People present: Chris Sharman, Alex Ritche
Weather: Start of heatwave, been dry several weeks.
It’s strange on paper it looks like an excellent and challenging through trip but I could not find much info about it, other than what pieced together from the Northern Cave’s descriptions. I am not sure even if anyone has even done a through trip since the 90s? I also heard from Chris that day, that according to UKC Upstream downstream passage is completely silted up.
Still, we thought we would take a look. We took SRT kits and a rope as we planned to rig the pitch in Ibbeth Peril 2, to act as a bail out, or as a bypass if Upstream Downstream proved impassable. We found Ibbeth Peril 2 al-right, entrance lid of a slab propped on a log was “secure”. However, only two body lengths in we found it was almost completely blocked at the flat out crawl with flood debris, and would not make an easy dig. Not looking good for the trip then and we now have no bailout option to boot!
Still we ventured on into Ibbeth Peril 1, which was not blocked. The next problem was route finding as the only thing I had was my phone with a picture of the survey from Northern caves, as my printer had ran out of ink. After several wrong turns we eventually found Upstream Downstream passage. For those that are interested, head the normal way to the two sumps at the back of the main chamber, instead of going down the hole you come across, traverse around on the left into the continuing passage, Upstream Downstream is the second passage on your right, partially filled with water.
Northern caves describes the whole passage rather vaguely but mentions a tube bypass and a canal of varying air space, so we had taken neo-fleeces. At first it was right, a wet wallow of about 30m started us off, but then it all became dry and tight, in-fact too tight! So I started digging with my bare hands, it seemed rather hopeless, it looked just as low for a while. Progress was not great but after a bruising squeeze I managed to get into a slightly bigger part. Chris spotted a crawl off to my left with a higher roof, which bypassed all the too low stuff. I followed this tube left and right across the wide bedding passage.
Unfortunately, my companion, was not able to get through the constriction, every bit he dug just resettled itself in his way again. It was bloody tight, so it was left to me to see how far I could push it.
After a nice tubular passage on the left “the tube bypass, described” I assume ended, and then came to another too-tight squeeze, this time in water. This was thankfully more rocky than silty though and after another 10 minutes of digging with my face half in the water I was able to clear this enough to just be a tight squeeze and make another 20m progress up the stream, all of which flat out, before another part that needed digging.
I eventually gave up with the digging here and started heading back out but found a slightly higher bit on the right of the passage, that did not need that much digging. If I do this trip again I may bring a small spade!
After another 40m of easier flat out crawling, easier as it was just slithering and not digging the passage height rose to just crawling absolutely luxury it had to be almost 1m high! I could hear waterfall that I soon reached after the passage branched into two (the left choked). This water streamed in from a small hole in the roof which is meant to lead directly to the pool outside the entrance of Ibbeth Peril. The relief of “just” crawling ended here and another hard flat out slither that started directly under the water fall ensued with a bit more on-route pebble clearing. This again seemed to go on for a while but I guess it was only 20m, I was certainly starting to feel this trip in my arms, as I dragged myself along. I emerged into a barely flowing stream that was merely just flat out, which after a while improved again to crawling and wait I can stand up here! A small passage on the right just before this point lead into Ibbeth Peril 2, but as we could not even get into it to rig it, there was no easy way out here. I will leave that for another day.
I noticed in some easy crawling how tired I was from all that “digging as you go” so I hoped I would find my way out Upper Hackergill. Thankfully, the passages now were all rather easy a bit of scrambling over boulders and a few formations, half of it walking height. At one point it was evident that some brave soul had been doing some formation cleaning as there was a wire brush propped against a pretty formation. I assumed whoever had done this, they had probably entered by Upper Hackergill, so it can’t be far now can it?
The large passage stopped and a tight solid rock squeeze blocked the way on. There would be no digging this. However, I did not need to. A bit of breathing out and wriggling and I was through into a lovely tubular passage. The tube exited into another small chamber with straw formations. There may have been a route to my left but if there was it was completely choked with rocks and pebbles. I carried on carefully past the straws and into another crawl, this crawl ended in a too tight passage. Bugger, where’s this 5m climb then, where’s the way out? I searched for a good while and could not find my way, unless I missed something in the chamber. The only guess was it was behind all those rocks and would need some serious digging.
Well out I went then, thankfully it was quite a bit easier than the inward journey as I just followed my dug channels, that was until I came to that final squeeze where Chris had turned back. This took me a while and a lot of wriggling to get through.
When I got out I read the guide book and it did not mention anything other than saying the 5m climb was beyond the tight squeeze, well no, no it was not. It’s possible I could have some how gone wrong but unless I ventured into some dodgy boulder chokes off the main route then I have no idea where that could have been.
Trip time was almost 4 hours to make about 300m of progress! I may have a video, if I get round to editing it.
Nice to have a Black Rose trip – it’s been a while – thanks Alex.
Hard going through all the flat out silt, but not quite as unpleasant as it sounds.
Glad you got some video Alex – please post
It has been a while, so sorry your trip turned out to be a shorter one, like I said I had no idea what is like, I assumed flat out and wet, but not tight flat out and wet. Hope you had a good explore of the rest of the cave, to not make it a total wasted trip for you.
Yes video is coming along nicely pretty much all the footage is useable which is unusual!