After being stood up by Chris Shaman, after he was saying the caves were too easy for him (he normally says my choices are too hard), I decided to solo some of the lesser visited cavers of Ribblehead. Everyone seems to assume there is nothing there except Novice caves (Including Shaman) because they are all close to the surface and don’t have any pitches, but they could not be further from the truth. Yes, there are no grade 4 or 5 caves, but the grade 3 ones are fun and worth a visit there are many caves 400m or longer.
So I plotted a walking route to take a look at a series of caves, starting at Roger Kirk near the viaduct. I did not really read much about the cave, other than it’s a grade 3 through trip with four entrances. I located one of the entrances in a small shake-hole, which you can’t see until you are on top of it. (Glad I had the grid ref!) Once in, I headed downstream, down a tall and in-places well decorated passage, that needed traversing from time to time. So far so easy as one would expect. But then the cave changed to a low crawl in the water, which was bloody freezing. This brought me to another entrance, but I carried on downstream through even wetter passage and rather awkward passage to emerge at the final entrance where the water just popped out as a stream over the fell.
I returned to the original entrance (over land) and headed upstream. Again this was rather big to start with and well decorated in places, but soon it began to shrink and consisted of several flat out sections. At one point I climbed up a rift to find another entrance, only this one was tiny, barely 3 inches high, I think this is behind a crack in the scar.
Upstream from here was more of the same crawly and awkward passage and became a bit of a maze with several branching passages, I did think this might just end but a breeze kept driving me forward (it was bloody windy today). After a few wrong turns I eventually emerged, further up the hill. With taking photos this trip must have taken me over an hour to complete the through trip.
My next cave on the list was Middle Scar cave, but NC said it was blocked, but I wanted to see the state of it as it’s meant to be a long cave. As there was a short rain shower on my way across I decided to pop into Thistle and Runscar for half an hour just to get out of the rain. I then reached Middlescar to find a new stable way in has been dug, however this seems to lead almost immediately to a deep sump with an underwater ladder in it. I traversed on underwater ledges to where I could see the roof lower and prevent any further traversing. I am led to believe the passage actually does continue here but involves a swim. I can’t swim in caving gear, so I would come back with my life jacket on another day.
Next was to cross the road and go to Katnot cave, which had an interesting walk in following where one follows a raging torrent (Ribble river) upstream. At least of which 50% was coming out of the cave at a lower resurgence. The entrance is hard to miss and after a quick scramble over boulders I was in large passage, with an amazing streamway in strong flow. With the orange rock and large decorated passage, it reminded me of caving abroad, it had that continental feel to it of a big river cave. It took me about 15 minutes to fight my way up stream until the passage lowered. I explored many inlets some lower than others, (all soon became flat out). I almost made it to the surface following one as I could hear a car with a trailer driving above me and see spiders, alas the passage got just a little bit too small. Following the main flow, got me rather cold as I was crawling through fast flowing water, eventually at the main active inlet I turned around.
I was too cold to carry on doing more caves and walked about a mile back to my car, I had planned to do Ribble head and Backreef too, but I had already spent about 4 hours caving and walking.
There are enough caves to keep one interested for several days such as Black Reef cave and others, in drier and warmer weather of course, but definitely worth a return trip.
Interesting report. Scaife and I have talked about visiting the caves in this area for a long time. There’s a lot to check out if you’re willing to walk around. I’ve done a lot of fun Grade 2 caves in the past, like that one near Buttertubs that several of us (including, you Scaife and Carol) did a few years ago. Can’t remember the name. Elpha Green in Allendale is a lot of fun too.
I’d like to go back and check out P69a (I think that’s the name) again, the one near Knacker Trapper that Dave Ramsay was digging a few years ago. It had a duck in it. I wonder how far it was pushed.