Discovery in 1989
1st October 1989. Jim Farrer, Paul Wilkinson and I were on our way to a dig in Cow Dubs and happened to go down Howe Gill on our way to Ease Gill Beck. A sink in the Gill had been looked at by Paul and myself before but the rocks in the entrance were too big to shift. However today we had the Sylvester, a lightweight ratchet hoist, and we decided to try it out. The first boulder hauled out opened up a low crawl, which Paul soon cleared and exposed a large limestone flake. At first we thought it was bedrock, but levering with the bar showed it was not. We soon started ratcheting with the Sylvester and after snapping the rope once out it came. It was broken up with a sledge hammer. Paul went in and said that it was blowing and it was, almost as strong as Link Pot!
We soon cleared the rift and were down to a bedding which was blocked with a slab, however we could see a passage and the draught was strong.We dug around the block. and were soon at a junction which was partially blocked by a couple of slabs. Paul managed to squeeze through and returned after a few minutes with tales of a pitch.
We were back next weekend and barred away the two slabs. On reaching the pitch, which looked dangerously loose at the top, I noticed that the draught was coming from higher up. Over the top of the pitch was a sandy bedding plane. Paul dug through and soon came back bursting to tell of a 50ft. wet pitch. I was through the crawl like a shot!
By traversing over a hole in the floor above the pitch we joined the stream and climbed down some cascades to a balcony above the main part of the pitch. We thought we had brought enough tackle with two 25ft. ladders and a 50ft. lifeline. I lifelined Paul down until he was on a ledge and the end of the rope was round my wrist. We decided to return with more manpower
15th October. The Red Rose jungle drums had relayed the weekend's discovery far and wide. Next weekend brought all the layabouts and glory seekers out of the woodwork. Unfortunately Saturday night revelries at the farm were interupted by a call out for an over due party of students down Pool Sink. In the usual fashion the crack Red Rose Ease Gill experts were sent down first. Stumbling and bumbling they set forth and soon located the missing scholars, who had got lost and "decided to wait for the rescue team"! Many members did not gain their pits until 6 am the following morning.
By 10 am a large bleary eyed party began to enter the newly christened Sylvester Pot. The team consisted of Jim Newton, Paul Wilkinson, Peter Muckalt, Graham Leach, Paul Saville, Andy Hall, Neil Pacey, Phil Luff, Keith Wright and Chas Frankland. The pitch was rigged and Andy descended over 60ft. to land in a boulder strewn chamber. The obvious way on was followed at first down a 10ft. climb below the boulders to a hopelessly choked and loose chamber. Andy and Jim located a small hole near the base of the pitch. This was dug open and led through a bedding plane to two holes below which could be seen another large chamber. The race was now on; Andy and Chas were shouting for a ladder for the furthest hole while Keith and Jim were trying to climb down the other. Chas won by a short head and ran off at the bottom of the pitch across the chamber and climbed down into a horribly loose choked rift. by this time Paul Saville and Neil had jostled to the front and found another small hole down through the boulders at the base of the chamber. Beneath the intimidating boulders they gingerly excavated a route, lured on by the tinkling of a stream below them.
A ladder proved useful on the awkward squeeze and climb down and so we had a third pitch. The larger members were stopped at this point. The thin men continued down a low streamway to the top of a narrow wet pitch. A high level route above the streamway was also pushed through a low section to a rift passage where Neil noted signs that some one had been here before but nobody believed him. Due to its liberal supply of very moveable boulders and the recent San Fransisco earthquake the passage was named San Andreas Fault Passage. At one point only some quick thinking by Graham Leach prevented the advance party from being entombed.
By now the hour was late and most of us were feeling pretty jaded after the previous night's activities and we decided to exit. Jim Davis turned up with survey gear looking for volunteers and the survey was started. On the way out Neil spotted a crawl between the second and third pitch. He followed this into a very wide bedding, which completely disorientated him; another lead for next week. Back at Bull Pot Farm celebrations were dulled by tiredness, it had been an exhausting 24 hours.
Sunday 22nd October
Inclement weather the following weekend meant that we all received a good soaking on the 60ft. pitch. Plugs and feathers and a Bosch drill were used by Jim to enlarge the squeeze at the top of the Third Pitch. Chas Phil Luff and Paul Wilkinson pushed on down to explore San Andreas Fault Passage. Meanwhile Jim Newton, Keith Wright, Andy, Chris and Ian Ellis, Keith Lewis, Jim Davis, Paul Saville and Neil Pacey blitzed the bedding or Highway Route 880, after the collapsed bridge in San Fransisco. The San Andreas party tried to gain the continuing stream lower down but they only succeeded in scaring themselves wittless as more large blocks detached themselves. Finally a rumbling of boulders from somewhere above them caused them to retire to the comparative safety of Route 880.
The rest of the Red Rose poking, proding and digging machine had been hard at it. The bedding had been pushed in all directions. Several holes in the floor had been laddered or climbed. They all led to breakdown chambers which choked after less that 50ft. Neil, Ian and Chris managed to slither through a roof tube and discover a couple of hundred feet of passage and some more breakdown chambers. Andy, Jim and Paul surveyed after them and in one breakdown chamber caused a particularly large rock fall. This was the source of the large rumble heard in San Andreas Passage. Route 880 is an interesting place and everyone had a great time getting confused and shouting at each other. Chas climbed a 40ft. aven to find it pinched out at the top. On the way out, while continuing the survey, Jim and Andy pushed an insignificant crawl to emerge in a large sand filled chamber containing an unusual gour pool formation. Jim christened the chamber and its surprise formation Newton's Wonder.
Saturday 28th October
The survey was fed into Keith Lewis' and Andy Hall's computers and a line survey rapidly produced. This confirmed our suspicions.The far end of San Andreas Fault Passage was heading directly for Clough's Passage, a rarely visited inlet which joins the main system at Dismal Junction near Molluscan Hall. M.U.S.S. had pushed this inlet upstream in the early 1970's so old journals were consulted, there had to be a connection.
Pete Hall, Andy Hall and Paul Saville took advantage of a lull in the appalling weather and nipped down for a quick ferret around. Things were going well when Pete crawled up a small inlet in San Andreas Passage. Much to his surprise at the end of the passage he found a small inscription scratched on the wall of a tiny alcove at the base of a small aven - "MUSS BCC 1971". Unknowingly the cave had been connected to Ease Gill two weeks previously! We were in fact in Upper Clough's Passage.
Over the next few weeks various loose ends were tied up and the survey completed. The size of parties entering the cave dwindled as more sensible members opted to spend more time exploring pleasanter places with less loose boulders. A through trip was done from County Pot. Our original stopping point at the head of the tight pitch head was easily climbed from below just as Lank Mills from M.U.S.S. had done early in the 1970's. Here the matter rested until early in 1990 but that is another story...see article on Dismal Bypass and Luff's Passage.
Sylvester Pot is another entrance to Ease Gill which leads to another backwater of the system. It will probably receive few visits, but any caver who passes this way will be rewarded with a sporting trip but do beware of LOOSE BOULDERS.