D. Irons and two friends.
At 7a.m., the sky was
cloudless - we got up an hour later full of hope for a fine, dry day. The
description in the guide book for Growling Hole indicated that such weather was
preferable if one was planning to descend this particular hole and come out
breathing. . . Breakfasted, we drove to Kingsdale and
noticed that the blue part of the sky was, retreating rapidly, as heavy grey
pillows of cloud swept over Kingsdale head and surged down the riverless dale. The
farmer at Braida Garth reckoned it wouldn’t rain however, so having gained
permission we, changed and walked up past the farm in a downpour. But by the
time we had reached the little gate at the top of the hill, leading out on to
the open moor, the rainstorm had passed by, and the remainder of the day kept
dry as Mr. Coates had predicted. .
. The present entrance shaft known as the new entrance was located and a belay unearthed to ladder the narrow 15 foot drop. As there were only three of us we had decided to SRT the big pitch, so dividing the gear, Perry got the rope and Steve and I two ladders apiece plus SRT tackle. The tight crawl from the entrance floods badly says the guide book. After an initial cobbly section we were soon pushing our tackle bags along the smooth rock floor of a dismal canal. Passing a tiny aven, where briefly we could sit up, the canal continued and became lower until one was pressed between the smooth bedding surfaces of the roof and floor. “Wouldn’t like to be in here in, a flood pulse”. Beyond the flat-out section the crawl became rougher & narrower. Wetsuits suffered against the vicious scalloping, the tackle became a pain to carry and jammed repeatedly. Eventually we plopped out of the crawl head first into a tiny chamber floored with 18 inches of muddy water; Pool Chamber.
. Having mistakenly groveled a short way up a narrow inlet, the correct route downstream was found - another wet bedding plane. The low section was only ‘short however, and we were soon walking (almost) in a narrow rift streamway.
. A short thrutch later we arrived at the head
of the second pitch. ‘Easy, 30 foot in two steps of black rock. There were a number
of avens downstream from the pitch and we assumed one of these to be the old
collapsed entrance. Beyond, the stream disappeared down, a slot in the floor. I
jumped down after it to find it too tight at the bottom. Meanwhi1e, Perry
investigated a small hole above a pile of shale and located the correct route,
a. short traverse to a blade of rock. Scimitar Pitch obviously. Perry & Steve rigged the tight 10 foot
drop while I extracted myself from the wrong way. Then I joined them - “Down
you go,” they said, On touching bottom, lying sideways, a tight rift had to be negotiated,
feet first. Several similar manoeuvres followed, then a thrutch to Stemple
Pitch. Below, led immediately t a moderately roomy chamber at last and ahead lay the stal bosses
and curtains mentioned in the description. The Fault as the big pitch is
called, gaped wide beyond them. The 250 foot shaft is best rigged in three sections.
. . . “Who’s brave enough to go down first ?“ I
. “You are.,” said Steve. .
I didn’t believe him but soon found myself racking it down the Bluewater in a fine, open shaft and landing on a wet ledge at minus 130’ from takeoff. . . “Okay,’ I bellowed and Steve came smoothly down leaving Perry to add any additional rope protection. An easy airy traverse to an old bolt and a good rock spike for the next section of the pitch. We fed the rope across and down this pitch which looked about 70 feet. Down I went, and on reaching a large spike on the wall, straddled it on noticing that the rope didn’t seem to be touching the bottom. I pulled it up and tied a larger knot in the end, then lowered it again and could see clearly that it was swinging free some fifty feet below me, above a pool. How near to the ground it was, was difficult to tell. I locked off the rack and decked myself with prussikers, ready for retreat should it be necessary. I then cautiously continued the descent. Fortunately the rope was only two feet short and I was able to land. Steve & Perry joined me and we rigged the final 30 with a ladder, were soon down and picking our way over boulders along the rift which, marks the end of the cave.
. After a quick chorus of Monty Python, it was prussikers into action and back up the long rope to the stals and the chamber. Now the hard work really began, getting the tackle, easily dropped down, back up the tight climbs and pitches and thrutchy traverses. Slowly & carefully we chained the tackle through. All went well until Steve got the rope bag jammed in the “floods badly’ entrance crawl for 15 to 20 minutes. Full stop! I went to sleep, head on tackle bag, while the two ahead of me struggled & cursed. . . When we eventually exited onto the moor, the sky looked as though rain should be pouring out of it — fortunately it was not.