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Whitsun in Yorkshire

Andy Sparrow describes his Whitsun activities in this account of a trip to Yorkshire

Yorkshire was the scene of more B.E.C. activity this Whitsun when John Dukes, Chris Batstone, Sue Jordan and Andy Sparrow decided to do some caving there.  We set off on the Friday evening and after the inevitable pub stop, reached the Bradford Cottage at 2.30 in the morning.  We attempted to communicate with the snoring lumps within, but with no success.  Deciding to pitch some tents, we drove off along an obscure road into the hills to find a suitable spot.  Flickers of lightning over Ingleborough and spots of rain encouraged us to stop and erect tents in the nearest field.  No sooner were we inside our pits when a cataclysmic thunderstorm broke.  Several times that night we thought we were about to lose our flysheets in the howling gale.

Next morning was dry and, after taking down the tents, we returned to the Bradford Cottage.  As it turned out, there was plenty of room and we stayed there for the rest of the holiday.  After some debate, we decided to go down Alum Pot via Long Churn.  We were soon at the top of the Alum Pot Lane, getting changed and sorting tackle. Much later found us at what we thought was the right entrance, so off we set.  We followed a fine streamway down some short wet climbs to the head of a very deep wet pitch, where Chris found Andy desperately scratching for handholds, screaming "Diccan!, Diccan!" in a high-pitched voice. Retracing our steps for two hundred feet we found a short crawl that soon led us into Long Churn proper.  A large passage led down a short climb to the head of the first 45 foot pitch.  Laddering this gave access to a large pebble floored passage emerging into daylight on a ledge halfway down the main Alum Pot shaft.

Descending another short ladder pitch brought us to the point where the huge flirt of the main shaft narrows, forming ledges on either side.  Following one of these brought us to the Bridge, a huge block jammed across the shaft at an angle of 45O.  Climbing down over the Bridge to the head of the next pitch provides one with a fine view of the shaft.  Twin waterfalls cascade at each end of the rift and shower down for over a hundred and fifty feet.  Descending the next pitch of 45 ft brought us to the bottom of the Main Shaft, where some short, wet climbs led to the head of the last pitch of 115 feet.

From the base of this pitch, the view up the Main Shaft is memorable and most spectacular.  Beneath the pitch, a brief section of streamway descends to where the 120 ft deluge from Diccan thunders down.  From here, the sump follows immediately, rather a sad end to an easy but very impressive trip.

Returning up the pitches, we followed Long Churn upstream and found a delightful half mile walk up a fine streamway.  So pleasant, in fact, that we ran up and down it three times.  That night found us in the Helwith Bridge supping Tetley's, where we met a strong contingent of Wessex notables.  For some strange reason, we then phoned the Belfry; so that we could insult people we had gone three hundred miles to get away from!

On Sunday morning, we spent an hour trying to decide which cave to do.  We finally decided to do the Northern equivalent of Goatchurch - Calf Holes. MUCH, MUCH later when we eventually found the entrance - it proved very impressive.  A huge stream was pouring down the side of an elliptical rift, thirty feet long and deep.  Close by was an alternative dry shaft which we laddered and descended.  Moving upstream and passing under the main waterfall in waist deep water, we entered an inlet passage.  This proved quite uninteresting, so we set off under the waterfall again and went downstream.  This passage, we knew, would take us out through Browgill Cave if only we could find the connection.  We followed a long, knee-deep canal for several hundred feet to where the water vanished under one wall.  After crawling the wrong way, up a long nasty bedding plane full of wellie boots and dead sheep, we found the connection, and regaining the stream, we followed it to the head of a twenty foot waterfall.  This, we by-passed on the right hand side and from its base we followed a large passage out into daylight at the Browgill entrance.

Returning to Calf Holes, we amused ourselves for an hour by laddering the main waterfall.  Passing fell walkers were at a loss to understand why we were climbing up and down in a torrential downpour without bothering to get off at the bottom.  We were starting to wonder ourselves!

Next day was meant to be a classic trip down Gaping Gill via Bar Pot.  However, on arrival, we found Bar to be full of people boot-to-helmet all the way down, so we changed our minds.  The reason for all the people was the G.G. winch meet.  The head of the Main Shaft was like a circus.  There was even a chap with sandwich boards selling Gaping Gill posters.  So we ended our weekend with a ten mile walk over Ingleborough.  Low cloud was just skimming the summit as we arrived at the top. Ignoring the crowds of luminous hill walkers cowering behind the summit shelter we sat on top of the highest cairn and ate sandwiches and mint cake.  Between the passing patches of cloud, we could just discern the peaks of Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside.

The long walk back to Clapham and a cup of tea in the Pen-y-Ghent cafe made a satisfying finish to the day and the weekend.

Editor's Note:     The cairn mentioned - if it's the same one that I remember, is a memorial to Keith Asquith, a very good friend of the B.E.C.