Members Present: Chris Kelly, Don, Sharman
At Sharman’s suggestion we met in Bernies Café for breakfast rather than Inglesport. The breakfast was much tastier and the portions much larger, though this came with a hefty price tag. Oh yeah, and I briefly talked to Pete. After a quick meal and a quick trip next door for me to buy a new undersuit and a 7m section of 9mm rope for the penultimate pitch in Trapdoor, we got in our respective cars and headed to Cold Cotes, where we got changed and packed the bags. Just as we were passing through the large gate into the field towards Dowlass Moss, a car with a learners plate pulled up and parked next to us. A male and two females in their early 20s got out and asked us where we were going. We told them Trapdoor. To be polite we then asked where they were going. They said Trapdoor. They then asked if they could join us and use our ropes. We told them no, that we weren’t very good cavers and probably wouldn’t make it past the first squeeze. They looked a bit surprised and sad when we told them they couldn’t join us.
Trapdoor was actually found with ease. We essentially walked straight to it, not because we knew where it was, simply because of sheer luck. Fortunately for us a heavy fog descended on the hillside just as we reached the cave. As a result we never again saw the youthful caving threesome, though their car was still parked next to ours when we got back. I wonder where they ended up going?
Sharman rigged the first 5m pitch and was the first down. We then passed the rest of the tackle (three large bags and one small) down to him. I went next, followed by Chris Kelly. We then formed a three way conveyor belt to get the bags through the flat-out crawl/squeeze at the bottom of the shaft, with me at the bottom, Chris Kelly above me and Sharman on the other side of the crawl.
Once through we quickly reached Foam Pitch, with Sharman climbing down first and Chris Kelly and I chucking bags down from above. Once at the bottom we were immediately faced with the first tight squeeze, The Ripper, located roughly 10 feet above the floor of the rift at a place where the walls of the rift very briefly pinch in for a few inches before expanding again (well somewhat). A chockstone jammed in the rift affords a foothold to stand on while squeezing through. Sharman made a half-hearted attempt to go through and failed, at which point I decided to give it a go. I had been this far in Trapdoor on two occasions previously and had had to turn around because I couldn’t get through. This time I decided to take off my oversuit and undersuit from the waist up – I was still wearing a rash vest – and let them hang down from my waist. I made it through on my first attempt, remarkably without any difficulty. Once on the other side of the squeeze there is a slight enlargement with just enough room for two people to sit/stand uncomfortably before the next pitch. I put my undersuit and oversuit back on and waited for Sharman to come through.
I won’t go into too much detail about what happened next. Let’s just say that it took more than an hour before we were all through and down the next pitch. In the end Chris Kelly had to take off his oversuit to fit through, and Sharman took off his oversuit and his undersuit. In fact, at one point he attempted to get through while completely topless. Talk about determination!
Once at the bottom of the 15m second pitch we all admired the large, loose slabs of rock barely clinging to the walls around us as we made our way down to the bottom of the loose boulder choke that forms the base of the pitch. At the bottom of the choke a body sized hole deposits one in a very small chamber with yet another body sized hole leading on to a short, but very awkward, 5m pitch. I led the way with Chris Kelly and Sharman passing bags to me from above. The bottom of the pitch lands in a small chamber, which had a waterfall pouring out of a small hole from somewhere above. The water dropped directly into the only continuation out of the chamber, down the squeeze known as The Gripper. It was then and there that we collectively realised/decided that Trapdoor is most definitely not weatherproof. I attempted to make my way through The Gripper, and had essentially made it through, however not knowing how wet the crawl beneath would be, I reversed the squeeze and climbed back out, which resulted in me getting completely soaked. After a bit of discussion about what to do we decided to call it a day. I’m already aware that there is normally some water flowing down this passage, however this was a lot more than ‘some’. It was very, very wet.
Getting back up the short pitch was tricky as far as the bags were concerned, but nothing too difficult. Once back at the bottom of the second pitch, Sharman and Chris Kelly headed up first. By the time I got to the top of the pitch, Sharman had thankfully already made it through The Ripper, which meant that there was enough room for me to squeeze into the constricted space with Chris Kelly. It was at this point that I realised that the tackle bag that I had tied to the bottom of the rope had gotten stuck as I tried to pull it up. Chris Kelly took some rope out of another tackle bag and I re-rigged the pitch to retrieve the trapped bag. Fortunately I only had to go down about 10 feet before I was able to free it. Once back up and in the constricted space, Chris Kelly easily slid through The Gripper. I stripped down to my rash vest again and made it through easily as well. Just for kicks, once I was through on the other side and had put back on my undersuit and oversuit, I decided to give The Ripper a try again to see if it would be difficult wearing normal caving gear. The answer is yes. I couldn’t budge at all. It’s amazing what a difference losing a couple of inches off your chest can make. The brief trip out was uneventful .
Once back on the surface Chris Kelly showed us a shakehole directly next to Trapdoor that had a very large cave entrance at the bottom. Unfortunately, the only way to get to the bottom was via a 7-8m pitch. The problem here is that there was nothing to rig from, with the exception of two outcroppings of rock about 20 feet away from each other, neither of which looked very secure. So we decided to make a gigantic y-hang. Once at the bottom we all had a poke around. The cave entrance is quite large and a very large walking passage leads off down a boulder slope from the bottom of the pitch. After roughly 30m this ends at a small aven. There are two ways on from here. A climb up 3-4m leads to a flat out crawl above a narrow rift. This continues for a few minutes before reaching a dead-end with no way on. Back at the small aven, a narrow rift heads straight down for a distance of at least 30 feet, if not more. Someone has obviously dug here in the past, though it’s doubtful that anyone has dug here recently. There is also evidence of capping. Unfortunately we weren’t able to find a way down the rift. It almost looks as if it would be free-climbable, however there weren’t many foot/hand holds. I think climbing down would probably be ok, but I don’t think one would be able to climb back up. We looked around for anchors or belays that we could tie a rope to in order to abseil down, but we couldn’t find anything suitable. There were several pieces of wood laying around, which must have been used by the diggers for something, but we couldn’t find anything to jam them between.
A quick glance in NC2 when I got home revealed that this cave is called Cave Hole. I tried to look up more information about it online, and even looked in a couple of Red Rose Journals I have, but couldn’t find anything.
Once finished here we headed back down the hill to the cars, where we got changed before heading to The Three Horse Shoes in Ingleton for a drink before going our separate ways.
I would like to go back and do Trapdoor again some day, when the weather is DRY. I do worry a bit about the state of the cave though. A lot of the cave, at least the part I saw, looks like it’s going to collapse on itself at any moment. There’s even a warning on the CNCC website about this – https://cncc.org.uk/cave/trapdoor-pot
I spent 4hrs in BPOTW
the section after the first squeeze then pitch was loose but after the next pitch its fine from what i remember. i really dont remember that first squeeze being that tight tbh.
Well done in getting through Don, it sounds like you had an easier time of it than the other two. I think you would have been fine beyond the Gripper if you remember the forum when you were planning this trip I said you would get wet there. Beyond it would have been fine. I have done it in very wet weather.
Great report Don. I agree with Alex, I’ve done trapdoor in pretty wet conditions and I think it’s ok (from what I remember).
Well done chaps – Dr Miller’s first NFTFH “tight” squeeze. I hope you drank an outrageous amount to celebrate.
When I was in there with Alex, Ales and other less successful squeezers, we got the tackle sack stuck on the same pitch, so I had to go back down it.
What sort of unimaginative explorer calls something Cave Hole? Do these people not know any amusingly named Roman emperors?