Members Present: Alex, Don
After some discussion about where to go caving – we had both narrowed it down to somewhere in Dentdale – Alex and I settled on Keld Beck Cave, a Grade 4. The bonus is that the cave requires no tackle. Though the cave description in NC didn’t include any warning about catastrophic flooding, which seems to be the case for nearly all the other caves in Dentdale, we were still a little worried about water levels given the description mentions that the cave is located immediately above a resurgence (about 2-4 feet above to be precise) and that it also drains a large area northeast of the resurgence. Thankfully it didn’t rain until after Alex and I had exited the cave, but a rise of just a few inches in the water level would almost surely make this cave a death trap.
We parked about 1/3 of a mile south of the Sportsman’s Inn, on the west side of the small, very narrow bridge (just across from a large farm house with a tyre swing in the front yard) that crosses the River Dent on the rode from the B6255 turn off to Dent. As a rough guess, it’s about 3 miles or so from the B6255.
The cave is very easy to find. You just stand in front of the Sportsman’s Inn and follow the stream gully straight ahead for .7 mile straight up the hill. Once you’ve crossed the railroad tracks (or rather taken a very picturesque tunnel beneath them) you’re about 1/3 of the way there. The cave and resurgence are located at the top of this gulley – there are absolutely no trees around, so the entrance is obvious – about 15-20 feet below a very wide public pathway. This must get a lot of traffic as we saw two separate groups of people walk past while we were getting ready just before entering the cave.
The cave entrance itself is covered with a heavy plank of wood with a rainbow coloured sling attached to help lift it. Apparently gay pride activists have now made their way as far as Dentdale. Keld Beck Cave has to be the first openly advertised ‘gay friendly’ cave I’ve ever been in. Naturally Alex led the way. The entrance is a 2m climb down an excavated entrance. Immediately below this is a short thrutchy section which involves a short squeeze (described as ‘tight’ in the description, but not that bad) followed almost immediately by a short right turn, then an awkward squeeze/climb over a large block which drops you back in the streamway.
The entrance series, which comprises roughly 100m of the 1000m surveyed cave passage and comprises three of the four paragraphs in the NC description is difficult to describe. This section of breakdown passage consists of a mixture of climbing over large blocks, between blocks, and underneath blocks. A couple of the climbs have fixed ropes, which aren’t really necessary, but are useful navigation aids so you know you’re going the right way. To be honest, it’s kind of hard to get lost in this section as there is really only one possible way. Alex and I carefully followed the description on the way in, but on the way out we didn’t bother and only got sidetracked once, very briefly. There are a number of minor squeezes en route, but nothing difficult, apart from one squeeze just before the largest room in the entrance series (2m x 7m) which involved a downwards then sideways thrutch between two wedged blocks. Alex made it through without any real problem, but it took a bit of saxum movens for me to get through.
Once in the 2m x 7m room the way on is a not so obvious bedding plane at floor level on the left hand side about halfway along. A few more inevitable crawls over, between and under fallen blocks finally leads to the end of the entrance series and the beginning of a stream passage. The next section involves crawling on a slippery, wet shale floor with lots of water filled holes, some of which are two feet deep. This section, which involves a lot of left and right hand bends, is a welcome relief from what came before, albeit much wetter. There is a memorable flat-out section about halfway along that involves an awkward right hand bend. Alex described this section as reminiscent of Kneewrecker Passage in Mossdale.
Eventually the crawling ends and the passage opens up. The next section is mostly walking in a stream passage – oftentimes sideways – which is typically 10m high by 1m wide. Eventually more breakdown passage is reached, the water deepens and the roof lowers. This marks the end of the NC description. The section beyond this consists of a number of long ducks separated by interspersing chambers. The final duck is a sideways squeeze. Immediately after this the passage turns to the right through a sideways crawl, then another right hand turn which ends in a breakdown chamber. The next 20 minutes or so of caving consists of breakdown passage with yet another mixture of climbing over, between and under fallen blocks, along with a couple of interesting roof level squeezes in bedding planes. The passage does continue, however Alex and I were very cold by this point (according to him he couldn’t feel his feet or his hands), so we decided to turn around and head out.
The trip out was fun but uneventful. As mentioned beforehand, there was only one minor route finding issue. Once on the surface we enjoyed the warm walk back to the cars. After a quick drink at the Sportsman’s Inn, we (separately) headed home.
I can understand why the cave wasn’t fully surveyed. The entrance series is physically challenging and tiring, and the water beyond is very cold and often deep. It’s doubtful that Alex and I discovered any new passage, but what we did discover definitely isn’t included in the NC description. This was a really fun trip and one that I would definitely recommend to others.
Accurate and good report.
Minor corrections: The passage did not continue past where I was, unless you had capping gear.
My mistake. I thought the passage did continue. The passage was rather small at that point, and you were ahead of me, so I never officially saw the end of the cave.
There was a chamber beyond, definitely un-entered though. The the width of the passage between the boulders was about 5 inch, no way though at it’s current size.