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Some Smaller Yorkshire Pots

From Derek Sanderson comes another of his interesting articles on the smaller caves and potholes of the Yorkshire Dales.

Often, the smaller caves and potholes can give as much fun as the more frequently visited deeper systems. They can also give much needed practice in use of ladders.  Here are three such caves.

HARDRAWKIN POT - Map Ref. SD 745 768 Length 780' Depth 200' Grade III

I first visited this cave two years ago.  We (Keith Sanderson and myself) parked the car just north of the Hill Inn and followed the footpath towards Ingleborough.  The entrance was soon reached at a loop in a drystone wall where stream rises from High Douk Holes and drops down a gulley into the cove mouth. The climb down can be slippery.

The cave is a simple one, being linear, yet there is considerable variety to be found.  The passage varies from narrow meanders to crawling over black cobbles in the streambed.  There are some remarkable 'cauliflower' deposits on the walls and whole streamway is clean.

After about 700', we arrived at the head of the first pitch of 90' where we found a choice between two bolts and a metal bar for belay points.  We chose one of the bolts for the abseil rope as it gave an almost free hang. The descent of the magnificent shaft was invigorating and wet.  The first 15' is not quite vertical, but below the descent is one of the best I have encountered.

The landing is a flat circular platform from where the stream drops into some narrow cascades. Beyond the cascades is the second pitch of 45'.  We belayed to a bolt on the right.  The takeoff point is an exposed little ledge.  The stream drops away to the left giving a fairly dry descent.

The chamber into which the pitch loads is a strange place.  It is formed in cross-rift with the stream falling directly into the sump pool at one end.  The sump itself is a flooded shaft of considerable depth.  The presence of the sump is unexpected because beyond it the stream drops over 150' in less than half a mile before it reappears in Hurtle Pot on its way to God's Bridge.

The climb back up the big pitch is wet but the ladder hangs perfectly against the smooth grey rock for a fairly easy ascent.

The cave is one of the best of the smaller ones we’ve done, though I have visited it when the pitches were impassable due to flooding.  The trip takes about 2 hours - which gives you ample time to get to the Hill Inn before closing time!

PENYGHENT LONG CHURN - Map Ref. SD 811 753 Length 1000' Depth 226' Grade III

Situated about half a mile north of Sell Gill Holes, a few yards off the Pennine Way.  We first visited this cave with Roger Wing in the hot summer of 1976.

The entrance is an impressive 75' shaft with an elliptical top about 15' by 10'.  A stream normally flows into the hole but on this occasion it was dry.  Establishing a belay point can be a bit difficult, and we experimented with some timber posts across the corner of the pot before we finally settled for an outcrop of rock 10' away in the dried-up river bed.  Roger is a bit sensitive about belay points, but eventually he accepted it.  We also had to protect the rope from abrasion on the lip of the pot.

Eventually, we all abseiled to the boulder floor below.  The shaft bells out slightly and the wall are smooth with occasional beds of coarse black limestone.  The view up to daylight is particularly pleasing and the climb back looks inviting.

From the base of the shaft the rest of the cave is governed by rift development.  Easy walking leads to a traverse on ledges over a deepening rift. The traverse develops into a passage about 3' square formed by the washing out of a decaying shale band - that white pasty stuff.  We dropped a 25' ladder down the rift just before this passage was reached.  Below, the rift continues to drop over a number of climbs, one of which, according to Northern Caves Vol.2, needs a 30' rope, though we didn't use one.

By now the rift is quite narrow with rough brown walls.  Beyond the rope pitch is a false floor of wedged boulders with numerous holes down. Ahead, the rift is choked and a tight 40' descent is necessary.  The first 25' we did on a ladder and then traversed onto a wedged boulder from where the last 15' was free-climbable.  The floor of the rift then becomes a painful crawl over pebbles until the way on is too tight.  A disappointing finish.

JINGLING POT - Map Ref. 699 784 Length 200' Depth 220' Grade III

If you need experience of long pitches, then this is where to start practicing.  It consists of a magnificent daylight shaft which gives a free-hanging pitch of 140'.  Once down, there's not much else to do except climb up again!

Roger and I first plucked up enough courage to do the pot about a year ago.  It is situated just off the Turbary Road, a short distance from Rowten Pot.  When we got to the entrance, I think we could easily have been persuaded to go somewhere else standing by the tree on the S.E. side and looking down the shaft we felt very exposed and vulnerable. However, we soon made the decision to go ahead with it, and with slightly wobbly knees we rigged the pot using the main stem of the tree as the belay point, the abseil rope being belayed about a foot above the ladder.  We had the rope protector with us, but this was not needed as the lie of the rope was completely free.

The abseil was a good one, but I was a bit too anxious to enjoy it very much!  For much of the 140' descent, the dark walls are out of reach. About 50' from the bottom, one of the walls leans towards the rope to form a sloping ledge which is not quite suitable as a resting place, and the last part of the pitch is a bit awkward due to swinging.  The rope creaked horribly, as is the habit of Marlow ropes when dry.

The base of the shaft is a narrow rift.  We dropped down the lower end to the deeper part of the rift and grovelled about in the blind pots at the bottom, but we were too preoccupied with the thought of climbing up the ladder to spend too long exploring.  The climb, however, turned out to be very enjoyable and not particularly difficult.

Roger climbed first. Silhouetted against the daylight, he would have made a good subject for a photograph.  When it was my turn to climb, I found the first few feet awkward, but once I'd got started I found the free-hanging ladder fairly easy to deal with, though I grabbed onto the rungs for a rest a few times towards the top. One such resting point was about 80' up, where I could still just see the foot of the ladder, and where the walls were at least 20' away - a position of exposure which I found very satisfying. The climb itself took us little more than ten minutes each.

Jingling Pot is only a small cave, yet it gives a good introduction to long pitches, and the trip is a memorable experience.

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