Magnetometer Pot

D. Crellin & B. Stevens

Awake, for morning in the bowl ...., the most unpoetic clamour of an alarm clock and a raging alcoholic thirst herald the return of reality. I lay in bed and nonchalantly muse on the tinkling sound of rain water in the gutter. No longer a motorcyclist, this is not a twofold concern, my only worry is the amount of water underground. I am born into the cold environment outside the blankets. In my best Biggles accent I exclaim to Louise, “ I must fly to the Dales, in that place there is still work for heroes”. With many a “What ho!”, I pull on my jeans and step into the grey eight o’clock morning outside the flat. Here, alone in my car with the windows all locked, the first pangs of nausea have a chance to remind me of the Bacchanalian excesses of the previous night, but it’ll all be O.K. soon...

After a seemingly endless drive I arrive at the hallowed academic portals of Lancaster Royal Grammar School. What fierce denizen of the underworld could lurk here? Oh, hello Dave. Spending an hour at Dave’s spot over several brews, and another over the cavers traditional greasy breakfast, we arrived at the hole traditionally late, 2:30 p.m. The scene was filled with multitudes of milling bodies, apparently in a state of distracted torture. It was a scene from Dante’s Inferno, complete with weeping & wailing. In short a L.U.S.S. freshers meet. Assailing a young female (I hope I read this right, Bob?) we quickly obtained for ourselves the favour of descending next. Dave cleverly advised their leader to follow the water while we took the short cut, thus neatly bypassing the human obstacle.

“This cave” I remarked to Dave, “really fascinates me. It’s subtly different in atmosphere to any other Yorkshire cave.” “Grunt” said Dave. Passing through the echoing, water lapping River Styx we reached Holes Junction. I was again fascinated by the clean washed yellow arches & complexities, just gratuities left by the incessant limestone gnawing stream. (Eat your heart out, Hugh. ed.) I had to explore. A small maze of flat out crawls emerges at the bluest pool I have ever seen, the way on not obvious, is a crawl at pool level. It leads to another pool back to back with the first and just as blue. For the first time in my life I was tempted to sump dive. Continuing down a steadily widening rift, the passage reaches a 30 foot chimney described in ‘Northern Caves’ as a pitch although it is an easy climb. This leads onto another blue sump which effectively bars the way.

Back in the min passage, it was clear from the stink of carbide that the L.U.S.S. mobile had passed that way, as indeed the heaving smelly crowd at the Caton Hall pitch proved, Just to show the Wal1ies, I said loudly to Dave, ”I’m sure this 50 foot pitch can be free climbed. I’ll see you at the bottom.” In fact it was a straight forward chimneying exercise which quickly left me at the bottom watching the freshers on ladders to my amusement. Dave rigged a ladder for our return & descended with alacrity. We deposited ourselves in the Rough Crawl and with murmurs of I hope it doesn’t rain.” commenced crawling, committed.

This is a splendid area of the cave, physically torturing but aesthetically rewarding, though I couldn’t convince Dave of this. He preferred to describe it as “Bloody knackering”. By this point I was beginning to annoy him with my effusive ecstasies over the potholed & corrugated nature of the passage floor, well, it is unusual. The crawls eventually give out onto the aptly named, Benefit Passage, a refreshing broad streamway with deep blue water filled potholes in the floor. Then quite a surprise, a 50 foot high passage of railway tunnel proportions. A calcite curtain hangs all of 30 feet down one side to add an air of silent mystery. Just how long has it grown in deathless seclusion? But the grandeur is short lived and it’s back to crawling. We chose tie left hand route, abandoning the water and its insidious 25 foot pitch for which we did not have a ladder. A muddy crawl opens under the incredible Echo Aven. It is 100 feet tall and of perfect elliptical proportions. What a pitch that would be if an upper entrance could, be found. A further short crawl leads to the top of a 25 foot chimney & I found myself volunteered to climb down first. At the bottom of the rift bent over the shadows cast by my lamp which somehow seemed reluctant to mimic the living sun in such a dark place as this, I heard a sound that startled my tired nerves to awareness. A sound of struggling then falling. A large Wellington plopped onto the ground in front of me, followed by a red woolly sock which wrapped itself around my head. “Can you see my boot ?“ said Dave. “I can,” I answered laconically and we both burst out laughing. This point is not more than I0 minutes away from Earthworm Sump and the effective bottom of the cave.

I felt a feeling of depth and an eldritch awareness of the personality of the cave itself. One can definitely feel when a cave has not been penetrated many times. Perhaps the earth spirits have not been altogether driven away from this part of the cave by Man’s interference. This feeling of privilege and some of the awe inspiring sights were well worth the strenuous crawls necessary.

The trip out was tiring but uneventful, beauty & spiritual experience were waning weary eyes. I was disgusted to find the ledges at the top of Caton Hall festooned with reeking tips of spent carbide, which were not there on the inward journey. It is very hard to be tolerant of acts like this.

Back at the car, left at Dale Head to avoid any permission argument, we made a rapid change and an even more rapid drive to Ingleton found us in the Heifer at 10:45. Buying several rounds at once and drinking quickly enabled, us to partake of a respectable reward for our labours.

Another good ‘un, cheers Dave.  

B. Stevens.  

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