OUCC Proceedings 3 (1964)

Yorkshire Roundabout

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During normal caving trips, one often makes minor observations which one thinks could be important. In these, I include such things as belays for pitches, tackle required, possible passages, formations etc. Each one alone is probably not worth recording, but many observations fitted together can make an interesting picture. Thus a 10 day caving holiday in Yorkshire resulted in the following.

We wanted to test the efficacy of the Fluorescein/Charcoal method of water-tracing. Bullpot of the Witches was chosen and detectors for fluorescein (a teaspoonful of coconut charcoal sewn up in a bandage) and Rhodamine B (tanned cotton threads) were put in the northern sump at the end of '49 Cavern (See O.U.C.C. Proc. No. 2). The solo trip to do this took about one hour. The same evening 10 gms. of fluorescein were placed in the sinks of Aygill (See O.U.C.C. Proc. No. 1). Twenty-four hours later, 15 gms. of rhodamine B were put in. Three days after this, all the water in '49 Cavern was visibly coloured green, the deep pools near the duck and in the lake providing optimum conditions. The charcoal detector was positive, but the rhodamine B was not. From this I deduce that insufficient time had been allowed for the rhodamine to come through, which suggests that the fluorescein had only just arrived. The estimated distance of travel is about 200 yards, and 3 days to complete it seems surprisingly long. From the flow entering the northern sump, there must be a large pick-up zone, but the fells around Aygill are fairly dry, with no surface streams. Thus it appears that Bullpot extends N.W. for a good distance beyond the sump and that Aygill, on sinking, flows N.W. to meet the Bullpot drainage channel at depth, and then flows S.E. to the northern sump.

Tip Pot was descended for another attempt on the final rift (See O.U.C.C. Proc. No. 2). Hammers, chisels and crowbars, and an optimistic ladder accompanied us down the extremely awkward ladder pitch known as Guillotine Pot. It is surprising how twenty months of wishful thinking can give a false impression, and the rift was as tight and awkward as before. We retired after a short futile burst of hammering. This is a job for "bang" - if the upper reaches can stand it!

Armed with P.U. and its suggested tackle, we made our way to Pool Sink. Before us lay a quick route to the Eastgill Master Cave (Joke!). The entrance crawl was quite easy and soon we were making rapid progress to the pitch. The belay is not ideal for wire, but we soon had it rigged, and fifty feet later we were at the bottom, in the streamway. Despite two more pitches in the description, the "required tackle" had been used, so we set off with just a rope downstream. Soon, we reached Chute Pitch and undaunted we did the traverse into the dry passage; we traversed a pot and came to another pitch. A traverse over this seemed possible, but was a bit dodgy. We returned to the top of the ladder pitch for a spare ladder and belay and with these I descended the pot in the dry passage. This landed me at the foot of Chute Pitch and left me with a further 20' pitch to descend and above it was wedged the old T-piece itself. Thus we were defeated and had to return, stopping to visit the beautiful Magpie Chamber on the way. On a later visit with more tackle we descended by this route to the T-piece and belayed a 20' ladder to this. Below, the stream passage led to another pitch, with an obvious roof traverse leading nowhere, and using tackle let down off the previous two pitches on a double rope, we descended to 25' pitch (rather wet). Finding the entrance to a dry passage, we followed it up and back above the streamway towards the T-piece pitch, and although three points of connection with the streamway below were found, none seemed to provide tackle-free routes into or out of the streamway. Below the 25' pitch an obvious downstream route led to the Master Cave at Holbeck Junction. Thus a tackle list for the streamway route down Pool Sink would read : -

1st pitch 50 ft. ladder 20 ft. belay (round choked boulder)

2nd pitch 15 ft. ladder Sling belay (to eye of rock on far side of pot)

3rd pitch 20 ft. ladder (to T-piece)

4th pitch (wet) 25 ft. ladder Sling belay (to flake of rock on R. off head of pitch)

Lancaster Hole is well described in Cave Science No. 6. But should one wish to do certain variations of the circuit formed by Wilf Taylor's, Waterfall and Portcullis Passages, difficulties may be encountered. The ascent from the Master Cave of the waterfall in Waterfall Passage is rather difficult and involves complete soaking. Descent without tackle would be almost impossible for any but a very competent party. The route is to ascend whence the water descends, but there is really no room for both caver and water! After, another short waterfall is climbed on the razor-edged flakes of dubious strength that protrude on the left. After that the going is easy to Cross System. Here the stream flows from low tunnels, which get lower and lower! Near the end of the right-hand branch a black sheep bone was found in the shingle. The descent of Wilf Taylor's Passage is alright until Double-Decker Pot is reached. Descent of the lower deck down the arete is awkward and a rope is a great help (it can be retrieved from below). Lastly, the connection between Portcullis and Waterfall Passages (down the hole in the former) is not easy to find from Waterfall Passage.

On a "day off" we laddered Alum Pot direct. Using the second tree back from the edge, along the path on the East side as a belay, and hanging the ladder round the tree on the edge, gives an excellent climb, free after 25 ft., to the ledge at 120 ft. An 18 ft. belay and 175 ft. of ladder suffice to reach the bottom of the pitch. From here the cascades are climbable, and the last pitch requires 25 ft. of ladder and 50 ft. of belay. The ladder should be hung to the right, and a spacer for electron ladder would be a help, since it tends to hug the convex slope at the top and makes climbing awkward.

Our last trip was to the end of Caseker Gill Passage in Dow Cave. Here, various previously-noted possibilities were examined. From the final chamber, four routes lead off (besides the two connecting with the Penultimate Chamber). The stream enters on the left through a low passage, roofed with choked boulders. To the right of this a flood channel is choked at the end, and to the right again, a low bedding plane crawl leads off. This leads to a small hole, at the bottom of which a narrow channel branches off to the left, connecting with the flood channel. Straight on is a crawl on sandy shingle. When I first visited this in July 1962, it appeared unentered, but this time there were "trog-marks" in the mud. Over a sandbank to the left, led past a squeeze under a boulder to a small chamber. Here, a stalagmite curtain had been chipped away, and an extremely tight squeeze led to a fork. Up to the left was a small chamber full of stalactites; down to the right, a crawl through muddy pools led to a squeeze up through loose boulders into an unstable boulder chamber. The only exit was a small hole to a crystal pool. After a chasing game with the boulders (I won!) a hasty retreat was made and we left for the exit, meeting about 25 people on the way. (It is getting as bad as Goatchurch!)

Later in the vacation, another visit to Bullpot of the Witches resulted in the finding of a further extension, not described in O.U.C.C. Proc. No. 2. The entrance is in the dry passage running parallel to the streamway, between Cairn Chamber and the final (Southern) sump. Coming from the sump the entrance is on the left, just before the passage starts to descend to Cairn Chamber. A 4 ft. climb up leads to a further climb of about 10 ft. Above a narrow passage leads to an aven. To the right (from the direction of entry) is a climb up the wall for about 15 ft., with loose boulders at the top. Here a boulder floor slopes away to a choked shaft on the right and a hole straight ahead. Through the hole, a 15 ft. drop (care!) leads to a boulder slope entering a chamber. There is a stream on the left, sinking in a narrow fissure, but upstream is a branch passage on the left, and a pool and choke. The inlet passage opens out but ultimately chokes. These chokes are at about the same level as the other "lower oxbows" near Cairn Chamber.