RRCPC Newsletter
Volume 38 Number 3 Article 3
October 2001

Crystal Connection

17 June 2000

Present : Peter & Julie Mohr, Denis Bushell.

One hot, dry summer’s day we set off with our friend ‘Dangerous’ Denis Bushell to visit Crystal Cave, a caving classic and only a short walk on a hot day. About 30 metres in from the entrance there is a low, flat out crawl, which Zig had a bit of trouble with, but after that it was easy going in a very nice streamway as described in Northern Caves 3. We are well used to Denis suddenly shooting-off down tight holes and low passages shouting “you wait there, I’ll be back”, and generally he’s back in 10 or 15 minutes with tales of mud and rocks. On this occasion Denis decided to explore a low bedding at the top of the waterfalls; it was a dry day but there was still a low stream flowing from this passage. At first we thought it was Barker’s Passage, a notoriously tight connection to Dog Hole Cave, which Zig & Zag had no intention of entering, but later we realised that Barker’s was at a lower level, and this was a ‘new’ bedding passage, which Denis subsequently pushed through to a different part of Dog Hole. He describes it as “a new and easier connection instead of the torturous Barker’s Passage”, but it should be stressed that it is only passable in very dry conditions for the slimmer caver with a good sense of direction! All Zig & Zag did was to sit around the passage entrance, shouting “Denis, are you there?” for an hour until our hero returned! What follows below is Denis’s own description of his amazing adventure in his write-up for the recent, White Rose Pothole Club Journal 2001:

Peter & Julie Mohr

“After kitting-up in the hot noonday sun it came as quite a relief to enter the cool conditions of Crystal Cave, despite having to ‘garden’ the duck on the way in. The cave lived up to its reputation with exciting cascades and classic rift chambers full of ‘pretties’. On reaching the final chamber above the waterfall series Zig & Zag informed me of the legendary Barker’s Passage connection with Dog Hole, which had a reputation of being ‘passable only to very thin cavers’. Zig & Zag decided it was time for ‘tea and crumpets’ and a well-deserved rest. My curiosity told me I had to investigate this passage, and I was off following the water, which in hindsight I should have realised was wrong, because it opened out into a wide bedding plane, more like a lake, which all but joined the roof. This section had to be tackled on my back, due to limited air space. After several metres of low going the roof started to rise, and the wide bedding narrowed to a metre-square passage leading into a high chamber with water cascading down from an inlet on the left. A refreshing climb up led to a passage with mixed going of polished floor sections and cobbled silted areas, which finally debauched into a low oblong chamber with a canal, half full of water.

The roof lowered and hands and knees crawling soon lowered to a flat out long duck with an awkward right hand 90 degree bend. At this stage I started to notice the froth on the walls and roof, and I realised that this section would normally have been flooded, but due to the fact that it had not rained for several weeks and it was a very hot period, the water level had fallen just enough to allow me through! After several more metres, and my adrenaline and fear arguing it out, the canal section was over; a short passage of mud and cobbles swung left to the start of a very wide bedding, reminiscent of Old Hensler’s Crawl GG, except with water.

Once again I had to tackle this section on my back, gardening as I went. It seemed to go on forever. By now my fear was winning the fight, but little did I know that reinforcements were on the way in the form of a rise in the roof and a minor adjustment in my line of progress. Within seconds I was standing in a large sombre chamber with the sound of water cascading down from above. I felt so lonely and isolated; I knew this must be a new system as it did not resemble Barker’s Passage, and there were no known surveys of passages beyond Crystal Cave’s top waterfall.

There was a lot to be done, but I had to think of Zig & Zag waiting anxiously for my return. I made a cairn of rocks to mark the extent of my exploration and started back. I was on such a high, I could have flown, but my wings were wet with all those canals! Steady slow progress back gave me time to reflect on life. At long last I reached the terminal lake before crystal cave - it looked so different, low and intimidating, I thought I had gone wrong, but how and where? I spent several minutes retracing my journey, and then decided I had to do the duck before I lost my nerve!

On emerging from the other side I could hear voices (‘Dr Livingstone I presume?’). It was of course Zig & Zag, and in another 20 metres we were united. I told of my adventure with an excited stutter, then we beat a hasty retreat out into the fairytale setting of Barbondale on a summer’s day with all the noises of insects and the buzzing of bees. My wings dry, how I wanted to join them. I did not notice the journey back to the Marton Arms and reality; my head was still full of excitement. After a debrief and a look at the known surveys, it was concluded that I might have made the connection with Monsoon Chamber in Dog Hole.

It was decided to go back the following week and enter Dog Hole to look at the connection with Crystal Cave, which Northern Caves 3 describes as ‘impassable down stream’. The team included Phil Tolsow, Steve Dent and myself. It was overcast but dry, and we had no particular problems other than moving the fox crap out of the entrance crawl. On the way we made the ‘desperately tight connection’ with Crystal Cave via Barker’s Passage. On reaching Monsoon Chamber I noticed the walls had the same look and texture that I had seen before, I started to hope, could it be? Within minutes Steve shouted ‘I have found your pyramid of rocks’. Yes it was my cairn! We decided a through trip would be in order, but alas on looking down the wide cobbled bedding, the way on was ‘impassable’ and we realised that the canals would be sumped as well. We decided on a trip to Far South Passage, happy in the knowledge, that I had confirmed the connection with Crystal Cave the previous week.

PS. Hopefully, one day, it will be dry enough to make a proper survey of the connection.”

Denis Bushell

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