October 20th:

The leader had sought written permission for access to the Gaping Gill system from the Ingelborough Estate Office. In response, a written permit was issued with the following condition “Do not get changed in Clapham Village, use official car park or change on the fell”. The leader duly requested in his meet notice that everybody should park in the car park.

Needless to say, as the leader drove into the sleepy village on the Sunday morning, the first thing he was confronted by were two half naked Sampsons parked at the side of the road directly in front of some old ladies house.

Luckily the walkers had arrived in good time and had all their clothes on. Tackle bags were distributed between the walkers and cavers and the long sweaty walk up to Gaping Gill was undertaken. Lionel kindly carried a 60m rope in a bright yellow tackle bag as if it was a brief case and he was on his way to the office.

Unfortunately the heavy rain over the previous few days scuppered the original plan to descend into the main chamber via the Dihedral route, so a slightly drier exchange trip between Bar Pot and Wades Entrance became the days objective. The tackle bags were taken off the walkers, at which point they were instructed to leave us as they were now surplus to requirements and they were likely to start cramping our style.

 

At this point the cavers split into two groups. The Sampsons and Mike headed off down Wades Entrance and Rob, Syd and Ian tackled Bar Pot.

The first Y hang on Bar Pot was found to be very tight and the leader momentary became suspended from his helmet as he abseiled through the slot. Being the leader on the day he obviously didn’t panic and suggested that others may wish to try a ‘little lower’. The second ‘slab’ pitch was then tackled with ease and a short passage descended to reach the top of the main 30m free hanging pitch. A short traverse from the base of the pitch intercepts the wet South East Pot and the Sampsons and Mike could be seen high above the waterfall rigging the top of their final pitch. The leader understands at this point that a rigging cock-up occurred necessitating the Sampsons to re-rig the top part of the pitch (possibly with some made up granny knots) whilst Mike was shouting instructions from part way down it. Upon reaching the bottom of the abseil, George provided everybody with a perfect ‘Bambi on ice’ impression as he messed up the art of ‘swinging and abseiling at the same time to land one’s self on a ledge’.

Regrouped as a single unit, the party immediately took a wrong turn trying to find South East Passage. Once through the passage, the group popped out into the main Gaping Gill chamber which was jaw dropping. The chamber is 140m long, 34m tall and 27m wide with a 100m deep shaft at one end running up to the surface. Following the heavy rain the waterfall was very substantial and cascading off the sides of the shaft. Ed and Ian immediately wanted to thank their leader for the good work undertaken so far by throwing him into the waterfall like a helpless little lamb. However, the helpless lamb was stronger than they thought and is good at hugging boulders on the floor making him more difficult to move.

Suitably impressed by the main chamber, the party took the short detour to Mud Hall. At this point George (AKA the Mine Inspector – refer to previous meet reports for other inspection records) was so busy writing in his note book that he wandered perilously close to the big, muddy, slippery drop on the ‘left’ having ignored instructions from the leader to stay on the ‘far right’.

A quick look at the watch suggested that the party should begin the return journey and it was agreed that Syd and the leader would de-rig Wades, whilst the rest of the party would exit through Bar Pot. The route back up the 4 Pitches though Wades was very enjoyable following the stream almost back to the surface up several waterfalls and cascades.

The leader understands that the other party encountered another group of cavers upon their return through Bar Pot. Ed was caught red handed jamming up their rope on the main pitch (instead of using ours) and Mike persuaded a petrified member of their party down the main pitch in Bar Pot sending the poor lad even deeper into a cave that he didn’t even want to be in! Being the DPC, the final insult was to remove our rope from the first pitch on Bar Pot (which they had descended) leaving the other group marooned inside (possibly).

Reunited on the surface under a beautiful blue sky the return walk to Clapham was made. Rather selfishly the walkers had not bothered to return to the cave to help carry the tackle bags. A swift transfer was made to the Marton Arms for tea.

This meet report is dedicated to the memory of Ed’s head torch (RRP £84) which he carelessly lost on the way back to Clapham.