Sat 15th Nov 2014
Daniel J, Alex R and Chris Sh
After a rather wet Friday (but dry forecast for Saturday) it was decided that we would go to do the Providence-Dow through trip, something I was reluctant to do having done the trip several times before. On meeting Alex and Chis, Alex suggested that we have a proper look at the Caskergill extensions and the old mine workings in Dow cave instead. I wasn’t expecting much, but myself nor Chris had never done them so off we set.
A nice easy walk to the entrance was followed by having a bit of fun trying to avoid all of the water in the entrance series (Alex had a wet suit but I and Chris just our furries). We soon reached the turn off to Dowbergill passage and continued through pleasant stream passage until Hobsons choke. This was passed without incident and didn’t ‘appear’ particularly loose despite the EXTREME DANGER! signs before it. Appearances can be deceptive though and due care was taken passing through it.
The stream passage on the other side of the choke is wide and high and, after exploring several small inlets and mine workings (though we seem to have missed the Depot chamber mine series), we took the dry route through the triple oxbow and arrived at the 3rd Miners chamber. Here we wandered up a stooping height passage on the left of the miners platform into the Rattle and Sploosh mine workings. These workings appeared to mostly be enlarged natural passage, and if you don’t mind the sight of rotted stemples littering the floor and chimney climbs up overhanging walls of stacked boulders, then a ‘fun’ little round trip can be had in here. At one point a ladder was seen heading up into a rubble filed shaft and we pondered if this might have originally been a shaft to the surface that had been back-filled. After some ‘fun’ photos it was off back to the streamway.
Arriving back on the miners platform I noticed a climb into a rift on the otherside. This could be negotiated by snaking between a couple of boulders jammed in the climb and, after another awkward climb up a narrow rift with calcited stemples, transpired to be the way into the Stemple Rift mine series. This was a long, straight, enlarged rift (with excellent ‘omming’ acoustics!) with several ‘interesting’ climbs heading up, none of which led anywhere.
Returning to the 3rd miners chamber we continued up the main stream way which at this point became very high and rather fine (we seem to have missed the ‘hole in the roof’ and ‘Clogs way’). A climb up and squeeze between two boulders shortly after the 1st waterfall (very nice on its own), took us to the rather fine roof gardens. These contain some of the nicest formations I’ve come across in the dales and were a very pleasant surprise: a rather large stal (Goliath), various columns, straws and curtains and some curious looking horizontally trending helictites. Definitely need to return with my camera, though of course Alex’s photos will be hard to beat…every one is a winner!
Climbing back down, we continued up the, at this point excellent, stream passage. Climbing up the next two rather fine cascades brought us to the 2nd boulder choke. This was as far as Alex had been and had not found a way on previously, but he did mention that there appeared to be more on the survey. After a bit of poking around in the choke I came across some old red bang wire that appeared to have been left as a guide! Calling for Alex and Chris to follow we followed the wire through a constricted crawl until some scaffing was reached (Dig A on the survey). This is a well scaffolded dig UP through very loose boulders…massive credit must go the original explorers (Craven?). The dig seemed quite stable but the scaffold seemed to have been there quite some time so who knows? The dig ended back at the streamway, in a part of the choke with more space between the larger boulders. Here a red tape marked route was carefully followed (mostly at stream level…brrrrr) to take us to Albert Hall. Edit: I am not sure to what red tape Dan was talking about there was a bit washed in at the very end, but before that I was basically following my nose and the water. Alex
After a bit of poking around we found the dry route to Curtain chamber where, unsurprisingly, there are some very fine curtain formations. There was also an old crowbar and ammunition case, the latter of which I foolishly decided to open and was rewarded with a pressurised blast of foul smelling gasses of who knows what. The case contained some candles, an old tin of fish and some other bits and bobs. A bit more poking around led us to the bitter ends of the cave (stream enters and stream end on survey) and we returned to Albert Hall via the stream.
We made a relatively quick exit from the cave, delayed only by opting to do the delightful Gloop De Loop oxbow on the way out. All in all, a very fine days caving that far surpassed my expectations. Highly recommended!
NB: don’t do if expecting rain as any rise in water levels beyond the 2nd boulder choke would be lethal.