Ticking off another East Kingsdale classic - and one that IC had been curiously absent from, at least for the last six years. I had a laminated description from the black book of death (AKA Not for the Faint Hearted, 50 Longer Caving Book Titles in Yorkshire). Tetley, the only vaguely IC person who'd been there recently, had come back from his trip remarking that he'd only been prevented from cutting off his own ear (to free his head), by being unable to reach his knife...
The description in NFTFH-50LCBTiY finds the rusted entrance drum without too much delay - I'm not sure if the gates in the drystone wall are where described though - took a photo of the entrance location, looking up the line of the drystone wall East towards the flank of Whernside.
The drum is in a sorry state, rusted to buggery with a rotten bit of fence post as a belay for a return rope. The rope doesn't do much - too tight to prussic, but it's perhaps a little reassurance. Tetanus booster + tough gloves recommended for climb out.
From there on, it's quite a nice bit of cave - very similar to the first bits of Disappointment. The NFTFH guided is rather blow-by-blow for a series of tiny chambers with little crawls (cobbles sometimes worth moving). The tight bit, which starts out as a flat-out crawl under calcite and then hits a 90-degree right hand bend, I actually found passable (as my long legs jammed on the corner) by standing up in the temporary space of the corner and then tip-toeing along sideways in the wider calcite portion of the rift. It was also easy to dangle tackle-sac in front like this.
I must admit, I was feeling rather anxious --- reputation and the overtly detailed description made me constantly expect some calcited mangle of death the otherside of an easy crawl. So slowly slowly, looking through and around before committing, chattering with Jana and William to reassure each other... But there really wasn't anything that bad.
After the tight section there's a long big of crab walking before a little chamber in the rift (as the floor drops away around the corner to the right) in which one can wriggle into SRT harness before a rather energetic ~10m high traverse before reaching the P-bolts. The pitch is actually fairly gymnastic to rig - I remember screwing up a maillon behind my left ear. The first drop would rub if treated as SRT, safety rope on climb down to more spacious ledge is more sensible. 'Mon Petit' is then really quite nice, trendy large deviation and a pretty bottom with loads of friendly shrimps playing in the water.
Way on is obvious (crawl, follow water), and quickly arrives at the large and pretty aven (rather dry this weekend). From here there seem lots of routes - well described by NFTFH. Easiest way on was the crawl off at floor level, which continued along a very energetic (to stop yourself sliding in) crawl rift-traverse. Some nice formations along this way - obviously far away off to one side to avoid the bottles of wind!
The big pitch starts with a slot in the right floor, then twists around a beautiful little pitch head to the left. A joy to rig, to descend, and to sight see. It really is quite nice - looking across the way from the large ledge there's some beautiful white calcite (+ possibly high level continuation?). Lots of colour on the walls.
Only slightly disturbing thing about the place, was the similarity between the pitch and a Georgia O'Keefe painting. Caving is returning to the womb indeed.
Below the pitch, the lovely cave continues - the crawl isn't bad at all, has a couple of nice little climbs and chimneys. Soon the final pitch is reached, with a couple of tackle sacks of gear - one of which clearly bulbously containing a rather ripe wetsuit!
Sump and final pitch chamber was also extremely pictureseque - nice little splash chamber with space to sit away from the water, hanging cylinder decorations, and a beckoning cleft leading away to the peaty water, turtle fins and line leading away into darkness...
Uneventful (well, except for finding the correct places to change height in the rifts below puits ian plant) and extremely pleasant trip out - we had been instructed to leave it rigged by JKP + Tet for their Sunday mission. Took a few more shots of Puits Ian Plant on the way out.
Had an amusing moment after taking a photo of Jana on a notable climb in the rift just before the aven chamber. She caved off, naturally, whilst I repacked my camera gear in its Daren drum.
I then found myself completely unable to do the little climb I'd just been photo-ing! There was a massive crack in the left wall to push one through the 'slot' window at the top, but my femurs were too long to get my feet in. Exasperated, with Jana rather a long way out of earshot, I rammed my hand into a crack in the floor and did something nasty to the bones pulling up on it.
Surfaced to a bright, warm, day - gentle stroll down to the van and await the Swinsto fiends.
Cave Summary: Lovely little place, non too difficult. All the tight (ish) stuff is above Mon Petit, all the dangerous stuff (as in, might slip down the rift and get wedged / fall to your death) is between the aven and Puits Ian Plant. However, you do want people who are not going to freak in the squeezes, freeze on the rift-traverse or collapse with exhaustion on the way out.
Photos with ye old Powershot G5, Vivitar 283 strobe + firefly 2, P7 LED flood light.
Tetley and Dave had agreed to take turns guiding me through the rigging (“We have 54 years of experience between us… what could go wrong?”), so Tet and I set off first, while Dave remained on the surface to bask in the sunshine and munch on a chocolate bar or two.
Simpson Pot began with a short crawl in ankle-deep water. As we began the climbs and squeezes I quickly realised that carrying a tacklesack through the cave is an even bigger pain in the arse than I’d previously thought. Anyway, we soon arrived at the first of the Five Steps, which had a permanent purple sling in its bolt. The rest of the steps were p-bolted so we just put slings in to help the climb back up.
Next up was Bob’s Pit, which all the guides said not to go down and we duly heeded. We opted not to rig a traverse line to save rope for the pitches ahead (weren’t sure how much we’d need), but although it’s a short, easy enough traverse it is rather exposed so one might choose to put in a handline next time (which I think JKP did on the way back).
We got to the first pitch soon enough and I tried my hand at rigging under Tetley’s watchful eye. He drew himself away from his ciggies long enough to teach me the basics of rigging: how to secure myself, the angle at which the y-hang should sit, not to chafe rope, which way to put the maillons in, etc etc. The first few pitches I rigged in exactly the same way – figure-of-8 into alpine butterfly y-hangs (“classic Tetley”, according to Al) – mainly because I didn’t really know any other knots then. I really loved rigging, actually. There’s nothing quite like being the first to hang out over the pitch head and stretching full out to screw in the maillons.
Conditions were perfect: dry, straightforward pitches and two wonderful teachers in Tet and Dave. The rest of Simpson is really quite lovely, too. It’s a fun, sporting, and pretty pot. The duck was mercifully dry-ish (i.e. way more than enough airspace), though it opens out into waist-deep water. At Slit Pot we went over instead of through the slit, which is really the way to go. Very roomy and pleasant ledge up there, with a spaghetti of old ropes running through the bolts. Squeeze through the slit only if you’re a pervert.
The big pitch is the last one before Simpson joins up with Swinsto. The Swinsto lot hadn’t arrived yet, so we ventured upstream to look for them. Saw the first of the group after a couple of cascades, so we returned to the meeting point once more for a chat, some chocolate and a rather foul-tasting soggy malt loaf. Sitting there wet and cold and very tired, I was honestly afraid of going back up Swinsto and exiting Valley Entrance with a couple of other cavers doing a pull-through seemed like an increasingly enticing prospect. Tet, thankfully, quickly quashed the idea and persuaded me otherwise.
So we said goodbye to the other team and headed back upstream, and a few climbs later we got to the first pitch. It was immediately evident that Swinsto wasn’t going to be as dry. Coupled with rather comic bolt placements, it made getting off at the pitch heads… interesting, though never really unmanageable with Dave at the top dispensing advice. Swinsto does have some rather beautiful pitches - the big pitch is broken in half by a nice rebelay round the corner on a ledge.
Progress was steady and despite my initial reluctance at the bottom of the cave once I really found myself enjoying it immensely. The second last pitch was right in the middle of a huge waterfall, and Dave dammed it with a tacklesack at the top so those of us following behind had a much drier time of it. We very quickly arrived at the start of the long crawl, which was a tedious piece of twat. Knackered knees meant that progress was slow and punctuated by tiny involuntary hisses of pain. Tet soon caught me up and there were times when I stopped in defeat, looked back at him, and we chuckled at the ridiculousness of our sport.
At the end of the crawl was one last short pitch, a further minute’s crawl, then daylight and a smiling Larry. We sat around for a while to bask in the sunlight, collected a can of beer from the Simpson entrance, and walked back to the bus to find the Brown Hill team changed and waiting. Brilliant trip.
I had never been to Swinstow, nor had anyone else in the group, but it was deemed to be a good idea for us to go down and rig to one half of the through trip whilst Clare, Tetley and Dave sorted the other half out. It would also provide a good trip for Alex to practice rigging, for Jim to be reminded of SRT and for Thomas to carry lots of heavy bags. My personal plan was to lead from the back doing as little as possible.
Even though the weekend was very dry, Swinstow was still taking a fair amount of water. The Long Crawl was moderately miserable, but no unbearably so. All the way down I was trying to make a mental comparison with Simpson, I think basically the conclusion is that Swinstow is a bit less "sporting" but that it has a nicer big pitch (Great Aven cooler than both the Shower Pot and the Slit Pot). I certainly did not envy Alex's task of rigging, as most pitches offered plenty of dilemmas: which of the 30 badly placed bolts to use? What to back-up to? To Traverse or to Rebelay (always the latter I said - Never the latter they say!). The trip was rather uneventful: Jim remembered his SRT, Alex attached the rope to the wall, Thomas carried it, I ate my chocolate. At the bottom of Slit Pot we bumped into team B, had a chocolate bar and headed out.
Simpson Pot on the way out is much more fun than on the way in! The pitches were bone dry and beautifully rigged. The climbs were just the right level of challenge (maybe an extra 40m rope would have rigged all the 5 jumps in one go?). We were out by 8 o'clockish and were pleasantly surprised that Dave had left us a beer!
Walked down the hill in the twilight with can of bitter. Bonus!
After an early rise and a nutritious breakfast we got a ride with Kat to Kingsdale. I felt in equal measured glad and narcked at having arranged to leave Brown Hill rigged to force us to return there. Anyways. A quick walk up the hill and a good hide of our clothes in the bushes and we were at the entrance drum. Immediately the passage is a flat out crawl which leads to a slight opening (inlet from the left) , the crawl continues to a sharp bend, where for the first and not last time I curse my pins. After some thrutching we reach the first two pitches. The pitch head is not unacceptable on the way down with no tackle and soon we are at the bottom. Some more meander, a short climb down through a slit, more meander and some traversing reaches the Puits Ian Plant: nice pitch!
Soon we are at the bottom and derigging before noon! dear God! The way out is not quite such a breeze as yesterday's excersions and my utter lack of fitness finally make themselves heard. I somehow opt for pinballing out of the meander (tonk! helmet. Tonk! shoulder. Tonk! Back repeat ad inf.) rather than actually caving. Lots of cursing of tackle sacks later and we are out!
Awesome trip. Always interesting, but luckily never for too long. Caving with Tetley always a pleasure, half action, half ciggie breaks, the meaningfui songs coming from him ("you gotta shape up! Cos I need a man" - is the cave talking to me?).
I can't remember where I was, I can't remember who I was with. But I definitely went caving somewhere (Bullpot?). I think I may have taken someone on a 'learn to rig' trip, possibly Thomas. Though Clare thinks he went to the pub. The main thing I remember is returning with perfect timing, looking down from the hill on East Kingsdale and spotting the little stick figures of Tetley and James coming down from Brown Hill.
We whisked down to the Marton and extracted the youngsters (perfect timing - just finishing their first round!), taking them back to the NPC to scrub the decks before zooming off back to South Ken poly.
Alex wanted to walk to the pub. Jana wanted to walk the hills. We soon reached a compromise and headed up Turbary Road in the general direction of the pub. I think Jana won out in the end though, because we were a bit too exuberant and soon found that we had lost sight of the road. The maps app on someone’s phone was no help at all – it showed a large circle labeled ‘Yorkshire Dales’.
After cutting through a million sheep fields and climbing barbed wired fences obviously designed to keep humans out, we found the pub. Alex generously bought a round of drinks and some chips, and about half an hour later the keen cavers arrived with the minibus.
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