Bar Pot to Gaping Gill and Back

Olly came to pick me up in the morning, for once I was ready on time :) Nigel and Colin then picked us up from Olly's and off we went to the Yorkshire Dales, the original plan was to go caving in Ireby Fell Cavern. On the way up with Nigel and Colin Davidson fascinating us with stories about past DCC activity in Yorkshire, we noticed water lying on top of the fields everywhere. We had a lot of water in the week before doing this trip and were aware that Ireby Fell drains a large proportion of water in the locality, maybe not the best system to be caving in today... So we arrived at the bunkhouse in Clapham where Tony, Sue, Tom, Pete W and Pete C were waiting, some of them being much worse for wear after the previous nights drinking in the bunkhouse :) And so it was decided that it would be a better idea doing Bar Pot instead of Ireby Fell, so after some breakfast we were on our way up towards Ingleborough.

Me and Olly messing around with batteries on the way in.
Photographs courtesy of Tony Brocklebank.
I wore just my paw print furry suit to stay cool during the 2 mile hike up, cue some odd looks from the many ramblers out on this lovely day. Upon arrival at the shake hole, funnel-like entrance to Bar Pot, we kitted up then Nigel and Tom went straight in to rig the ropes. Just as I was squeezing into the entrance, we realised that the cheap batteries I had nicked from my mum for the trip were not working at all. (I had lost my battery chargers) Thankfully Pete Whetham had some spares he kindly chucked my way, and we squeezed the short way along to the first pitch. After some fiddly maneuvers, we made the awkward descent through the boulder choke, and slid down a greasy slab with a handline in place to help. Being on my own at this point and with what looked like several ways on, I wandered to the bottom of the boulder chamber and spotted a hole in each side of the wall, then waited for the others to confirm the right way on. Through the hole and into another boulder strewn chamber with a short, slightly exposed traverse leading to the top of Big Pitch: a straight 120ft descent. As we were waiting for Tom and Nigel to rig the pitch and descend, another group of cavers were coming into the chamber behind us, one of them playing what I thought at the time sounded like a tin whistle but turned out to be a recorder. What a strange and nice thing to hear that music in a cave!

At the bottom of Big pitch, we took our gear off and left it there. I remember vaguely wondering about getting back out of Bar Pot again and what a long way up it seemed. Onwards to Gaping Gill through an easy little system of stooping to crawling passages with little to no water. On the way Tony showed us the Sand Caverns, some fair sized muddy chambers where the DCC once held tennis and golf tournaments during the open weekends. Moving through the passages towards the immense main chamber, a steady flow of air turning into a cold breeze picked up until we could hear the rumbling roar of the waterfall. Walking out into Gaping Gill main chamber was an awesome experience, the waterfall seemed to carry in natural light from the surprisingly small hole at the top, then the fall fanned out into several landing places in the rocky pool at the bottom. Olly was the first to brave standing right underneath the pounding water, I walked right around the pool edging closer until I finally found the guts to jump right underneath. Wow that woke me up, it was absolutely freezing and very powerful as Olly said, felt more like sand than water! Moving around and through the huge chamber, I had to keep looking back at the light and water, the spray from it still reached us right to the far end. On the other side, we climbed up the steep rocky bank and then down a ladder to have a quick look at the West Chamber.

Tony waiting for Pete
We took a slightly different route back to Bar Pot, Tony leaving me and Olly to navigate our way and ending up in a low crawling passage full of rocks, squeezing past 2 other cavers coming in the opposite direction. Back at the bottom of what now looked like a very Big Pitch and the rest of us took a break while Tom and Peter Clewes flew up the rope. Me and Olly crawled our way back up, and a further climb up to where Olly dragged me by the arms up the greasy slab. I took another quick break, I needed it for the last bit out which was actually nowhere near as hard as I was expecting it to be. While we were waiting for Tony and Pete to get out, Pete C went to have a look at the top of Gaping Gill. Amazing how what looks like a calm babbling brook on the surface turns into a raging waterfall at the bottom. Back at Bar Pot and it was clear the effects of lastnight were taking their toll on Pete W who was yet to emerge. We stuck around for abit, eat the last of our food and watched the other cavers coming out of Flood Exit just across from us. After offering to help with their group shot, then Olly sabotaging it. I was getting quite cold, so we started to slowly walk back, with the others eventually catching up.

In the pub afterwards for an all too brief yet much needed pint, and then home and straight to a birthday party. Thanks to Nigel, Tony, Tom, Pete C and Pete W for a cracking days caving!

Olly's trip report

Gaping Gill Winch Weekends