Sleets Gill – ’68 series sump
Sod’s law – a dry week, followed by a fine weekend and Simon has to count all the tap washers in Skipton! Never mind, a quick trip was planned for Saturday evening, one that I had been wanting to do since Simon had done it solo in the last dry spell, months ago. A further reason for Simon to get back was that he had left a couple of diving weights by the sump, not wishing to haul them back through the painful crawl of Hydrophobia Passage.
For me, Saturday was leisurely, with a trip to Ingleton for new kneepads, followed by the fine drive over to Halton Hill and Arncliffe. With its short walk in and minimal kit required (hood, mask, gloves) this is an ideal evening trip and after a sweaty walk up in my usual underwater kit of shorty, vest and wetsuit, I was ready to get wet and cool off and after sliding down the sharp scree in the entrance, we were soon romping along the Main Gallery, checking out the site of the remarkable rescue of the 2 flood-bound cavers – a sobering thought indeed.
Dropping down a hole of calcited blocks, we followed the low, wet, upstream crawl of Hydrophobia Passage, which was sporting a fast flow of clear, cold water about 3 inches deep. Simon had been cursing about forgetting his wetsuit gloves, remarking how cold the water was in this cave, so he had to make do with a wetsuit hood for each hand instead. I actually enjoyed this crawl, finding the water to be sufficient in volume to hold my body up whilst I pulled myself along, staring at Simon’s boot soles. I was wearing my new workboots, which allowed me to wear only 1 pair of wetsocks, but unlike my old pair did not have open toes, so allowing the water to warm up a bit around my feet. Needless to say, after this trip they didn’t look new any more. A bit of a rest was had in the only standing area about half way along, allowing kneepads to be adjusted for the final, nastier section.
Emerging in the roomy passages beyond, we were soon at the foot of the infamous Ramp, which judging from its smooth, muddy surface had not been touched since the recent floods. Climbing up this for about 50 feet was very precarious, with the tacky mud and slippery walls offering little security – ice axes and crampons or a shovel to cut steps would have been more appropriate equipment and I gave up on any idea of reaching the top, deciding to keep myself clean for the sump.
Arriving at a deep pool, Simon was delighted to find his 2 weights and we put on our hoods and masks, continuing under a duck in the deep pool to find the dive line. Simon wanted me to go first to enjoy the experience to the full, reminding me of his enjoyment of this fantastically clear pool.
Pulling down into the sump, I paused, rather than pulling, stunned by the beauty of the surroundings – totally clear water giving the impression of floating in a room rather than being in your average murky hole! A couple of pulls and I could see the surface above, but enjoying the experience and having lots of air in my lungs, I slowly worked my way along the line, before rising and signalling for Simon to follow – brilliant stuff and definitely the sump I’d recommend for the uninitiated!
Breast-stroking along the still clear canal beyond, we then followed a couple of muddy leads upwards, before heading off to the final sump, again ducking underwater to peer into the superbly clear passage beyond, before returning to the dive out.
In my un-weighted state, I found it quite hard to get down past the sharp lip of the sump, but once at depth I again relished the view – if only cave water was always so clear!
The trip out was rapidly performed, given the onset of Simon’s cold and we were back at the cars after a fine couple of hours underground.