It started snowing as we neared Bradford, so much for summer or even spring. We met Dave at the NPC, he had already cooked us supper for tomorrow! Some Mexican thing; turned out to be delicious. Was this going to be a weekend of supreme efficiency I wondered?
traverse traverse traverse
rattle rattle splash
"uh... it's about waste deep"
Rain had stopped, but as we drove up Wharfedale there seemed to be numerous springs coming out the hills, was this normal?
We drove through Kettlewell and carried on up the valley to find where the carpark was for Dow cave. We met some local cavers, parked just at the bottom of the steep hill, they were going to Dow Cave, but reckoned the exit for Dowbergill passage into Dow Cave would be sumped. We decided to investigate the Providence end. Back in Kettlewell we turned left and parked before a bridge, in front of several quaint houses. We proceeded to strip and change into gear, at the best we thought it might spice up the neighbours weekend. Unsurprisingly a local man soon came out and we were moved, he was friendly enough though and advising us to not bother with Prov as the entrance would be underwater and he didn't want to read about us in the news. We thanked him and said we would just have a look.
Following the convenient signposts, we walked the pleasant half-hour upto the obvious manhole covered entrance, placed in the middle of the stream. Clewin did the honourable thing and went first, a clamber down scaffold lead to a very drippy riggle through a hole, we were off.
The description was useful to find the Blasted Crawl, but we soon figured that the wire more or less lead you the right way. The Blasted Crawl was a joyful wallow/crawl in 8inches of gloop, with a bit thrutching for good measure. We popped into the mainstream at Stalagmite Corner and headed down stream, this was the start of the renowned Dowbergill passage, dead straight for a kilometre or so but deceptively time consuming apparently. We weren't in the mood for freediving, so we just decided to go for an hour or so.
It was really nice passageway and pleasantly spacious, with the occasional scramble over boulders, we just followed our noses. We reached Bridge Chamber, just a wider bit, and passed under the hanging death that gives the place its name. Then it was down into a bit of rift, narrow but with a deep stream, some dedicating themselves to staying dry by traversing the whole way, almost...
We soon found ourselves climbing up a fair bit following some vague arrows, then back down into the stream; it might have been a taste of some of the trickier route finding further on. There didn't seem to be much sign of the halfway point, 800 Yard chamber, so we decided to leave it for another day and got the bullet train out of there.
Clambering out the entrance, some kind passerby had built a snowman for us and the sun was shining in all its glory - but it still felt like bloody Greenland.
(A bounce trip i suspect.)
splutter splutter brrr
A short trip, bit damp, couple of pitches with some tricky deviations.
You might think that because there were just 5 of us that we would be out early but you'd be wrong. The hardcore of ICCC faffers made it out at 2pm after having got up at 10am (all the other cavers apart from two had already left). During the intervening time it appeared that we'd drunk about 6 pots of tea and talked endlessly about which cave we to do as well as carbide and Miglights, again. After having dropped Jan off at Inglesport cafe to further keep up good name of ICCC procrastination, the rest of us headed off to Hardrawkin for a nice bit of SRT. This was the plan so Clewin and Chris didn't bother putting on any kneepads. We got to the entrance and while we were getting ready to go in a group of kids came over ogled Clewin's carbide, immediately after I reminded him that carbide is mad.
A quick climb down at the entrance followed by some walking past some brilliant white popcorn formations and a little wet crawling and we were at the first pitch. I offered to put my newly learnt rigging skills to the test but apparently it's quite hard to see where the deviations go and after watching Dave pendulum across the pitch, with increasing energy each time, I was glad I didn't go down first. I heard "Rope Free" and headed down. The first deviation wasn't the easiest one in the world but passed after a little grunting and groaning. When I was down I shouted "Rope free" and headed off with Dave to the next pitch. The climb down immediately after the first pitch looks somewhat daunting at first but once you have a go it's fine. The rigging guide suggests two mediumish pitches but the first section of the second pitch can be done as a climb followed only by a short straight pitch to the bottom. Once you reach the bottom make sure you step the right way because on one side there is a 12m deep sump and the other is a nice rock to sit on.
Everyone arrived at the bottom but we decided not to hang about and Chris was given the job of derigging. When everyone apart from Chris was at the top of the first pitch we decided to start moving slowly out to avoid getting cold. Although Clewin didn't particularly enjoy the crawls he enjoyed them even less when I pointed out how wonderful the new Jarv [Ed: Ahem! Idea stolen from Hilary Greeves] patented double thickness kneepads were. I saw what looked liked some lichen on the wall but they need light to grow so I was a bit confused by that one. Clewin and I waited just inside the entrance and snacked on a Snickers bar until Chris arrived with a packed tackle sack. We were changed and off by fiveish.
We hit the hut for an uncharacteristically speedy clear up; bags were packed, cheese sandwiches prepared, ropes sorted and Jan part-exchanged his old Miglight for the "final" prototype. We were in the car for 18:30 and in stores for 23:15. During the drive back it took Jan an hour of fiddling to get his new Miglight set to the modes he wanted.
A hardcore 4hrs in the cafe, including a brief foray into Bernies.