My first view of Southerscales was an unusual one – rising into the scum-covered sump pool after diving through from Great Douk! This was actually our second look at the dive; our first ending when we found that the line was loose and we did not really fancy laying it ourselves. However, a few months later and Simon in particular had a lot more diving under his belt, so this trip seemed a lot more attractive than the other option of swimming down the Birkwith canal to dive through to Dismal Hill!
A foul Saturday afternoon, with the wind blasting the rain from the west, saw us making our way out as most folk were retreating from the hills and it was a relief to get underground after hauling the gear with very cold fingers. The fixed blue hawser was followed through the chilly ducks to a small mud bank, where the old orange hawser was still neatly coiled. Rather than use this stuff, I had a couple of lengths of my own rope that I tied onto the belay and fed it out whilst Simon led off, quickly finning through to give me the signals whilst he tied off at the other side.
I was keen to get moving, having lost the feeling in my feet whilst lying in the chilly water, noticing it start to rise a little in response to the rainfall. With gear all sorted, I decided to dispense with fins, finding that in the relatively tight confines of the sump I could just push off the walls with my feet without pulling on the line. Northern Caves states that a deviation has to be made to pass a constriction, making a 7m dive into 12m – couldn’t really follow this, as only slight side-to-side movements were required to pass through tight bits, but with fast-flowing water, the vis. was fine to spot the rubbly obstacles and after passing more than 10m of line, I popped up in the aforementioned pool. Scrambling over a shingle bank, we de-kitted next to a fine, glistening waterslide and made our way up the rather grim, aqueous going to the draughty chamber at the base of the final pitch. The shorter, left-hand pitch certainly looked climbable, if I had been able to warm up my extremities, allowing an interesting through-trip, but having heard grim tales of this place in wet conditions and knowing that the water was going to rise, we went back to our kit to dive out.
Going first, again finding the vis. to be good, I was soon back at base, waiting for Simon to emerge after a bit of a struggle in the murk left in my wake! Anyway, good effort by Simon laying the line, as I didn’t fancy that job myself.
Back at the fall climb down, the water was now rather impressive and the rain returned with a vengeance whilst we got changed. It was so grim I went for the cramped, inside-the-car effort, as Simon howled outside in the cold. Top stuff!