A REMINISCENCE OF CAVING IN THE SEVENTIES

First a look back at the other decades since the war. The forties did well with Lancaster, Mossdale, Notts, Ireby Fell, Simpsons & Disappointment Pot, The fifties had Electron ladders; Easegill & Magnetometer. The sixties started very grimly; Heron Pot being about the only decent find, people turned to old mines & 200 foot long caves were big finds, However as the sixties drew to a close, along came the third golden age of caving - wetsuits arrived, G.G. doubled in length, Black Shiver, Tatham Wife, Langcliffe & the so-called hydrologically impossible Kinsdale Master Cave. Wharfedale & South Wales went mad.

The seventies started with Lancaster Hole worked out, a stalemate on Leck Fell, Nip & Pip hopelessly choked. That was soon to change - big digging in Gavel produced not a big system but a good hole & a link in the chain.

Later the Happy Wanderers (who’re they?) who were digging in “hopeless” Pippikin (Given up by Red Rose & even N.P.C.) were being questioned about their dig. Either the Marton ale or frustration got to one of their members, and he produced a rough survey before they could stop him. It was like a vast spider over Leck - 4 miles of cave - this was indeed a shock. The year ended with Eccles, Hodge, Jirn Newton & co. setting off in a red double-decker bus for the Himalayas & the hoped for caves there. It was the first of the real trans continental trips. After this others went to Venezuela, America, Ecuador, New Guinea, Borneo - caves that had never been imagined were found. 500 foot plus pitches became common.  Long cave dives started from a limit of 400 feet to two of 1000’ in Keld Head & Ingleborough by Wooding, Other finds, included Long Kin West to 500 feet deep Ayleburn Cave to ½ mile long,

I971. What’s left?. E.P.C. dug an unknown inlet & found a “parallel’ Lancaster Hole which they named Earby ’71. 1 mile of flat roofed caverns, below that I mile of phreatic tubes Then surprise - 2 miles of streamway which came very close to Pippikin. Elsewhere in Aygill, Precambrian series found.

1972. Big find in Birkwith area - but that’s worked out - must be - but no, a 2 mile system called Red Moss Pot with half a mile of main drain. Another shock for the Dales, The next was Big Meanie, but the expected Gavel link led only to Death’s Head. Then more in Easegill within feet of tourist routes to the exasperation of all who had peeped in - MUSS Extension & Manchester Bypass, Red Rose found Gale Garth, a significant fragment!

1973. Dives in Tatham Wife hoping to extend it to 600 feet deep, were disappointing only ¼ mile found. The 3 big finds that year - Quaking Pot to 500 feet deep & the first trans dale system (well, within 200 feet.) - Dale Barn & a master cave within 200 feet of the next valley (Kingsdale) - The third one, Dowkabottom, a huge phreatic fragment. Other finds included Magic Roundabout & Avalanche Inlet-a. new way intu C-aping Gill?.

1974. Big extension in Magnetometer. R.RC.P.C. found the magnificent Maracaibo Inlet, named from being questioned about where they were digging, they put on a Long John Silver act & declared “To Maracaibo.” The Pippikin-Lancaster link was very much in the news. The survey showed Echo Aven under Hairy Fissure (Yes, it was 100 feet out as later shown.) for a 2nd entrance. Also Far Streamway was shown to sump 300 feet short of another in Pippikin. No less than 3 separate dives were done umpteen digging trips by 4 different clubs to drain the sump. But failed. Echo Aven was also climbed by U.L.S.A. to within 20 feet of an inlet & then left. What a mistake!

Also found the fantastic Devis Hole, one mile of passage in an area 200’ x 300’ . Later proved to be a fragment of an inter dale cave. Echo Pot went to 430 feet deep. Around this time a discovery under a farmhouse! This was at Darnbrook. On the diving side, K.M.C. was extended to under Jingling & Bull Pot. Gavel Pot upstream, lead not to a long streamway towards Notts, but a 150 foot deep submerged shaft. What a shock for the plummeting diver! The really big find being Boreham Cave with its large & well decorated dry passages.

1975. SRT in full swing (unknown in 1970). On three successive weekends, the world depth record was broken and in Papua New Guinea news of big finds. Dale Head went after blasting to 540 feet deep and Dub Cote to ¾ mile long, but due south not east to Magnetometer as expected. Gavel was dived to Lost Johns more by good luck than good management.

1976. Ribblehead a place of shallow, short caves went big - Winshaw Gill Put to ¾ mile long and Middle Scar to ½ mile, all big stream passages. Keld Head & K.M.C. crept closer together in fantastically long dives in large passages. The big shock of 76 was a cave at the “back end’ of Bullpot Farm towards Dentdele in the Yoredales that kept going & going; a streamway 1½ miles long to a lower exit - Blea Gill Cave. After a long dig, Crescent Pot went to 500 feet deep of tight wet cave. Later Cliffe Force Cave was extended from a short grovel to a mile long streamway. Spittlecroft in Littondale was pushed for a mile to a sump & the Cavern was finally dived to Notts Pot.

1977.Ingleboro Cave to G.G. - well almost, they overlapped under Clay Cavern (Jim good dig?). Potholes were found 900’ deep & 3000’ long in America, so what? but these were in sandstone. Wharfedale produced a surprise cave running for one mile parallel to but 100 to 200’ away from Birks Fell. This was Redmire - Birkswood Cave found by diving, a chance look up a narrow aven.

1978 opened with Batty finding Vesper, a 400 foot deep pot which joined Spectacle on the final pitch. This was on N.C.C. doorstep but they soon replied with pushing King Pot (an old Red Rose dig), this was a fine 400 foot deep hole with a master cave leading to K.M.C.. Late in the year came not the biggest but definitely the must important, the N.P.C. found Link Pot which dropped into Echo Aven in Lancaster Hole.

However it was not until 1979 that it was joined to Pippikin to make it the longest system in Britain. Also in 1979 Keld Head was dived through to K.M.C. in a television spectacular. Finally Johnny’s dig down Marble Pot was blasted through after about 6 years diggings.

During the seventies, cavers in the Dales discovered approx. 25 miles of cave passage and 3 potholes over 500 feet deep. i.e. 2½ mi1es per year. SRT came & stayed, solo trips came & hopefully went. Gear & clothing improved and over half a dozen T.V. caving programmes brought the sport good publicity which it needed as a change from the press coverage of the increasing number of rescues.
Let’s all look forward to the Eighties for still better equipment (Lights haven’t changed for 30 years & still leave a lot to be desired.). New methods of blasting, will replace the Russum drill & surveying will be improved by radio – location methods. Should make caving worth looking, forward to.

 

A. Walsh.

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