Volume 43 Number 2 Article 6
Swimming in the Drain
2 September 2006
Not a Red Rose trip, but nevertheless an interesting commentary on Easegill in severe flood conditions.
I'd been knobbled at a party in the summer to lead a trip into Easegill for some of the old MUSS crumblies. The turnout was phenomenal with eight of us converging on Bernies in the morning for the trip. It had been raining 'a bit' by the time we got to the farm so I was surprised at the enthusiasm to get changed. Bill Sherrington, Helen Blyth and Johnny were sitting in the kitchen looked baffled at the thought that anyone might want to go out in that weather.
The rain was torrential and stinging on the walk over, but at least it was warm! Easegill was a brown raging torrent on the surface but County Pot entrance was in no danger of flooding. So down we went, the first pitch was wet (with water coming in from Rosy sink mostly) and on arriving at the pitch we met a group of the Yorkshire Ramblers with a bunch of kids and advised them that they probably wouldn't get past the Showerbath - they decided to head out to have a look at Wretched Rabbit. Once down, Broadway was awash but wide enough to take the flow comfortably, however the Showerbath was indeed a tad interesting, with several of the party choosing to traverse round at the top of the rift rather than walk under the thundering water. However the real problem was the flood overflow a little way down (where you step down over a block in the passage) where the water was unavoidable and hammering down. Just round the corner, before the chutes down to Confusion Corner, we got out of the stream and went round the bypass to Spout Hall, and then round the bypass to the Poetic Justice climb. Since it was so wet, there was a severe attack of crumblyitis and it was decided that it would be pointless thrutching up the climb and dropping the pitch to find Pierces passage impassable (as we had done on the Previous MUSS crumblies foray a few years ago!) I decided to show people around Ignorance is Bliss but it wasn't long before people balked at the muddy squirming around involved and we headed back.
Back at (above!) Confusion Corner, most decided to beat a hasty retreat as the water levels appeared to be rising, STILL! But I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the Manchester Bypass and start of Trident. One brave soul, Dave Howard, accompanied me and we traversed most of the way down to the top of Spout Hall and hopped across towards the Battle of Britain. I was somewhat surprised to see a sizable stream cascading down into the Manchester Bypass, the crawl out of the top of the chamber up to Trident was quite wet and the slope above had turned into a splashy cascade all the way up. At the top, up to the right, water was roaring out of every possible orifice with most coming down the rope climb up to the Splash Inlet stream way and Gritstone chamber. Round in Splash chamber there was water everywhere, there was a stream running into the Broken Ladder series, the usual bedding crawl towards the top of Whiteline Chamber was effectively sumped and I wasn't going anywhere near 'The Splash'!!
As we headed out, it became obvious that the water levels were STILL RISING!!! Eeeek. Going back up towards the Showerbath we were almost immediately confronted with the water from the overflow around the corner and it was a bit of struggle to get through, the Showerbath itself was no better. Still we all made it out. The Gill was IMPRESSIVE when we got out you could hear the big cobbles being washed down in the stream bed.
I was rather concerned that the Wretched Rabbit team might be in trouble, if they'd been daft enough to go in, so I scooted up (round the sheep track!) to have a look. Dropping down past Fox Hole, the limestone bed up to Wretched Rabbit entrance was completely submerged and knee deep in fast flowing water, New Cave was completely underwater and waves were lapping over the edge of the gravel bank guarding Wretched entrance itself. Just inside the entrance, water was overflowing from New Cave back into the Wretched entrance crawl making the first climb look very splashy from above. I didn't venture any further as there was obviously no one in their right mind there, and, wondering how my Spiral Stairs wall would be coping, I hastily exited!
Walking back, the Howgill stream (just before the stile) was strong enough to wash your feet away and back at the farm the changing rooms were busy flooding and backing up into Johnny's gear.
I heard later that a small group had been doing a Lancaster Hole to Wretched Rabbit trip that day, the two novices had a grand day out, the leaders (local caving worthies, Howard and Deb Limbert) were crapping themselves! Another team in Lancaster hole didn't get so far and said that the base of Fall Pot was just beginning to pond up as they left! Elsewhere, the day saw (at least) two rescues including a party having trouble exiting Long Churn.
A few weeks later tramping round the Treasure Hunt in glorious sunshine, it was very notable that Cow Dub II was once again impassable with cobbles and the cobble scape around Corner Sink had changed dramatically with Corner Sink itself being partially blocked and water diverting on down to the Ice Palace just downstream. Even more dramatic were the changes we found down the Spiral Staircase a few weeks later. Thankfully my wall down the hole in the Big rift had held up beautifully but once in the passage we could see that many tons of gravel and cobbles had been scoured out of the crawl, lowering the floor level in places by 6 inches or more (just think of all those hours you spent clearing spoil down the passage whilst we were digging, Mr Jobling!). What was once a flat out crawl is now a comfortable hands and knees size with the gravel and cobbles being deposited at various points all the way down to where Spiral Staircase emerges at the top end of Green and Smelly passage.
All in all an exceptional day, though if the global warming doom-mongers have their way this could become the norm.