I felt the urge to have another look at this notorious spot to peer at the sump pool and wonder if sufficient energy can be raised to dive it again, 9 years after my first attempt. Like me, Adele prefers the short, sharp, shock style of caving, rather like comparing bouldering to mountaineering – no overnight camps here – just 2 or 3 hours of unarmed combat.
I’d forgotten how big the main pitch was, so brought along 10m and 5m ladders and a lifeline. With the 10m and line in my green bag that had previously spent 2 years in the place, I led in, with Adele behind, chucking the ladder as progress was made.
The initial tight crawling soon degenerates into sustained squeezing – the type of caving that people imagine the underground experience is always about. Some sections require insertion in the top of the roof trench, whilst others need an arm and leg dangle to make the painful progress, at all times avoiding getting said limbs jammed or kit dropped into the narrow fissures below.
Approaching the sanctuary of ‘Green Oversuit Pit’, close to ‘Torn Marigold Corner’, a few grunts from Adele as the ladder started to unwind, necessitating a reverse from me to drag it into the pit. An approaching Adele was disturbed by the sight of the formerly new ladder now sporting broken wires and bent rungs, until I explained that it was laid on top of the original diggers’ kit, now replaced by a chunk of purple rope, placed by persons unknown.
With the worst done, the head-first entry to the 12-foot drop was performed and we crawled into more spacious territory along the rubbly stream bed.
The aven chamber one encounters next is a pretty spot to have a rest and it sports some fine straws.
A squeeze over a block leads into the main chamber, overlaid with roof straws and I made the muddy slide up to the rugged window to rig the ladder. With one good spit giving a secure, if rather low hang, I wriggled down to find that 10m was easily enough.
While Adele had a smoke – hence the fog in the pic above, I had a quick wander to the sump, finding my reel still to be in place above it, with the pool appearing smaller yet more gloomy than my memory had suggested. Despite the drought, the pool was murky and displayed its static nature, being at its normal level – no draught.
Rejoining Adele, the lack of any airflow and the obvious consumption of tobacco had created a fog that had me wishing dive kit had been at hand and my companion led out, making the tricky squeeze from the climb to begin the tortuous exit.
At one point Adele got stuck, managing to reverse to a point of respite, asking me to go first to figure out the moves required – crawling over my chum, with maybe a welly in the face – I recalled the sideways move required and we both made progress out.
To me the final section smells of fresh carrots, indicating that the worst is over – curry said Adele – and we thankfully made it to the relatively easy crawl to fresh air. Bruised, battered and mucky, we made the pleasant walk downhill to get cleaned up.
As I said to Adele; despite its short length, if one can manage this cave there’s not much else in the dales that will be a problem and I always enjoy its challenges.
All pics by Adele.