Volume 37 Number 2 Article 10
Caving under the Moonlit Sun
Thursday 15 June 2000
Members present: Peter Dale, Duncan Jones
I arrived home from work, sat down on the settee and thought to myself "why am I going caving in the middle of the week... to have some fun, that's why. And to bum off some energy." Duncan said he'd pick me up at five, and sure enough, that's when he turned up. I chucked my gear into the boot of his car and off we went to the Trough-of-Bowland. I know what you're thinking; caves outside the three-peeks area? That can't be night, but yes, it's true, there are caves in other places, not just in Yorkshire. Anyway, the plan was to knock off a few caves just outside a place called Whitewell which is very close to Dunsop Bridge.
After the drive up there, where I'm sure Duncan was starting to think he was Collin McCrae, we arrived at our destination. We decided it was best to survey the entrances of the caves we were descending first, just to make sure that they were safe and not blocked. Unfortunately, they weren't. [Is that not blocked, or not safe? Ed.] We walked back to the car after looking round an old Lime Kiln, got changed, sorted out which ropes we needed and trotted off to the entrance of Whitewell Cave. To get to Whitewell Cave, you have to climb over a farmer's recently erected fence, (hope he didn't see us!). The entrance to this cave has a small stream with a trickle of water running into it. Oh yeah, did I mention, lots and lots of flood debris? (Interesting).
Upon entering the cave you climb down onto a large boulder and then descend the sloping passage, which is unique since there are veins of marble running through the lime stone strata. Carrying on down the passage you come to a short drop into the continuing passage, which by now has lowered to a flat out crawl, which leads to the top of a three metre drop into a surprisingly large chamber. A few formations were noted in a secondary inlet just off the bottom of the main chamber. The way on was down a small crawl which was best tackled feet first because at the end was an abrupt drop into an even larger chamber with three exits to choose from.
The first one we chose led through a short length of passage to what looked like the bottom of a shakehole so we retreated back to the chamber. We then chose the passage directly opposite our point of entry which lead into a beautifully decorated chamber which also had three ways on. One way was being dug, the other way too tight, and the final way was up into another superbly decorated aven. Since we could go no further, we made good our exit ready for the next pot.
Our next cave on the list was Hell Hole, which was a little way up the valley in a small wood, again surrounded by a new shiny fence. Hell Hole is a fairly large open shaft surrounded by trees. [I suppose that's a good description of a wood Ed.] The first pitch, 14m, was belayed off a tree route using a dodgey sling. It was then Duncan who descended the shaft first, (he never lets me go first!). I heard the inevitable, "Chicken free!" so I abbed down to meet Duncan.
Once at the bottom of this shaft, which resembled Jingling Pot but on a smaller scale, the way on was discovered to be through a mass of sheep bones and one smelly, rotten, horrid carcass which lay on top of the oil drum lid to the rest of the cave. Duncan moved the lid to one side, with the jelly like sheep which also had, I noted, a wonderful matted wool, which unfortunately coated the oil drums we were about to descend through, (lovely!!!). I rigged the pitch with a good belay and plenty of rope rub! Descending the pitch, (yes, Duncan let me go first for a change!), I popped out from the oil drums into a descending, clean washed rift where, on looking back up, I saw that there were a lot of cobbles grinning mischievously at me. I got to the bottom and shouted up to Duncan to come on down, the cave is right!
Looking round the corner, the next pitch was found, which is strange because in the guide book there are only supposed to be two pitches! When Duncan reached the bottom he demanded that he rig the next pitch. I had no choice but to let him; I'd seen the next pitch, he hadn't! The pitch, 20m, was belayed to the previous rope and then rebelayed on a rock flake above the pitch head where once landing on a ledge half way down, it is rebelayed again onto a conveniently placed hanger where we then descended the rest of the pitch.
At the bottom the way on was through a tight squeeze at roof level. Duncan decided he wasn't going through it, so I went to have a look and before I could turn around to come back I heard the "Chicken free" signal. "Oh, we're going out" I thought, "Duncan must want to get some more caves done". Personally, I just wanted to go home. I caught Duncan up at the bottom of the entrance shaft where we repacked the ropes into the tackle bag. Duncan then ascended the pitch while I scooped the rest of the sheep to one side and then replaced the lid, I think.
Once we were both at the surface, we quickly de-rigged it and made our way back to the road as the next cave was a little further down towards Whitewell. As I walked past Duncan's car on my way to Whitewell Pot, I heard Duncan's car boot opening. Obviously he'd had enough! So as not to cause any arguments, I reluctantly got changed ready for the trip home.
Although, there are only a few caves in this area, I think Hell Hole has the most potential. Anyway, why don't you see for yourself sometime? A very enjoyable trip, although Duncan was not impressed at arriving home at 10pm since he'd had to be up at 4am to go to work! (So why does my post never arrive until 9 o'clock?!)