Strans Gill

Strans Gill

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    Chris Scaif & Alex Ritchie

    Weather fine


    Strans gill is possibly the tightest cave I have done so far, and I have done a lot of tight caves. A lot of people say squeezes are tight in many caves, such as bosch rift in Knacker or squeezes in trapdoor, but they don’t hold a candle to Strans Gill!

    A nervous Chris and me met at Hubbleholme before making our way to the cave, we passed a few gill scramblers on the way, up knowing they would likely have an easier day than us.

    Contemplating the entrance

    Starting at the entrance pitch, it’s impossible if you don’t have your Stop on a cow’s tail, however otherwise it was actually quite easy to get down. At the bottom it was gear off and I headed straight off to rig ‘Hope’ pitch. After looking down it, I decided it was free-climable but left the rope on it anyway even if it was just for tackle. I reversed back out of the narrow connection crawl to turn around before reversing my way back in with Chris following with a bag. (It actually is possible I found to turn around just before the pitchhead, I found out later).

    Crawl going towards Hope

    I stuck my legs in and immediately got my hips stuck, struggled a bit, pulled my self back out with a bit of help from Chris. I tried another position, tried again, failed. This went on for quite a while until I found the perfect spot and finally slithered my way through. Chris having seen me struggle so, was wondering if he should even come down, so I said, I will tell you what I will see what its like to come back out again. 15 minutes of shuffling, straining and kicking later I was free and off the pitch, having found the same magical slightly less tight bit. By then I was not in the mood to go back down.

    So obviously we were both wanting to turn back and talked of doing Yokenthwaite, but Chris did not want to feel like a failure and decided he should at least give it a go. Having seen where I went down and back up he slithered through easily and I thought “I suppose I best follow him”, my chest already quite sore by this point. Going down this time, however was far easier. (Face right-hand wall about a foot and half out over the pitch, at an angle of about 60 degrees).

    Bottom of Hope pitch

    A short bit of varying passage took us along a narrow rift with a bit of walking passage! Then as the book described the passage sloped up to a squeeze. I thought it should be easy it was straightforward horizontal tubular squeeze. One, two & three attempts and I was still not through, my chest throbbing. I then sent in secret weapon Chris and after probably breaking a couple of his ribs, he was through, so I thought again “I suppose I best follow him”. I squeezed with all my might and after almost cracking a rib or two myself I was through! No technique for this one, it was just push as hard as you can and hopefully you won’t break anything.

    An easier but still narrow passage led round a corner to the opera box, overlooking Charity pitch. Chris decided I should rig it. Initially the rigging was quite good, a solid eye bolt followed by an the angle bracket which I had to re-thread the rope though. Over the pitch head, one of the bolt was useless, only allowed a couple of turns but the other one was good so I hung the rope that single bolt for the hand, and I was soon down on a rather windy and damp ledge. I looked around for bolts, I found 3 but they were all on the ledge, I tried one the bolt went it in 2 turns, tried another 1 and a half. They were useless, both due to their positioning of being no where near the hole and useless in that I could not use them! I looked for ages for better bolts actually over the big hole we were meant to go down, and I even got Chris to come down and have a look. He did see one miles away but it would have created a massive rub point above, so could not use that either! A drill was what was needed here.

    In the end, we chose the wet route being our only other choice as it was not off shoddy bolts but was off naturals. I headed down the really wet rift, landing after 9m onto a very windy and wet ledge. I then set about trying to find the natural anchors to rig the next drop with. (The book was no good at this point, it just said you needed 3 slings somewhere). I found a solid rock thread a foot back from the drop, on the right (quite small) and a jammed rock out over the pitch head, which seemed pretty solid, I gave it a good few yanks to make sure. I rigged a Y-hang, from those backed up to the last rope.

    I then got on the rope, and looked down again, it was going to be a rather wet descent, hopefully I could find a devi, below, but I could only see about 5 or 10 meters down due to the spray and my light was playing silly buggers. However, I would never get that far for that to be a problem. Just after removing my cows tail, there was a large bang and a massive weight on my right side and ear, and a split second later a large flat screen shaped and sized boulder smashed it self to bits on the pitch below, after it had smashed me to bits. I shouted to Chris, help I am hurt assuming I was with such a massive impact. My arm still moved so that was okay, there was significant pain on the right-hand side of my head, mainly from my ear. I gingerly touched that side of my head expecting to see blood on my gloves, there was none. The pain started subside, adrenalin? As everything seemed to be working I shouted to Chris to ascend, as I was aborting, and getting the heck out of there. Once off the Y-hang, I could see my anchors had held, and what had come off was a large part of the “solid” wall between the two. I assumed the jammed rock had fractured the rock to the side.

    At the top top I asked Chris to gave me a quick look over, there was no obvious injury. The pain had also gone down now, I could not believe it, I was not hurt, and my ear although was sore (and still is) was not ripped off. The boulder must had pushed me out of the way, rather than crushing me, good job I was on a rope and not in the rift passage I had just come through.

    The balcony above charity

    In the end, My only injury a scratch to the side of my ear and slight swelling of my ear.

    Going out now the squeezes were no easier and the entrance pitch required some primal screaming from me to myself “COMON ALEX, COMON, THATS HOW YOU DO IT!” I shouted as I slithered slowly out. I must had given the local sheep a terrible fright!

    Chris however followed my advice unlike myself and took his kit off on the ledge, I think I need to listen to myself sometimes, I give good advice, bout time I bloody follow it! Though to be fair if I took mine off I would left my bag in Chris’s way.

    Very difficult trip, got to be in one of the hardest Dales trips I have done, we would have done it and seen the passage of time, if we could have rigged Charity and the cave had not tried to kill me! We had done all the hard parts. Ribs quite sore, not had that since Swan dyke, only they are more sore.


    Chris will be writing his own version of events, its important to get two points of view for trips like these.


    Bloody hell. Do you know where the boulder came from?


    ‘Chris will be writing his own version of events, its important to get two points of view for trips like these.’

    What do you mean?


    ‘Chris will be writing his own version of events, its important to get two points of view for trips like these.’

    What do you mean?

    Well on such epic trips (even-though we failed to bottom it, due to lack of rigging options). This was a very difficult trip, more than I expected it to be. Very tight for me, it is one of the tightest in the Dales. We both agreed we should write something due to the sort of trip.

    Bloody hell. Do you know where the boulder came from?

    The rock came from what appeared to a solid wall above me in the middle of the Y-hang. What I think happened was the jammed rock that formed part of the Y-hang, put pressure on a hidden crack in the “solid” wall which caused it to peel off and whack me. All my anchors were still in and fine, but even if it had missed me, I would have ended the trip there, as it was obviously not safe.


    Tidied the report up a bit.

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