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The Northern Caving Scene

By Mike Yeandle

During the last five years, an explosion of activity in the dales has yielded an impressive array of discoveries.  It is the purpose of this article to outline some of the major events of the last year.

In the spring of this year, The Happy Wanderers Cave and Pothole Club unearthed an important system in the previously insignificant Pippikin Pot on Leck Fell.  A tight entrance section gives access to a fine streamway which ends in a sump.  Well decorated high level passages form the greater part of the system.  One such passage has been named Gour Hall, and it about a hundred feet long and full of large gours.  The system is about two hours long and three hundred and twenty feet deep.  Its furthest reaches are nearing Upper Lancaster Hole in one direction and Gavel Pot in the other.  The Wanderers hope to find an easier entrance to the cave and work with this in mind is the progress in the Easegill Valley.  The other discoveries made in Leck Fell by this club are the Gavel Extensions, the high level series in Lost John’s and Peteram Pot.  The Gavel Extension is very well decorated and about half a mile long. The high level series in Lost Johns is about fifteen hundred feet long and about a hundred and fifty feet above the master cave.  Peterson’s Pot is now four hundred feet long and a hundred and twenty feet deep.

At the moment many conflicting theories are being put forward in an attempt to explain the Leck Fell drainage.  The main uncertainty is the point of resurgence of the Leck Fell water.  The two possibilities are Leck Beck Head (along with the Lancaster-Easegill water) or in the numerous small cracks in the Easegill Valley.  The uncertainty stems from the level of Leck Beck Head not being accurately known, and the same applies to the level of the Lost Johns sump.

Soon after their discovery of Pippikin, the Wanderers modified an impenetrable crack somewhat. The result was the discovery of Burdle Moss Pot – a huge rift five hundred feet long and three hundred feet and twenty feet deep.  The main pitch is in two ninety foot sections and rivals even Juniper Gulf in quality.  Burdloe Moss is between Gaping Ghyll and Newby Moss and its existence poses some interesting questions as to the geology of the area.

The first major ULSA discovery of the year came this May in the White Scar Cavern.  This extension is a large inlet taking a small stream.  It is reached after a climb through extreme loose boulders.  The passage is generally large, sometimes dropping down to stream level, the formations are reasonable and there are several short side passages.  There are two large avens, one of which has been climbed to a height of fifty feet, at which point it began to close down.  A sump at the end of a bedding plane type passage marks the limit of exploration at present.  The series is a mile long and is heading towards Boggarts Roaring Hole on Newby Moss.  Exploration is finished at the moment due to some access problems.

Work continues in the Allotment.  A recent visit by ULSA to Marble Sink uncovered a continuation a hundred feet in length to the streamway below Fissure Pitch.  The end is, however, completely choked.  A promising dig at the bottom of Marble Pot gave access to a muddy chamber choked with boulders with no apparent way on.  The resurgence of the Marble Sink – Marble Pot water is probably Austwick Beck Head, a large accessible system could well exist in the area. A sobering thought is that this water might conceivably go under Ingleborough and resurge along with Chapel-le-Dale water.  A silly thought is a Black Shiver – Marble Sink through trip!

Some diving is beginning to get underway in the dales.  Recently Mike Wooding dived Clapham Cave for a distance in the order of a thousand feet. He carried on to find eight hundred feet of fossil passage, ending in an area of collapse.  The end of this passage and that of Mountain Hall in Far Country cannot be separated by much, so the G.G. – Clapham Cave link is beginning to look like a reality.  It is also rumoured that Wooding has been diving in Keld Head recently.

While on the subject of the Kingsdale Master Cave, Carrort Passage has now been extended a further hundred feet by ULSA to a very bitter end.  The passage has become hopelessly tight and further digging is impractical at present.  Recently, a B.E.C. – Shepton party dived Penyghent.  This I believe is shortly to be described in rather more detail in the B.B. Grey Wife sump has now been dived by an ULSA member and was found to close down to a tight bedding plane after about twenty feet.  Also on Newby Moss, the Kendal Caving Club have extended Long Kin West to a depth of five hundred and ten feet.  (This pot is described in this B.B. – Ed.)  Another addition of the strictly pothole type, is the Mohole on Cragareth – an ULSA find which was dug into and refuses to go deeper than three hundred feet. This is disappointing as it is well placed for the conjectural Kingsdale Master cave – Marble Steps link or the Three Counties System.  Further digs in this area have yielded little.

This June has seen much ULSA activity in Rangcliff Pot.  This challenging system has a potential depth of nine hundred and fifty feet and is of the order of five miles long.  The first for a series of trips down this pot established over a thousand feet of new inlets to the system.  One of these is approximately six hundred feet long and still going.  Perhaps inlet is the wrong word for this passage, as it takes the main stream.  The passage starts at the downstream end of the Boulder Crawl and goes upstream.  The other inlet which has been surveyed is six hundred feet long and is heading towards Thunder Pot.  Also on this trip, a way on was found into the continuation of the main stream beyond the end of the old cave.  Further trips enabled the downstream end of the cave to be pushed a further eight hundred feet or so to a very disappointing sump, which can be seen to have blocked up to a height of forty feet.  However, after this setback, a dry passage of fine proportions was entered and followed for about fifteen hundred feet to a large chamber.  This passage is the first dry one of any length to be found in Langcliff – its friendly nature makes a pleasant contrast ot the hostile wet crawls which form so much of the cave.  In the chamber there are some excellent formations, including a white cascade of flowstone.  A further trip into this new series enabled a large passage containing deep gours to be entered.  This passage went for about half a mile to the junction with the stream.  Ten feet down this stream was a sump.  Upstream, a waterfall was climbed and a passage followed for about six hundred feet.  This passage ended in a seemingly impenetrable boulder choke.  This is still the situation at present.  The source of this new stream is not known. A survey has already been started and further trips should uncover much interesting passage.  As for the way on, this will take much time and effort.

For further reading on the areas discussed in this article, the reader is recommended to see ULSA review numbers 1 to 6 and the ULSA exploration journal.


Our Hon. Sec. has changed his address.  It is now: -

Alan Thomas
Hon. Sec. B.E.C.
Allens House