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Swarthgill Hole again and again


Simon and I first investigated this enigmatic spot 8 or 9 years ago, clearing out the entrance and dropping down the entrance pitch to find….not much apart from a few dead ends crammed with flood debris.  A return last year with Denis and Jane ended with Denis crushing a finger while clearing rubble and a severe midge attack before we headed back to Yarnbury.  I had a quick peek at Mossdale Scar, encountering a lost hiker having come up from Conistone and seeking the route to Grassington and after pointing her in the right direction I jogged along to catch my companions.
Back to 2016 and Simon and I had another look after a wet spell, finding the frequently dry streambed to be sporting a couple of nice cascades.  A quick poke at the sites Denis and I had investigated proved them to be sinks, but too tight, so we went back downstream to find a spot Simon recognised.  A bit of excavation revealed a cold-draughting chasm, taking a lot of water that we could not divert.  Dropping a ladder down, I had a quick look in before admitting defeat to the torrent crashing onto my head.  After covering the entrance with slabs and boulders, we wandered down to Mossdale to see what the upper series looked like in the wet conditions, getting into Broad Street to enjoy its fine stream passage.

A week or two later we were back with survey and compass, noting that one had to trend north-east to find the cave passage, dropping onto a ledge about 5m short of the pitch base with a 10m ladder just sufficing from the extended sling on a super flake belay.  From this ledge, trending upstream relative to the beck, a bit of traversing and a chimney down led into walking/stooping passage, soon lowering into a crawl and squeeze requiring the removal of some rubble and a mushy rabbit.  A small chamber allowed us both to squat and survey the heavily-foamed, body-sized passage ahead, sporting not a lot of airspace.  I was wearing my tatty old wetsuit, but had a good diving hood, I was soon floating along with my nose in the roof, taking a left turn at a joint to reveal more of the same, before popping out onto a low, gravelly bank.  Shivering somewhat, I went back to Camp1, where Simon took some interesting pictures of my foam-covered form.  Back at the ladder in a couple of minutes, we were soon out in the welcome sun, before making the long plod back to Yarnbury.

Eager to get to the end, we were soon back and with my diving suit on, I was floating along the familiar route, or so I thought, to find myself stuck fast, with my nose in the tiniest of airspace, having turned along the wrong joint.  Simon had gone past me without noticing and I had to ease myself back to shout for him to guide me on to the section I had previously found.  A short crawl then led into the canal section mentioned in NC 1 and marked on the survey, followed by the fine, dry region of Flake Chamber.

This is an impressive place after the grim passages before and we set to work to explore the terminal choke.  The water soon disappears into a low, black bedding and we searched for draught amongst the dangerous complex of blocks, finding one or two leads that brought us back again a week later armed with a garden hand fork to shift some gravel.  Having wormed my way under a water-worn block, I pointed my dive torch forward only for Simon to suggest that he could reach the same spot from another route in the choke…plan B required.
We resolved to keep poking around in the future in here as it has such potential and offers a short, but sporty trip with the added bonus of a nice walk away from the crowds.

Trip Date: 2nd July 2016
Added: 20th July 2016
Reviewer: Ian Cummins
Hits: 999


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