Top Sink

 

This year’s A.G.M. brought with it the usual endless list of jobs for the attention of us all in the afternoon. The opportunity of cleaning out the cess pit could not be resisted, so it was somewhat late when the chance to go underground arose. In fact, most people had started to pack up & go. It was this combination of events which made even the thought of caving unpleasant. It was seven o’clock on Sunday night and Alan & I were heading across the fell while people were driving away from the farm in the opposite direction, we started to feel quite isolated.

On reaching the entrance to Top Sink, the moment to finally descend was stalled a while longer as Alan had a fag.  As he was enjoying his last few flakes of tobacco, I savored the decreasing minutes in the dying sunlight; then we were down.

A cough & the occasional grunt from behind indicated that Al was not too far away as I strolled steadily, while he thrutched, to the head of Walrus Pot. Enthusiastically I started the traverse round to the alcove where the dry ladder hang is made. When Al arrived he found me still in the passage. “(Cough!), Looks a bit of a tricky climb to me, Al. Better let you go first seeing as you’ve been down before”.) Without any actual sign of agreement, Alan started climbing while I lifelined him. As he finally rounded the corner and into the alcove, relying solely on the friction holds of half an elbow and his big toe, he was heard to utter a faint “When you’re ‘ard!” I unrolled the ladder and passed it round, where it was fixed to the bolt, then Al descended. Now we had a problem. I was here in the stream way and the ladder was hung over there. It was out of reach even when Al swung the ladder from below, so I would have to climb round. Several attempts convinced me that it was beyond my capabilities, but with new confidence I was able to lean out far enough to grab the ladder. With a Tarzan cry that sounded more like a strangled monkey, I swung down on the ladder. It was quite undramatic as the lifeline let me down gently.

Once I was down Al led the way down to Penknife Pitch. At the bottom he stopped for another smoke. As planned we decided to have a look up Wisdom Tooth Passage, so, not realising the folly of our ways, we started to follow the tight, winding rift out of which the stream flowed. It was about one hundred feet and half an hour later when eventually we realised our mistake. There can only have been a handful of people who had gone this way before as Al was having to break off the sharp flakes which pierced his wetsuit as he went. The thrutching, the majority of which was spent with one side always in the water ended when we popped out of a tight hole into a large dry passage above. We had spotted this some distance back from below but were unable to get into it until now. At this point I remembered something Jim had said about having to climb tip into a passage at the very beginning. Silly me.

Continuing up Wisdom Tooth, we now found ourselves walking on a false floor in a dry, much wider canyon than the streamway below. A few brilliant examples of helictites were passed before we were forced to crawl through a calcite flow to regain the streamway. Falling water could be heard and I found Al standing in a chamber looking at a ten foot high waterfall which came in on the left hand side. As this was the main feeder to the stream we agreed it would be worth investigating. After failing to climb directly up the waterfall I went back downstream and using a convenient block, gained a useful traverse level fifteen foot up. This led around a corner to drop into a narrow winding passage above the waterfall. Once in the streamway a tremendous draught became apparent. Enthusiastically, we made our way upstream for about forty feet where we met, a dry crawl entering on the right out of which the strongest draught was issuing. Ten feet in, progress was checked by small cobbles which had rolled in from the right. A few pieces of rock were moved to gain access to a point where the passage could be seen continuing round a left hand bend. To get through would have required more time than we had to spare, but anyone prepared to do a bit of concentrated digging would certainly get in.

Upstream from here a draught could also be felt. This passage, although tight, looked pushable but was left for another time (or someone else?). It is possible that the side passage may just be an oxbow and the draughting is due to the air current in the streamway. On the Other hand the main draught appeared to be coming down from the cobblestone run-in & not from the passage beyond it. Only further investigation will show for sure where this tremendous draught comes from.

Back in the waterfall chamber, the obvious way on was now looked at. A widening in this dry, boulder-floored passage was soon reached. A climb over fallen blocks, which had come from a massive collapse on the left, had to be made. Al continued upstream while I decided to climb over to the left and round behind the collapse, following the far wall of the passage. Crossing over a tiny stream which disappeared under the collapse I followed a mud slope up, under the wall and came out on top of a massive pi1e of debris which was under a wide but not very high even. Down. the other side was a short tunnel which led back to the main passage.

I carried on upstream to find Al, he was poking around in a big choke right at the end, where the passage lowered & widened substantially. Unfortunately this choke looked pretty terminal. Al now decided he wanted to have a look where I had just been. Behind the collapse he followed the little stream up to where it split into two. The left one, which he tried to force, issued from a small waterfall. The right hand one was too tight. On the way back down to the Waterfall chamber, Al spotted a second dry inlet on the right. After an S-bend this ascended as a steep rift. After removing one or two lumps of rock, Al was able to squeeze a bit further but was not too encouraged and came down. We then started to make our way out. The accompanying sketch of the area was drawn from memory and is basically only to show the relative positions of the passage.

 

I hope this helps to illustrate the potential for a new entrance. Such a discovery would be important for two reasons. The first is that possibly no tackle would be required, thus a convenient exit for through trips would exist. The second, more important reason is that the new entrance would very likely be an all weather one. Hence the treacherous Walrus Pot pitch could be cutout of a trip to the top end of Easegill. At the hole in the false floor, where we had escaped the tortuous streamway on our way in, we now stopped for sardines. Once moving again it was just a couple of strides round the corner before we found ourselves looking down Bradshaw’s Passage with our thrutchy inlet appearing from beneath our feet. The exit continued without trouble until we reached the Spray lashed base of Walrus Pot.

“Well Al, as you stood down here in the cold & wet life lining me down, ’I reckon it’s my turn. So ’I’ll line you up first. O.K.?” My plan was that once Al had got up & survived the climb round to the streamway, I could climb to the alcove and pass, the ladder for him to re-belay it for me to swing round on. This way l would once more avoid the nasty climb. I must have been waiting at the bottom of the pitch for a quarter of an hour before. I ‘got the “ I’m up” from Al. Apparently six foot above the pulley and with seventy feet of wet rope behind him, Al got a little worried as ha traversed round the top. Ignorant of the drama, I started up the ladder and got a real mouthful when I asked him why he had taken so long. I passed the top of the ladder to Al for re-belaying, ‘being careful to hang’ on to the other end. With tight line from Alan I swung down. & round giving my knee a sharp crack against the wall at the bottom of the ninety degree arc. The remaining few feet of ladder were climbed and all the tackle packed up before Al led the way out.

It was cold and dark outside, but even this did not prevent our spiderman hero from stopping to have another cigarette. An icy wind blew round us as we ascended the side of the gill at 1:30 am. Monday morning.

D.J. Crellin.

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