Volume 44 Number 1 Article 6
Dowber Gill Passage
4th August 2007
Having failed, due to the snow, to even get to Kettlewell earlier in the year, the gentle rain on Saturday morning was not going to dampen the spirits of the group. After some tourist priced food and drink the four of us got changed in the car park. Paul Thomas and Ian Lawton took the cars to the Dow Cave end of the trip and left Paul's car there. Returning to Kettlewell we left the other car in the main car park, as parking in the village is very limited and there are clean toilets in the car park.
The walk though the village and the mile up the valley allowed the group to get to know each other a bit better, this was the seventh Dowber Gill Passage trip for Paul T the second for Ian and Liz Lawton although they did different trips and Liz's last trip was about 14 hours. This was the first caving trip for Paul Armstrong who during the week made the mistake of asking Paul T to take him caving.
Paul A was allowed to explore ahead of the group at his own speed and he must have considered it a test as the rest of us could not catch him until the Blasted Crawl. Ian and Liz got the pleasure of being the photographic models in the Blasted Crawl, not sure if they were smiling or grimacing with the cold, doesn't matter the photos look good.
Another photo call at Stalagmite Corner and then we started on the passage. We got to the 800 yard chamber in about an hour and a half for a Mars bar break and a drink of water. From the chamber the route splits to the high level roof passage and stream level route, we chose the wet tight route - well who wouldn't.
Ian Lawton in Blasted Crawl
Liz Lawton in Blasted Crawl
One of the tightest bits of the stream route is at the start, in the past Paul T had done it by laying flat in the water but this time noticed that the passage is a little bit wider and a lot dryer about half a meter higher. All the group got past this section right side down moving on one arm with no problems, which normally means they will fit through the rest of the route; it was therefore a bit of a surprise when Paul A got stuck about 10 minutes later on a different section, however after a bit of coaching about relaxing and a rest to reduce him from Hulk size to normal we continued again. Later on we got forced out of the stream up a slope to the rope that leads up to Brew Chamber. This is an exposed climb and it is very difficult to get off the top. The better way on is through the boulder choke, the first hole that you can see is not the one to crawl through, the easier one is above this and you get in it by putting your head up behind you and go through feet first. After this boulder choke you follow the rift and at the end drop back to the stream way. After that the route is to follow the water unless it gets silly tight, and to avoid climbing in to the roof - it can be tempting at times. Liz and Ian had the good sense to wear neoprene short and wet suit leggings, the two Pauls being made of sterner stuff both noticed a certain amount of pain and then the loss of feeling in the groin area.
In wet conditions there is a potential duck before the final duck which the two Pauls treated as a duck: well it was his first caving trip and he needed to get the full experience. Liz and Ian then demonstrated how to do it by laying on their backs and moving slowly. The final sump was high so we went up and over the top. It was a fantastic relief that the passage under the last large flow stone had not sumped, otherwise it would have been a long walk back.
Once in Dow cave it was a pleasant walk out even if Paul T tried to fall of a large ledge and had to be caught by Liz. Exit was into a tropical heatwave and another photocall. Trip time was 3 hours 35 minutes, as we did not want Paul A to do too much on his first caving trip.