Volume 40 Number 1 Article 8
The Buttertubs are a group of open potholes on either side of the road from Hawes to Swaledale, the deepest being 25m. Alone, they certainly don't provide a satisfying days caving, but neither are they entirely without appeal, especially if you don't mind providing some entertainment for the tourists. Together with Alum Pot, this is one of the few places where caving can be a spectator sport. Next time you are passing, try a little exploration as I did a few years ago.
You don't need full caving gear - there is no horizontal development. There is a short climb down to a choke from the bottom of the largest hole, which justifies a lamp. A helmet is of course essential, not least because a proportion of the numerous tourists are likely to be the variety that have an irresistible urge to drop stones down holes in the ground. (I guess the time taken for the shouts and curses to return from below gives an indication of the depth.) Fortunately, most of the loose stones are already at the bottom.
There are no installed belays (that I found), but this presents no problem as there is an abundance of natural threads, spikes and pillars around all the holes. All you need is a 30m rope, a few slings and (preferably) a rope protector.
immediately over the wall can be descended from the opposite side, belaying from huge pillars at the top, and again from a ledge half way down. There are several smaller holes to the north of the this. The largest can be rigged from a block on the south side with a deviation from a spike on the north side, (Bull Pot style).
The main complex of holes is to the east of the road. There are no doubt several ways down. I investigated a very inviting crack on the east side with good thread belays, but couldn't find a suitable re-belay for the lower section. A much cleaner descent can be made from the end of an exposed ridge that projects into the centre of the pot. A long sling can be looped round a large block which is undercut on the back. Protection for the rope is required for the edge, but it's then free-hanging most of the way down.