A Climbing Trip in Keld Head

Divers :- S. Pickles, A. Fletcher & I. Watson.

Steve & myself had done a few dives in Keld Head previously, each dive longer than the previous one by about 300 feet, so as to familiarise ourselves with the route in case of trouble. That piece of advice was given to us by .a very good & famous cave diver we know who does Mick Jagger impressions, but whose name I will not mention for fear of being called a crawler.

If the main route is followed, at 1100 feet from the entrance a line junction is met. The orange line turns right and continues for a further 4900 feet to Kingsdale Master Cave. The green line bears left and, leads to the Marble Steps inlet passage. 550 feet up this the line surfaces in an air bell. A short free dive under an arch leads to an adjacent air bell with a mud bank descending into it & showing signs of a possible way on over the top.

Over the last few dives the visibility here had been excellent, however this particular Saturday following the recent heavy .rain, the visibility in the entrance pool was only three feet, & that was in bright sunshine. Realising what it was going to be like inside we were considering abandoning the dive until Sunday, but then the thought occurred to us that we would be in the pub early and if we didnít do it today we certainly wouldnít be in a fit state tomorrow, so we decided to carry on and started kitting up. Steve was wearing 2 x 87cu.ft bottles side mounted. Ian had a 110cu.ft. bottle & an 80cu.ft. bottle, again side mounted, while I was wearing 2 x 50cu.ft. bottles, side mounted & a third 50cu.ft. bottle on a removable backpack. All the bottles were separately valved. After dragging Ian screaming from his girlfriends clutches, we had a quick check of gear and then set off together. I dived first, followed by Steve and then Ian. Immediately inside the entrance it became apparent how bad it was going to be by the way we were hitting more rock than we were missing. Not to be deterred we blundered on to 850 feet, I removed my back pack having reached my third margin. We use a third of each bottle going in, a third coming out and leave a third in case of accidents. Another 250 feet took us to 1100 feet and the junction of the lines.

Changing on to the green line, we followed this for a further 75 feet to another junction. Left here leads to the Marble Steps inlet, right simply joins back onto the Kingsdale line. Once inside the inlet, visibility improved dramatically and apart from a low, bottle clanging section at about 1500 feet was very pleasant finning. At.1600 feet the bottom of a rock slope is reached in a submerged chamber. Passing a line off to the left (dead end), the right hand one is followed up the slope to surface 50 feet further on at the air bell. Steve took the wrong line at the bottom of the slope, and when Ian appeared second with no sign of Steve we were considering starting a search when up he popped. A quick swim round found the arch under the right wall and a short duck under led us to another air bell and mud bank. With our help Ian de-kitted and started climbing. Ten foot up a very large boulder looked ready to drop, Steve had already seen this and bravely splashed his way across to the far side of the chamber leaving me stranded, unable to move as I was holding Ianís bottles. Unfortunately the whole thing closed in after thirty feet.

Ian kitted up and it was decided that he should lead out, wait at 1000 feet to make sure everything was alright and then make a fast time out as he only had a wetsuit on and was feeling cold. Apparently there was nil visibility all the way in for Ian & Steve, now it was my turn. I wasnít bothered, but then I wasnít to know about the condition of the green line at 1100 feet. I dived second followed by Steve who rammed home how bad, nil vis really is by running in to my fins a few times. The only way to make progress safely, was to hold your free hand out in front &. feel for the highest bit of passage. 500 feet of slow going led to the green line at, 1100 feet, and this is where I had the most intense 5 minutes of bowel control training in my life. The green line had become badly adrift and after a couple of seconds on this line I lost the big route and became firmly wedged in a low bedding, behind a rock. Steve had already arrived but being unable to see me in the blackout didnít know what was going on. After a few minutes like this I was beginning to get worried when suddenly I popped out, with help from Steve. At least I think he was helping, he may have been trying to flog my gear.

By now I was totally disorientated and wrote a message on my slate asking Steve which way was out. This message he could only see if held very close to his face, he apparently signaled out but I was unable to see him and started off back into the cave. I soon realised my mistake and turned round to lead out. Steve had been following me probably wondering where the hell I was going and he let me pass him. Continuing out, we met Ian at 1000 feet obviously concerned. We all exchanged O.K. signs and headed out. I stopped at 50 feet to pick the backpack up and continued out, surfacing after a very eventful 1Ĺ hour dive.

The next air bell up this inlet is at 2400 feet, and this will take another two dives to reach. In fact this airspace is a small lake about 20 feet diameter & 30 foot deep water. From the surface of the pool, a 40 foot bolting trip is needed to reach what looks like a passage going off at the top, hopefully towards Marble Steps.

A. Fletcher.

Back To Contents