Aygill Caverns

12 September 2011

Posted by
Matt Ewles

Arriving at Bull Pot Farm by 11:30 we were underground by midday, with the scaffolded entrance shaft being very easy to find (walk along the track to Barbondale, through the first gate, then immediately through gate on right, down to Aygill beck 50m ahead across the field, then the entrance is about 100m upstream of here on the true right bank).

We were laddering the cave as suggested in Selected Caves.

From the bottom of the entrance shaft, keep left through a crawl then climb up on the left (we missed this climb initially, but soon realised our error when the passage ran out) to further crawling and a traverse in a narrow rift to the first chamber. Traverse pitch was laddered, and two anchors provide a backup and hang.

Down through the slot in the floor at the foot of the pitch soon lead to the second pitch, which is more difficult to rig as there is only one anchor, so we had to use some naturals too. The descent was very wet indeed, and I wasn't expecting a soaking on this trip!

The main streamway was rumbling and roaring with very powerful brown water, which surprised us as we hadn't realised it was so wet. We went upstream initially, through 100m of enjoyable streamway to a chamber where water entered through several crawls. Then downstream, three cascades (2m each) needed to be negotiated. This would usually have been easy but the force of the water made it quite scary as one slip and you would have been taken by the water.

From the bottom of the cascades we went to explore, but the cave soon became quite uninspiring. We got to Sand Junction and pottered round for a little but we didn't go to terminal sump as we suspected it to be raining on the surface and didn't fancy the cascades if the water level went up any further! The climb back up the cascades was extremely wet but not as tricky as I was expecting.

We were only underground for 3 hours, and despite not getting far through the cave I really enjoyed the short stretch of streamway and the gushing cascades made it all worthwhile. Would be interesting to return in lower water and see the supposedly impressive terminal sump.

For future trips, it will be much easier to use SRT, and a 20m and 25m rope should be more than sufficient for a traverse line and the hangs of each pitch, with long slings for naturals on the second pitch. The anchors at the pitch heads provide acceptable hangs.