Party:-Bill Nix, Ian Goodall, Paul Stead
We had planned to visit another cave in the area but as I hadn't brought a ladder because we hadn't settled on what trip to do, we decided just to do Heron Pot which still is a lovely trip. We met up in Bernies (best cafe in Dales!!) ending up chatting and drinking tea plus a lovely breakfast with very nice sausages (though the clubs conasurior wasn't with us!) before we motivated ourselves to venture out.
We had two ropes and enough gear to do Heron so this is where we headed. It was a lovely sunny day, just the sort required for this type of trip. There was no rush getting changed and I spent a short while getting on my new over-suit, comfortable though, it needs adjusting and I also needed to load up my photographic gear. Soon we headed off over the field across the beck that carried a sizeable stream (far less when I was last here!) and headed up Gaze Gill to the dry tributary that Heron Pot entrance was located in.
The sink hole/shake hole that is pleasantly familiar was dry, so I led on down to the depths of Kingsdale Head. Inside there is a small chamber with an obvious way on and a small hole. I climbed down followed by Paul and Ian who had the rope bag between them. The water is soon encountered and we followed this along a lovely meandering stream passage until I saw a spot for potential pictures, including somewhere dry to get the camera out. A few snaps were taken, then we carried on down the lovely water scalloped passage stopping just short of the 1st pitch for a couple more less successful pictures. Upon reaching the pitch, which was where I, Paul and another had turned round due to water levels a year previously, I rigged the pitch then Paul went down with a flash in a box. Ian was then persuaded to stand in diferent positions whilst on the rope getting wet from the water descending the pot, as well as an inlet dripping from above.
A few pictures later Ian descended followed by me to find Paul returning up the second pitch that follows immediately. This was rather disturbing as I thought we had used the wrong rope on the wrong pitch. (we had a 40m and 25m used in that order) I'm not sure why I was worried as I had to just pull the first rope through when required, which was after the others had descended and I had taken more pictures. However the rope problem being a slight miscalculation by Paul was soon corrected allowing him to reach the base followed by Ian and photography!
The second pitch lands in a lovely chamber that to me marks the change in the system - up till now we had been following a phreatic vadose trench. From the base the passage starts as a vadose trench, but then metamorphs into a phreatic bedding plane crawl between beds of rock. The crawling seems to go on and on and on, but it's not too bad at first, but then the roof lowers causing one to search out any drier bits of passage - well maybe not drier but a least not so deep in water! After what seemed like the long crawl in Swinsto I was getting hopeful that we were nearing the end. The cave must have flooded to the roof at this point quite recently as indicated by the foam.
I kept going for a bit then stopped to see how the others were. They were making steady progress, which is probably all you can ask for in a flat out crawl in flowing water. I moved onwards trying not to get wet when I rounded a corner and saw at last the glimmer of daylight that indicated the end, or was it? It could just be a trick of light on the water reflecting so I doused my lamp, but yes it really was the lower exit. Hoorar! The others had never been either this far or down here before so did not know what to expect, I shuffled along towards the daylight penetrating through the low bouldery exit and warm sunshine on the surface awaiting three weary cavers. A soon as I popped out into the warm early summers afternoon I unpacked the camera kit, then called for Paul, followed by Ian, to emerge whilst I was taking a couple of pictures.
We sorted out the gear and then took the flatter and shorter walk back to get changed. It is often the practice to do Yordas as well but the lure of a nice cup of tea at Bernies was too strong.
Thanks to Paul Stead and Ian Goodall for assistance with the pictures.