Volume 37 Number 2 Article 9
Long Kin West and Pillar Holes
Saturday 10 June 2000
Members present: Andy Whitney, Sam Carradice, Alan Kerr
Arriving at the bottom of the hill, we got changed and began the short walk up to Long Kin West. On the way up we stopped briefly to admire the fantastic view afforded by the fine weather, although showers were forecast for later in the afternoon. Morecambe Bay was clearly visible, and had it not been for the presence of a little haze, Blackpool Tower could have been seen from our fine vantage point.
Due to the previous days rain and the impending showers, we were unsure as to whether we would be able to do the lower pitches, but we had brought enough rope with us just in case. Once at the entrance, Sam began to rig the top of the rather inconspicuous looking hole, which provides no clue as to the huge chasm below. Soon, he had disappeared over the edge and the sound of krabs clicking could be heard as he rigged the first rebelay. After a while the sound stopped as Sam made his way down the first section of the eighty seven metre shaft, leaving Alan and myself eagerly waiting our turn on the surface. After a short while Sam shouted "rope free" from far below and Alan began his descent. Again came the snapping of krab gates and then the silence, followed by Alan's's sounds of exclamation as he went down, further heightening my sense of anticipation.
Once Alan had reached a rebelay and ledge about thirty five metres below, which breaks the pitch, I began my descent. A few metres down from the surface, a rebelay in a narrow rift is followed by a fine, airy free hang to the ledge where Alan was waiting for Sam to descend the next section. I landed on the small ledge and found a comfortable place to stand while we waited. After what seemed like a long while we heard the faint shout from far below that the rope was free, and Alan was soon disappearing out of sight into the darkness. While I waited for Alan to reach the chamber at the bottom I admired my surroundings blackness below and daylight beaming down from the small hole far above. Soon it was my turn again and I reached over the chasm as I threaded my descender. Spotting two specks of light in darkness below, the thought entered my mind that this was insanity itself insane, but bloody exciting!
Soon I was dangling in mid-air some fifty metres above the floor and heading down to a rebelay at a point were the shaft narrows slightly. This was passed without incident and all that remained was an impressive free hang to the bottom. It seemed to take quite a while to get to the chamber below where the others were waiting, and once down I looked back up to the faint chink of daylight above and contemplated the ascent back out. The next pitch was a 'mere' fifty five metres; I wondered how daunting the prospect of facing almost ninety metres would be after that.
From the chamber a small pitch, (approx. 8m), lands at the base of a nasty looking boulder run, so I thought it prudent to avoid touching it with my feet as I descended. From the foot of the pitch more boulders are descended to the only real horizontal section of the cave a washed out bedding plane. By carefully crawling around the edge of some deep holes in the floor we reached the third and final pitch of fifty five metres. After a bit of searching for the spits, Alan eventually located them in a narrow rift in the ceiling, and rigged the second of three possible routes down. A short descent lands at a window onto the final section of the 'Flake Pitch' of forty six metres. A Y-hang rigged from here is followed immediately by a deviation to clear the rock as much as possible. As Alan made his way down he shouted up that the rope was rubbing a bit and he wasn't happy it didn't sound good. A few minutes of silence where broken by the sound of Alan whistling, so he had obviously sorted it!
The final section of the pitch is free hanging, away from the walls and is broken just below a sloping ledge at a rebelay. From here the rest of the descent is a bit scruffy in the start of a narrow rift, landing in a small chamber with a dig at the far end. After a few moments taking in the rather disappointing end to the cave, (apart from the dig, which we declined to explore), we started our ascent back out. This place is a bit similar to Alum Pot in the respect that the spectacular pitches are sadly not followed by any cave at the bottom Shame.
Sam started making his way back up, with me following as soon as he had passed the rebelay. Whilst waiting at the rebelay for Sam to vacate the next section of rope, a volley of small rocks came clattering down from above, much to Alan's and my surprise. Not wishing to hang about in my somewhat exposed position, I hurriedly passed the rebelay as soon as Sam reached the top, and tried my best not to dislodge anything onto Alan at the bottom. Once Sam and myself were back in the bedding at the top of the third pitch we waited for Alan as he derigged. As Alan neared the top we decided the cramped bedding was getting a little uncomfortable, so started making our way to the next pitch leading back to the base of the entrance shaft. I arrived at the big pitch just as Sam was starting the ascent back up, and sat and watched with my light out. It was a spectacular sight seeing the silhouetted figure dangling in mid-air slowly getting smaller and smaller.
Once Sam passed the rebelay I started heading up in order to save Alan waiting at the bottom for any longer than necessary. I admired some nice ledges around the circumference of the shaft which were covered in a fine mound of gravel. There were two or three of these ledges at different levels, and could represent the possibility of undiscovered cave, created when the water was at this level and washed out the bands. As I arrived at the ledge at the bottom of the final section, Sam was just reaching the rebelay near the top, and I could see Alan some way below dragging the heavy rope bag up with him. Even with this handicap he still seemed to be flying up the rope!
Starting up the final section I could just see Sam disappearing over the edge of the pitch head and back onto the surface, while I pressed on with the daylight growing slowly nearer. I could soon feel the warmth of the air from above entering the shaft, and was soon hauling myself over the lip of the hole, surprisingly, not completely knackered! We were soon joined by Alan and our suggestion of popping over to do Pillar Holes was greeted by a "Not sure if you're serious" type smile. After a short rest we headed across for our second cave of the day!
Upon arriving at Pillar Holes route number 1, we were greeted by a rather unexpected bleating sound. We all looked at each other, realising the horrible truth a sheep had beaten us to it! What was intended to have been a quick trip was now a full-scale animal rescue. If nothing else, it was something a little different! We contemplated our options. Would we be able to haul the weight of an injured and shocked sheep without any pulleys or dedicated equipment?; would we spook the animal when trying to approach it and possibly make it fall down the next pitch, which is even deeper?
Sam volunteered to go down to evaluate the situation and see if there was anything we could do. We wanted to avoid a CRO callout if at all possible, so a plan was devised, the aim of which was to put a sling behind the animals front legs and then haul like crazy before it thrashed about and slipped out of the loop. The sheep was found to actually be more of a lamb, and was perched precariously on a small ledge overlooking a deep shaft. Sam managed to land himself between the sheep and the hole and, after a bit of wrestling, secured the sling around its body. Alan began raising the animal, and it was soon safely back on the surface, seemingly none the worse for its rapid descent of the hole. Alan carried it clear and we watched in disbelief as it bounded away bleating for its mother. After our good deed for the day was over we re-focused our attention on the original plan descending Pillar Holes.
Sam continued rigging as I followed shortly behind, landing on the small ledge where the lamb had been stranded. A short descent down and across bypasses an extremely fine looking oval shaft, and gains a stance on a chock stone high in a rift. From here a free hanging descent of the remainder of the pitch can be made. A few metres down a rather acute deviation pulls the rope clear of the rock, and is followed shortly by a second deviation rigged from a flake in the shaft wall. Landing at the bottom we found what we assumed to be a relation of the lamb we had just rescued. Unfortunately this one hadn't been so lucky, and wouldn't be requiring our help.
Sam started making his way down a very unstable looking boulder slope and had just disappeared from view when suddenly there were some loud bangs. I shouted to see if he was OK, and was relieved when he replied all was well. Not wanting to disturb any rocks, I waited for Sam to get clear before I climbed down behind him. Just as I was about to proceed I heard an even louder, and quite horrifying sound of large boulders falling down a shaft. Again I shouted to see if Sam was all right, and was again relieved when he confirmed he was OK. I had had enough excitement for one day, I think!
I continued down to see the dig that will hopefully someday break into the Newby Moss master cave, which must exist but is yet to be discovered. The area around this dig was clearly not too stable so we made our way back to the pitch. Alan had just made his way down and was already heading back out, obviously not too bothered about meeting the dead lamb or the many bones and festering carcasses at the bottom! After Long Kin West, prussiking back up the pitch seemed to take no time at all, and I was soon making my way up the slippery green walls of the entrance shaft, where Alan was waiting at the top. Heading back down to the cars we again admired the superb panorama of hills with the sunlight sparkling off the water at Morecambe Bay if only I'd brought my camera!