Hagg Beck Sink by Adele Ward

A Nippy Little Trip

Hagg Beck Sink: Ian Cummins & Adele (27 January 2018) 

I can’t remember when I first heard of this place. Many caves the first moment I heard of them lodged into my mind. However through whatever process Hagg Beck Sink seemed to land on my radar. Discussions with Ian heralded equal amounts of curiosity and mild panic.  Hearing “oh it’s a little nasty” followed by a giggle from Ian had me feeling excited. My friend is usually understated about his grave descriptions of obstacles to be tackled in caves, you will be right. Today he describes the trip as horrendous ….. why do we find that idea fun?

Reading our Club Journals of the exploration and adventures had here; a mild level of concern is felt.

We wondered when the torture would end, trying to think of the last time we had encountered such a nasty piece of cave, with its long sections where one cannot turn round.  Mind you, I managed to find some relief from the pain by making up names for the obstacles in the roof traverse, for example, ‘Torn Yellow Marigold Corner’ and ‘Discarded Green Oversuit Pit’ (did it just fall off, leaving the digger to emerge naked?).  Anyone contemplating this trip should be aware that to paraphrase NFTFH author, Mike Cooper, this cave might push you to your psychological limits and make you wish you were in a spacious Pot, such as Strans Gill, Hammer or Langstroth (or in the pub).  Indeed, Simon commented that Chris and John must have the temperament of Hindu cows!”

Ian Cummins WRPC Newsletter vol 24, issue 4, December 2008.

I’ve come to realise that some caves suit my caving taste – I wonder if this will be one.

Checking the weather forecast things weren’t looking great for progress down the pitches but we agreed it was still worth having a trip through – just for the fun of the “tight bits” oh how I might be eating those words later.

Wind and drizzle are not the most favourable changing conditions. Quickly changed we head up a boggy bank. Uphill walking follows – which is a ball ache.  Arriving at the entrance, this place looks semi welcoming. We have brought a dry bag that we stash

The stream sink drops down a narrow rift soon disappears. The way on is traversing the stream initially. The rock is jagged having plenty of holds so heading down at first this isn’t so bad. Ian has told me to stay as high as possible and not to let my legs drop down. Ian frequently asking me if I’m OK.  Initially my answers are “yeh course mate this is great’’ this quickly diminished to a “yep” and a grunt. Still feeling fresh we push on making good time along jagged rock, where the best method of propulsions seem to be made sideways slithering,, on arm up, one ahead. This has a few draw backs as my arm often become firmly wedged under me.  Slithering along on the cobbles, Ian reminds me to be kind to myself and not force too much.

The rift has a small ledge at the top Ian instructs progress is best there, and under no circumstances let me feet or legs get to low. It seems best to follow this advice to the T.

It’s helmet off time, which is welcomed. It’s not nice being unable to turn your head – however inching the helmet along and avoiding it dropping down the rift is gonna be a right pain.

I’m struck by how strenuous this is becoming, it’s easy to stop for a quick rest as there is encapsulating support provided by the rock. Arriving at the even more flat out bit, whilst this seems an intimidating looking passage, my mate is with me and we chat through the various obstacles. Usually it’s possible to propel myself forward, a little with my feet and grovel along with arms ahead – not here. Movement is achieved by generally body wiggling, thigh wiggles seem to work best for me. Getting into tighter sections, I haven’t panicked as that aint gonna help the situation. But I am getting tired. Occasionally getting the chance to take a little rest, I’m happy enough to lay my cheek on the side of the rift, and have a nice little rest. Communicating with Ian is always an essential for me, its welcoming to hear his voice

Arriving at Green Oversuit Pit, it’s possible (I’m told) to turn around here. I’ve stopped for a few rests, each time it’s taking longer to catch my breath. This time I stop a little longer… turn around, or progress to the next bit?  Unsure if it’s actually physically possible to turn around, the final section to the 1st pitch is to be engaged. This passage to me feels like it’s dropped a fair bit in height. It also makes me feel slightly sick! Already exit is contemplated. We had agreed not to progress down the first pitch, so might as well see what this last section is like for future reference.

Usually I have a liberal use of colourful language, when something is hard work – by this point I cant actually be arsed engaging my voice other than letting out the odd whimper. Remembering to keep my legs as high as possible for the final push, my wellie becomes firmly wedged in the roof, along with my ankle. Oh joy…. this is quickly resolved as my foot sides out. Well it will just have to say there for now.

Delighted to drop down finally to a standing position, that might have been hard work but it leads big smiles from both of us.  Ian notices the old ladders and a new rope in situ; we wonder who has been here? Who else might have some interest in this sharp little shock of a trip?

Ian reminds me if I don’t think the passage is roomy enough I should complain to John Clarke as he teased this passage open. I can’t imagine what it must have been like working down here as a dig site; words that occur to me are “grim, horrendous and miserable.” Thought the trip, thought occur to me of – this is shit, I’m never coming back, however I know I’m lying to myself, it’s painful and grim but there is some degree of enjoyment in tackling this passage.

Ian returns my dangling wellie, commenting that I’ve done all the hard bit but missed out on the formations and nice bits of the cave, I couldn’t really care less, I’m ready to have a nice old pint in the pub.  Gives us a reason to return. The thrutch out begins, approaching the obstacles heading out with a lack of gravity seems trickier to me. On reflection, its prob just I was tired. Wiggle, wiggle, curse, curse follows. All sense of time has been lost, along with my sanity. Arms are tired, everything is sore – before we know where we are, the initial traverse if encountered. Ian drops down into the stream way, spotting me crossing, due to the fact I look knackered. Exiting, and having quiet moment, deciding if I have PTSD, spotting my mate – I can’t help but grin broadly and announce – that was bloody brilliant!

Walking back to the car was a testing affair – wind blowing us down the slopes wasn’t really that helpful, given it nearly put me on my arse a couple of times. The fellside seemed in full bog conditions, raining falling – could this get any more annoying.

It hadn’t seemed a good idea to take my iPhone in the cave to get any pictures; this was fortuitous as it would have ended up in a thousand pieces.  Arriving back at the car, I want to pic to mark a happy time and a great trip! 


My mud causes much chuckling.

This place leaves an imprint in more ways than one, arriving home – kids give me a hug, I feel sore. Washing my hair, my head is sore from exit encounters with the roof. It gives plenty of pub gossip and chuckles.

What would I do different next time – well to be honest my helmet felt like a total waste of time. It’s off 80% of the time, it provides poor light held arms reach out, and the stress of nearly dropping it several times down the rift doesn’t feel worth it. Head torch and balaclava, might me in order. Next time – I know what the obstacles are, will that be a mental help or a hindrance – who knows, sure we will find out.