewing nothing that sparked our enthusiasm, so we headed out, removing the old ladder and other rusty tat, pausing for a brief wash of the kit in a pool near the downstream sump. With heavy, soggy bags, the exit was a pain and with fading lights I was forced to descend the fixed rope on the climb – the shame!
Exiting to a cold, wet night, gear was packed, hats and gloves donned and the sprint back to the car began. Despite my furious pace, the age that progress seemed to take made me wonder if I was Mossdale-bound, since in the foggy gloom I couldn’t tell whether I was moving uphill or down until the lights of Yarnbury came into view. In the wind and rain, a miserable change was quickly performed, except for Steve, who looked like he needed to be stripped before I would allow him into my car. Thankfully Andy Cole appeared and whisked him off to HQ and we descended out of the mist to the pub in Hebden.
Return visits will be made to tie up these loose ends and tidy up the cave – another go at the sump too? It certainly had a lot less mud than on my attempt.
It all seemed so much more fun in the pub. Don’t think my kit has ever been so mucky.
Pics by Ian Cummins & Steve Woods.