A Weekend in Wharfedale

I left Preston with Mark, one Friday evening in fine spirits & fine weather. We soon reached Kettlewell and spotted Keith’s car outside a pub with a Youngers sign over the door, but after some searching Keith, Vicky, Graham & Chris were located in the Theakstons pub. At closing time we all gravitated to the campsite in various, stages of intoxication. Chris & Graham provided a source of immense amusement when they attempted to put up my spare tent, only to find that half the pegs and a pole were missing (Honest, I didn’t do it on purpose lads ). Thanks to Graham we were all up bright & early next morning, you don’t have much choice when some bugger starts shouting his head off at 7a.m. After an early breakfast we all hung around in anticipation of Pete’s arrival. When he appeared we were treated to another exhibition of how not to put up a tent.

After minor stalling tactics, it was decided that the inevitable could be put off no longer. So while the hard men set off to do Strans Gill Pot, Keith went for a walk with Vicky & Graham took Gill down Dow Cave. After driving to Hubberholme, we asked at Yockenthwaite Farm for permission. The farmers wife replied “You can’t have permission, but we know people go down.” We took this as an open invitation & returned to the cars to get changed. The walk to the entrance was unpleasant due both to the gradient and the warm weather & by the time we all reached it we were wondering what we were doing there. The hole was soon uncovered & rigged with 40ft. of ladder. I descended the tight, entrance pitch without much trouble, closely followed by Chris. From here, the way on is along a tight 20ft.crawl to the head of the second pitch, being extremely tight at the top. After some desperate contortions I managed to rig it & get on the ladder without having to reverse the crawl. Some time later, Mark arrived and had a great deal of trouble getting him on the ladder. He eventually arrived at the bottom muttering how was he going to back up again.

With the arrival of Pete, we set off along an unpleasant crawl/traverse and soon reached yet another squeeze through a tight tube over a narrow rift. While Chris & I went on to the Opera Box at the head of the big pitch, Mark attempted the squeeze several times. Ultimately he decided that the cave was too much for him. Pete being a noble fellow vo1unteered to take him out. So while Mark “chickened out”, Chris & I carried on, having been lumbered with Pete’s camera box and vague instructions on how to use a Rollie.
It took us sometime to rig the awkward takeoff for the I0 ft. pitch & it proved necessary to rig it in such a way that the rope did not run directly over the edge. This meant putting on one’s rack while straddled over the 160 ft. drop but it certainly made getting off the rope a lot easier when prussiking back up. To me this pitch was the best part of the cave. The way on from the pitch was a long, wet crawl & then down two narrow cascades with a canal & duck at the bottom, this led directly to an awkward climb & then  on to the 4th. pitch, 40ft. & wet. This was soon rigged & we descended  to the large chamber below. From this chamber several ways on are possible. At first we picked the wrong one & climbed up a steep mud slope, into a shattered area, where we decided to retreat in the interest of safety. Back in the chamber we followed the stream & found our way via a short crawl to the Passage of Time. (At last)

This begins with a wide traverse on muddy ledges but soon opens out into a large phreatic  tunnel and quote … “the way on continues as a large well decorated passage to a double bend and here the formations reach staggering proportions”. Well, I suppose they are quite good, but I’ve seen better. After a short rest during which we tried unsuccesful1y to sort out the mysteries of Pete’s camera we set off on the long road out. At first things went very smoothly & we made good time up the big pitch, through the squeeze & to the bottom of the 2nd pitch. Here, we could hear the others on the surface at least we could hear Keith yelling abuse dawn the hole! Our problems really started here, yet we were so near the surface.  

Due to tiredness, I found greet difficulty in getting off the top of the second pitch, the double line being an added encumbrance. After about I0 minutes I eventually got off the ladder & began to haul the gear up. After dragging it feet first along the crawl it was pulled up the entrance pitch by the surface party. (Thanks for coming baack lads) We finally made it to the surface with a good deal of help from the lifeline/hauling party.  Looking back I suppose I enjoyed it in a masochistic, sort of way. On reaching the pub I managed to force down a couple of pints in the last hour. Probably a good job as I was too knackered to drink any more.

A. Hall

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