Snatcher Pot and Swan Dike Pot
Members Present: Alex, Don
Initially planning to visit Gaping Gill via Disappointment Pot, the dire weather forecast forced us to change our plans. Alex suggested that we visit Snatcher Pot, a lesser visited pothole on Penyghent Gill. The thing that really sold me on this cave is the fact that it’s roughly a five minute walk from the car parking area. After getting changed and asking the farmer for permission, Alex and I quickly reached the cave, which is located just a few feet away from an active stream. The entrance to the cave is a short 2m climb down into a narrowish, downwards slanting rift ~4m high. Alex’s first reassuring words upon seeing water flowing directly into the entrance (albeit not directly from the stream, rather from some other underground source) were: ‘I weren’t expecting that. There weren’t any water at all the previous two times I was here.’ Awesome.
Somewhat perturbed, I followed Alex down the sloping rift to a short ~4m climb. The water flowing down the rift turned left here and disappeared under some rocks. We, on the other hand, made our way down the short climb to a small chamber. The way forward was through a narrow rift that was only accessible via a sideways shuffle at floor level – a small amount of water was following down the passage. Alex led the way, dragging a large tackle bag while I followed with two smaller bags. The narrow rift continues for several meters before making a sharp right angle turn, then continues further for a few more meters where it makes another sharp right hand turn. It was at this point that we met the streamway, with several inches of water flowing down the rift passage ahead. After several meters the floor of the rift drops away and the way on is a traverse up into the narrow rift.
At this point I started to become increasingly concerned with the amount of water flowing down the passage. I wasn’t worried about the amount of water currently in the cave, I was more concerned with the gloomy weather forecast for later that afternoon and the fear of a sudden unexpected rainstorm while we were in the cave, causing a rise in the water levels, which would make exiting the cave very unpleasant or even deadly as one’s body formed a natural dam and the rising water caused one to drown. Also, if the water in the stream outside were to rise a few inches then the water would flow directly into the cave and exit would be impossible. I pointed this out to Alex who (somewhat reluctantly I should add) agreed to terminate our trip here and so we exited the cave.
Once back on the surface Alex and I made our back to the road, dumped most of our gear in our cars with the exception of a short section of rope and our SRT gear, and continued walking along the road until we reached the general area where we thought Swan Dike was located. The problem here was trying to find a way to cross the poorly constructed wall, which seemed liable to collapse. Alex then noticed a concrete pipe going under the road so off he went, slowly squirming along like an earthworm. I then followed after him, after first removing my SRT gear and handing it to him across the wall. Once on the other side we noticed a square shaped hole roughly 2m in diameter, covered by an old wooden door. We removed this to discover a hole ~2.5m deep. Unfortunately it didn’t go anywhere, though there was what appeared to be a handline in one corner. Presumably there was once a shaft here, but if so it had collapsed.
On we went. After ten minutes or so of searching we managed to find the entrance to Swan Dike. It didn’t look like anyone had been here in a while. The boards covering the entrance were completely rotted and the scaffolding on the 15m climb down was very rusted at several of the joints. The scaffolded climb itself was somewhat stressful, for me at least, as it’s essentially a climb down a large boulder choke. Thoughts of the recent incident at Bull Pot raced through my mind. The scaffolding was holding back the boulders in several places, though there were a number of places where there was no scaffolding at all and it looked as if a simple sneeze would be enough to collapse the entire shaft. At the bottom of the climb a short section of downward slanting rift passage ends in a junction – left heads downstream while right heads upstream. We opted for the left and quickly reached the main streamway.
This passage starts off with a couple of very low, wet crawls followed by another low crawl in two foot deep water (very cold!). The cave in general isn’t large in terms of size. The remainder of the journey from this point to the top of the first pitch consisted of a mixture of walking, traversing, and a few climbs down small cascades. A final step over a blind pot (6m) leads immediately to the first pitch (6m). Once at the bottom I had a look at The Trick, and then Alex and I headed out. We never planned to do the entire trip (and I doubt that I would have fit through The Trick given what I’ve read other people say about it). The primary reason for visiting Swan Dike was because Alex wanted to check out some of the side passages, as well as the section upstream. On our way out we explored every passage that we could find. It was actually a lot of fun. Most of them were ‘round trips’ (i.e. they ended up back at the main streamway). There was a lot of variety though. Several squeezes, some interesting climbs, and even a trip through a short duck to visit the upstream bit of the cave (thanks to Alex clearing some rather large rocks that were blocking this ‘through trip’). It was the upstream section of the cave that was undoubtedly the most exciting as it ends – or rather begins – with a decent size chamber ~9m high or so that was issuing lot of water from a passage just near the top. This was by far the largest room in the cave and felt like a completely different pothole.
After this excitement had ended, we headed out of the cave, thankfully without dislodging any of the boulders during the climb out. Once on the surface we got changed, stopped for a drink at a pub in Litton, then decided to have a look at Sleets Gill to see if there was any water coming out of it. This was a very short trip as the only light we had was a cheap one Alex had bought from Tesco’s. Again, it was only a recce. We made it to the bottom of the scree slope before turning back and heading out.
Cool, you wrote a lot more then I was going to do.
That waterfall was 11m, there is another pitch above it too (8m), quite a bit up there. Guess we need a maypole to explore…
The bit I dug out in the stream to connect upstream to downstream is not connected on the survey either, so I guess we did the first ever through trip, that way! Also that passage I squirmed my way along, is new passage on that survey. (The rocks in the way sort of indicated no one had been up there either). It still goes btw, just very tight. (Its the inlet just north of the canal).
Finally, I should say for anyone else we were in normal clothes when going into Sleets gill, which was why we did not go further on.