Mossdale beyond Kneewrecker by Ian Cummins

Mossdale Caverns: Ian and Adele (26th February 2019). 

It may have been a scorching day for February, but we soon learned that the water in Mossdale was still very cold.  Most of my forays into this fine cave have been focused on the Marathon Crawl, Stream End, High Level Mud Caverns area, which had yielded some memorable trips, always peering left whilst entering Near Marathon to watch the water take its course down the  steep (for Mossdale) Kneewrecker Passage.   Having once investigated its chilly confines only to turn round due to the volume of water that was so fierce, its current breaking on one’s feet sent a shower of waves overhead, but with Adele equally keen to see this part of the cave, we took advantage of the dry spell to take a look.

A beautiful, still day, with temperatures in the mid to high teens, saw us walking in to the scar in light kit, whereupon we found that the flow into the cave was still well above that seen last summer, but we felt keen to see how things looked and got changed – me into 2 layers of neoprene, Adele into only one!  I took the added precaution of 2 sets of kneepads, customary for me on these long crawls, and neoprene gloves with a big pair of work gloves to protect them, which proved to be wise.

I led in through the initial choke, soon letting Adele take the lead, knowing that her navigation of the section to Rough Crawl would be far better than mine and we enjoyed this fine section of cave, finding the water in The Swims to be not too high, but very cold.  With me back in front, Rough Crawl was next, the familiar little squeeze under the block was done as I paused for a picture, then trundling along the grit bed on hands and knees with the occasional stoop, so intent on progress that I didn’t notice the Marathon exit until my companion alerted me to ask if it was so.

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The squeeze under the block – top of Rough Crawl

A slight pause and we contemplated the water rushing down Kneewrecker, with its smooth, polished floor devoid of debris, save for a couple of jammed blocks, testament to the power of water that runs through it, carving a smooth trench on its way.  In fact we contrived to stick one knee in the trench to allow a bit more space for crawling, pausing briefly at the jointed bends to check on my companion’s progress, before being confronted by deeper water and 3 distinct foam tide-marks on the black walls.  As I started swimming along in haste to get out of this frigid section, feeling my neck and head start to ache, Adele called from behind for me to slow a bit to keep me in sight as her head, hands, feet and probably everything else, was frozen.

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Kneewrecker – fast, cold water, smooth grit.

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Still in there!

Thankfully popping out into the sanctuary of Relief Passage, we stopped to have a drink, flail our arms around to warm rigid digits and consult the survey.  To the left and right, dry, cobbled, spacious passages led promisingly onwards, whilst the water found its way into a low cobbled section ahead.  Turning right we followed the fine walking passage, comparable in size and quality to Easy Passage, soon meeting the water from its meander out of sight, before we reached a mucky dead end, retreating a little to squeeze along a fossil-encrusted rift back into the water and follow more superb passage to the immense Sand Cavern – we were hugely impressed by its size and also by the tide mark some 20 feet above – with some considerable height above, I should add.

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Big passage in South Relief.

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South Relief again.

We continued on taking the route of the water from Fourways before turning back when unpleasant crawling beckoned and our curiosity had been satisfied for the day.  Back at Relief Passage, I suggested Adele lead out through Kneewrecker, with me following with our bag – small but still a pain in these situations.  I must admit to finding going up was easier than coming down and Adele was waiting to video my exit after 17 minutes of effort.

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Exiting Kneewrecker.

Of course the rest of the trip felt very pleasant and with my chum’s navigation skills allowing me to relax, we exited to the warm sunshine, noting that the keepers’ pick-ups were still parked up as they worked on their controlled burning up near Swarthgill and beyond.  With the change into dry clothes done we enjoyed the leisurely walk back in the beautiful evening and were rewarded by the sight of a Barn Owl on the hunt, together with the sound of Grouse, Curlews, Peewits and Redshank that had come to life as the sun was setting.

We agreed that this area of cave was probably the most interesting part of the system we had seen thus far – so much more to see.  Kudos to my companion for her perpetual keenness and navigation on the trip.

All pics by Adele.