Langstroth Pull-Through
Saturday, 4 April 2009

This trip has been on my and Toms tick list for quite a while so we jumped at the chance when Dinny and Dave invited us along at Bernies. When I say jumped it was more like nervously agreed as we’ve both had fairly scary previous experiences with free-diving, and langstroth does have a particularly bad reputation for bad air in the sump airbells.
Dinny and Dave attempted an early escape by completely ignoring me and Tom who were parked by the side of the raod below the entrance, and driving a couple of miles down the road before we caught up with them where we met excuses of “we were looking at the river” etc.

The entrance was fairly easy to find as it’s almost directly in-line with Yokenthwaite Pot and the ring of stones by the river on the opposite side of the valley.
At the entrance a short climb leads down to a fairly long section of mildly awkward but enjoyable crawling / stooping etc which I found fairly reminiscent of other upper wharfedale / langstothdale cave passage.

At the first proper pitch, the tight section proved to be fairly easy and was more awkward than tight. Everyone passed this fairly quickly. Slightly larger people may find it easier to abseil with descender attached to cowstails as the main problem here arises from getting hands to the descender when it’s pinned b/w your body and the wall.
The rest of the pot comprises a mixture of walking, crawling and a section of nice pitches down past the un-obvious “Adrian Greenwood” inlet sump to the much more obvious final downstream sump. The team of 4 allowed for an efficient trip through the series of pull through pitches, with Dinny and Dave rigging with one rope whilst Tom and myself pulled through and de-rigged with the second before passing it on the the others at the next pitch head.

The first sump starts from a large inviting looking pool obvious free-dive line. An efficient tackle pulling system was fashioned by Dinny by attaching both tackle bags at 10m intervals along a 30m rope. The bags were attached the the rope at the top and bottom of each bag with a crab to allow pulling in both directions if the bag gets stuck. Dinny then dived through the first sump with the rope attached to his harness (presumably this means that if there are no tugs on the rope we could just pull Dinny back through). The bag seemed to stick a couple of times, but was soon freed by alternating pulling from both ends.

This was the part me and Tom had been most worried about but the dives turned out to be fairly easy and pleasant. The first sump has a couple meters long and spacious and was easily passed to the first very large airbell where we re-grouped. Dinny then dived through the next two sumps and pulled the bags through again, with a little more snagging than the previous sump.

The final two sumps are both slightly longer than the first (3 & 4.5m) and are separated by the small “dodgy” airbell. Again the sumps are both spacious and fairly straight forward. The 3m sump is slightly more awkward than the 4.5m as its slightly deeper and theres an underwater flake at the start than I hit my face on. I paused for a single breath in the small airbell before diving through the final sump. All the sumps were fairly straightforwards and well lined, the only real problem being the airbell. All of us took a single breath here except dave who dived straight through. Obviously anyone free-diving through who chooses to pause to breath any air in the small airbell should understand that there is a risk of bad air and fatal accidents have sadly happened here in the past.
The final section in Langstroth cave is a short fairly pleasant if scalloped section of crawling in wet passage under the middle entrance to the final bottom entrance which emerges further down the moor.

Outside Dave noted high quantities of green algae in the water. In addition he had noted possible evidence of slurry plastered up the walls in the entrance series and it may be possible that there is at times slurry present in the cave and this could be a contributing factor towards “bad air” in the small airbell.

An excellent through trip, thoroughly enjoyed by all and not nearly as scary as envisioned. We returned to the cars by 3pm, not bad to say we had a fairly relaxed start (I think the trip took around 2.5 hours).

Myself and Tom then decided to visit Yokenthwaite Pot to top off the afternoon…


T’is a really cool trip! Did you go up the inlet before the 7th pitch??…….some awesome formations up there!

Mike Bottomley

Monday, 06 April 2009