Sunday 22 April 2012

Introductory caving sessions in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. April 21st 2012.

It has been a wet theme for this week for Kendal Mountaineering Services. Since last weekend, we have run two ghyll scrambling & canyoning sessions in The Lake District - one was for a stag event, the other was for two private clients.

Today (Saturday) we had another two sessions to run for stag events. This post is about Iains session underground in Long Churns with Andrew Hatherleys team. Meanwhile, Martin Kenyon, one of our associates, was busy in Church Beck running another canyoning session for a different stag event. A busy day for us!

Photo one shows Iains group of eight in Long Churns Lane all kitted up and ready to go underground. It was as well that we were well equipped as it was cool & showery weather. Indeed, a whitening of hail can be seen on Simon Fell immediately behind the lads heads so it was pretty close to freezing up there!

Long Churns is a fantastic cave system for an introduction to caving. There are several kilometres of passageway to be explored - both wet & dry, large and tight. There is something for everyone in this cave system and it is possible to spend a whole half day caving session underground here.

We entered the cave system via Middle Entrance and headed downstream in the main passageway where there was already quite a bit of water flowing. Eventually, we left the main streamway and headed down the fossil passageway of Lower Long Churns ultimately arriving at the bedding plane crawl called The Cheese Press. In photo two - one member of our party is achieving success in The Cheese Press. Out of the eight, only four of the group attempted it.

Being mindful of the weather conditions and water levels, Iain chose this point to nip back out & quickly see what was happening with the weather. It was still raining sporadically, but the main stream - Alum Pot Beck, had risen noticeably.

Iain returned to the group and we left Lower Long Churns exiting via Diccan Entrance.

There was still over an hour of time available to the group on their introductory caving session in The Yorkshire Dales National Park. Despite the increased level of flow through the cave, Iain decided that it would still be ok to go upstream into Upper Long Churns via Middle Entrance. Photo three shows the group at Middle Entrance about to head upstream into the cave behind.

Photo four shows the group about halfway along Upper Long Churns passageway.

Here, the cave roof has risen from stooping height at Middle Entrance to being about 20 feet above our heads and at this point Alum Pot Beck flows through a deep & narrow canyon.

Iain brought the guys here so that they could experience how it felt to be in a powerful flow of water as seen in the foreground. Indeed there was water everywhere - in the air too - as the backscatter from the flash shows.

At this point we turned and headed back out to Middle Entrance. There was so much water it would have been difficult indeed to have exited by Doctor Bannisters Washbasin if not impossible. Had the water continued to rise then, it would have become a serious situation. Retreat was the sensible option.

Photo five shows what we found back at the surface. The waterfall in the background is on Alum Pot Beck just before it crashes down into Alum Pot and compared with when we crossed it going underground, it had risen in a big way. Long Churns is a system to be wary of in wet weather. Many inexperienced people have been trapped underground by flooding here.

Iain has many years of experience leading groups underground and has an extensive knowledge of caving in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Not only do we run half & full day introductory caving courses (known as level 1 trips) but also Level 2 trips which involves going deeper underground. We can also combine a level 1 trip with a level 2 trip on the same day provided you have progressed sufficiently during the morning session and you can read about just such a combined L1 & L2 day here.

Prices for our caving sessions start at £45 per person and £70 for a full day. These are ideal for people looking for a challenge or as part of a stag or hen event.

To book your caving session with Kendal Mountaineering services contact us here.

To see the rest of the photographs taken during Andrew Hatherleys caving session in the Yorkshire Dales National Park click here. Thanks to Inglesport for supplying the caving helmets and being, as always, a great venue to meet and eat.

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