Snatcher Pot: Mick Ellerton, John Helm (CPC), David Thompson (RRCPC), & Steve Woods, 13th January 2022.
I still remember tracking down a copy of Northern Caves 1 online for a bargain. Pouring through the pages. The tick list that emerged; the 200m plus ones. Partly completed, and having joined the club and been told about some of the others, a conviction that the best can be found here in Wharfedale remains. Perfect evening trips. And so having been down Fossil with John and Dave last week, a return to regular caving was on the cards. A swim in the river for the first time in weeks found me nearly asleep in the car on the way up. Permission secured, we parked at the Barn and were soon in the area vague recollections suggested as the entrance to Snatcher.
Two previous trips here provided very little else beyond the participants and a vague hint of spits, a weird temperature inversion, carbide and a cave full of fog. Finding the entrance and following Mick, I spotted the remains of a sheet of corrugated tin, without doubt the original cover described in the 1981 MUSS write-up, and the very same replaced on my last trip here at least 10 years previous.
Entrance quickly led to a change reminiscent of Scanty; black and angular limestone becoming bright, highly polished and tactile, a slippery brooding slope of boulders leading to a bright pipe of sideways flat-out thrutching. And just round the corner, the stream. Hands and knees crawling in not unsurprising cold water leading us onwards.
The cave soon began to open out as a knees and shoulders up-and-over rift led down to a free climb, and the bigger passage following led to the first pitch. Rigging off naturals makes for caving that feels natural. A puzzle of choices preserving character where few rightly should tread lightly. And so with creativity exercised I followed Mick down the pitch.
Pristine formations in all manner of varieties covered passage walls and roof. A ‘wow’ from Mick ahead as decorations-a-plenty led us to a chamber full of straws. Remembered tales from folks about how few visit Wharfedale, and so it is that gems like this remain.
A mix-up with rope lengths found reason to return as we stared down a pitch far bigger than expected. Mick’s search confirmed the existence of the spits I remembered and it was at this point we turned round and started to head out.
The survey presents a simple cave with few options. The reality is very different with many side passages, avens and a trip jam packed with far more than this evening could accommodate. Having done a bit since, this visit found a cave that provides what few I’ve found in-between better. Writing this, beyond the character, formations and workout on offer, I’m drawn to the possibility of at least a few return visits. As we sat in the Devonshire reminiscing having passed through a valley full of pubs this winter night found closed early, a return was without question.