Showerbath, Langstrothdale by Phil Ryder

Showerbath SD 89424 79140 Alt 357m Length 12m

In 2015 Andy Cole said to me, “What about Showerbath?”
What he meant was Showerbath Inlet in Hagg Gill, the exploration of the passage brought to an end in 1989 when the chuck on the Club Hilti battery drill broke. It was all plug and feathers in those days, none of the pyrotechnics of these days.
Two sinks, one unnamed, the other Phillip’s dig, were dye tested to Showerbath Inlet by Andy, (WRPC Journal 1994). It should be noted that Phillip’s dig is named after me, but I haven’t a clue where it is now!

One fine sunny day I had a walk up to the unnamed sink, it ticked all the boxes, so I persuaded Hucky to have a dig there the following Saturday. It was rather unpleasant to dig in one’s t-shirt with a constant trickle of water down your back so Showerbath stuck. We dug a trench and diverted the stream to keep us dry – luxury! It soon became clear that the stream sink was too immature, but if you turned 180 degrees, it was evident that that was where the bigger, older passage was.

The way on was blocked by a large slab of rock which we had hours of fun demolishing and removing. A passage 1.5m high and 1m wide was uncovered, from the look of the stal in it, and the boulder clay in it, it was obviously pre-glacial. I casually mentioned that I thought the glacier had broke through the roof of this ancient passage, blocking the water flow and forcing the stream to disappear the opposite way down the present sink. All this scientific spiel was a huge mistake with Mr Huck, as it led to months of piss-taking, as usual.

From Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016, with Richard Gibson, and Hucky’s daughter Katie on surface bucket duty, we made good progress clearing out the very sticky boulder clay. We did not work at this site all the time as we always have several digs on the go and move between them as the mood fits. We diverted the stream back into the dig, and it sank to the left, so we followed it, and dug into a small chamber. Oh we had fun! Even Richard dropping the roof onto his leg, was hilarious. Not for Richard mind you, but Hucky did tell him to move.

It soon became apparent that the passage could be solidly choked with mud all the way down to Hagg Gill, the water since the blockage creating low beddings to further its journey. We soon lost interest and discovered new ways of pleasure, mainly drowning, in Richard’s dig which Hucky and I called Gibbo’s Mine, but Richard gave the grandiose title of Thundering River Cave.

ShowerbathRichard and I returned to Showerbath in November 2017 to have a look at the way forward from the entrance, which is an inlet. A stream flows underneath in wet weather, and it draughts, (mainly out). Once all the mud was cleared I realised the passage was over 2m high. A biggish rectangular block was perched on a ledge, at a precarious angle of 45 degrees, about a metre high on the left hand wall. We tried to dislodge it onto the floor, but the block was having none of that.

Richard’s answer was to wedge his pelvis next to the block and go into a digging frenzy. He sometimes does this, rock and mud flying everywhere like a dog looking for a bone. Bringing him to his senses, I pointed out that if the block were to fall he would be trapped as it was too heavy for us to shift.

Our last visit was on 27th December, a very cold day, the wind chill must have made it -5degC. We soon had the block on the floor where Hucky capped it into oblivion. My attempts at photographing the orange stalactites and fluorescent lemon deposits, (sulphur?), came to nothing due to too much condensation.

We thought the passage pinched too narrow at the end, but rooting about revealed another large oblong block was obstructing the way on. As Richard was unearthing some black voids behind the block I dragged him out literally screaming and shouting. Katie was on the surface and was very cold despite putting her Dad’s coat on as well. She looked like a street urchin from Les Miserables!

Will we go back? Probably not. The B Team have too many digs ongoing.