Ian, Simon - 1/12/07
With the original plan of Marble Sink out of the window due to the poor weather, I called Simon for an alternative and fortunately he suggested the very plan I had in mind. With the wind blasting the rain against the windows on Friday night, I was curious to see how wet the Dales would be, with further showers en-route to Ingleton, and a lot of water lying in the Kingsdale valley floor fields.
Finding no other vehicles about, we got changed prior to a look down Valley Entrance to check out the water in the Master Cave. This was great fun, with the deep pools of water being surprisingly warm and being undisturbed, also beautifully clear. Peering down to the stream from the top of the Roof Tunnel, the water was not too wild and a rope was in-situ, so we headed out and up the hill.
I guess most cavers are familiar with the classic Kingsdale caves such as Simpson’s, but I hadn’t been down it for decades and I remembered that on the first trip I had done with Simon down Swinsto, earlier in the year, there was no water coming down from Slit Pot, whereas we had quite a wet time on our trip.
I had heard of people taking the wrong route, by abbing into the Pit, pulling the rope and not being able to pass through, with a rescue being required, but Simon assured me he knew the route. The only worry we had was that the duck below the third pitch would be sumped and we brought extra ropes to give us the option of fixing pitches 1 and 2 for a retreat. However, upon descending, I reckoned that if push came to shove, I could free-climb these pitches and we pulled the rope, finding a few inches of airspace at the duck anyway. In fact if one knows where the duck is, it wouldn’t be too difficult to pass even if it were sumped, since it quickly opens up into a decent passage.
Pleasant progress, to the accompaniment of a lot of crashing water, brought us to the infamous Slit Pot. To be sure of reaching the ground, we used 50m and 40m ropes for rigging and finding the squeeze to be no problem, we were soon on the spray-lashed ledge, with the bottom half of the descent being fully in the waterfall. However, we were not quite home and dry, as we could not pull the rope down. With Simon belaying the pull side of the rope, I jumared up and re-rigged to a higher P-hanger, out of sight from the inside of the squeeze, to reduce the angle on the rope, which we were then able to pull easily.
The final drop down the rubble slope was a gushing fall, unlike on our Swinsto trip, when we had free-climbed up and down it. With no way to avoid the water, it was a case of bridging out as far as possible with a final deep breath for the last few feet to the ground, landing under the full force of the fall.
Reaching the stream in the KMC was both exciting and intimidating, with the knee-deep water flowing at such a pace that being swept downstream was a distinct and scary possibility. We traversed most of the way back to the pitch, until the passage widened sufficiently to allow a descent back into the water.
I was keen to free-climb the pitch for future reference in case of emergency and did it with a self-belay to the fixed rope. Curiously there are 2 fixed P-bolts on the easy moves up to the top, where the committing grovel over on large, but smooth holds is made away from protection. Mind you I did it wearing neoprene gloves, so it can’t be too bad really.
After again enjoying the Valley Entrance series we emerged to more rain and retired to the Marton Arms after a thoroughly satisfying day. Driving back past Ribblehead, I encountered real monsoon conditions of rain and sleet, such that the road was almost obscured by the deluge, making the feeling of satisfaction from a sporting day under such conditions even more intense.