During this trip I had the rather odd feeling of being in territory that should have been familiar, but due to the unexpectedly high water levels, looked and felt alarmingly foreign. Having left the rest of the party at the pool prior to the sumps, I readied myself for the free-dives, and quickly pulled through the murky, chilly water to emerge in the master cave. Normally there is significant dry ground here on a shingle bank, but this was all underwater and heading downstream the canals had rather less airspace than I would have liked. The narrow sections of streamway approaching the climb up to the roof tunnel were fast-flowing, past knee-deep and the climb up to the roof tunnel had a waterfall requiring some caution whilst climbing up to gain the sanctuary of the ledge. Turned out I had an easier time of it than my chums de-rigging though!
Apart from one trip down the dry ‘Flyover’ route, I’ve always gone down the Eyehole and then headed straight down from the ledge to do the pull-through, so for this meet I planned to rig the ‘Gully Route’ and dive out by myself to exit via Valley Entrance to have a nice varied trip.
Driving down I ran into some unexpected and unwelcome snow between Richmond and Leyburn, with Ingleborough and other high ground being well clad in the white stuff, looking very scenic, but not exactly making one wish to strip off and get soaking wet in the great outdoors. Fortunately, Kingsdale was snow-free although the beck had rather more flow than normal and our team was bolstered by a welcome return to the club of the one and only Denis, who kept the tackle and conversation flowing as I rigged. This really is good caving, clean rock, lots of water and spectacular positions and Denis and I waited in the dry alcoves leading down the slippery climbs below the big pitch for the final tackle bags to rig the last 2 pitches.
The next short pitch has a P-bolt for an anchor, but this would have given a wet descent, and we had no hangers for the better-placed spits, so a natural was contrived further along the ledge, with the final pitch quickly rigged down to the last dry spot. Posing for a few photos here, I retrieved my mask and weight belt, leaving my SRT kit for the de-riggers.
After my eventful exit and walking back along the road to my car, I met Fay, who had been flushed out of Bull Pot, so I wondered how things were going in Rowten, but reasoned I had enough time to pop back into Ingleton for caffeine and cake. Returning back to Kingsdale, I waited for a while and spotted Emma coming down the hill, with the rest of the party returning much later to report of torrents of water preventing recovery of the kit from the big pitch.
Next day found me back at 09:45, with Denis appearing a few minutes later on this much more pleasant day. Enjoying the quick zip down the rigged lines, I found I could pull the hanging line with a bit of effort and a pulley/jammer combo rigged by Denis did the job. With all kit recovered, including Denis’ ‘lost’ jammer, that had mysteriously slid down the haul line to stop by the bag, we sat by the pot to sort the bags, swap a few words with some passing interested trail riders and wander down the hill with our 3 bags each.
A super trip and thanks to all for doing such a good job in tough conditions.