Pasture Gill Pot
Ian, Simon, Gen.
A swift return to a favourite area led the supplemented team to another Wharfedale classic for the first club meet of the year. A beautiful blue-sky day increased my anticipation and after a quick stop in at Top Farm to check on access, we were changed and walking up the steep hillside to the cave. Pretty warm it was too, ascending the south-facing slope, although the walk is thankfully short and sharp. Following Mike’s rigging recommendations and having packed the usual 2-man minimum carry, I had joined 15m and 10m ropes for the first 2 pitches, initially rigging off one of the posts to reach the rebelay bolt over the lip. Although long enough for both pitches, the knot was at an awkward spot, so a single rope would be advised. Taking care with the loose floor here, we were soon down to the low section at the bottom of the 2nd pitch, which opens out into fine stream passage. Passing over the top of the 3rd pitch, we rigged for the drier descent of the side window route. This involves the descent of a short pothole to reach the window into the main fall, rigged from spits. My first attempt to fix a hanger resulted in the spit turning and pulling out of the hole, much to Gen’s amazement, although the next that I tried seemed solid enough for the short drop down, allowing me to rig from a solid thread and spit for the slight squeeze through the window. Dropping down onto the jagged ledge, a sling on a big spike next to a fixed thread allowed a rebelay out of the fall.
A short walk downstream and an easy traverse above the water leads to the top of the big 4th pitch – over 40m and again requiring a bit of creative rigging with a sling over a boss (adjacent to another spinning spit), combined with a decent bolt and a back-up to a large ringbolt, reminiscent of the top of the big pitch in Strans Gill. Being first down this pitch, I was amazed at how it opened up – very, very impressive, and upon reaching the spray-lashed base, I sought shelter in the rift. Gen was next down, followed by the fast-descending Simon, again demonstrating the smoothness of his rack descender.
A section of dry passage follows, basically finding a way through the rubble-choked rift passage above the water. After a bit of tricky route finding, I was able to lie comfortably in the dry passage above the climb down to Tadpole Passage, where I munched my 3 Kit Kats and listened to the efforts of the others as they attempted to find a way through. A few choice words from Gen suggested she was not enjoying this section of cave too much and it was Simon who appeared next, followed by Gen’s feet a few minutes later. At this point Gen got stuck and being unable to find a foothold to retreat from, Simon volunteered the use of his head as a substitute. Once Gen had recovered to a dry, comfortable spot, Simon and I decided to leave all the gear and make a lightweight dash to the head of the last pitch, which drops into the sump pool anyway, allowing us to see the mystical Forest Passage.
From the end of the rift, a climb down nice flowstone blocks allows the stream to be regained at the worryingly named Tadpole Passage. Mind you, we really enjoyed this in wetsuits, with the airspace being more than adequate and the water feeling almost warm, providing sufficient buoyancy to allow rapid crawling along the passage. We fixed a short piece of rope over a boss for the short 5th pitch, but free-climbed it on nice sharp holds and by-passed the 6th pitch via a superb climb down on rough, spray-lashed white rock – exhilarating stuff!
After a short dry section, the water was followed along another enjoyable low, wet section, opening out into the amazing Forest Passage. We were both stunned by the beauty of this place, with the combination of clean, rippled streamway, many fine formations and the bizarre sight of tree roots trailing in the water making a truly magical experience. We definitely felt privileged to have seen it and after a quick peek over the lip of the final pitch, we rushed back to meet Gen.
The crawl through the rift felt very easy on the way out and I was 1st up the big pitch, followed by Gen, who had never encountered such a traditionally bolted pitch before, with the resultant tricky exit requiring a bit of combined tactics!
As Simon was manfully bringing both tackle bags up, I headed out with Gen, again explaining that a belly flop through the window was the only way to get up the pitch and we had a breather in the comfort of the bottom of the 3m pot. Climbing out of here is fine, using the ‘biner on the bolt for a handhold, as is the ascent of the 2nd pitch. Feeling pretty fresh, I managed to climb out of the 1st pitch with a self-belay, to catch the last of the sunset glowing red below the new moon – fantastic.
With the temperature rapidly dropping, more knot-passing practice was performed and we made the rapid drop back down to the cars for a chilly change and a stop-off in the White Lion. What a superb cave and thanks to Simon and Gen for a good-humoured day out – a top trip.