Hydrophobia – Sleets Gill by Ian Cummins

Sleets Gill – Hydrophobia and ’68 Series Sump

Ian and Adele – 23/06/2018

Tune for the day ‘New Life – Depeche Mode’ – took me back to the times of Swildon’s sumps in 1980/81 with my old chums Madden, Wise and Walsh, but today heading for the altogether cleaner experience of Sleets Gill.  After a week stressing at work I figured dragging gear through Redmire sump 1 would be akin to battering my head off the wall, so with the weather looking set fair, that was postponed and Adele readily agreed to a trip up Hydrophobia and a quick look through the sump, the clearest and most pleasant free dive in the dales.  Knowing that Adele is partial to a gin, I figured she would enjoy a dive akin to swimming in the stuff!

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Adele approaching sump

Having not done the trip for a few years, a quick perusal of Mr C’s book refreshed my memory somewhat, although I still managed to wind up in Hyperthermia as on my last solo trip, thankfully this time realising my error before becoming wedged underwater as on that occasion, admittedly with much greater water levels back then.  Essentially one can follow grey wire through any confusing bits on either end of the crawl, so with double kneepads, elbows protected and with masks and hoods in a bag, I led off up the shallow, but fast-flowing water.

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Ian approaching ducks

Being well warmed up from the walk in and the amble through the gallery, the slight fight with the bag against the current was actually quite enjoyable, with care to keep knees well-protected against the coarse, ribbed floor and I reassured Adele that any repeat of ‘Hard Decisions’ was unlikely as we popped out into the welcome space at the upstream end.  Following the wire through the mucky breakdown area brought us to the welcome sight of the crystal-clear ducks leading to the sump, so it was hoods and masks on and into the water.

I recalled one side of the sump being very easy, with the other having a square edge requiring a bit off effort to get past.  I had once tried to drag weights along the crawl, got tired off the faff and left them in one of the cross-joint pools for the return, so advised Adele of the need to carefully pull down past any obstacle without any weights to help.  Strangely I had thought it was going upstream where this was, but found the sump to be easily entered – oh well – if it’s not the right sump I’ll just turn round I thought to myself, before popping up in the passage beyond after an all-too-brief underwater experience.

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Ian exiting sump

Making the signal to follow brought Adele through and after a brief rest we returned, with a bit of a grovel round the square edge to contend with, resulting in Adele knocking her light to face upwards, rather than ahead, but nothing too serious.  Now feeling rather chilly, we kept hoods on for the crawl down Hydrophobia – Adele leading – with the bag floating along at her feet as I followed and what felt like much easier progress had us at the downstream end in a few minutes.  One minor detour after leaving the stream too soon had us getting a bit mucky in a rubbly crawl, but returning to the water brought a familiar jumble of wire into view and we were soon clambering back up into the large tunnel passage.

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Looking up to the exit

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Out!

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Orchid

The ascent of the scree at the base of the entrance ramp was a bit of an awkward scrabble, but feet on the roof were found to be the best aid and we were soon out after taking a few pics of the daylight above.  Admiring the many orchids and other meadow plants on the walk down, we were soon changed and Bluebell-bound.

All pics by Adele.