I’m not really a fan of the summer, preferring the (rare) crisp days of winter – better for hard climbing and also much safer for many wet caves. However, I do enjoy the raw power of summer thunderstorms and although such conditions are not ideal for caving, we managed to enjoy a superb day out in the wild weather on top of Ingleborough and a thrilling descent of Hurnel Moss, still safely passable despite the amount of water coming down.
With Simon working on Saturday morning, I had a leisurely start to the day, doing a few jobs at home, before meeting at the Clapham café for a very nice coffee and teacake. The weather even looked good – until we started unpacking the gear, when the storm started, but we decided to walk up anyway to take in the atmosphere. Calling in at the show cave, Mr Cordingley had a good chuckle at us going out in such weather and I got changed under the rock umbrella of Trow Gill, with thunder crashing above. Simon reckoned that the gorge was not a safe place in a storm, although I felt secure in its shelter, recounting the time when I was caught in a storm on The Naked Edge, in Colorado’s Eldorado Canyon, suffering a shock when lightning struck the cliff. Having survived that episode, I now have a sanguine attitude to this powerful natural phenomenon!
Walking across the fell top in the storm felt very exposed, but the lightning strikes were certainly impressive and arriving at the sinkhole we were surprised at the low level of the stream, suggesting a flood pulse was still to come. The normally free-climbable entrance was roped and fixing my new 100m rope, Simon rigged the drop to the mid-way ledge on the fantastic Poseidon Pitch, where a traverse leads to the final drop down the aesthetic shaft. Whilst not quite in the class of Juniper Gulf’s last pitch, surely the most beautiful in Yorkshire, the Poseidon is very, very impressive, with the crashing water and swirling mist adding to the memorable experience.
Not having a rope for the short final pitch, which is free-climbable in most conditions, I tried to get down, traversing over the water, but retreating a few feet from the bottom, where a route through the torrent was required. A quick jug up to the ledge showed how fast the water had come up, with the previously exposed blocks now underwater!
Exiting to more rain, we saw how the stream had swollen, but the gods weren’t finished yet! More black clouds heralded a wild hailstorm, soon clearing and we walked down as the clouds moved away over Whernside. With the hills to ourselves, we descended the now stream-bearing Trow Gill, buzzing from the exhilaration of enjoying a day out experiencing some of the power of nature – fantastic!