Steve suggested this trip and kindly offered to lead it – good job, as nobody else knew where it was! Phil Ryder’s opinion was sought in Langstrothdale the previous day, and he opined, correctly in my opinion at least, that ‘you don’t need tackle, just traverse out from the pitch heads and it’s a piece of piss’. Any complaints to ‘The President’ then.
Picking up Viking from Darlo at 8:15 saw us in Curlew Crafts for 9:30 and a splendid coffee break, before following Steve to Bull Pot Farm, although Steve seemed to forget the way and we almost ended up in Kirkby Lonsdale, but we were soon enjoying the splendid vista of Easegill Beck and I was pulling on the previous day’s soggy kit, eager to get into the warmth of the subterranean world.
Steve brought survey copies, as well as the route description from the Braemoor website, where John Gardiner suggests that in this most confusing cave, the guidebook and survey are almost useless anyway.
We took the route to the Upstream Series first, where a bit of effort finding the route to the Gour Chambers found me stuck in a choke in the roof, until Emma triumphantly made the squeeze up at the correct point, for me to follow. Viking got stuck, swore and sweated, before making a freefall from his high point after admitting defeat. Matt made it up and we were suitably impressed by the superb display – like The Berger, but cheaper to get to!
Steve had suggested we get up into a higher chamber to check out the Angel’s Wing formation, after recounting tales of having to strip off to make the squeeze. Having found the smooth flowstone slot in the roof, I found that I had to remove my wetsuit jacket to get through, with help from Matt and Emma’s heads as footholds, to continue the climb up to admire the fine curtains hidden right up in the top, behind a final ledge – very nice indeed.
Sliding down was easy enough and with jacket back on we continued down a muddy hading rift – complete with grotty handline, to reach the fine sump pool. Ducking through to the left, Matt and I reached the superb canyon stream passage beyond, which we followed for a couple of minutes before heading back to reach the rest of the party.
The full team then visited the impressively fluted Burnett’s Great Cavern before we headed back to the entrance chamber and onwards to the Downstream passages.
Fixing a handline for the first greasy drop, we followed the water down to the next pitch head. At first glance this looks intimidating, but large holds abound and a traverse out does yield an easy and satisfying climb down – but this is leg-breaking territory, so beware. Matt followed and the even more impressive pitch following was again nicely traversed – superb fun, and upon reaching a canal, we returned up the way we had descended to exit the cave.
Great variety and I guess we’ll return a bit wiser for the next visit.