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Skirwith Cave

Skirwith Cave.

Another weekend of 2 days caving – that’s 4 or 5 on the trot!  With no chores to do at home in the winter months and no tourists on the road, this is my favourite time to be out in the dales.

Saturday saw a late start and with a lot of water in Kingsdale Master Cave, we decided to do Aquamole Pot.  For us a rare SRT trip and for Simon in particular a chance to do a bit of rigging practice, as I usually do that job.  With a solitary car outside Valley Entrance, we had the rest of Kingsdale to ourselves and with a couple of ropebags and about 20 ‘biners we were soon up at the concrete entrance.

Rigging is pretty straightforward here, with P-hangers and there’s not a lot of water to worry about on the final Aquamole Aven pitch either.  This pitch is a beauty though and after a look at the deep pool at its base, we set off out.  Simon suggested that I should climb the top pitch – indeed the thought was already in my head – and this was done with a few stops at the dog-legs to pull up the rope bag and secure it for the next section.  Good fun and a nice and easy couple of hours underground.

Walking back in the dark and mist, Simon realised that his hands were cold and that he had left his gloves and other kit back at the entrance, which proved to be quite difficult to find!

Next day saw another post mid-day start to get my gear dried out and the weather was even worse.  You know it’s bad when you have to change down a gear to go into the wind on the flat and conditions near Hawes reminded me of the scene in‘The Cruel Sea’, where Jack Hawkins at the bridge of his ship scans the horizon through the lashing wind, rain and sea, with my car being similarly buffeted by the storm.  Looking at the amount of water in the roadside streams, I was wondering what we might get up to and the plan was to investigate Skirwith Cave to look at the sumps.  After getting changed and kitted up with weightbelt and other paraphernalia, waiting for Simon to sort out his kit, I took one look into his car boot and decided that its contents were even more chaotic than his brain, whereupon the search for a crucial bit of kit was abandoned and diving was cancelled.  Quite a relief as things turned out, as I didn’t relish the thought of carrying kit through 2 km of passage!

With absolutely nothing to carry, we blasted up the hill, wearing more neoprene than is considered decent, to find the sunken old entrance of this former showcave.  Mind you, it must have been somewhat sporting for most punters, with timber walkways above the streamway and not too much room for manoeuvre at some points.  It was a little sad to see how the once maintained structure was rotting away and disappearing under roof falls, but also something of a novelty to be walking along wooden gangways and concrete paths in a not particularly spacious cave.

Despite its rather modest write-up in Northern Caves, we were very impressed by the gloomy, wet streamway, with its northern dales-like jagged black rock and with a fine flow of water it was great sport.  Reaching the 10-foot cascade, we were impressed by the foam on the walls hereabouts and also by the difficulty of climbing it with such a big flow.  I managed to get up the left wall and with 1 foot in the water, rock up and onto the ledge.  Simon requested a spotter, so I had to reverse down to provide the service, before we continued along the fantastic canal-like sections above.  Being well rubbered, we just floated in the water, pulling along on our hands on the floor – absolutely brilliant fun.  With a couple of low airspace sections to be passed, we didn’t quite get to the sump pool, with the preceding ducks being impassable.  Reversing to float downstream, the waterfall climb was successfully reversed and we made it out in the last of the daylight to shake hands outside the entrance having had a great trip on such a grotty day. 

Trip Date: 21st December 2008
Added: 22nd December 2008
Reviewer: Ian Cummins
Hits: 1764


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