Volume 33 Number 1 Article 4
Pool Sink - The Baby Feeder
Trip One - 20 January 1996
Andy Hall, Andy Pringle, Dalek, Mike Cooper, Pete Hall.
The previous evening in the Barbon I had offered to help Andy Hall with some surveying in the Magpie Grotto area. Hence whilst he went into Ingleton I sorted tackle out. It was while I was doing this that Dalek and Mike arrived at the farm. They enquired what was going on, and after a little persuasion they agreed to join us in Pool Sink. The tackle was soon packed and when Andy returned we set off for what was expected to be a simple surveying trip. I had never been to Magpie Grotto before. I was told that it was quite pretty, but from the survey there did not look to be much of it. There is in fact much more than the old survey indicates. It was just as well Dalek and Mike had come with us. The area is full of inlets and passage loops not shown on the old survey. Dalek and I were soon climbing up inlets and running round oxbows looking for legs and loops, whilst Andy shouted numbers at Mike and obscenities at his vanguard ferrets. We were tying one high level inlet into our main line when we heard someone on their way up the streamway. A voice from below introduced itself as Pete Hall.
"Are you on your own?" "Yes thanks!" Pete joined in the fun of looking into every possible lead in this area of the cave.
When the survey of the Magpie Grotto area was complete we set about surveying downstream from the first pitch. Pete went off to play and the rest of us surveyed down the easy going streamway. By the time we had surveyed over the second pitch, down the alternative second pitch, closed a loop back to the second pitch, and continued to the third pitch it was time for Andy to make tracks for his family in Preston. Dalek and Mike fancied making it more of a trip by going out of Wretched Rabbit. I agreed to line Andy up the pitch. As we preceded up stream we heard a shout from somewhere high in the roof.
"Is that you Andy?" "Yes", we both replied. It was Pete. We told him what was going on. "Tell Dalek to f**k Wretched Rabbit, I am in new passage here, and bring a ladder!"
This sounded exciting. I was just setting off to get a ladder from the others when Andy stamped his foot for the first time. It appears that fatherhood is the best antidote for exploration fever. "I've been in new stuff before, I am late and I don't care. Now get me up this pitch!" With Andy on his way, I returned to the others following their voices up into the roof until I got to a ladder that Pete had rigged so that us mortals could follow his spider man climb. As I climbed the ladder Mike gave me lots of encouragement. I didn't think it was all called for. However when I got to the top I saw why he hadn't run off with the others. He had stayed to hold the sling on the end of the ladder over the slight bulge in the rock that had been used as the main/only belay. The passage we had climbed into started as a rift. This soon enlarged and we found ourselves on a wide boulder strewn floor in a stooping height inlet. The passage narrowed at a corner, but remained easy going. When we did crawl it was to protect the numerous straws that decorated the passage. Pete was in his element.
"Is this like the stuff you have been getting into in Crescent, Link and Mossdale?" I enquired. "Oh no, nothing as nice as this" he responded. A small stream entered at floor from the left. Round the next corner were some highly congenial formations. A curtain hung down from the roof and almost joined a rib of calcite growing from a ledge below. Both had a battered grotesque appearance. A large amount of mud on the upstream side bore wittiness the considerable volume of water that had flowed down the passage. Beyond this feature (which is approximately a metre tall) was a small inlet. From the centre of a flowstone river two small sentries, petrified at the same time as the river they stood in, guarded a silent kingdom of straws and glistening magic. We paused and marvelled for a moment. Pete found a single stalactite blocking the main passage. In full view of the sentries he showed that no speleothem is inexpendable. I am sure they sighed as we passed their timeless domain.
We continued along the passage, which was mainly walking sized to another pleasing formation. On the way a hole in the floor was noted. This appeared to be approximately 30' deep. At the time it was too tight to enter but, the calcite rim looked as if it would yield to a lump hammer. Just after we were forced to our hands and knees by the diminishing proportions of the passage a bend was encountered. Progress was slowed at this point, not because of any geometric restriction, but because the right hand wall was adorned by a row of glimmering stals. We all took care to hug the left hand wall and not damage what became known as "The Teeth". On the other side the passage opened up into a small chamber. On following the passage we once more had to be careful to avoid damaging any of the many straws we crawled under. Inevitably a few perished. Another small inlet was noted on the left. Soon we were able to stand again. We followed a tall, dry passage with some delicate helictites to a junction. Here the passage forked. Mike followed the right hand branch for a short distance only to end up under a choke of hanging death and surface run-in. I took the left hand branch which soon became a crawl over mud to a complete blockage with a visual connection to Mike's branch. We surveyed back from this point.
Back at the junction Dalek investigated a squalid small passage at floor level, which obviously takes a lot of water in times of flood. Back at the start of the rift which we had entered the new extension from Pete continued along the boulder strewn floor to make another connection back to Pool Sink streamway. We then exited the cave and went for a few celebratory beers, while far away in Preston a well fed Master Hall slept.
When the data was put into the computer it showed that the end of "Baby Feeder" inlet was within a few metres of Pool Sink entrance. A return trip was planned to drop the hole in the floor and photograph the new find. I also thought the squalid passage Dalek had investigated was worth another look.
Trip Two - 3 February 1996
Pete Hall, Steve Helsdon, Ray Duffy, Andy Pringle
The following weekend saw me stranded in a very snowy East Anglia. Pete was one of the few who got to the farm, but the inclement weather restricted his activities to a trip down Aygill and Arctic traverses between the farm and Barbon. (I am sure it his ambition to be the first to walk to the south pole in shorts and flip-flops!) Our next trip occurred on the day of the annual dinner. Ray our resident photographer came to record the ascetics, and Steve came along to help alter the topology of the pitch head.
When we were in the Baby Feeder we split into two teams. Ray and I went off to take photos while Pete and Steve set about the pitch. As Ray and I framed shots, bracketed F stops, etc. we could hear the others braying the calcite to gain access to the expanse below them. Ray got shots of the Teeth and my best / back side amongst a perfusion of straws. We stopped at the junction near the end of the passage to have a look into the section Dalek had investigated previously. I got round a couple of bends before I came to a particularly awkward one. It looked as if a lump could be removed from the right hand side to allow progression. It was then that Pete and Steve's engineering became audible from the small passage I was flat-out in. If they had got down the pitch, I could be in an alternative route to the other side of whatever obstacle they were now removing, I postulated. I shouted to them, but there was no reply. Not wanting to be known as a complete glory grabbing bastard, or spend longer than necessary in the cold water with the prospect of getting stuck I offered Ray a shift at the sharp end. He gladly accepted, then proceeded to get stuck and spend longer than necessary flat out in water, as I guided his feet out of the predicament. We then retraced our tracks back to the now enlarged pitch head. On our way we looked at the inlet just before The Teeth. We suspect that this is the other end of the passage we had heard Pete and Steve from before. A very similar amount of water flowed from it, and it was of the same limited proportions. We agreed that the sound of the others working that we had heard from the other end probably came from the activity at the top of the pitch. When we got to the pitch we could not see the others, but heard the sound of more engineering emitting from the new pitch, down which a ladder now snaked into darkness. Ray then took some photos of the sentries and curtain. As we completed these shots the others returned from below. Pete told us how they had got on.
When access had been gained Pete set off down the ladder only to find it too short. The ladder up into the Baby Feeder was therefore retrieved and added to the one on the pitch, which proved to be 45' deep. A short distance from the pitch a rock arch was removed. This allowed them to progress down a 15' climb to another blockage. This was passed to an immature stream way which became too tight. Ray had time to take another shot on the way back to Pool Sink streamway and we still got to the dinner on time.
The Baby Feeder was an unexpected find, but very enjoyable. The total distance surveyed was approximately 140 metres, the first Red Rose find of the year, I am sure there will be more. Every little counts as the Welsh seem determined to claim the length record.