Cavers: Chris Scaife, Alex Ritchie
For a warm, sunny Saturday I had suggested doing something fun to take advantage of the dry conditions. My leisurely summer’s day idea was: Heron pull through, sit in the sun, Yordas pull through, sit in the sun. Needless to say, Alex was furious. Instead, we opted for the obscure and extremely flood-prone Dry Gill Cave.
The dry gill is right beside the road between Chapel-le-Dale and Twistleton, but there are quite a few small caves close together. We tried two other entrances – both were hard work but soon closed down – before finding the right one. It’s behind the tree in the gill, on a layer of limestone with two entrances, and the correct one is the small hole on the right.
Having slithered in some wrong holes, we were really quite overheated even before we had begun the thrutchy entrance series. It was hard work in there, with numerous squeezes and arduous crawling not doing much to lower our body temperatures, so we were greatly relieved to pop out into the streamway.
We turned right to see the Downstream Series first, which began with a long duck in deep water, followed by a 6m duck, then a 24m duck. Sufficiently cooled down, we then found an obscure climb in the ceiling, which led to a bedding plane with, according to Northern Caves, “150m of varied going”. This was by far the tightest part of the cave, and we kept pushing until our sternums were hurting so much we had to reverse. Not the variety we were hoping for.
We returned through two of the ducks to see the Upper Series. A short climb up led to an impressive flowstone cascade, then a short passage and climb brought us into a long flat-out crawl in a wide bedding plane with several tight squeezes. It was important to pick the right line here, because most of it was too tight.
There was a real reward for the effort though – the delicately beautiful Disappointment Passage. We took off our wellies and turned elbow pads and knee pads inside out to minimise our impact here, as the entire passage – walls, ceiling and floor – is covered in calcite. Every step was precisely planned as we tiptoed to the end of this exquisite gallery.
We then returned to the main streamway to see the Upstream Series, taking in another couple of ducks en route to the upstream sump. A climb up near this sump led to a shingle slope down to another sump. Having seen it all, we returned to The World. The squeezes were no easier on the way out – some of them managed to push Alex’s peperami out of his pocket.
If I had been asked to imagine the exact opposite of my plan to do Heron pull through, sit in the sun, Yordas pull through, sit in the sun, I’d probably have come up with something like this. I was unable to sleep on my front last night because my chest was sore from all the squeezing. It did, however, fulfil the criteria of being something fun to take advantage of the dry conditions. Dry Gill Cave is certainly an esoteric gem.
Despite me struggling with the squeezes more than you, my chest though a little sore is not that bad, just a little bruised sternum.
One thing Chriss missed off is that tight crawl to the pretties in the upper series took it’s tole on both of our over suits, it completely ripped out my right leg, creating a 5 inch tear and damaged chris’s in the same place too.
We also did manage to sit out in the sun outside of Whitescar, enjoying coke and orange juice.
Can do with going back for a photograph trip, I doubt any of my HD hero footage would have come out due to mud.