Clapham Bottoms Club meet and Penyghent Pot
I couldn’t find much information about Clapham Bottoms, since my Northern Caves had it listed as a BPC dig, although I gleaned from an old Descent contents page posted on the internet that it was a fine recent breakthrough by the WRPC and I was therefore keen to come along. Unfortunately it appeared to clash with Simon’s second permit for Penyghent and I was definitely keen to get down there after being rained off the week before. As luck would have it, Simon had the date wrong and the permit was for the Sunday, so I was set for a hard weekend.
I met up with leader Chris Smith, together with his fellow digger Mr Clark, Mr and Mrs Rhoades and Mr Walker at the bottom of the Trow Gill track and we set off with the few ladders necessary for the entrance pitches. I took heed of Chris’s warning about the presence of a canal and had my wetsuit in my rucksack. After a check on the water level at Ingleborough cave, it was decreed that entry would be possible and we headed across the fell from the bottom of Trow Gill. Initially there is a climb down old timber shoring to a ladder in a narrow, smooth rift, with a little further progress to another ladder into a chamber. A crawl from here led into the canal – pretty deep and cold too – and being the first through and the only wetsuit wearer, I could hear the groans of those following as the cold took its toll. I carried on until the water became shallower and a fine gour cascade marked a choice of route. Chris directed Abby and me to check out the left fork along a low, wet crawl, with nice formations, finishing at a flowstone constriction. Back at the gour, the way on was over the cascade and into a long, painful crawl. The agony ended at a very fine little chamber with nice straws, but the return journey took its toll due to the very cold water and the ruggedness of the rock below. A right-hand passage from the ‘tea area’ led to a nice flowstone aven, again constricted at about 15 feet. Back at the digging base, some cave-enlarging paraphernalia were arranged and we set off out carrying picks and shovels in a bit of a tidy up. Carrying a shovel up the ladder added a bit of interest and I must admit I was fairly well done in by the crawls – much worse than Penyghent and about on a par with the bottom section of Swan Dyke for gnarliness. Back on the surface the sky had cleared and I got changed while the mud people walked down in their gear. I had some cash so I rewarded myself with an ice cream from the cave shop. A very interesting trip – I salute the diggers for their efforts!
Next day I could have done with a lie in, but if you can’t get out of bed for Penyghent Pot, then you are in the wrong game. Meeting Simon and Fay in Horton, the Three Peaks café was heaving with lycra-clad types as well as a number of the BPC having breakfast. Mr Swampy assured us that the cave would be full of water, but kindly allowed us to park at Brackenbottom. Other BPC chaps here also reckoned we were wasting our time, but I was keen for a look at the canal at least, not having been in the cave before. The walk up wasn’t bad at all, even carrying rope bags and we were soon at the entrance. While we were sorting the gear, we could hear a quad approaching and Simon reckoned it would be the gamekeeper, who wasn’t in when he went to hand in the permit. Before the bike arrived, a rabbit, chased by several lurchers flew past and made its hole with about 6 inches to spare! The keeper then came over and we had a chat. He was concerned about unauthorised digging on the hill and requested we spread the word. He was a pleasant enough fellow and while we have our fun on these hills, it’s worth remembering that other people make their living off them, and a little courtesy and consideration tends to go a long way with most folk. Anyway, sermon over and down the cave!
The canal was flowing well, but not too deep and I found the sandy base pleasant enough to crawl along with a tackle bag. Towards the end at a lowering of the roof, lots of foam was present overhead and on reaching the pitch there was a lot of water from both inlets, making a lot of noise at the base. The big pitch was also well watered and we continued down the rift pitches roping and free climbing according to taste. This is a great section of cave – I would take 1 mile of this over 100 of dry passage, with not a trace of mud in sight. Getting towards Myers Leap, we were still concerned by the water levels, given the unsettled weather and Fay headed out while me and Simon decided to sprint to have a look at Niagara. Following the deep water here, we both fell foul of the shin-bashing obstacles underwater, and on reaching more deep water with a foamy roof we decided to turn back, being a little concerned by an unexplained booming noise we both heard. The trip out and detackling went without a hitch and once into the main canal section we were able to relax. I rescued a big frog from the entrance ruckle and emerged to dark clouds as well as lots of midges. It was a shame not to bottom the pot, but we had great sport in the wet conditions. I’m looking forward to a return.