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
“This cave” I remarked to
Dave, “really fascinates me. It’s subtly different in atmosphere to any other
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
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
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.