Ian, Fay ( plus John earlier).
Scar’s Hole is a worthy addition to the pantheon of challenging Wharfedale caves, although since its exploration by the club back in 2002, it has not proven to be a popular destination. A look in with John several years back in very wet conditions found us soaked and frozen at the mid-height ledge of the big pitch before making an exit. I guess it must have been the winter of 09/10, with Chris recovering from his injuries and I managed to drag John out of a dig to do a proper cave trip for once. The entrance sink is normally dry, but on that day it was taking water making the whole experience much tougher than it should have been and the situation on the water and windswept block ledge prompted John to say the rest of the trip would be a no-no. I must have been so numbed by the experience that I can’t remember if we used ropes ladders, old in-situ rubbish or levitation.
With vague memories of single spit belays, I resolved to have a meet to re-bolt the pitches and get to the bottom of the cave. I rang Hucky to sort out access with his uncle (thanks!) - Phil and I pooled our stock of through-bolts and hangers and John came along with the drill – one problem – I came ready for SRT, John didn’t, having always laddered the cave, but with one ladder lurking in his van at least we could do the bolting, if not all the cave.
It turns out that Scars is a cave that is best done with ladders and line, as at least they can be slung down tight bits with more ease then tackle sacks and even with a party of 2, this number of ladders is manageable.
According to Phil, Gareth ‘Sweeney’ Sewell described Scar’s as a true caver’s cave – apt words, since although not being of great length, the cave gives nothing away and when one thinks some respite is at hand, more difficulty follows in proper Wharfedale fashion. The entrance series is tough – all flat-out, with twists, bends and a few drops thrown in for good measure. As I had committed myself to attacking an early obstacle feet-first, I had to go all the way to the pitches thus – not recommended, although I did have the benefit of John shifting cobbles from a couple of the tightest bits. Shortly after a 6-foot drop we reached the traverse over the big void of the impressive chamber of ‘Rasgill Rift’, where a fixed line aids the moves down to a ledge. We fixed new bolts for the 10m ladder hang down to the ‘floor’ of jammed boulders that makes the mid-height ledge of the pitch, having to free-climb the last couple of metres, before placing bolts for the second ladder hang, again 10m, down the dripping shaft. A belay/lifeline anchor protects the exposed drop off of the second pitch, where people below should keep well away from the jammed rubble of the stance above.
Returning with Fay, unfortunately without the incapacitated Denis, we brought ladders (10m and 15m), lines, camera and a few other bits and bobs, finding that each pitch could be bottomed with a single 10m – better re-measure that ladder from your van John - and the vague memories of the original explorers were found to be a bit off with the 40-footer also being easily bottomed with one ladder.
A careful climb down through jammed blocks enters the clean rift, with some handlines aiding the tightest, slickest drops before a squeeze section is encountered. Reading the WRPC 50-Year Journal, this was the site of some drama in the early exploration and my first attempt at water-level was reversed and a slightly higher route found success. I suggested to Fay to leave the bag and camera and sod’s law dictated that we came across the superb calcite formation of ‘Katy’s Christening Cake’ immediately above, being a good 8m high with a transition from yellow to white at the base.
The stream is re-joined here and this has proven to be a test of endurance in the past, with notables such as Fromagere conquerors Peter Whitaker and Denis, as well as B-team super digger Chris braving its chilly confines to a too-tight conclusion. With no neoprene covering my skinny carcase, I forced my way along its tight, sharp, twisting route, half-immersed in freezing water, until the pain of my knees and elbows was replaced by numbness, having to reverse the whole way back to Fay. I resolved to return with insulation and a similarly-clad companion as back-up to attain Denis’ high (low?) point of 2002.
Some of the return up the handlined sections was a bit of a fight, although as on our equipping trip, the exit of the first section was much easier than its descent and we managed to complete the trip in about 3 hours. Having to shove a recalcitrant tackle sack slowed me considerably and I emerged to find Fay sheltering from the chilly wind. Reaching the edge of the scars, we could see Phil waiting below, having done his digging shift, been to the pub and returned to check our exit.
This was a bruising day out – thanks are due to Fay, John and the Hucks. Get well soon Denis, life is quiet without you!