Friday 26 August 2011

Caving in The Yorkshire Dales National Park with Kendal Mountaineering Services. August 23rd & 24th 2011.

After a weekend with members at the North York Moors Meet, Iain found himself underground in Yorkshire with Andy Bushell, Bob & Richard Wilden.

Andy stays regularly in Ingleton and had been caving a number of times before. He had decided to introduce Bob and Richard to the sport, but had been unable to find an available cave leader or Instructor.

However, the guys at Inglesport had recommended Kendal Mountaineering Services to them as a business who regularly organises caving courses in The Yorkshire Dales National Park for members of the general Public.

At Kendal Mountaineering Services we are well placed to provide underground caving sessions for anyone interested - whether you be novice or experienced. Iain is a qualified BCA Level 2 Cave Leader with a wealth of experience working in the caves of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and we are happy to organise caving trips at any time - regardless of the weather or your ability - there will be somewhere we can take you for a great caving experience.

Photo one shows left to right, Andy, Richard & Bob kitted up ready to go underground with Iain. The caving suits, wellingtons, belts and helmets/lights are all always provided by Kendal Mountaineering Services as part of the fee per person - currently £45 per person for a half day or £70 for a full eight hour caving experience. Contact us to book your caving trip!

As this was a first trip for Bob & Richard, Iain chose to take the trio to Long Churns near Ribblehead in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

There are roughly four kilometres of underground passageway that can be explored here with large, small, wet and dry passageways to be experienced. There are some fantastic speleothems (limestone formations) to be seen and an active streamway to splash about in where you may even see the occasional trout - washed in from upstream in Alum Pot Beck.

Photo two shows Richard, Bob & Andy in the active streamway as we made our way deep underground in the direction of Lower Long Churns and the famous "Cheese Press".

And photo three shows Bob emerging from the Cheese Press after a slow & rather tight crawl.

The Cheese Press is a ten inch high crawl through a widened bedding plane (a horizontal layer of softer material between two layers of limestone rock) over a distance of about 12 feet.

The cheese press crawl is a real challenge for many people who may be slightly claustrophobic (a fear of small spaces or being enclosed). Of course, as with all other activities offered by Kendal Mountaineering Services, it is a case of challenge by choice and there is an easier way around this part of the system. However, all three were happy to give it a go
- good effort!

After everyone had tackled the Cheese Press Iain took them all to the head of the Dolly Tubs Pitch - a 15m drop in to the Alum Pot chamber. Here, we all switched off our caving lamps to that we could see daylight entering from the surface above.

However, as this was a level one caving trip we did not do the descent in to Alum Pot as this is classed as a level two caving trip. However, this level two trip in to Alum Pot is something that can be organised by Iain from Kendal Mountaineering Services. If you fancy a level two caving trip in the Yorkshire Dales to get you deeper & further underground again, get in touch with us.

Photo three shows Richard climbing a typical pitch to be found in a level one caving trip. Pitches/climbs should not exceed 2m in height whereas on a level two trip - you may be lowered or have to ascend pitches up to 18m/60 feet in height on a ladder. Our instructors will, at all times, have a safety rope on you to protect you against a slip; and on this pitch, Iain employed an assisted hoist on Richard and hauled him up with ease.

Having entered Long Churns via Middle Entrance, Iain took the party to the Cheese Press and Dolly Tubs and then back out to Daylight at Diccan Entrance.

To get here, you leave the main Lower Long Churns passageway and, by way of a link passage, crawl through another bedding plane crawl (photo four) to emerge in the active streamway just downstream of Diccan Entrance.

Once at Diccan entrance, we followed the streamway upstream back in to Middle Long Churns and then took the fossil passageway of Babtistry Crawl to emerge once again in the active streamway upstream of Middle Entrance.

After a quick trip down to Middle Entrance, we retraced our steps, collected the caving bag and headed up to Doctor Bannister's Washbasin (photo five).

Here, Alum Pot Beck enters the long Churns system by plunging 2m down a waterslide in to a 10m diameter pool (the washbasin) and in this photo Andy is the last to climb the waterslide before we all exited the cave system.

Finally, we all emerged in to bright Sunshine and a fab view across to Penyghent - one of the Yorkshire Dales 3 peaks (photo six).

All three had thoroughly enjoyed their caving trip in the Yorkshire Dales National Park with Iain and have said they will be back again!

The rest of the photos taken during Andy, Bob & Richards underground session with Iain can be viewed here.

Iain was back again at Long Churns the following morning with a family of three who moved so fast that in the half day caving session, we not only covered all of Long Churns but most of the Borrin's Moor Cave System too and again, they loved it!

Caving has gained something of an unsavoury reputation in recent years as being dangerous. Indeed, only two weeks beforehand, the local Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) had to extract a party of cavers from Long Churns who had been trapped by floodwater. Long Churns can, after a period of wet weather, followed by torrential rain, fill to within a few feet of the roof in places.

However, it is not that the cave is dangerous, it is due to inexperienced cavers going underground when qualified cave leaders with extensive local knowledge
would be saying "stay out of that cave system in these conditions!" The best advice Iain can give is that if you want to have a good, safe and positive experience underground - then go with a local cave leader with good local knowledge and an understanding of the hydrology of the cave system you are contemplating entering.

Even in wet conditions, we at Kendal Mountaineering Services can still find appropriate caves down which to take you.

For most of our caving trips, we will meet you in the village of Ingleton at the Inglesport Outdoor Shop & cafe - undoubtedly the best place to start and end your underground caving experience with us.

A half day caving trip in the Yorkshire Dales National Park can also be combined with an introductory half day rock climbing course if you want to combine two activities into a full day out. We ran such a day for two people recently - read about it here.

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