Volume 32 Number 3 Article 2
Return To Caving
After a long hot summer spent working and child minding, I decided to dig out my caving gear, now my new contract was up and running at work. Arriving at the farm Saturday evening to meet a group of men eating a celebratory meal. After re-introductions I was accepted and invited to retrieve the gear from a cave which had been pushed to it's limits and come out in a field. I readily accepted the invitation then went on the beer with the lads, Pete, Beardy, Neil, Ange and Keith.
Neil, Dalek and Keith.
I had to borrow a lamp off Ange as mine did not want to go caving. We set off at about 13:00 and a good walk to the new entrance saw us underground at 14:00. The initial entrance was a narrow soil tube - helmets and batteries were removed and after about 15 metres a crouched position was reached where our helmets and batteries were replaced. Anges FX2 then decided to work. The passage we were in was virgin territory, this was the second occasion anyone had been there. (I've known virgins like that! Ed.)
What was difficult to accept was the fact that the lads had spent weekend after weekend crawling up the passage scraping away the muck, until they had pushed the cave to this point. Anyone who uses this entrance must be aware of the hard work put in by the dedicated members of the club. After regrouping, we crawled both flat out and hands and knees through the tube-like passage.
I was impressed with the formations which had not been seen before, hopefully people will respect them. Our lamps and batteries were again removed and had to be pushed in front to negotiate another tight section. The new entrance is not suitable for large people unless they can squeeze through tight, wet places. One point was really pleasant. The ceiling was so low... helmets off, chin in water, head on roof, flat out. Exciting stuff, - just imagine, if you can, being the first one through it, and not knowing what was ahead of you.
More crawling brought us to the famed "Backbreaker". When first encountered several months ago, this feature stopped progress for many a faint hearted caver alike. Neil had a painful back injury negotiating this, in the early trips. Dalek, taking Neil's advice, removed his wellies, which made it easier to pass. Neil told me the section had been made wider than it originally was. It is still a very tight section, which must be treated with respect. "Do not panic" I had been told, "or I will get mad with you", was my warning from Neil.
On the other side it had been agreed that Dalek would shoot off to work, it was three o'clock going on four so off he shot. Neil and I now spread the tackle, SRT gear et cetera between us and made our way towards Cigalere. Neil had only had me here once before, so I was really pleased to be there again. "I don't think your sack will have negative buoyancy." said Neil. A now not to be believed statement. "'You'll be out of your depth, so bridge off the sides, and let your sack dangle below". I slid into the water, following Neil, to find my tackle bag had sunk. Oh well, never mind, picking it up to put it on my back I discovered it only had one strap. I walked until up to my neck, then climbed up and bridged the water. Not as easy as it looks, as the footholes must be felt for. Visibility in the water is almost nil. (Turn light out for extra buzz!)
Neil waited for me at the end of Cigalere passage. I poured out excess water and the weight of my tackle sack halved immediately. We pushed on to the Hall of The Mountain King and waded through the mud until my left foot got stuck. Neil was up at the top of the rise, looking down on me, not very amused by my antics. I was really struggling through the mud, it really does stick to your wellingtons. I pulled my foot out of my wellie, then I had an idea. l took both wellies off, and carried on to start on the next passage.
Neil informed me that next weekend he was doing the longest through trip in the Dales, now his new entrance was open. Top Sink to "Bye George Pot". Pity I had my kids that weekend. Excellent trip. Well done Neil, Pete and Beardy and all those others who helped.