I thought I would write up a short trip report for yesterday’s Swinsto trip with my flatmate, as even though I was the only Black Rose member on the trip, it was still advertised to others on the forum, hence it still counts as an official trip in my book.
After a rather late start in comparison with normal, Vicki and I drove down to Ingleton and had breakfast/brunch at Inglesport. Vicki then hired a headlamp and an oversuit from Bernie’s, while I purchased a new Warmbac oversuit from Inglesport. This was very exciting for me as I’ve always had a difficult time finding an oversuit that fits well – my previous two oversuits were custom made by Daleswear and I never really liked them. This oversuit fit perfectly though. Little did I know at the time, however, that this would be the highlight of the day.
After leaving Ingleton we drove up to Kingsdale and parked just outside Braida Garth. There was only one other car parked there – a quiet day. After getting changed and packing the tackle bags we headed through the gate and up the steep slope to Turbary Road. The entrance to Swinsto was quickly found with no difficulties. There was a bit more water flowing in than I remember on previous trips, but it didn’t seem too bad.
Vicki’s primary concern on the drive to Ingleton and the walk up to Swinsto wasn’t actually the pitches (she’s somewhat scared of heights), rather it was the fear of supposed wet, low crawls that she’d read about in a Swinsto trip report someone had posted on the internet. I tried to reassure her that a) Swinsto was my very first SRT trip and that I did fine, and b) that I was very claustrophobic when I first started caving and I didn’t remember any of the crawling being scary at the time. I should point out as well that I had given Vicki my neo-fleece, a rash vest, and a pair of wet socks so that she wouldn’t get cold, because I know there’s nothing worse than being scared AND cold.
I led the way through the entrance crawl with two tackle bags in tow, followed by Vicki. The first pitch was reached within a couple of minutes. I quickly rigged the rope, got Vicki on the pitch, and she speedily made her way down with no problems. There was a lot of water on the pitch though, and it was very difficult to abseil without getting completely soaked. Once at the bottom I left the rope on the pitch because Vicki wanted to have a look at the long crawl before committing to a pull through trip (something she’d read about in a trip report, which completely exaggerated how difficult it is, because it isn’t actually difficult at all). She led the way and we crawled for about ten minutes, including through a section that was arguably the ‘lowest’ section of the crawl. Her suggestion was that I go through the entire crawl with her, then once safely at the head of the second pitch on the other side, I return back through the crawl by myself to retrieve the gear and pull down the rope, and that I then return through the crawl a third time to meet up with her at the second pitch. I told her that the crawl was 1,000 feet long and that if I crawled through the passage three times that would be the equivalent of me crawling just over ½ mile. I said, ‘No way’. So she agreed – ten minutes into the crawl – to turn around and return with me to retrieve our gear from the bottom of the first pitch. Unfortunately, by the time we returned to the first pitch she was starting to have doubts. She was convinced that further in there was some really low, flat-out wet section in the cave with a minimal air space that I wasn’t telling her about. After debating what to do for about 15 minutes I decided the best thing for us to do was to just head out, so that’s what we did. I had considered giving her my car keys and just doing Swinsto by myself, but I figured that would make me a dick, so I didn’t. Ascending up the rope was not fun given the amount of water coming down, even though it’s only a short pitch. Once out of the cave we headed down to the car – me in silent frustration, Vicki apologising profusely for having given up.
The entire day wasn’t a waste though. We threw the tackle into the car and decided to go have a look at Valley Entrance instead. Once down the entrance tube we quickly met water within a couple of minutes. The remainder of the journey to the short pitch into the Master Cave was very wet, with the exception of the last 100 feet or so, which was relatively dry. The water was actually waist deep in places which, to my recollection at least, were normally dry. Surprisingly the cave was rather busy, in spite of the absence of cars parked outside. We ran into a group of two older cavers, then a middle-aged caver on his own, and then some loner dickhead wearing nothing but a super special wetsuit, who was very unfriendly. I have my suspicions that he’s a member of the Wharfedale elite, those too good to wear furries and oversuits, those who cave only in wetsuits and sport surfer haircuts from 1973.
Anyway, we made our way down the pitch into the Master Cave, where I pointed out the foamy, murky sump to Vicki. We then headed upstream, which was a lot of fun given the higher than normal water levels. I, of course, did not mention this fact to her, lest she freak out unnecessarily. We followed the water upstream until the start of the low crawl (Philosopher’s Crawl?) that links the Master Cave with the bottom of the last pitch in Swinsto. In fact, we crawled about halfway through this crawl, with me in the lead, when I turned around to Vicki and asked her if she was scared because of the low height of the ceiling. She said no, that she was fine. I then told her that this was the lowest crawl in Swinsto, and that she had essentially done 2/3 or so of the Swinsto trip (if you consider that we made it roughly halfway through the rough crawl, and the fact that we were only a few minutes from the final pitch in Swinsto). I told her there was no reason she couldn’t have done the trip.
At this point we turned around, headed back up the short pitch into Valley Entrance, and decided to have a look at Toyland, a place I’d never visited before. We both ascended the first rope with no problems (on her part, not mine). We then kept on climbing up the slope until we reached an impossibly small hole with no feasible way onward. Here we backtracked and made our way back to the top of the pitch we had just ascended, where we noticed another rope going up into the darkness. I ascended first and soon reached a small ledge after 35 feet or so. The rope continued up from here for another 15 feet or so, but I decided it was probably wisest not to continue on as I thought it would be difficult for Vicki, considering she’s new to SRT and was also already complaining about being tired. Coming down was interesting as I had a very difficult time feeding the rope through my stop. I thought I was going to have to down prussik. Everything was fine though and we made our way out of the cave with no problems.
Once back at the car we got changed and I then screamed and shouted at Vicki about how much she had let me down, not to mention herself, and how much of a loser I thought she was. I then told her that had she completely destroyed my reputation as a caver because no one would ever want to cave with me again if word ever got out that I had turned back at the bottom of the first pitch in Swinsto. Actually none of these things happened, though I was disappointed that she didn’t do the trip. She had the requisite skill. It was the fear of the unknown that got to her. It wasn’t all bad though, I did get a new oversuit.
Good report Don – I’m sure she’ll manage it next time.
If you carried straight on at the master junction following the water into the low crawl, you pop out just near the wetness leading to the dumps.
Philosophers crawl is left at the master junction, past the low arch (where you emerge from swinsto) to the next passage on the left. Brings you out at the side of the waterfall on swinsto final pitch.
Swinsto in on my to-do list for this year. If Vicki wants to give it another go on drier conditions, we can organise another trip.
Sumps ffs – bloody prescriptive wording on tablets grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!
Mike – Considering some of the things I’ve seen members of this club do in caves, I didn’t blink an eye when I read your statement that ‘you pop out just near the wetness leading to the dumps’. I figured it was just an accurate description.
Carol – A trip to Swinsto later in the year sounds like an excellent idea. It’s a fantastic trip.
Sounds like it was pretty wet down there so probably for the best that you turned back (even if it was passable). Gets bloody cold on those pitches when there’s a lot of water coming down.