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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

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Sunday October 29th 2017

Marble Arch Cave

Walmslers, Aileen, Fleur, Pete

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Saturday October 28th 2017

Shannon Cave

Walmslers, Aileen, Fleur, Pete

Walmslers wrote...

Having heard a lot about this cave from the Irish contingent at Ario, I was keen for a trip, and SUICRO provided the perfect opportunity. The team shrank at the last minute, as Axel decided he wasn't fussed about making pictures, so it ended up being a nice 4-person YCC team.

Aileen guided us to the cave (after driving the Marlbank Loop several times). It was a 15 minute walk in low cloud to the entrance at a large shakehole. The entrance passage was immediately different and interesting - a stooping height triangular passage with white limestone and chert protusions. Shortly we were at the head of a very fine, pre-rigged 30 m pitch. At the bottom, we left SRT kits and continued dans le route.

The Rebirth Canal was great fun, flummoxing Pete for a while at the end corner, but providing no real difficulty. Once into JCP passage the formations were fantastic - pure white and near pristine. The passage was well decorated with a variety of different stals, straws and helictites for a fair distance, the discreetly waymarked route weaving between them. Soon we were climbing down Border Climb into the ROI. Aileen dismantled a work of Turner Prize-worthy scaffolding art in order to take some short lengths through to stabilise a choke. We ended up carrying one of these each as they wouldn't stay in the tackle sack.

Once in the main streamway it was boulder chokes galore, interspersed with sections of mostly stompy streamway. The undoubted highlight was Swinger's Corner where a rope swing was used to cross a deep pool, with varying degrees of success. Aileen dropped short of the landing zone into a deep bit, I pulled it off with aplomb, if I do say so myself, Pete trailed his legs though the pool splashing water all up in his face and Fleur just binned off the rope and waded through. I later learned that the rope is attached to a very dubious single spit with a bolt that is slowly working itself loose. Nevertheless, Pete and I agreed that there should be more rope swings in caves.

One particular boulder choke proved difficult to navigate and it took a decisive action by Fleur to break Aileen out of her perpetual loop. We passed Mistake Passage and were soon at George's Choke where Aileen did her stabilisation business. This took abut half an hour, in which the rest of us took turns to go and have a nosey. I went through the squeeze into the small space where Aileen was working and she showed me the boulder which fell on her three months prior. She seemed unfazed by the choke, unlike Les who has vowed never to return after his go at being trapped there. It was a fairly intimidating place. Fair fucks to those who dug and shored it.

Before starting our return journey, we packed up a very heavy old winch and assorted rusty ironmongery into our now empty tackle bag. This was regularly shared on the way out as it was too much to manage for any length of time. Aileen took us up through a wormery into a high level canyon passage which had an old camp/ICRO dump and led to an impressive phreatic trunk passage with a cracked mud floor. A worthwhile little detour before continuing out.

Getting back up the Polltullyard pitch was a bit of an arse for me, with a tackle sack full of iron, no pantin and a teeny tiny footloop, which meant prussicking with one foot. It was even more of an arse for Pete, who's footloop broke 5 m off the floor. We were out by 16:30 after nearly 6 hrs of cracking good caving, then headed back to Garrison for an evening of victuals, Guinness and tales of Irish caves.

Shannon far exceeded my expectations and I would love to go back for more rope swing shenanigans a longer trip to its further reaches.

24th November 2017

Adam Walmsley (Walmslers)

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Sunday October 15th 2017


Pete, Matt E, Les, Gary, Aileen

Matt E wrote...

It was too wet for our planned trip to Magnetometer Pot so after a brief discussion over breakfast we decided on FOUL Pot. It has been a few years since our last trip there. I remembered how good and wet weather compatible it was. Furthermore, it has recently been resin anchored meaning it should be an even more efficient trip now than it was previously.

The cave lived up to its reputation for wet-weather compatibility and despite a considerable amount of rain the day before (the river in Settle was fast flowing and peat stained and the fell was very wet), we had an excellent trip to the sump, only getting out legs a little wet.

Clearly the chamber just before the sump does flood but I find it hard to imagine anything but the most serious of flood conditions making this trip totally impassable. We managed a total trip time (car back to car) of only five hours which is pretty good, and we were taking a steady pace.

Overall FOUL Pot is an excellent pothole; it has some challenging obstacles, but nothing that most moderate build cavers will struggle with too much, and most importantly, the narrowest bits are very short and quickly open out into much larger passage beyond.

I’d say it would be a ‘Grade 4+’ pothole using the old difficulty grading system.

The three longer pitches are excellent; clean, spacious and impressive, and so overall this is a pothole well worth visiting and worthy of any meets list particularly now that it’s been resin anchored (thanks to Sam and the IC anchor team).

The following description should be useful to others planning a visit:

Call at the farm and parked up at Dale Head (honesty box for car parking). Follow through the gate and along the track across Fountains Fell (i.e. away from Penyghent). After 10 minutes, pass through a gate. About 5 minutes later (well before you reach the shooting hut), the track turns down to the left into a shallow dry valley. Before dropping into the valley, leave the path and cross the limestone pavement on the right towards the wall, to locate one of the few places it is possible to step across the wall thanks to some conveniently located limestone outcrops.

Head away from the wall towards the dry valley. FOUL Pot is located about 200m down the dry valley away from the wall (not to be confused with Echo Pot which is much closer to the wall). The entrance is at the base of the shakehole and is covered by metal sheets and rotten pieces of wood.

The entrance is an easy free climb of 5m but care is required with the stacked walling.

At the bottom of the entrance, a cramped passage leads away. After several metres, the way on is a downward slope into a narrow and flat out crawl through some puddles or a small stream. After 4m this crawl ascends awkwardly through blocks into a small chamber with some straws. We managed this crawl fine with SRT kit on but removal may be easier.

If you find this section excessively troublesome then you may wish to reconsider your choice of cave!

From the chamber the way on is to keep right into an awkward crawl-traverse over blocks in a rift (perhaps best tackled feet first). After three metres the passage enlarges and it is possible to drop down onto a shelf which overlooks the fine chamber below (Octopus Hall).

Take note of where you have just come from (it is easy to miss this later!)

This is a 4m pitch however at present there is an in-situ ladder which appears in perfectly good condition which avoided the need for a rope. However, it’s worth taking one just in case.

The chamber is very nice indeed; small but predominated by a large orange flowstone (please be careful to avoid muddying this). The way on is next to/beneath the flowstone, through a low wriggle under/through some blocks (a little loose so care) and into the ongoing passage. Immediately, another wriggle through blocks reaches a tiny chamber with a white calcite pillar.

From here, the way on is under the right wall where a 2m crawl reaches a 1m drop down onto a balcony overlooking the first (proper) pitch. The first anchor for this is near the roof and is reached just before you need to drop down from the crawl (clip in before you drop down as the balcony is only small and is directly over the pitch head.

We used a 29m rope and had a few metres to spare for this pitch. It’s an excellent descent of a lovely spacious shaft.

The spacious nature of the cave doesn’t last too long. At the bottom of the pitch is a very narrow section of rift leading off. This should prove passable for most cavers, but those of medium build or above will need to remove SRT kits. The rift must be passed slightly above floor level at the widest point so it is necessary to squeeze along on your side using one hand for support on the ground. The rift if only 4m long and it is fairly easy to pass tacklesacks through to someone else on the other side (who can reach in to grab them) without any trauma.

Don’t put your SRT kits on just yet, as a short drop down then reaches another 3m squeeze along a narrow rift, slightly easier than the first and again easy to pass tacklesacks along.

At the end of this second narrow section a 3m climb down (in-situ handline currently present but would be easily free climbed if the rope was absent) enters a spacious chamber, Keel Hall, with plenty of space to regroup and put SRT kits back on (although they are not actually required just yet so you may choose to keep it off for the following easy crawls).

The way on from here is at floor level under a jammed boulder and into the ongoing passage. This passage is an easy sideways crawl in the stream, which turns sharp left after 15m. A short but easy flat out section then eases to a muddy crawl for 20m, which soon enlarges into a proper passage.

Downstream in this proper passage is an excellent flowstone which you must duck under (care please, the vulnerable prongs of this have yet to be broken off and the flowstone is fine and white, please keep it that way). Beyond here are some excellent straws in the roof, some over 1m long.

An awkward 1m drop down under a block quickly leads to a traverse as the floor cuts down on the approach to the big pitch. A very nice large flowstone sits above the start of the traverse line (if you reach this flowstone at head height you are slightly too high and you will need to take a slightly exposed climb down a metre or so to locate the anchors for the start of the traverse).

An easy traverse reaches the muddy head of Man O’ War pitch. This is rigged from a large Y-hang. Careful positioning of the Y-hang is necessary to avoid rope rub further down the pitch, the first part of which is not a perfectly straight descent. About 15m down the pitch, swing across the shaft to a Y-hang rebelay (careful, the left-hand anchor is a little tight to the wall and a Karabiner is hard to get in and out; a maillion is recommended). The final descent is a magnificent drop of about 20m, landing in a spacious passage. In extremely wet conditions there may be a little spray near the bottom but nothing of too much concern.

Around the corner is another short pitch (Pool Pitch, 4m). It is then necessary to climb up a few metres into the ongoing passage, where the final pitch is approached.

Just before the final pitch, the passage abruptly narrows to a rift as the water cuts down in the floor, and it is necessary to take a slippery upward traverse to the top of a ridge of rock. Here, two anchors on the right commence the traverse line down the equally slippery downward slope to the pitch head.

Again, care with the positioning of the Y-hang at this pitch head is needed to avoid rope rub on the rock buttresses just below the take-off point. The pitch descends via a few ledges (no rebelay required) into a splendid chamber of large blocks (Fastnet).

A scramble down loose rock leads down towards the stream, and an easy scramble/climb drops eventually into a sizable chamber/aven with lots of mud. A stooping height passage (with scum on the roof to indicate that this part of the cave is not passable in very wet conditions) reaches the sump after only 25m; which is well worth getting to for the sake of completeness.

Rope lengths (updated from previous YCC trip report in lieu of new anchors):

10m for first pitch into Octopus Hall (ladder currently in place, we didn’t need this rope)
28m for second pitch
50m for Man O’War pitch (third)
10m for Pool Pitch (fourth)
35m for fifth pitch

Karabiners: 17 minimum (recommend 19) plus one maillion for the left anchor at Y-hang rebelay on Man O’ War pitch (anchor is too tight into the wall to easily get a karabiner into)

Large sling perhaps useful for climb down into Keel Hall in case in-situ rope is absent.

16th October 2017

Matt Ewles

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Sunday October 15th 2017

Car Pot

Walmslers, Mark, Rachel, Toby

Toby wrote...

Enthusiasm for harder caves was high after I'd pulled off a magnificent coup in getting Captain Walmslers and Admiral The Cutty Sark down Marble Sink for my 300th trip a few weeks ago. It was marginally harder to convince the ever-reticent Captain Findles but in the end she too wilted in the face of a barrage of excitement and occasional cajoling.

As one of the more classic tight Yorkshire potholes it was surprising that we hadn't already done Car Pot, so we set out to remedy the situation. The weather had been pretty dreadful during the week and on saturday, but after a good 24 hours of dryness everything looked fine. Nobody could be bothered coming back to the dump afterward so I dutifully saddled up Chardonnay and zoomed off, leaving the Findles-mobile to pick up our ropes kindly left at Greenclose by Matt and Gary.

Apparently we'd been too keen to leave the dump to Newcastle uni, with the result that I'd left my wetsocks behind. A miserable trip beckoned, but Captain Findles had a spare pair which fitted almost perfectly. We popped up long lane in fairly short order, and found the entrance in a modest shakehole on the opposite side of the wall from recently visited Grange Rigg, Christmas Pot, and all that crowd. The shakehole is easily identifiable by the withered tree and free climbable entrance.

Having both climbed in the wrong way, Admiral Sark and I made it to the first pitch, where a nice Y hang from shiny IC anchors got us down to the floor of a spacious rift passage. This slopes off in both directions, but the anchors led the way for the Admiral, who was soon down the next small climb and going round a right-hand bend on the incorrect side with a persistent drip in his face. His promotion to Admiral has always been a mystery to me.

The bend, which might be a tad awkward for some, spits one out over the second (Baptistry) pitch, so clipping in is probably wise. I hadn't. Fortunately I managed to contrive a roped descent instead of a gravity-only one. Just around the corner, Sark was sliding down the letterbox squeeze just before baptistry crawl. With a slight sense of foreboding - both about the crawl and the later ascent of the letter box - I followed him, only to be stopped short while wedged in the top section. My Senior Lecturer companion was taking the opportunity to remove his srt kit and stuff it into his bag before the fun of baptistry began, and I spent a comfortable but restricted few minutes hanging in the rift, trying vaguely not to kick him in the head.

With only two bags remaining already, we decided to manage the front one together, with Mark pulling and me pushing, and leave the second bag to the two Captains bringing up the rear. Baptistry is longer than seems really necessary, but it is indeed the second quarter that is the tightest, and has the deepest water (or mud/water/sheep soup). A few inches is enough to soak one's left side (recommended) entirely, as wallowing is the only method of progression. Fortunately there are only a few opportunities for bags to become a problem, and punching the bottom of our tackle sack seemed to put a stop to that. Sark got through quickly, though he regretted not attaching the bag to a belt of some kind. On the other side, relishing the feeling of being soaked on one side and dry on the other, we awaited the duo of Captains. Looking back down the dreary crawl, a tackle sack soon came into view. Captain Walmslers, perhaps wanting to spare his compatriot the trouble, had elected to push the bag ahead of him through the entire length of the crawl, with his SRT kit attached to the hauling cord and presumably in his face most of the time. An interesting decision. I popped back up the first few metres of the crawl to relieve him of his self-imposed burden.

Having negotiated what sounded like the least pleasant part of the cave, we headed off down a very short section of larger passage to the head of the third pitch. Just before the pitch the passage lowers, forcing a difficult choice of feet first or head first. Sark went feet first, and soon discovered the pitch's nefarious intention. A sharp spike provides the only place to sit at the pitch head, forcing the caver to find some way to complete the pitch without sitting on it and becoming more intimately involved with Car Pot than expected. With the pitch rigged by Sark, I also headed off feet first, managing to put a foot on the spike and sit on that. After a quick lecture to the pitch about obtaining consent, I completed the descent. Captain Walmslers had difficulties, as the spike had not learned its lesson and wouldn't take no for an answer. Eventually he had to go head first. Captain Findles sailed through, perhaps better versed in warning off stubborn suitors than the rest of the team.

The final pitch follows immediately, with a back up to an enormous but less insistent spike leading to an interesting, multi-ledged shaft. The first section is split by a rounded ledge and is fairly drippy. From the floor a short section drops the caver down a drippy wall to a rebelay bolt, allowing one to pop through a small window with the drips to the final single bolt hang down the impressive drippy shaft. Much of the mud from baptistry is cleaned off here by the drips.

The pitch lands in the roomy, dry craven passage, where we were surprised to learn we had been underground all of one hour. A quick read of the description suggested North Craven would be much more interesting than its opposite number. In this direction a quick stomp up an inlet passage leads to some climbing up boulders, becoming progressively more muddy. The visual connection with East Passage in Gaping Gill is in this area, but without the complicated arrangements necessary to have a team on the other side at exactly the right time, it's impossible to know where exactly it is. Fortunately there are other attractions: a very fine stal and curtain arrangement in the ceiling of a large muddy chamber, attended by large arrays of bedding plane straws around the outside. The short crawls leading on from this chamber soon choke.

Back at the pitch bottom, we debated a visit to South Craven. With a good 15 minutes of crawling the best that it could apparently offer, we sacked it off and began the ascent. With smooth derigging up to the third pitch, where the spike was much more easily avoided than on the way down, we found ourselves back at baptistry, psyching ourselves up for another go. Sark Mims made a poignant distinction between 'hard' caving and 'miserable' caving, placing baptistry firmly in the latter category. Captain Walmslers and Captain Findles seemed to agree, as the sound of much excursion floated down the crawl, while myself and the Admiral quickly cooled to a fairly uncomfortable temperature. With communication between the two pairs leaving something to be desired, and wanting to avoid any waiting in the crawl on the other side while the Captains negotiated the letterbox, we ended up waiting for some time. Eventually we headed off, and found the crawl a little tighter than on the way in, for no readily obvious reason. We were soon up the letterbox with the aid of the wooden stemples, and from there a mildly awkward ascent of baptistry pitch paved the way for our exit.

A total of 3 hours underground seemed surprising, but it had been a varied and enjoyable trip. Sadly, the drippy, muddy, dark passages of Car had been no match for the clean, contorted rifts of Marble Sink, but the cave had lived up to expectations and we were pleased to have visited at last. The cave would make an excellent sunday or evening trip, as the installation of proper anchors seems to allow rather faster trip times than suggested by the Black Book. A quick jaunt down the hill and a not-so-efficient change completed the day, and it was home for everyone else and back to the dump to collect my wetsocks and mouth off at the students for me.

16th October 2017

Toby Buxton

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Mark wrote...

Expectations were high. We'd been fairly keen to visit Car Pot for several years, but weather had thwarted our plans on multiple occasions, and more recently reports of degraded anchors had put us off. However, the recent resin anchoring of the whole cave and a dry forecast meant we finally got around to it.

The poor anchors had put paid to a previous attempt by Adam with MUSC, which at least meant he knew where the entrance was and what it looked like, and his usual reliable and understated sense of direction led us almost directly to the entrance.

I was volunteered to go first, and the enjoyable entrance pitch was soon followed by the less enjoyable approach to the second pitch, made particularly unpleasant by a fairly significant amount of water falling right at the start of the narrow section. We knew water levels would be up a bit after the enormous quantities of water that we'd seen the day before in Kingsdale at the CRO training session, but we were happy that they would be falling all the time we were underground. A bit of a soaking was unavoidable, but in the grand scheme of things the water falling above the second pitch was pretty irrelevant with Baptistry Crawl lurking just around the corner.

I made Toby wait above the Letterbox Squeeze below the pitch as I elected to de-kit for the crawl itself, which turned out to be a wise decision. Baptistry Crawl was pretty unpleasant, not so much from its dimensions, but from the nature of what we were crawling through. Although as I type this report I'm wondering quite why it's even called a crawl. I certainly wasn't using my knees as I lay on my side, one arm stretched straight out in front, dredging my way through the silt, grit, cobbles and fetid water, unearthing what I like to imagine were be bits of wood, but were clearly bones. I consoled myself with the knowledge that it was nothing compared with a trip report I'd stumbled across earlier in the week (

Thankfully the crawl is very short, and we were soon dropping down the next couple of pitches which were uneventful other than suffering a somewhat uncomfortable moment at the 3rd pitch-head. Ouch.

The inlet before the last pitch was delivering a fair bit of water which was unavoidable on the descent, but the unpleasantness was offset with the knowledge that it was washing away some of the scum we'd picked up from Baptistry Crawl. We all shivered in the draughty Craven Passage as we de-kitted, and did our best to warm up by exploring some of the horizontal passages at the bottom. As promised, there was no shortage of calcite to admire, and the large curtain certainly prompted a few noises of appreciation.

Before heading out we picked up an old ammo tin, some rubber tubing and some scraps of material that were sitting at the bottom of the last pitch, slowly degrading. Our exit was pretty uneventful, if a little chilly for me. Baptistry certainly felt narrower on the return, but not overly so, and I was pleased to find that the mild weather had persisted, meaning I was able to warm up a little after surfacing.

Unfortunately we generally felt like Car Pot didn't really live up to our high expectations, but that's not to say it wasn't an enjoyable few hours underground. It's always nice to visit somewhere new. Baptistry Crawl vs. the rest of the cave certainly provided an excellent illustration of the difference between unpleasant caving and challenging caving, which seem all too often to be used interchangeably.

16th October 2017

Mark Sims

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Sunday October 1st 2017

Notts II - Lost Johns Pot

Aileen, Les

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Sunday September 24th 2017

Notts II

Walmslers, Ade, Aileen, Gary, Matt E

4 photos by Gary...

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Saturday September 23rd 2017

Marble Sink

Mark, Walmslers, Toby

Mark wrote...

It had been a while since I'd felt anxious on a walk to a cave. A couple of years of largely dig-focussed trips and a more recent spate of returns to Yorkshire classics meant I was rather out of calibration with some of the more challenging trips to be had. However, Toby's enthusiasm for Marble Sink had changed that, and the anxiety was well and truly there. Recalibration was on the cards and I was anticipating maximum spice.

After reading a trip report over lunch the previous day that likened the trip to being pummeled gently whilst lifting a tackle sack at arms length I decided to end my research there, and to simply approach the trip with ignorance. This tactic failed as the description appeared after a couple of beers at the NPC the night before. "Tight", "sqeeze", "awkward", "narrow". I got the gist, but Toby's enthusiasm was still sky high. "It sounds like a great trip!" Easy to say when you're his dimensions.

Our arrival at the entrance heralded some unusual scenes as Adam cracked open his usual zesty beverage and instructed me to cut off various bits of his harness that he deemed would be detrimental to the trip. After a significant attack with my knife, his harness was looking much more streamlined, and we all opted to go for a descent sans cowstails or ascenders attached. Good choice.

Toby obviously had to go first, and totally ignored the advice to enter feet-first on the premise that he'd probably be able to turn around at the pitch head where most couldn't. He was right. Adam and I followed feet-first. Also a correct decision.

We arrived sooner than expected at the pitch where the rigging was...unorthodox. One spit and an old protruding bolt provided our only means of attachment, and Toby thankfully had a skinny sling that could be nicely(?) clove-hitched on to the bolt. The pitch head looked pretty remarkable, and not in a good way, but you've got to be in it to win it, and once in, it was easily won. A spacious descent led to the entertaining and distinctive flake climb, Bastard Hole, and further climb to meet the water. So far so good!

A couple of shocking spits didn't faze Toby on the next pitch, but the same couldn't be said for me and some rerigging preceded my descent. The subsequent enticing bedding lived up to its description, as did the less enticing crawl below, and a dampening was unavoidable as we set off into the next section of passage. At the sharp-ish corner before the next climb down I had a bit of a brain-failure, culminating in me stood in the rift unable to get back down to a level at which I could continue. After a partial reverse around the corner, the situation was rectified and I continued on to hear Toby telling us how easy Speakers' Corner was. Toby finding it straightforward was hardly surprising, but I was pleasantly surprised to agree with his assessment, and we were back in more spacious passage and soon down to David's Traverse. I following Toby and Adam along, amazed to almost immediately hear Toby announce that he'd reached the next pitch. Having taken only 5 minutes or so at this point, Adam and I scoffed slightly at the 15-20 minutes mentioned in the guidebook for the time taken for this section, before reaching the squeezy bits which took us an additional 10 minutes or so. Oh well. In-situ hangers provided a pleasing level of ignorance at this point, and an enjoyable couple of descents saw us down to the Devil's Kitchen.

We were well aware that Marble Sink is unlikely to rank amongst the most frequently visited potholes in the Dales, but we were very surprised to find the handline solidly calcited to the flowstone it was resting on! After forcefully detaching the rope, we traversed through to the pretty little grotto that was our final destination. A pleasing chamber to complete an enjoyable descent.

I volunteered to derig, and our ascent went reasonably smoothly. David's Traverse was certainly a little spicier on the return, as was Speakers' Corner. Particularly for Adam who tackled it facing the outside of the bend, although I have since read this as a recommended method! At around 6 ft tall, I had few problems tackling the bend facing the inside and would certainly not have liked to have been facing the other way! The following section of passage proved more of an obstacle, due to the enforced arms-ahead position, upward slope, and tackle sack making progress a little tricky.

The climbs between the top two pitches were easier than anticipated, aside from the Bastard Hole which well and truly lived up to its name. Some teamwork would perhaps have helped a little here; maybe next time. The final obstacle was provided by the sharp bend in the entrance crawl: Toby's bag got caught behind him and I was following with my bag ahead of me, making it impossible for me to help out. Probably. I left him to it and after what sounded like a bit of unpacking and repacking we were soon back outside after a thoroughly enjoyable 4.5 hours underground.

I think the cave exceeded my expectations in every way. It certainly provided challenges, but was also not lacking in pleasant passage, pitches, climbs and formations, and at no point was it really unpleasant. It pains me to say it, but Toby was absolutely right. It was indeed a great trip.

We rounded off a super day with a curry with the other Yorkies in Bentham that, much like the cave, was perfectly spiced. We then caught the end of the book launch at the Marton for a drink or two, before returning the the NPC for some more refreshments and copious amounts of food. Top cave. Top day.

25th September 2017

Mark Sims

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Saturday September 23rd 2017

Long Kin East

Aileen, Gary, Les, Matt E, Pete

22 photos by Gary...

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Sunday September 10th 2017

Pipikin Pot

Walmslers, Aileen, Fleur, Mark

Fleur wrote...

The next day I let the others cajole me into going down Pip. Aileen hadn't done it and the other two hadn't been for a while. We had considered Ireby as an alternative, but the rain kept on coming and in retrospect we definitely made the correct weather decision.
I last went to Pip a two and half years ago on valentine's day. It was Tom Clayton's birthday do and we were doing an Easegill traverse exchange; my team going in Pip and out Top while others went in Top and out of Bye George via the Grind. I recall Pip being much harder than I had remembered (and Pete discovering he no longer fitted) hence my reticence for this trip. Still, I reassured myself that it was an exceptionally strong team and I would be fine.
There was a debate in the farm about whether the cave was still rigged. I remembered Gavin Lowe et al taking the ropes out fairly recently, but had a suspicion that someone had put them back. Tom Clayton agreed, but was equally unsure. So we packed the minimum pull through ropes we felt we could get away with a set off.
The first tricky bit was judging the best place to walk up the other side of the Easegill beck as we ended fighting our way through the vegetation. Arriving at the entrance we found it was indeed rigged. And Adam realised that maybe he should have brought some cowstails for the pitch heads........
To cut a long story short I was fine indeed. The cave is, in my opinion, genuinely tight in two places early on. The first place is after the entrance pitch, cellar pot and the awkward climb that follows. The second is following the second pitch. I took my SRT kit off (although the others didn't) just to make my life easier. And abseiled on an italian hitch on my belt on the second pitch just because I couldn't be arsed to put it back on again. Third pitch was a bit longer though and definitely warranted a harness.
Then came the bit I had really not been looking forward too. The stemple rift. My tactic here is always to send someone else first so I can avoid the committing head first dive from the rift over the 4m drop. This allows me to go feet first instead with someone to make sure I hit the stemple with my toes. But the disadvantage is that it is harder going feet first to keep your body up and horizontal to avoid the tight part of the rift. I had one "I don't like this moment", but then swiftly sent myself through, Mark directed my feet and it was all done. Phew. Aileen boldly followed head first but had to retreat for a second go having initially got herself stuck on her srt gear.
After that is was plain sailing. Well, apart from the bit where I entered the rift lower down facing the wrong way, got to the awkward corner and then remembered that I had done exactly the same thing last time.
We were down to the Pipikin boulder choke in no time and in danger of being out in less than two hours, so took a detour to look at Cigalere. It has been a very long time since I last visited this part of the cave. The Hall of the Mountain King mud was just as squalid as I remembered. But interestingly I had forgotten all about the climbs in the Cigalere streamway, instead focusing my memory on the canal further upstream. It was very very wet and the climbs were sporting to put it mildly. This will be interesting coming back down I thought (and was later proved right). Further upstream the passage lowers in a few places until I felt that it was not the place I wanted to be on a pissing wet day. So Mark and Adam carried on to see the waterfall and Aileen kindly came back with me. Good job too since the final climb down posed a bit of a problem. Luckily we had a long sling with us or else we would not have made the descent.
Finally we got to cover our clean and wet suits with goo again exiting first back through Hall of the Mountain king and then via Mistral. The Mistral exit was much as I remembered it. Not terribly inspiring and a bit slimy in places.
In the last section we met a family coming into the cave and helped them rescue a baby frog.
Then back across the fell in the pouring rain; stopping only to be impressed by Ray Duffy et al repairng the path between Link and Lancs in the most hideous of weather conditions.

18th October 2017

Fleur Loveridge

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Saturday September 9th 2017

Rift Pot (Allotment)

Walmslers, Aileen, Fleur, Mark

Fleur wrote...

We were supposed to be going to Penyghent but it had been clear for several days if not a week that it would be too wet. Aileen and I deferred the decision of an alternative trip all week as well. By chance we managed to collect Mark and Adam for the team too, and it was not until Aileen, Mark and I were departing York that we finally decided on Rift Pot instead. Main rationale being that it was sufficiently weather proof and I hadn't done it before (neither had Aileen) - a rare beast indeed.
Adam met us in Crummack and we packed the ropes, dodging the odd shower. The walk up was mostly pleasant and Mark and Adam found the entrance fairly easily having been there recently with the Ario crew. I started to rig the first pitch, taking instructions from Mark that it was hard to avoid a rub and to keep the y-hang to the right. It turns out that if you put the second y-hang in lower down on the other side of the rift then this is not such a problem.......
The bottom of the entrance pitch was an impressive space and I immediately made the mistake of going in the wrong direction into the inviting large space. Mark called me back, but him having the next rope this did not delay us. He carried on to rig the next two small pitches, where we found the rope lengths in the CNCC guide to be somewhat optimistic. It was just possible to get off the second pitch and the third needed to be rigged quite tight. Sure, we had fairly fat rope that will have consumed some meterage in the knots, but not that much. We recommend packing some excess.
A longer pitch took us to the end of the ropework from where you can admire the sound and spray of the water entering from Long Kin East (in flood). Skirting past this leads to a small section of streamway. Very nice but short lived, it crosses a large slope up to the left before degenerating to a low crawl mostly full of water which no doubt led to a sump that I felt no need to see. Back up the mud slope you can take a short cut back to the Long Kin East Waterfall.
So, that was it - a fine, but not extensive excursion. Adam derigged and we were out on the surface within about 2.5 hrs.
A quick jolly through Long Kin East cave completed our day out with the possible highlight - a swirling Guinness foam doughnut going round and round and round in an eddy in the stream.
A badly timed heavy showed as we got changed them possibly soaked us more than the caving trip.

18th October 2017

Fleur Loveridge

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Sunday July 16th 2017

County Pot - Cow Pot through trip

Josh, Jean-Luc Heath (YUCPC)

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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