Volume 36 Number 2 Article 4
Digging Through the Mountain - Illusion Pot
Illusion Pot links Chapel-le-dale with Kingsdale. Divers can get through, boulders of Ingletonian Slate have gone through, a bloody great glacial river has gone through, a great hawling draught gets through, so a determined digger should get through for a mind-bending through trip.
Our tale starts with the opening up of Illusion pot which provided a very easy way into the far end of Dale Barn Cave in Chapel-le-Dale. Illusion Pot lies near the valley floor in Kingsdale.
Illusion Pot leads by easy caving to the magnificent Expressway Passage, 1/3 kilometre of large passage with nice formations, to Rushtons Chamber, below which is Boottrapper Passage and upstream and downstream sumps. These are well below Keld Head level because everything drains to Chapel-le-Dale. Nearby is an upstream upper sump that probably connects to King Pot and Keld Head - weird isn't it!
Digging was easy (as indeed are diving trips in Boottrapper, which is still ongoing and leads to near Brada Garth Wood and Keld Head / King Pot). A bit of bailing, and we did not even get our socks wet!
Our quest was the Perfidia Passage which is the top part of the original huge river passage from the other dale, Expressway being the same passage but with the crap washed away. Obviously, further in, it could be just as big, and even prior to the new entrance, it draughted!
So what has some 20 trips, a total of 100 ft. of digging and 50 ft. from Dale Barn end done?
The "German Helmets" - Fairly quickly this 100 metre extension was added. Unfortunately flat out, but with some fine bell chambers ending in a T-junction and dig, radio located just past the mid-way wall on Whernside - we were now caving in Chapel-le-Dale!
The "Sand Bells" - A longish dig, fortunately largely done by Phil Papard and co. making it a reasonable size, eventually broke through to the Sand Bells or Qusamodo's Bells. We had almost dug through on a Thursday evening but on the following Saturday we got in hoping at least to make a "sit up" area to advance from, when as caves do it was completely different. The passage went from one phreatic bell chamber to another for 150 metres. What was worrying was that the tide marks, as in the German Helmets and later seen in Rushtons Chamber, showed it all filled part way up the bells in flood!
The Sand Bells ended in a possible dig that went on the next trip to some 50 metres of passage, an interesting phreatic ramp and more bells.
The next trip with just two of us was an epic. We dug until beyond knacked, when Martin Colledge got through to yet more bells and an exciting dig with a great echo - perhaps big stuff! Too knacked we returned. My light went out, leaving me with a bike light as spare which I hardly used in view of the long trip back (2 to 3 hours). Indeed I was somewhat bucked up to find, having struggled to dig "one", I had long passed it. Exhausted, we had hoped to "run" along Expressway, but the balance section of my brain seemed faulty. Perhaps I'd been crawling too long? CO2? - no, draught too good - but I could not stand well, and when I turned I twisted into the ground. So near, so far - my head felt heavy - so heavy - my God it really was heavy! Almost 2 to 3 lbs. of plastercine like mud stuck on it. Problem solved, we groped to the surface, each landmark bringing us nearer a bath and bed. Unfortunately, bed does not provide relief as one awakes in the dark, feels the soft mattress like the sand of Perfidia, and tries to crawl along! Perfidia was now some 600 metres of flat out crawl.
The next trip was even worse as the easy dig at the end turned out to be in sticky plastercine clay. Just two of us, we got knacked. Unfortunately we had to give up. I felt cold as well, and feeling my chest found bare skin - both zips on my clothing were completely wrecked. I was unable to notice as we were fully coated in mud like soldiers from the Somme. 600 metres of flat out crawl, all sand and mud, and a bare chest to run over it, and I was cold and knacked. I felt like Scott of the Antarctic returning from the South Pole saying "God what an awful place".
Trips could not get worse, but they did. We were now 3/4 of the way through the mountain with a great echo and a draught that sucked a candle flame wildly, and just a bit to dig!
The two of us dug on the next trip until we were knacked then, so as not to return, dug on mechanically until we were through, regardless of exertion. Yes, we did get through in to 2 metres of passage to an identical dig! I have never been so exhausted anywhere, nor I think has Martin, but we must dig on, arms dropping off. Muscles screaming, we carried on and in an hour or more broke through into "walking passage". Oh dear it goes - should we turn back?! We found some 60 metres of passage with the least expected find a drop of some 8 to 10 ft. to a lower crawl from which the pre/post glacial river had welled up. The crawl appeared to go back on itself for 10 to 15 ft. with cobbles to sweep to one side. The other way appeared loosely choked. We went back up the ramp to look at another crawl which, with a short dig (!!) lead to a bell chamber with a "badger hole", apparently to the lower level. Well beyond knacked we returned. No one, even after three years, has been back!
The end lies some 200 metres north west of Thaw Head Cave and some 200 to 300 metres from Dale Barn One. We did extensive digging in Dale Barn (NCC) in Wanders Passage, but this is not the way on. It is oddly a side passage to the right in Wanders Passage to a dig which is the only one where I have actually heard a draught! It was dug to a flat out unentered crawl. Dale Barn One, and possibly part of Anathema Crawl, is part of a large phreatic tube through the hill.