Volume 37 Number 2 Article 1
Devis Hole Mine Caves and Crackpot Cave
Saturday 19 February 2000
The Nutters: - Iain Simpson, Duncan Jones, Pete Dale
"Where could we go this weekend" we asked ourselves; then out of the blue, Duncan suggested something foreign. Devis Hole Mine Caves just outside Reeth. The journey up somehow didn't seem to take as long as we had thought, so we took a little diversion and parked up at The Buttertubs to have a nosy. We all walked to the holes, almost falling down a few times due to ice, and began to peer down. (It must have been all of 12m). Pete had noticed a sling about half way down and began to climb down the iced vertical faces to retrieve it. (Did I mention that we were not wearing caving gear?). After a couple of minutes, Pete re-emerged looking rather filthy, holding a shaggy sling never did find out what happened to it.
Onwards to Devis Hole, where we initially parked on the road. After a walk to find the entrance, it was unanimously decided to drive the car up a track, bringing it a fair distance closer to the hole. Ah yes, the hole. The entrance is a 2m climb down a shaft, similar to County but made out of wet rotten timber. This then leads into a short wet crawl through water, passing a roof fall before opening up into walking territory. Having looked at the survey, the Walkway goes for some distance before splitting left and right, with a few passages on the left leading to what looks like a maze. We immediately opted for the maze, and decided to leave markers as we went. After some wandering, we popped out back into the Walkway, much to Pete's surprise, and decided that markers were no longer needed as you cannot get lost.
When we had had enough of the maze, we followed the level to the bottom, going past numerous timber supports which, if touched, disintegrated. We opted to follow the passage to the right (West Level). This continued on for a fair length containing more numerous dodgy supports and more worried faces, (due to a lot of the supports being on the floor!), before requiring some crawling and climbing to continue. Pete led the way and eventually complained that he felt knackered, so we (slowly) started our way out. As we progressed Pete felt better, so we put his lack of enthusiasm down to carbon dioxide poisoning. By the time we were out, it was only mid-afternoon, so we opted to go and do Crackpot Cave which is a short distance away, still in Swaledale.
We had parked some distance uphill from Crackpot, so we had an easy walk down to it through grass and heather. The journey down was made quicker and more exciting by sliding down the wet slopes on our "Rumpus Behindus". As we approached the cave there was one slope left, sloping towards a 3m drop into a rocky streamway. Both Pete and I had decided to carefully negotiate this last slope to avoid injury, but Duncan had other ideas. As we scouted the best route down, a yellow streak and wind shock wave shot past us; it was Duncan on his way down, getting closer and closer to the drop. All of a sudden he shot up in the air, rolling away from the drop, and landed on his feet without swaying at the bottom of the slope. It took us a few minutes to let our lungs recover before going in.
Crackpot Cave is a large rising above a waterfall. In the book it describes two entrances, Main and Kneewrecker; we had no choice but to use the Kneewrecker as the Main entrance has collapsed. After a short bit of crawling you enter the spacious stream passage. Heading upstream there are a few deep sections; just as well I had my neofleece on as it was COLD. Climbing out of the water part way (due to a choke) you pass a fine stalagmite column and enter a reasonable sized chamber with lots of despoiled formations. After climbing down again we rejoined the water beyond the choke. We came across a duck at the end in flowing water. I must be mad, as I plunged into the water on my side and squeezed through, (brrr! cold shock). The passage continued but it was low and would require doing it sideways, not to mention the water flowing down. Back through the duck I went, and tried to persuade the others to go through, to no avail.