Reading through some of the literature of the Red Rose from the days when woolens and a boiler suit were the standard uniform of cavers and a reliable lamp was fueled by a “bell-battery” I chanced upon some crumbling articles typed on toilet paper. These, and others, thankfully typed on foolscap this time were by Jim Eyre and it tells of siege tactics on Penyghent Pot while camping by the entrance to ensure an early start and presumably facilitate the massive logistics of pre electron ladder caving equipment.
These and other stories about interminable rescues and the incapacitating “Fiery-Jack” tended to paint a picture of the finest stream passage in the country (arguably) as being somewhat bleak.. I was however reassured by my loving mother who stated, “It’s got a thousand foot crawl to start with and used to kill people off when I was caving, all the time!” Thanks Mum! Hearing all this set me off thinking of excuses to use when Dave Crellin would ask if I was looking forward to it.
Excuse One: “I haven’t got a wetsuit!”
Answer: “Al hasn’t and you don’t really need one, anyway I thought you said in the pub you were ‘ard?”
Excuse Two: “I’ve got school in the morning, exams in a month.”
Answer: “Well I have to be up by four on Monday morning”
Excuse Three: “It’s no good my SRT kits at home.”
Answer: “Here have Anne’s, she is only going down White Scar.”
soon waned as several others tagged onto our group at Bernies and some were old
duffers, I couldn’t be out classed by old duffers! We were galvanised for
Brackenbottom was it’s usual pleasant place, “No Parking, Absolutely NO PARKING!”. The obligatory bimbling getting changed as Bob Stevens distributed tackle to all and sundry and the rest of us argued which hole in the wall covered by moss to hide the car keys in. Dave was otherwise occupied.
shallow shakehole entrance was eventually found and we wallowed in a good bimbling
session, fags extinguished, willies out and bladders emptied then off we shot
through the famous crawl. Because of the dry weather it did not seem to be that
bad, only one point caused me to crawl flat out however I am a skinny
“whippersnapper”. Quite soon the clean washed and fossil filled rock grew less
wide and more higher and a stooping streamway appeared, this was getting to be
more like the Penyghent Pot in the guidebook. We rigged the ladder to the
“Budgie bar” Jammed across the top of the pitch providing an excellent hang between the twin waterfalls, here the fun began and the magnificent square streamway started. The water was rarely more than ankle deep and was easy going throughout to the second pitch where we belayed the ladder to a red-bolt.
The third soon followed after which the rift pitches started. We abseiled down or, the rope which had been left in-situ by ULSA while they had explored their new extensions, “Gloom Doom Passage, Living Dead series”, “Friday 13th series”, “Cholera Canal” etc....
A howling gale formed at the bottom of the pitch as the streamway fell a hundred odd feet creating a wind tunnel of spray, no place for sensible cavers’ The rest of the rift pitches already had ladders on them so the going was swift, Bob and I waited in a large chamber before Myers Leap for the others to catch up, twenty minutes later we got fed up and left. Myers Leap brought us to the main stream passage where Hunt Pot and Penyghent Pot waters converge culminating in excellent walking streamway in oppressive black limestone with deviously placed pools to soak the unwary.
At Eyrie Pot we met one lad from ULSA who was rigging up some dubious belays, I thought he might show some surprise at seeing us but he just chatted with us in a matter-of-fact way about which “loose-ends” they were tying up. Niagara was rigged by a stout(?) piece of hawser laid hemp as sound as your average clothes line and treated with as much respect, below this was a spray lashed rift and walking passage after which the sump soon appeared black, deep and horrible as most sumps do. Trying to see the bottom was like trying to look through a pint of my home—brew and it smelt just as bad.
On our way
back we met the rest of the Al and Dave contingent with another unknown face
from Derbyshire (Alastair). After a Mars bar and an ‘arry rag stop while
waiting for the others to return from the sump we set off out meeting the
With hardly any tackle the return was made without incident where a sunny but blustery moorland awaited us. With Penyghent looming over us we walked back to the car and later the Crown where we mused on a satisfying days trip over beer and crisps.
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