Clapham Bottoms – Troubled Waters
Ian, Simon, Chris, John.
I’d called Chris to try to enlist more help for another Quaking trip and was invited along for another trip to Clapham Bottoms for further exploration. Mind you, after a night of showers and with further rain belting against the window, I rang Chris again at 9 am to check if we were still on and relayed the message to Simon to meet at 11 in Clapham. Passing through some filthy weather at a deserted Ribblehead, I pulled into Clapham with grey skies and light rain falling. The bonus was that parking was easy and the lady in the café told us that we were the first customers of the day. After a quick coffee and cake, Simon and I drove up the lane to find Chris and John by their van, already changed. I decided to walk up in jacket and overtrousers, with my wetsuit in my bag, reckoning that I would prefer to walk down in dry gear and brave the change on the hill.
At least it was mild on the walk up, although windy and wet and upon reaching the show cave, Chris and John reckoned water levels would be too high for Troubled Waters. Reaching the entrance, Simon and I searched for shelter to get changed, but only managed to find a few low boulders, already well used by the local woolly inhabitants who have to spend the night out on the hill, so I decided to go for a rapid change in the shakehole.
Chris and John had disappeared down the pot and I had only a vague recollection of the mucky entrance series from last year’s club meet, whilst the wet, pretty end was stuck in my mind. Getting to the rope traverse over the pit, I decided to climb down and enter the crawl, convinced I could hear voices down there. Indeed I could, but it was too tight for progress after about 15 feet and we had to do the traverse and crawl to the head of the pitch into the big chamber. As Chris and John were up in an aven, we decided to go down the scaffolded hole to check out Troubled Waters. Surprisingly, there was a small airspace at the start and I was able to get through the first low section with one ear in the water, improving to allow more comfortable progress in the crystal-clear, not-too-chilly water. Waiting for Simon on the small ‘beach’, we then continued to the streamway, pausing to admire the big gour, complete with a decent flow of water, before taking the left branch along the superbly-decorated passage. With the squeeze past the next gour passed, we continued to the blockage, peering through for any prospect of a continuation, before reversing back to the junction. I reckoned that the flow over the big gour had increased whilst we were up the left branch, but we set off up to have a look. Finding the flow to be rather strong in the low section, I decided to retreat, wondering about the state of the duck back into the dry series. As I had suspected, the water had risen by an inch or two and Simon dived through, whilst I pinched my nose and kept right up in the airspace.
We had both enjoyed the bonus of seeing this part of the cave again, comparing it favourably with the Far Waters passages lying only a few feet away.
With numb hands, we climbed out up the ladders and I pushed back the boards to reveal more rain and a strong wind, promising a miserable change. At least my wetsuit slid off quickly with its coating of liquid mud and with wellies, jacket and overtrousers on, I felt I could brave the wild weather. The brown stream running down the track from Trow Gill suggested a bit of a cloudburst during our time underground and the flow from Ingleborough cave was also much increased. To warm up, Simon and I had tea and biccies from the cave shop, whilst the rain gradually eased off.
Meeting up with Chris and John in the pub, we all warmed up by the fire, satisfied by a fine day out against the odds.