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Sunday July 8th

Sleets Gill

Matt E, John D, Gary, Ade, Toby, Couple of NPC members

Matt E wrote...

Sleets Gill has an ominous reputation. A high profile rescue raised caver awareness of how very flood prone this place is, often flooding completely days after heavy rain has long since passed over.

It nonetheless offers the rarity of a splendid and lengthy adventure in Yorkshire without a single item of tackle! For this reason it had been on my list for some time but the weather was never dry enough to satisfy my paranoia.

The summer of 2018 however provided several such dry opportunities, and only 6 days before Gary and I were due to be married, we thought we would have one final caving trip together as single men. Accompanied by other YCC folks and a few NPC members too we made our way down to Littondale where a small layby (large enough for 4-5 cars) allowed parking only 5 minutes walk from the cave entrance. It was a scorching day and clearly several other cavers had the same idea; Sleets Gill was the place to be today!

The entrance is certainly a sight to behold - a large ramp of limestone gravel and rocks vanishing downwards for some distance at quite an angle! At the bottom several crawling sections interspersed with chambers reached a junction where the Wharfedale sump is usually on the right; not today though as it was totally dry! We headed left into the main passage.

The main passage is splendid; like a railway tunnel winding its way for about 10 minutes in splendid proportions. Why had I not been here before?

About 20m before the big passage suddenly ends, the drop down on the left towards hydrophobia/hypothermia was easily found. We didn't know what to expect from this, but we were keen to get to the famous Ramp. We were not wetsuited so we hoped for low water. The route to Hypothermia goes straight ahead, but right is the way to Hydrophobia and The Ramp. This starts as a slightly awkward hands and knees crawl in a stream passing a few junctions (the Not for the Faint Hearted description is very clear) until a stream enters from a tiny shelf on the left - the start of Hydrophobia!

This tiny passage does not appear inviting. Even in the very dry conditions we had it was still lying on our bellies in the stream and the water was freezing. As we thrutched onwards the passage quickly got smaller, only 40-50cm high and 60-70cm wide on average and sharp and grabby. On several occasions on rounding a corner I looked ahead in despair, but with people rapidly snapping at my heels I pushed on.

The crawl lasted about 5-6 minutes, was painful, wet but not horrific... we've certainly done worse in our home patch of the North York Moors!

The crawl emerged at a wet junction. The navigation to the bottom of The Ramp is complex and in fact Not For the Faint Hearted is unusually vague here. However the problem is eliminated by there being a continuous wire all the way from the end of the crawl to The Ramp to follow.

At The Ramp, the things got much bigger. Ahead was a sump and two other cavers were already there ready to free-dive into it having come in via Hypothermia. We were particularly surprised to find that for one of them this was one of their first ever caving trips! We suddenly felt like our own achievements that day had been diminished.

The Ramp, on the right just before the sump is an unusual feature indeed - a very steeply ascending huge passage which seems to go up for ever. The upper parts are a little nervewracking as you become very conscious that a loss of footing is going to make for a very speedy descent. Digging thumbs into the mud for grip worked well. At the top is a splendid gallery of straws, easily justifying the efforts. A little further up through boulders was a final upper chamber with some more formations (quite vulnerable) and loose rocks.

Going down The Ramp was a delicate operation but a very enjoyable and unique experience.

We had an absolutely excellent day. A trip to The Ramp has it all; unusual cave passages, big stomping tunnels, formations, wet crawls, and is just good fun throughout. Definitely not a place I'd want to be in any wetter conditions though.

10th August 2018

Matt Ewles

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3 photos by Gary...

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Sunday July 1st

Long Drop Cave

Aileen, Gary, John D, Matt E, Toby

12 photos by John D...

6 photos by Gary...

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Sunday June 24th

Owl Hole

Gary, Jerry, John D, Matt E, Tegs

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Saturday June 23rd

Waterways Swallet

Pants, Gary, Jerry, Matt E, Tegs

17 photos by Gary...

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Saturday May 5th

Otter Hole

Gary, Ian, Josh, Mark, Matt E, Peter N, Rachel, Toby, Will

7 photos by Gary...

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Saturday April 21st

Providence Pot - Dow Cave

Aileen, Gary, John D, Matt E, Matt R, Pete, Toby, Some Irish folk :)

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Sunday April 1st

Alum Pot - Diccan Pot exchange with NPC members

Walmslers, Gary, Ian, John D, Matt E, Several NPC members

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Saturday March 31st

Short Drop Cave to the bottom of Gavel Pot

Walmslers, Ian, Matt E, Philip, Toby

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Friday March 30th

Lost Johns Pot

Gary, Ian, Jack, Matt E

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Sunday March 11th

Cupcake

Rachel, Pete, John D, Aileen

15 photos by John D...

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Saturday February 17th

County Pot - Lancaster Hole through trip

Aileen, Gary, Laura, Matt E, Rachel

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Saturday January 27th

Ogof Draenen to Big Country

Chuck, Ian, Matt E, Philip, Rachel, Toby, Will

Matt E wrote...

After a five hour trip from OFD1 to Top entrance the day before to ‘warm us up’, we were in the mood today for a proper adventure into the magnificent Ogof Draenen. I have previously done the round trip, been to the Dogleg Series, The Geryon, and War of the Worlds, but Big Country had not yet crossed my mind; until a few people recently recommended it. It certainly looks big on the survey, so we hoped we’d be in for a treat.

We did a little pre-trip research the week before, mostly thanks to Tarquin’s excellent online descriptions. This excellent resource has seen all our former trips into Draenen be successful, so we had high hopes. We were not disappointed; the route to Big Country was well described, including from the point where it departs the ‘main route’ to the Snowball near Big Beauty junction, all the way through the Three Amigos and onto Big Country itself (and beyond; but that will have to wait until next time).

With descriptions and copies of the survey we set off at 9:30am on Saturday morning from SWCC to Pwll Du, to meet an enthusiastic and enormous crowd of cavers embarking on conservation/taping work, videoing missions (including our very own Pete) and others on a trip to Yellow Van Passage too. We decided to allow half an hour for the procession to get through the entrance passages before heading down there to avoid too much congestion.

The entrance was its usual grotty self, but from experience I know all the tricks to avoid getting a waterfall down your neck; oversuit zipped up with neckstrap firmly done up; and suit over the top of the wellies. Maintaining dry feet in Draenen is one of life’s little pleasures. Down the wet slot in the stream, I was pleased to be still dry under my oversuit, and we made quick progress to Cairn Junction, without sight of the others ahead of us; they must move fast!

Through Beer Challenge (a low crawl which continues beyond the start of Wonderbra, which bypasses Tea Junction and a lot of boulder hopping) and up into Lamb and Fox chamber, we then made quick progress through Indiana Highway, Megadrive and into Nunnery Passage. Here, I found myself with the usual debate; is it the first or second right; after a quick consultation of the map we remembered that it is the second (the first is Going Square, the second is Perserverence II, the best way, the third, confusingly, is Perserverence I). Along the easy crawl of Perserverence II, and the first key junction was reached; straight on only 30m to the Arms Park pitch and the start of the round trip, but sharp right towards Rift Chambers and our way onwards.

A quick water top-up in Rift Chambers and we were on into Eliptic Passage. This was all easy navigation, as I had done this so many times before; it felt like second nature now. Eventually, Eliptic Passage degenerated at a cobble choke, and the crawls on the left too us through Lucky Thirteen, and then to the very obvious T-junction, Big Beauty, where we met Prof. Talling and his team.

Going left, about 50m down the passage we quickly found the alcove leading to Big Country. This started as an immediate steep slope up into a small chamber, with a small passage leading off, with ramps up and down for a short while. Tarquin’s description for the route to Big Country (via the Three Amigos) was absolutely excellent, a mixture of all sizes of passage and chambers, and very varied. No chance of getting bored on this route! Ian, being a relatively new caver, expressed his joy at being the first up into the passages after Big Beauty Junction, so I handed him the survey and description and retired lazily to the back of the group. He navigated faultlessly.

The final section before Big Country is a painful flat out crawl in a knobbly tube for about 60m, with a narrowing (The Canyon) half way along. This proved quite a struggle for Chuck, who despite being perfectly average middle-aged (sorry Chuck) male build, really did need all the available space to fit. The trick is to either stay high, or start low and then switch to high a metre in. The tight bit is no more than 3m long and returns to painful crawling, before popping spectacularly out into the enormity of Big Country. Wow!

Right, the Big Country stream was soon intercepted, and we followed this downstream in huge, impressive passage with ample blackness ahead, despite a number of rather high power lights in the team. The stream coming in from Blorenge entered on the left; we had a quick poke up there, and it continued in fine stream passage (for a long way according to the survey) but we didn’t have time. This was just to be a recce trip to see whether the Big Country was a worthwhile destination. Instead we continued downstream, and the stream narrowed into a channel in the mud, surrounded by tall and slippery mudbanks which had clearly been recently ‘reformatted’ by flooding; not a footprint anywhere but wet and slippery water carved mud. I’m not sure what conditions cause Big Country to flood to at least 2m deep but I don’t fancy being there when it happens!

Continuing downstream, the excellent passage continued, rising up above the stream before a ramp down blocks on the right dropped us back to the stream in a wide and impressively proportioned mud chamber. Downstream further, the passage narrowed more, became more mud choked, with the water having cut a deep and narrow channel, and then eventually a sump-like feature was reached. Time to go home! On return to the ramp, we noticed the possibility of not such good air here, as we were all notably out of breath, despite this being the easiest section of cave we had encountered yet.

Big Country did not disappoint; a dramatic passage easily comparable to War of the Worlds and MS&D; maybe not quite as large but still very enjoyable and a worthwhile destination.

The outward journey was extremely efficient. On return to Big Beauty junction we encountered another group of three, who had been to War of the Worlds. These characters were exiting from the unauthorised third entrance near to Eliptic Passage, and had possibly entered via the illegal new entrance Twll Du which was dug, without permission, illegally, on a scheduled ancient monument. The selfishness of some cavers never ceases to amaze me. I am proud to have used (and to have always used) the authorised entrance, and having enjoyed one of the key things Draenen offers; adventure, journey and remoteness. If people want to do short through-trips in multiple-entrance big systems then please go to Ease Gill or OFD and stop selfishly digging more and more entrances to a cave that many enjoy BECAUSE it has (had) only one entrance. Unfortunately, there seems to be many in South Wales who seem not to respect the democratic wishes of the caving community to support one entrance, in favour of their own selfish actions. A sad state of affairs; I love this sport, and the caving community, but unfortunately all communities have their bad eggs. I rest assured that these are in a minority and most cavers show greater respect to the efforts that have gone on over the last 20 years to conserve Draenen and mediate access in a democratic way.

On return to Cairn Junction we were caught by the Yellow Van team, who must have been extremely quick and efficient. Out by 9:30pm and back at SWCC by 10:45pm for a well-earned beer and some great company. Splendid trip in one of my favourite caves.

1st February 2018

Matt Ewles

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Saturday January 27th

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu Cwm Dwr round trip

Gary, Tash, Clive Westlake (NPC)

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Friday January 26th

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu OFD1 to Top Entrance

Rachel, Matt E, Ian, Gary, Chuck, Toby, Rob Watson (ULSA)

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Saturday January 20th

Boxhead Pot - It's a Cracker

Toby, Pete, Mark, Laura, Aileen, Clive Westlake (NPC)

Mark wrote...

On the drive over to the Dales I stated my prediction to Tash that there was no way the folks staying at the NPC would be ready to go when we arrived at 9:45 - she’d have loads of time for a cup of tea and breakfast. Sure enough when we arrived the packed tackle-sacks were piled up outside, teams for the exchange had been decided, call-outs were on the board, and everyone was stood around expectantly, most already wearing undersuits. Oh well. Tash had a hurried breakfast while the rest of us gossiped away.

I’d not really rigged anything since Pasture Gill a month or two previously, and I find it odd how rapidly I can slip out of my vertical-caving-comfort-zone. Every time I’ve had even a slight break from caving and SRT I notice feeling a little rusty on my return, but it’s reassuring how quickly comfort returns. I’d not done Boxhead for a few years, and I’d forgotton how enjoyable the route is down the Kendal Flyover. Once on the ledge we could hear Gary, and soon spotted his light emerging from the Lost Pot aven and he joined us on the ledge, also dropping a rope to the bottom. In no time at all the ledge was packed full of people from both routes, and we soon lost track of who was where. Aileen, Toby and I were keen for an explore, but the other members’ enthusiasm levels were somewhat lower, most seemingly suffering from the tail ends of colds or flu.

We’d pondered doing the Tate Galleries – Lyle Cavern – Lost Pot Inlet round trip, but none of us had ventured through the Tube before, and although water levels weren’t high, they weren’t especially low either. We followed Clive down to check that there was a rope in place above the Tube (there were two) before going to look at the Tube itself. The chamber and climb just upstream of the Tube didn’t bode well. I was immediately soaked through from the water and spray that was suddenly everywhere, and it didn’t look promising as I looked down the continuing passage. Aileen dropped down to join me and took a closer look, declaring that the significant quantity of water disappearing around the descending tight bend didn’t look greatly appealing. With little or no debate, we elected to go the other way around and see what the Tube looked like from the other side. Perhaps the proximity to our exit route would provide greater encouragement.

Back in the Cresta Run, it was enjoyable to be navigating with a survey I’d found rather than a description. Memories were rusty. We elected for the route via Handshake Crawl and Straw Chamber, the first of which provided me with some entertainment as I wedged myself in for a short while, unable to proceed, retreat, or remove my helmet. Some shuffling later rectified the situation, and we were duly rewarded with the straws the survey promised. We picked up some lost-looking items before the climb into Avens Passage (check the UKCaving lost and found forum if you’ve lost anything here!) and making our way to Lyle Cavern. Toby was in his usual dilemma that his delicate descender couldn’t deal with the fixed ropes, so a slight faff ensued on our descent, before we ventured into what was new territory for us all up Lost Pot Inlet.

We were pleasantly surprised by the caving, and pondered collecting a drag tray and haul line that appeared to have been washed down there, before remembering that we still had the Tube to negotiate and deciding that large pieces of digging paraphernalia probably wouldn’t enhance the experience too much. We quickly arrived at the Tube, which looked infinitely more inviting from below. Aileen shot straight in, and announced that water levels were in fact fine. I followed, and soon heard laughter behind. It’s fair to say that crawls half-filled with water don’t represent Toby’s favourite form of caving, but he’d found he could avoid the whole thing via the narrow slot over the top. I can’t remember the last time I saw him so pleased.

Now a little chilly we made our way out It’s a Cracker. More new passage for us all. I was pleasantly surprised at how different the character of the cave quickly became. I collected some rotting wood and an old drag-tray on my way up and, after briefly mistaking a fixed rope for our route out, elected to wait to make sure Aileen avoided my mistake. She waited at the rope to do the same for Toby as I went on up the next pitch, and after a few minutes waiting at the top I was puzzled to see Toby climbing the rope below me…”Have you and Aileen swapped?”, I shouted down. “No, she’s ahead of me”, came the reply. Oh dear. She certainly wasn’t. Although we didn’t realise at the time, it turned out that while Aileen was waiting to make sure Toby went the right way, he’d taken an alternative route following the water, bypassing her altogether before derigging the next pitch. After a bit of shouting and lowering the rope back down, we all headed out to a picturesque but extremely chilly Leck Fell. Brrrr.

An enjoyable day was topped off with a visit to Tim’s where we thawed (or slept in Toby’s case) in front of the fire, followed by a tasty dinner at the Marton Arms.

24th January 2018

Mark Sims

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Saturday January 20th

It's a Cracker - Boxhead Pot

Tash, Matt E, Gary, Fiona Hartley (NPC), Darren Jarvis (NPC)

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Friday December 15th 2017

Pasture Gill Pot

Toby, Mark, Simon Wilson (BPC)

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Sunday December 3rd 2017

Wrysgan Slate Mine

Aileen, John D, Josh, Laura, Matt E, Peter N, Rachel, Toby

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Friday December 1st 2017

Croesor Rhosydd (mine) (Through trip)

Toby, Rachel, Peter N, Matt E, Les, Laura, Josh, John D, Gary, Chuck, Aileen

Gary wrote...

The most fun you can have underground with your kit on!

I was so glad to see the trip is still possible and not much has changed apart from some rigging issues which have been temporarily sorted to make the trip possible.

The rope on the first pitch is pretty knackered but probably ok. We rigged our own, checked the second rope then pulled through. I would recommend that.

The second rope is an almost new 9mm rope which is absolutely fine but being 9mm probably won't last long. Its also only rigged from one knot (via the various decent strops). The rub protectors are showing their age but ok if you don't bounce around like and idiot.

The zip line is no more. It has snapped (rather disturbingly) and coiled up on the Croesor side. A tensioned 10mm rope has been rigged and is in reasonable condition. It's rigged really well and good and tight although if you weigh more than 75kg you will get your arse dunked in the water! All 11 of us went over on it with a double wheeled pulley and all was good.

The suspension bridge is all fine and looks good.

The three further bridge crossings are all good. One (the third I think) has a new wire zip line from the right hand ledge via a rope traverse around the right wall.

The canoe is still in place and working well. Pollyprop pull cord is fine. It does seem to leek a bit but there is a nice red bucket to bail it!

We had a rally good trip and it's great to see that everything remains working more or less. I hope the zip wire gets replaced at some point as it's such a good trip and adds so much fun to it. I really hope that if those looking after it need money they will ask the community as I'm sure people would throw a bit of money at it if required.

4th December 2017

Gary Douthwaite

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1 photo by Gary...

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Saturday November 18th 2017

Dale Head Pot

Walmslers, Mark, Rachel, Toby

YCC Trip History

Here you can see the list of pretty much all the trips YCC members have been on over the years. Members can also submit reports which will hopefully help others to avoid problems or just for some inspiration! Use the filters below to view by year or cave.

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