Given the recent rain, a planned trip to explore the flood proned caves of Ribblehead was abandoned in favour of a trip to Newby Moss Pot. Alas, the trip was not to be. We found the cave with only minor difficulty. The problem was that neither Alex nor myself was able to fit through the vertical entrance squeeze. I made it through as far as my sternum, but there was no way that my chest or shoulders could physically fit beyond that. Alex got a little further than me, but then claimed that he couldn’t go any further because his oversuit kept getting stuck on the rock. Hmm… (I thought). He then decided that it wasn’t his oversuit, rather it was because a rock had slipped making the entrance tighter. Hmm… (I thought).
So we abandoned Newby Moss and decided to check out a possible dig in the crag face about 30 feet away from Grey Wife. After 15 minutes or so of chucking rocks at me in his attempt to dig a new cave, Alex decided that the cave was a no go without tools. He was right. It would take some concerted effort, but it did look like it had potential.
We then decided to do Grey Wife as far as the top of the first pitch. We could have gone all the way to Jim’s Traverse, however neither of us was keen to get a full soaking in Paradox Pond. The trip to the first pitch was action packed – a couple of narrow vertical climbs, a flat-out crawl, a free-climb down a waterfall, and a winding narrow canyon passage which can only be passed at certain levels. Just before the first pitch we found a ladder and a lifeline. They weren’t in a great state, but were still in usable condition. Being without SRT gear, however, we headed back out, with Alex exploring a narrow inlet not far from the flat-out crawl.
We then headed back down to the valley floor. It wasn’t long before we came across a vertical shaft in the corner of a shakehole. It was about .75m x .75m in size and covered with very thick netting attached to very rusty scaffolding. It took a lot of effort to remove. It’s clear from the overgrowth that no one had been down the shaft in years. We would have tried, but there was a stream going directly into the pot, which would have resulted in a total dunking. Our guess is that the pitch is probably 30 feet or so. Definitely one to come back and check out on a dry day.
We continued down the valley and before long came across something rather odd, what appeared to be two railroad tracks with four or five thick and newish boards screwed into it at a perpendicular angle. We thought maybe we could dig under them, but that was impossible because there was a metal siding which extended down vertically on all sides of the railroad tracks (this isn’t what they were, but it’s the best description I can think of). Tried as we might, we couldn’t find a way to get in. A large pile of excavated rock nearby suggests that there’s something very interesting in that hole. It’s a very novel way of preventing entry, that’s for sure!
After this we continued down the valley in the general direction of Newby Cote. After only a short distance we came across a very similar situation, several old boards covering a hole in the ground. We removed several to find a vertical shaft of 15 feet or so supported in part by scaffolding. Rather than risk what would be a ‘risky’ free-climb, we tied a rope around a large rock near the opening and abseiled down. The bottom of the crawl led immediately into a thrutchy tube passage which ended after 15-20 feet above a roughly 40 foot drop, with a long scaffolding ladder part way down that led to a flat shelf on the opposite side of the pitch. The ladder looked rusty in all the wrong places and an old nylon rope tied into an old scaffolding bar at the pitch head did not inspire confidence. So we headed back out, donned our SRT kits, and rigged the pitch head with one of our ropes and crossed to the other side via the ladder. I’ve done a lot of sky dives, but I have to say, this is the most serious and intimidating one I’ve ever come across.
Once on the ledge we followed a canyony side passage for a short distance until it opened up into a decent sized chamber. To our left was a wall of old boards held up by scaffolding. Behind the boards, a mass of debris. On the right was a single, surpisingly new looking hanger above a drop whose bottom we couldn’t see. We only had a 20m rope left, but decided to see how far we could get, so Alex set to rigging the pitch. Call him brave or stupid, he descended the pitch on the single hanger. Thankfully the rope reached with some extra left over, so I decided to re-rig the pitch, using two slings and the nearby scaffolding as backup. Once down I joined Alex and we explored the lower part of the cave. Not much to report. It felt more like a mine than a cave. Very crumbly and loose. There were a couple of passages heading off in opposite directions. One headed up several shored climbs to a passage that got too small. The other descended down a shored shaft to a dead end. I have never seen so much discarded digging gear in my entire life. There were numerous rusted shovels, old tarpaulin, lots of boards, lots of scaffolding, and lots and lots of plastic tubes and hosing. It didn’t look like anyone had done any digging down there for a very long time though.
After a rather quick exit (the sky dive was surprisingly easier in reverse), we headed back down the valley to our cars at Newby Cote. I worried after our failings at Newby Moss Pot that the day would be a waste, but it was actually a lot of fun. I’ve searched in Northern Caves and on the internet and can’t find any information about the cave entrance with railroad tracks, or the one with the horrible sky dive and digging gear. Earby Caving Club had a dig called Legit Pot in that general area a few years ago, but the description and few photos I was able to find don’t match what we saw. If anyone has any information about these caves, or has any suggestions as to where I may be able to find information, please let me know.
I think According to NC2 and corresponding with the map I think that the last cave we were in is Hurnel Ridge Sink pg 210. Though after the second 9m pitch the description seems to vary quite a bit after the big chamber, it indicates there was a way up over the boulders to more cave, we should have looked up there. The hole in the floor must just not have been dug yet when the book was written as it is described as being 4m deep not 15.
P.s. it was only grade 2 lol.
I should add to the report that the dig (the 15m 1 bolt wonder) had quite a bit of stal some quite large growing off the scaff, so it’s either really old or calcite grows very quickly!