Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Caving sessions in The Yorkshire Dales. August 3rd 2015.

A number of months ago, Peter Rassa contacted us wishing to book an all day Caving Session in the Yorkshire Dales for himself & his son during their planned visit to The Lake District in August.

Iain offered them the option of either the whole day doing level One Caving, or, if the pair proved to be competent and keen, a combined Level One and Level Two Caving day in the Yorkshire Dales.

Photo one sees Peter & Son Valentino in Long Churns - one of the Yorkshire Dales best known Caving venues where there are 3 kilometres of underground passageway to be explored. In this cave system one can get around without having to climb or descend any serious pitches of verticality and for this reason it is an ideal venue for an introductory or Level One Caving Session.
Long Churns, despite it's a lack of a seriousness, does have many points of interest and some excellent examples of formations (Speleothems) and for this reason it gets visited by many groups - particularly children brought by local Outdoor Education Centres.

Many groups enter the cave system  as we did - via Middle Entrance where you can go upstream in the cave system as well as downstream. Going downstream takes you past the awe-inspiring Entrance Waterfall - the noise from which reverberates up & down the cave system with a deep rumbling sound.

Beyond the Entrance Waterfall one makes their way downstream with the water, eventually arriving at a low point where daylight can be seen. This is where the water flows out to Diccan Entrance. Beyond here one makes their way along the fossil passageway of Lower Long Churns passing obstacles such as Double Shuffle Pool (photo two) and Plank Pool. Whilst it is possible to avoid getting a soaking at Double Shuffle Pool by use of a rope, the removal of the plank means that most novices will get wet at Plank Pool!

Continuing beyond Plank Pool one passes another entrance/exit to Diccan Entrance before dropping into the narrow rift of The Slot. Here, a short and easy climb down leads into Cheese Press Chamber.

The Cheese Press is probably Long Churns most notable and well remembered challenge. A bedding Plane crawl of only some 5 metres in length and as low as 30 centimetres in height - the challenge is to squeeze through from one side to the other.

In photo three, Peter can be seen making short work of The Cheese Press as did Valentino. Well done!

After dealing with the Cheese Press, we visited the Dolly Tubs Pitch Head where daylight can be seen entering from the vertical shaft of Alum Pot. We then retraced our steps as far Diccan Entrance where we briefly saw daylight before heading back underground and heading up Cross Passage (Baptistry Crawl).

We then visited the upstream entrance of Middle Entrance, climbed the Entrance Waterfall and then headed along Upper Long Churns to Doctor Bannister's Washbasin. Here, Peter & Valentino were given the opportunity to crawl behind the waterfall (photo four) before we then climbed the fall; and exited to daylight; and that was the end of our morning Introductory Caving Session.

After lunch, we moved almost pretty much directly across Upper Ribblesdale from Long Churns to Birkwith; and the Calf Holes/Browgill Cave complex so that Peter & Valentino could try out a relatively easy Level Two Caving Trip.

As a Level Two Cave Leader, Iain is permitted to guide clients on trips containing vertical sections of up to 18 metres or 60 feet in height. These trip are much more challenging and more serious than a level one trip due to these factors; and clients need to wear harnesses in order that they can be lowered down or belayed back up such pitches.

In some such cave systems there are traverses along exposed ledges to the various pitch heads and so clients are protected by use of a traverse line and cowtails (slings with karabiners attached) seen here in photo five. The cowstails allow the clients to bypass any knots in the rope but with instruction - remain safely attached to the rope whilst passing knots.

Photo six sees Peter as Iain commenced to lower him down the pitch at Calf Holes which is 15 metres in height.  Peter found this quite daunting, but with Iain's confident and calm instruction, he was soon on his way down.

Once Peter was down, Valentino and then Iain followed to the pitch foot.

Here, at the pitch foot, we all took off our harnesses as the rest of the trip - the walk through to Browgill Cave Entrance is easy apart from a well protected climb down to by-pass the waterfall further on and there is an in-situ rope in place to help people with the descent of this. Harnesses are therefore not required.
Photo seven was taken some time later on after we had walked downstream from the Calf Holes Pitch and we had arrived in the big rift downstream of the waterfall in the lower chamber.

To get to here - after some 500m of stooping and walking along the streamway, we had crawled through the small & somewhat tight Hainsworth's Passage and then dropped into a hole in the floor of this (The Slot), to emerge in the upper part of the lower Section of Browgill Cave.

We had then down climbed a section to bypass the 8 metre waterfall crashing down into the lower chamber and then walked out via this rift. We only had another 100 metres of walking and a short section of crawling before we were able to see daylight streaming in from the mouth of the cave.
The final photograph  from this post about a Level one & Level Two Caving Day in the Yorkshire Dales National Park sees Peter & Valentino as we emerged from Browgill Cave Entrance.

However, this was only the halfway point of this particular caving trip as we subsequently turned around and reversed our route all the way back to the foot of the Calf Holes Pitch.

The route back was exactly the same apart from our visiting the foot of the waterfall and dealing with the challenge of Hainsworth's passage in reverse by way of a slightly different route - The Letterbox.

Back at the pitch foot, we again donned harnesses and then Iain ascended the pitch by way of Single Rope Technique (SRT). Once at the pitch head, he then dropped a caving ladder down the pitch for Valentino & Peter to climb whilst attached to a rope and belayed by Iain who also got to practice his hauling skills when Peter became too tired to complete the ascent.

This was a great caving day out for these guys who thoroughly enjoyed the experience. You can enjoy this caving experience too with us too for only £80 per person (minimum of two persons) for a full day out underground enjoying and adventure with as much or as little a challenge as you like.

Contact us here to book your Caving Session in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We look forward to working with you.

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